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The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston

The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston is senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, NY.

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Presbyterian Church (USA)

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Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, NY


Scott Black Johnston: Do Not Be Alarmed

November 30, 2012

The church, my friends, has an image problem.

In recent months, the boards of FAPC have been actively discussing the challenges faced by contemporary Christian communities.  The most significant concern faced by churches across this country is the increasing number of Americans (especially young adults) who say that they "believe in God," yet are turned off by "organized religion."

Determined to understand this viewpoint (now espoused by 25% of our country's population), a group of leaders at FAPC recently read a report fromThe Pew Forum on Religion entitled: "Nones" on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation.  I commend this eye-opening document to you.  You can access the executive summary and download the entire report by clicking on the underlined title above.  It takes about thirty minutes to read.  It is worth it.

This past Tuesday, we had a great conversation about The Pew Forum's findings.  True, there is a lot of sobering news here.  Young Americans are saying, clearly and repeatedly, that they find the contemporary church to be 1) overly political, 2) painfully homophobic, and 3) downright hypocritical when it comes to pointing out others' sins.

These are the brutal facts.

Notably, however, not a single person in the conversation on Tuesday night was ready to throw in the towel.  Quite the opposite.  The brutal facts are not simply brutal; they are also energizing.  They are a wake-up call!  This broken world still needs-desperately needs-the good news of Jesus Christ; and the complaints of America's youngest generation are a prod to action.

Too often in recent years, churches have acted the part of a morality cop wagging a finger at wayward sinners.  This is a painful irony.  After all, Jesus spent his ministry disappointing religious leaders who loved to spit-polish their Sin-Patrol badges, but had little inclination to reach out those in need.  As one young man recently said to me, "Honestly pastor, I just wish the church looked a little more like Jesus."

What do you know?  Our image problem has a fix; and it's the most obvious cure imaginable: Jesus!

Taken with permission from Scott's blog, Sharp About Your Prayers.


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