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  • Writer's pictureTrace Pirtle

I'm a Christian: What Does That Mean?

Today, when someone tells me, "I'm a Christian." I ask, "What does that mean?" It hasn't always been this way. Times have changed. Our world has changed. "Christians" have changed. I've changed. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8, ESV). So, what happened to us Christians?  




I'm a Christian: Where I Come From


I'm a Christian now, but I come from a non-Christian background. I didn't read the Bible as a kid. I didn't go to church. If someone was a "Christian," that meant they "got religion," like Uncle Hank got shingles. It wasn't a good thing, and it certainly wasn't "good news." 


I maintained this attitude in the military. My dog tags identified me as a Protestant, not because I attended a Protestant church, but because I didn't know what else to tell Uncle Sam. It meant nothing. I believed in God, America, and apple pie, but Jesus Christ or becoming a "Christian" wasn't on the radar.


Church-Hopping and Christian Consistency


In 2004, I started church-hopping like a frog from one lily pad to another. I found the experience both frustrating and comforting.  


For example, I would have coffee at the local Starbucks one day with a Presbyterian pastor and on another day from the local Assembly of God. The Methodists and the Baptists were likewise preaching to the same choir, so much so that I became bored with their collective consistency. Oh, how I miss that consistency now!


No matter which church I attended, I heard about sin and repentance, how I was guilty of one and needed the other. No wonder I moved around so much. I was looking for a good-hearted preacher to tell me that God loves me just as I am--without changing my sinful lifestyle--and I never found that church back then. Thank God!


Today's Christian Church 


Today, there is no shortage of "good-hearted" pastors who preach a modified message where no one feels uncomfortable. It's as if "Christian" leadership got together over a Starbucks coffee of their own and agreed that sin and repentance are divisive and hurtful.


A few pastors either didn't get the coffee invitation or politely declined. A few still preach that we're not nearly as good as we'd like to believe.


"...as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one;" Romans 3:10, ESV.

Find The Bible, Then a Church


For this reason, I recommend that seekers and believers find the Bible, then a church. God's Word assures us:


"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26, ESV)


W. Robert Godfrey recommends pastors preach the whole council of God as described in the Book of Acts. The Apostle Paul reminds us:


" ...for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole council of God." Acts 20-27, ESV

A Shrinking Away From The Whole Council of God


We are witnessing a pervasive shrinking away from the whole council of God. Godfrey further says, "we need preachers who don’t just ride hobbies or preach in a scattershot way, but instead help us grasp the fullness of what God has revealed."


Yes, we need to know God loves us. But we must also hear from the pulpit that sin separates us from God. Not everyone in the church is a mature believer. Some may be hearing God's Word for the first time, even as an adult. Without acknowledging sin, there is no salvation.    


The Falling Away


The falling away we see happening should not come as a surprise. In 2022, The Cultural Research Center published "New Study Shows Shocking Lack of Biblical Worldview Among American Pastors." Only 41% of Senior Pastors in the study hold a Biblical worldview. Regarding other pastoral positions, only 12% of Children's and Youth Pastors indicate a Biblical worldview, and only 13% of Teaching Pastors. 

     

What is causing this shift in worldview from the Bible to something else? Why are the ancient landmarks moving like a highway on a fault line? And why is the distinction between sacred and secular realms blurring? 


 I believe the shift is happening because of syncretism. Let's look at that now. 


Am I Christian or Syncretist? 


Syncretism is blending two (or more) religions or philosophies into one. The result is the diluting of all. We see this happening in Christianity. 


Barna's study revealed that syncretism is the prevailing worldview among 62% of American pastors. Only 37% of American pastors profess a Biblical worldview. Barna's research highlights a staggering number of our church shepherds see the world through the world's spectacles, not God's. 


Unsurprisingly, his research also found that 88% of American adults hold syncretism as their worldview. Now that the choir has changed, the business model of religion has changed with it. Wrong.  


Barna makes a profound statement. He said, "You can't fix something unless you know it's broken. It certainly seems that if America is going to experience a spiritual revival, that awakening is needed just as desperately in our pulpits as in the pews." Amen! 


So the question is, will we follow the world and syncretism or God and the Bible? Anyone who says, "I am a Christian" yet follows a syncretist worldview is the epitome of the lukewarm Christian described in the Church in Laodicea (see Revelation 3:14-22). Do we want to risk being "spit out" by God? I certainly don't.  


I'm a Christian: Concluding Thoughts


What it means to be a Christian is changing rapidly. Preaching the whole council of God has fallen out of favor. We hear little about sin and repentance because it offends the sheep. Syncretism is diluting Christianity and replacing a Biblical worldview with a worldly worldview. All of this is happening from the pulpit to the pews. 


Thus, it's time to stand for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To once again, or perhaps for the first time, read and accept the whole council of God. Let there be no doubt in peoples' minds that you are a follower of Christ.


The Bible will not let Christians down, but Christians and Christian leaders are letting Christ down. God doesn't need our help, but doesn't He deserve our commitment to His ways rather than the world's? I think so. 


That's why I'm a part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed. I invite you to join us. May God bless you and yours.

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About Me

Image of Dr. Trace Pirtle sitting on park bench identified as Jesus.

Greetings, I'm Trace!
I'm a retired counselor education professor who spent 35 years in the "helping professions." I'm a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as a Missile Launch Officer with I.C.B.M's during the Cold War (1980's). Today, I'm an "all-in" believer working full-time for our Lord Jesus Christ. I've included my personal testimony if you are interested. 
May God bless you beyond your wildest dreams!

In His Service,

Trace Pirtle

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"I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me."

Philippians 4:13

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