Why We’re Not So Popular Anymore

I’m sure that it will come as a shock to some of you… Though not those of you who know me well… But I have never been popular. Sure, there have been times that I’ve known a lot of people. But knowing a lot of people doesn’t make you popular. And while I would have loved to have been popular when I was a teenager, I’ve gotten to the point in my life that I’m not nearly as concerned about being popular as I am about being relevant.

Last year, without really intending to, I ended up taking a cross-country tour to meet some of my newfound friends. First to Texas, then to South Carolina, then to Washington State, and then to Oregon.

Some of them, when I met them, we became immediately close. There were many, many hugs and much laughter. Hands were held and tears were shed. But there were other folks that I could tell were holding back. Watching me and waiting.

Waiting for what?

Waiting to see if I was like all of the other so-called Christians they had known before. Waiting to see if they were going to get judged by the Church Lady. And the reason I know this is that after I returned home, I asked them.

We folks in the church don’t like to believe it’s true. We want to close our ears and not hear it. But some of the most precious, wonderful folks we’ve never met do not go to our church. In fact, they don’t go to any church. And they avoid people who do go to church because they expect to be judged. They expect us to be hypocrites. And the sad part is that the majority of the time, they’re right to expect that.

They want and need us to be real and relevant and we sometimes have trouble being either one.

In Chapter 21 of The Hole in our Gospel, Rich Stearns gives some statistics that shocked even me. And because I know I’ll have readers that weren’t able to read the chapter, I’m going to post them here. (These quotes were borrowed from the book UnChurched, which was based on a research report by the Barna Group.)

Of non-churchgoing Americans, ages 16-29, 91% believe Christians are Antihomosexual. 87% believe Christians are judgmental. 85% believe Christians are hypocritical. 78% believe Christians are old-fashioned. 75% believe Christians are too involved in politics. 72% believe that Christians are out of touch with reality. 70% believe that Christians are insensitive to others. 68% believe Christians are boring. 64% believe Christians do not accept other faiths. 61% believe Christians are confusing.

And the truth is that we (Christians) can sit in our pew until doomsday, crying, “I’m not like that!” But because “perception is reality,” until we get out of our pews and go out into the world and live a real, relevant life, that perception will remain. And incredible people will be lost to us—as friends and as brothers and sisters.

So, here’s my challenge. First, let’s let God search our hearts and refine out those weaknesses. Then, let’s go be real and relevant.  

This post is part of our regular Wednesday book discussion. If you have written a response for Chapter 21, I welcome you to link it up below. I also encourage you to visit my co-facilitator, Jason, at his site, Connecting to Impact to see what he’s shared on this chapter.

About Sarah Salter


  1. People tell me I’m not real all the time.

    But I guess that’s not really the same thing?

  2. Good thoughts Sarah. True statement: “They want and need us to be real and relevant and we sometimes have trouble being either one.” True but sad.

    Side: I messed up when linking. #1 & #2 are incomplete links. 🙁

  3. Amen. Let’s go love as Christ first loved us while we were yet sinners.

  4. Wow, Sarah this is really good perspective. One other thing I’ve noticed is regardless of how nice and friendly and accepting we may be, people can always tell if we have an agenda.

    Is our agenda to love others or to convert them to Christianity? I think people can sniff that out in an instant and that’s why so many Christians come across as in-authentic (is that a word??).

    I know I’ve done it but I’m coming to a point in my life where I’m just trying to love people and live my faith. If they are drawn to it, then I’m doing what I need to be doing. But I am determined not to base my relationships on what people believe.

  5. This, absolutely. I’m constantly amazed by all the emails I get about my blog from non-believers – for some reason, honest and fallible, imperfect and real, is a rarity in Christian circles. We are subject to their perceptions, and those perceptions have often been built on experience.

    Thank you for writing this post.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Sharkbait- Hoo Ha Ha! We know that you’re real! 🙂

    Bill- Thanks for letting us know about the links and thanks for participating!

    Dusty- When you “amen” me, I feel like I need to preach longer… 🙂

    Tony- Great thoughts here! I so appreciate you addressing this! Last night, I was lying in bed, thinking about this post and the conversations with my unchurched friends that had fed into it. And I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness that some of the friends that I love the most are ones that really have no use for Christ. As much as I love them here and now, I don’t want to be separated from them for eternity. And I don’t want them separated from Christ for eternity, either. I’m NOT friends with them just to convert them. But my prayers for them have to deepen and I have to be willing to walk through any and all open doors that might bring them even a fraction of an inch closer to Christ. But even if they never accept Christ, my love for them remains.

  7. The reason we wouldn’t be real and relevant is a misunderstanding of grace (or lack of it). If we truly experience the truth of Jesus and the power of grace, we won’t be able to stay the same. Lord, bring about true revival and renewal…

    Thanks Sarah–good stuff. 🙂

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason- I think you’re absolutely right! Thanks!

  9. Wow.

    Just wow.

    With the wedding and everything, I haven’t been able to read The Hole in the Gospel.

    But now I want to. If it makes you think objectively in this way, I want to read it.

    I loved the statistics. I want to be relevant too.


  10. Sarah Salter says:

    Duane- As great as the book is, God was working in me about this before we ever started this book. The book has just re-confirmed everything that God’s already been teaching me. Thanks for coming by! I’ve missed you around this neck of the woods!

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