What does a real Christian look like?
Quick! Out of the three gentlemen pictured above, which one has led thousands of men and women to Christ and is a New York Times bestselling Christian author?
Go on. Guess.
The guy on the left, the guy in the middle, or the guy on the right?
Now I know what you are thinking. This is an obvious set up. You’re thinking since this is a blog post, the answer to the question is going to be the one that least looks like what you assume to be a Christian on first glance. After all, if you are an American reading this you have a right to be cynical.
It’s in our blood.
Doesn’t matter if you get your generational cynicism from Ronald Reagan’s non-recollection of the Iran-Contra affair, Bush Sr’s “No New Taxes,” Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” Bush Jr’s mission accomplished speech, Obama’s “Hope and Change” or Donald Trump’s extolling of his moral values all while “grabbing ’em by the” you know whats …if you are an American, being cynical is just as American as apple pie. So go ahead. Be cynical.
Still with me?
Now all cynicism aside, guess.
Let’s look at the picture again. Stare real hard.I will even give you some hints.
One of the men pictured is a convicted serial killer.
And of course we have our NY Times bestselling Christian author, who has also written a best-selling devotional set, as well as starred in multiple movies and television shows speaking about his unashamed love of Christ. He also spends a great deal of time ministering and evangelizing, leading men and women to Christ wherever he goes. He even, gasps, prays for people out in public.
So which one is which?
Just what does a real Christian look like?
The guy in the middle sure does look like what we expect a pastor to look like don’t we? C’mon. You know you looked at him and said, hmmmm…maybe it’s him.
Well that guy? That guy is a convicted serial killer named Dennis Rader, also known by his more infamous moniker, BTK (Bind-Torture-Kill) who murdered at least ten women over the span of fifteen years in and around the Wichita, Kansas area.
I’m not going to go into what he did to his victims here, but, this guy was deeply disturbed to say the least.
So if you picked that guy, you are WRONG! But, its okay. This is a judgment free blog.
How about that spiffy and churchy lookin fella in the blue shirt? He sure does look scholarly. Some would say he looks downright seminarian. That’s the kind of pose you see on the back of book dust-jackets. And yes indeed, he has written quite a few bestsellers…about atheism, including his most well-known work entitled God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. It was a NY Times bestseller, but I wouldn’t call him a Christian author. And boy let me tell ya, I’m not kidding when I say Christopher Hitchens hated Mother Teresa with the passion of a thousand suns. Most of this hatred was on display in his book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and in Practice. And all I have to say about that is…yikes.
So if you guessed that the guy on the left was our NY Times bestselling Christian author and devotional writer who has also led thousands of souls to Christ, congratulations! You were right!
Brian “Head” Welch is the guitarist for KORN and vocalist for LOVE AND DEATH. He has also written, as of this writing, three Christian bestsellers, most notably Save Me From Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs and Lived to Tell My Tale, and is at work on his fourth.
After a radical encounter with Jesus, Welch stepped away from the only lifestyle he had ever known of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll and immersed himself in the love and relationship of Christ. It was then, while helping to build orphanages on mission in India and while overcoming depression by setting his sights on God and the love of his family, the Lord came to him and told him to write…and eventually to also step back into the often dark world of nu-metal rock to shine in the darkness by rejoining KORN in 2012. Now, before every show he evangelizes to those that are coming to see KORN’s act, prays over people that the Lord illuminates to him, and is walking in faith and miracles. Even band members of KORN, through his example, have come to Christ and venture out with him to pray for the lost. And while no one can argue that KORN is a Christian band, Brian Welch is one of those amazing men who understand that through Christ he is a light in the darkness of a world that he has been equipped to overcome.
Now doesn’t that give you the warm fuzzies?
Good. And go ahead, pat yourself on the back and say what I know you are thinking: “It is so good to have amazing people like that in the Kingdom of God. What a wonderful example of being a Christian in a dark world. I respect the heck out of that guy.”
Now its time to take you back to reality and it’s gonna sting.
Let’s pretend you didn’t know this story. Let’s pretend you don’t know who Brian “Head” Welch is. Pretend all of this good stuff I just gave you never crossed your path.
And here you are on Sunday morning at church, sitting in the cozy little church seat your patookie warms every week, sitting around the people you always see week to week, having the conversations you usually have that always seem to go something like this: “Hey, how’s the wife? Oh, she’s doing great? Got a new job? Oh that’s swell. You’re right, we do need to get together for coffee this week. Yep. Yep I sure am thinking about joining that small group. By the way, how are the kids? Touch of the sniffles? Stayed up Friday night with a fever? Awww. Well brother I will be praying for your family” …
…and then a guy that looks like THIS comes and sits down next to you.
Pretty much everyone I know, including myself for I am not exempt, would desperately be looking around for someone in the church who is gifted in deliverance ministry to lend a helping hand.
Because this guy apparently has issues and he is sitting right next to you.
And. That. Is. Crap.
Why is it crap? Because Jesus doesn’t think like this.
In fact, Jesus would look at the guy sitting next to you and say, “My man!”
And then, just maybe, Jesus would give us the wag of a finger and a “tsk, tsk” for what we are thinking.
And that stings. I know I’m feeling a little convicted and I’m writing this dang thing.
So the question remains of why, after looking at this person, do we immediately jump into judgment?
What does a real Christian look like? Why do we think people that look a certain way are Christians and others aren’t?
I will tell you why. Somewhere along the line in our churchy brains the religious spirit has imbedded this crap concept of what a Christian is supposed to look like. A Christian is supposed to look “safe.” And what does safe look like?
