For some time now, I've been rather disenchanted with the way Americans typically practice Christianity. And after eight months of observing Albanian Christians, I have begun to notice even more ways that we, as American Christians, often fall short. I grew up in the church, blessed with Christian parents, so my faith has always been a part of my life. And I think that's the problem with many of us. We take our faith for granted, and because of that we often lose sight of what a relationship with God is supposed to look like.
Albanian Christians have been so fascinating to me. Many of them are first-generation believers. For them, putting their trust in the Lord involved a complete change of their hearts and their actions. Many of them are rejected and even persecuted by their families for their faith. They rise above the social and cultural norms that most Albanians practice and choose a life of servitude to the Lord and to His people. Because many of them did not grow up in Christian households, it is a difficult decision to abandon the lives that they choose to leave behind. For them, it is not as simple as saying a prayer and attending church - they often must forsake family, friends, and tradition to follow the Lord. The change that takes place in their hearts is so drastic that other people can't help but notice the difference.
The church that I attend here often reminds me of the early church in the book of Acts. The faith that they practice is so pure, so genuine. Their worship is heartfelt; their preaching is taken straight from the Bible and does not require embellishment to make it entertaining to them - they simply love to hear the Word of the Lord. They do not need flashing lights or exciting social events to keep them interested in going to church. To them, choosing to accept Christ doesn't mean saying a prayer and then continuing to live their lives as they did before - in fact, they would probably be utterly shocked to hear that that is how many Americans treat their Christianity.
These observations have led me to consider how the American church is falling short. In comparison with the Albanians, and ultimately, with the believers of the church in the New Testament, I have begun to see how watered-down our religion is. Do we have an all-consuming passion for the truth? Do our choices reflect God, or the world? Is a deeper relationship with God our biggest desire? Do we let our faith define us? Or are we just content to let him be an accessory, only a small part of our life that we take out and use on occasions that suit our purpose?