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Over the past five years I have repeatedly sounded an alarm about the sheer absence of Jesus within much of Americanized Christianity. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

It started with my editorial response to a press release from The Barna Group asserting that “only 17%” of “practicing Christians” held a “biblical worldview.” Something about that supposedly research-based claim smelled fishy.

To no avail, I requested more information about how that supposedly striking conclusion was reached. What I wanted to know was why Jesus is missing from Barna’s definition of what it means to be Christian.

Statistical data has no relevance when rooted in a false premise — especially one designed to advance a preferred ideology. This Barna report revealed that weakness from beginning to end — but it is merely one example of the intentional redefinition of the Christian faith by certain ideological Americanized Christians.

Barna began with a working definition of a “practicing Christian” that shockingly omitted any reference to Jesus. To qualify, one only needed minimal institutional involvement (monthly church attendance) and a mere affirmation of one’s faith being considered important.

The Gospels, of course, present another definition: a positive and active response to Jesus’ clear call to “follow me.”

Barna’s six-point test for holding a so-called “biblical worldview” (like many other manufactured versions that may also be deemed a “Christian worldview”) was arbitrary — and not at all what Jesus prioritized.

In Barna’s listing, in fact, Jesus only gets an honorable mention. He is to be affirmed as being sinless — not the one who is to be savior and lord.

Barna is not alone in this mis-definition of Christianity that deflects from Jesus to other concerns.

Often a higher allegiance is placed on one’s particular doctrine of the Bible — or, really, a particular political ideology propped up by rickety biblical interpretation — than the compelling of Jesus to walk in his way.

Even a good substitute, however, would be a poor one if Jesus gets downplayed or replaced.

No “view of the Bible” or any religious/political ideology is an adequate substitute to replace the priority of a faithful response to the one who summed up all the laws and prophetic teaching in a two-fold command to love God with all one’s being and one’s inclusively defined neighbor as oneself.

There’s a reason he called this the “greatest commandment.” Yet, walk through Christian churches and bookstores and see how infrequently — if at all — this appears.

What became the Jesus Worldview Initiative (now part of Good Faith Media) evolved and expanded — not out of a strategic plan but from an ongoing, eye-opening encounter with the reality that Jesus is being downplayed or ignored within much of Americanized Christianity.

I am grateful for the many others who have brought their observations, insights and ideas to the challenge of reclaiming the name of “Christian” as one who seeks to follow Jesus faithfully — rather than simply checking off some person’s or group’s highly selective precepts.

These helpful responses to the tragic reprioritizing of Americanized Christianity have been shared in articles, blogs, sermons, group presentations, books and retreats — and continue to do so. They are most timely.

A logo with a fish at the top and "seeing through the eyes of Jesus" below.

(Credit: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship / https://tinyurl.com/ye2xkwp2)

Now, a new congregational resource, stemming from the Jesus Worldview emphasis, has just been developed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A talented team has envisioned and written a new curriculum titled Seeing Through the Eyes of Jesus.

“Through conversations with multiple pastors and lay leaders, it became clear that a call to follow the risen and living Jesus is more important now than in recent memory in our shared faith journey,” said CBF’s John Mark Boes, who has managed the project with wide input and participation.

The eight-week study, debuting in September, will engage the whole congregation — children, youth and adults — in reclaiming the central focus of our faith: Jesus.

“We have developed this unique resource because we know we live in a time when so many cultural, social and political pressures distract us from seeing ourselves, one another and the world through Jesus’ eyes,” said CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley.

The singular message of Good Faith Media’s Jesus Worldview Initiative is that too often Jesus’ life-altering and life-giving call to “follow me” is missing within Americanized Christianity — with his life and teachings replaced by other priorities and allegiances.

Seeing Through the Eyes of Jesus gives us the chance to wipe away those distractions and focus more clearly on our primary commitment.

To learn more about this Jesus-prioritized resource — and how your congregation can participate — check out this video introduction.

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