Guys– brown or black dress shoes (comfortable soles), khaki or dress pants, brown or black leather belt, Polo or button up collared shirt, hair parted on the side. Facial hair negligible, and when there, cut into a perfect goatee. Contacts optional, glasses preferred. And sometimes, on those “we mean business days,” we will wear a suit. And when that happens, oh yeah, we are bringing the heat of the Lord with us because…well because today we decided to wear our Jos A Bank finest. And we also sound something along the line of used car salesmen, wearing the perfect smile for the occasion.
It’s funny because it’s true. And that’s sad.
Women– a little more variation than the men, but in general a skirt that reaches the ankles (or for the truly trendy, business casual slacks), slightly elevated heels (but not too high of a heel. Seeing clear heeled stripper shoes in church can be a little off-putting), blouse with matching handbag, and bracelets or a watch that says “hey, I’m not flashy, but I sure know how to accessorize.” And I’m not getting into the hair issue. That could be its own blog entry.
And, dear Lord, do not forget about the perfume and the triple squirts of cologne. After all the friendly hugs, on Sundays we all tend to smell like we ran the fragrance gauntlet at Macy’s.
So what does a real Christian look like?
I’m also not attacking the stereotype of what Christians look like or saying that it is wrong. If that was the truth, then half the people in my church would want to murder me right now. Most people are comfortable in those kind of outfits. It’s the social norm. If you spy some of my photos, I’m wearing a collared shirt and sporting a nice church-safe haircut.
I get it.
The problem comes when we judge someone’s level of Christianity because of what they do, or don’t, look like.
I mean, that is straight up un-Biblical on a variety of levels. If you’re thinking someone needs prayer ministry because they have dreadlocks or purple hair, then you’re the one with the problem.
Yeah. I said it.
One of today’s popular secular world knocks against becoming a Christian is that there is a belief that Christians are supposed to be carbon copies of one another. We all think alike, dress alike, eat alike, talk alike, believe alike. And if we meet someone that is different, then that person is wrong. I believe the proper term is “cookie cutter Christian.” And in a lot of churches…its true. Don’t believe me? Look around your church next Sunday morning. If I am wrong and you have a varied congregation, and people who don’t “look the part” aren’t looked down upon behind closed doors or in side conversations, then congratulations. You are in an awesome church. And that starts from the pastor down.
But if you are sitting in a seat and someone that looks like Brian Welch comes and sits next to you and you hear people whispering? It may be time to just reach over and give that guy a hug to show him that he is accepted, not based on what he looks like, but based on his heart and that he is your brother in Christ. But you may want to be careful with that. Because in some churches, that might get you ostracized if you hug the wrong person. And yes, I have seen that happen. And do you really want to go to a church that tries to choose your friends for you?
We have a problem in our Church, folks. Too many pastors and leadership teams are so focused on polishing up the outsides that the insides are rotting. And that flows over to the congregations. I’ve actually heard a pastor say that he wanted his congregation to have their cars and personal appearances fixed up so that when people saw the members of his church in the parking lot, they would believe that that church was successful, that that church was going places, believing that would make onlookers want to be a part. And yes, the majority of his congregation bought into it. And sure, maybe some of those onlookers who are driven by material necessity will become a part of that church.
That’s great. Awesome. Fantastic. Kudos.
But me? I would rather have a church congregation filled with dreaded, purple-haired, mo-hawked, shaved headed, tattooed, and pierced Brian “Head” Welches and Misty Edwardses that were so lit up on fire for God that they actually lived out what Jesus said do.
I would rather have a church people who were not afraid to get dirty, who delighted in their originality and God-given creativity to reach the lost and comfort the broken.
I would rather be a part of a church with substance and spirit, filled with fire and people moving in inspired worship.
Isn’t that better than a church filled with a bunch of wanna-be yuppies who just extended their country club meetings to Sunday mornings?
I know. Its harsh. But I’m not apologizing.
The fact is, if you get a church filled with people on fire for God, no matter what they look like or how much they can tithe, trust me, onlookers will want to be a part.
Because true fire consumes everything around it.
And when people get on fire for the one true God? They will give their very life, which is worth so much more to the Kingdom of God than 10%.
But maybe, that’s just me.
So what does a real Christian look like?
It is super easy to know what a real Christian looks like.
Ask yourself this question:
If you answered in the affirmative, congratulations. Now go look in the mirror and stare really hard at yourself.
That’s what a real Christian looks like.
That’s it. Its that simple.
Don’t overcomplicate it.
And it doesn’t matter what your wardrobe looks like.
Jesus loves diversity. And He looks different in everyone.
The Jesus in me looks different than the Jesus in Brian Welch. The Jesus in me looks different than the Jesus in my wife, even though we are of one flesh. And He delights in the diversity we all bring to the Church. Look at His creation if you don’t believe me. Nothing that is natural has an exact, down to the molecule copy.
And guess what? God made you to be an original too. Stop trying to be something you aren’t. And when you meet someone different than you? Stop trying to turn them into something they aren’t or judging them.
After all, our God loves variety.
If you like wearing Polo shirts, khaki pants and Oakley sunglasses? Awesome. God loves it!
If you are wearing what you are wearing to please the people around you? Stop trying to please people. Please God. Be the part. Don’t worry about dressing the part.
The people will come around eventually.
And if they don’t? Oh well. Their loss.
God’s Church is made up of many different variations. And He believes all are beautiful. Shouldn’t we believe that as well?
Rock what you got, as long as you are rockin it for the King.
PS – One more thing. Speaking of dressing the part but not being the part? That serial killer I talked about earlier?
The BTK fella.
When he was finally nabbed, do you know how he was hiding? He had became part of a local church and had blended in pretty well for cover.
In fact, he dressed the part so doggone well, he was voted the church council president.
That’s right, judging who a Christian may or may not be based upon what they look like can be downright lethal.
Now that, is scary.