Full disclosure: I read this book on the beach. Perks of living in Florida. You can hate me if you want.
Dean Inserra has, over the last couple years, become one of my favorite Twitter follows. Dean pastors City Church in Tallahassee, and his book The Unsaved Christian is one I would highly recommend to pastors and church leaders.
For years I've often said that the hardest place to do ministry isn't in the Northwest or New England, it's in the Bible Belt. Sure there's some overt issues and hardships that come from being a Jesus follower in those regions, but in the Bible Belt you'll find something more difficult: people who have been vaccinated by the Gospel. They're gripped with a cultural Christianity that is powerless to save, and they don't even know they're lost. They've gotten just enough of the Good News to think that everything is ok and they have no need of repentance (that's what bad people have to do, and I'm not bad) and faith (after all, I believe in God).
That's what Dean gets after in his book, to look at the phenomenon of the "Unsaved Christian" or the person who identifies as a Christian in name but in reality has no transforming relationship with Jesus. They have a theistic framework of thinking, a (mostly) biblical worldview on morality, and may have a deep appreciation for Jesus. But as so many of us heard in youth group, they're 18 inches from heaven.
Perhaps the most urgent charge from this book is in the very beginning: it's our responsibility as leaders in the church to make sure people recognize they're lost. In the trappings of the Unsaved Christian's life, they can often find a false security in moralism, in church attendance/giving/serving, identifying as a Republican, or by having a sincere appreciation for the work and ministry of Jesus. Despite all of that, sadly many will find themselves hearing what Jesus warned His followers of in Matthew 7 "Depart from me, I never knew you."
Beyond the Bible Belt, we're living in times where >70% of Americans self-identify as Christian, yet the fruit of that identification is many times difficult to see. Packed stadiums emotionally belt out God Bless America and yet our nation cannot get past its historic sins. Churches will be packed for Easter Sunday and return to being half empty the following week. Small towns hold up a banner of being a "Christian" community yet are rife with issues of sin and addiction they ignore in the name of preserving a vestige of the past.
Cultural Christianity has no power to save. Its only power is to numb the conscience. The only hope is the Gospel.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.