The Two Christianities: Comparison Table


JesusThis week we’ve looked at insights I received last weekend concerning American Christianity’s bifurcation into two streams of thinking and operation, Externally Motivated (EM) Christianity and Internally Motivated (IM) Christianity. To go back to the sources, please read “The Two Christianities” and “The Two Christianities: Reader Feedback….”

To put a final note on what we’ve discussed—and thanks to all you readers for an outstanding discussion!—I offer a table comparing EM and IM Christianity:

Externally Motivated (EM) ChristianityInternally Motivated (IM) Christianity
Our theology/doctrine is…ConservativeConservative
Our praxis is…ConservativeLiberal
The covenant that forms the basis for our belief system is…The Old—The LawThe New—Grace
Our mission:Preservation of power structures that serve as evidences of godlinessDisciple-making
Our source(s) of motivation and power is/are…Existing political and social authorities manipulated to preserve systems and institutions deemed godlyThe Holy Spirit
Power rests on…Dynamic, media-savvy, big-name leaders who determine which power structures are worth supportingNameless, faceless individuals who love not their lives unto death
Power is maintained through…Fear of lossDying to self
Failure is perceived as…Losing the culture warNot fulfilling the Great Commission
When threatened, our response is…An eye for an eyeTurning the other cheek
When threatened, we become…Aggressors (or martyrs for the cause should we fail)Joined to Christ in His sufferings
We counter threats with…The systems and institutions we empowerHumility and patient endurance
We suffer for…Our causeThe Lord
Persecution is to be…PreventedExpected
Christianity exists to be…PreservedGiven away
Our faith is…A means to an endIts own reward
Evidence for our faithfulness exists primarily in…Following a strict list of do’s and don’ts derived from the BibleManifesting the gifts and fruits of the Spirit
The community of faith exists primarily to …Preserve the American civil religion and protect the rights of the faith communityReach out to the lost and build up the household of faith
The community of faith seeks justice for…ItselfFor all
Our attitude toward benevolence is…God helps those who help themselves (though we may intervene for the very worst cases)Acts 2:44-45
We meet the needs of those who…Most directly benefit our causesAre needy, regardless of their ability to benefit us
We have what we have…Because we have done what is rightBecause God is gracious
We are righteous because of…Our compliance with the moral code we’ve constructed from Biblical principlesWho Christ is
We seek relationships with …Our own kindAll people
We make our way in society by…“Christianizing” secular systems and cultureDiscerning by the word and the Spirit what is worthy of our time and attention
We root out sin in…OutsidersInsiders
We judge…The secular society and its cultureThe household of faith
We believe people are motivated to obedience by…External forces (usually political when dealing with secular society) applied through a Biblical moral codeBeing born again, filled with the Spirit, and fellowshipping within a grace-filled community
We validate our apologetic through…WordsActions
We spread truth through…DebateThe way we live in obedience to Christ
Our ministry is the ministry of…Reproof and correctionReconciliation and compassion
Our spiritual focus is…InwardOutward
Our leadership is…Concentrated in a few powerful peopleDispersed throughout the group
We prioritize…Earthly goals first, spiritual goals secondSpiritual goals first, earthly goals second
We are…GuardiansAmbassadors

I’m sure more comparisons exist. I thank readers for prompting some of comparisons seen here. Some day in the future we may revisit this issue and I’ll add more to the table.

Until then, I pray that this week’s discussion has blessed you and made you consider moving on past the EM life into that of the IM Christian.

The Two Christianities: Reader Feedback…


The Two Christianities” post from yesterday seems to have touched a nerve out there in the Godblogosphere as it generated more traffic to this site than anything ever posted here.

I believe that others out there have insights into this issue. For that reason, I’d like to open up the comments for readers to contribute on a few select questions regarding the post. (If you haven’t read it, you can find it here.)

The questions:

  1. What evidences of EM Christianity do you see in the West? In your own church?
  2. Beyond the traits listed in “The Two Christianities,” what other characteristics define EM Christians, and how do those characteristics manifest themselves in practice? (Also answer for IM Christians.)
  3. How does one transition from being an EM Christian to an IM Christian? What resources might help the transition?

As a fourth input, any other insights you might be willing to share on this topic would be appreciated. I’m hoping to put together a summary post later this week.

Thanks in advance for your comments!

The Two Christianities


Sometime around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, as I shut down the lights in our downstairs in anticipation of going to bed, it hit me. I finally understood something about the Church that I’d never realized before. Some may not see what follows as any great revelation, but it jumped out at me so strongly that I nearly couldn’t go to sleep for thinking about the ramifications.

I haven’t processed it all, but I’d like to share what I discovered. Like I said, it may be a big ho-hum to you, Two roads diverged...but I now see why the Church in this country fails to grow and meet the basic objectives of discipleship.

Consider two different Christianities at work, the Externally Motivated and the Internally Motivated…

Externally Motivated (EM) Christianity sees the Kingdom of God existing in systems and institutions “erected by God” or by Christians faithful to God. The essence of what it means to be a Christian dwells in hallowed monolithic icons, largely existing outside the believer. We see the expression of EM Christianity whenever we encounter Christian groups and individuals seeking to preserve or defend some aspect of the truth they see encapsulated in a system, institution, or organization.

By nature, EM Christianity is conservative in that it works to retain and preserve those creations because it equates an assault on them with an assault on the Kingdom of God. EM Christianity bases much of its credo on the Old Testament and Old Covenant because Israel invested its faith in God through the accoutrements of God in the Temple, in the Ark, in the Law, and in the evidences of God it erected in the faithful community.

But negatives within EM Christianity abound. By equating systems and institutions with the Kingdom, EM Christianity becomes a fear-based expression of the Faith. Not a day goes by without some perceived threat erupting that may be “the final blow” to the hallowed structures maintained by “good Christians.” Therefore, EM Christianity assumes a defensive position at the least provocation because EM Christians live their lives from the outside in.

Furthermore, EM Christianity’s defensive stance exists to defend the community within EM Christianity, rather than looking beyond the group. In other words, it loves its own and that’s as far as it goes. Blindness to causes that ask for a Christian response, but don’t enhance EM Christian strongholds, runs rampant. In the end, EM Christianity creates an insular community that resists the call of the Lord to go into the highways and byways to find those not initially invited to the party.

We see a practical expression of these negatives in the culture wars waged by American Evangelicalism. Leaders that follow the EM practice of the Faith resort to fear to marshal their followers against perceived threats against the systems and institutions that, in their eyes, represent the Kingdom. You can hear their mantra in the following battlecry:

The {opposition group} is going to destroy {pillar of External Christianity} by {sinful tactic}, which will lead to {fearful outcome}, and the end of {secondary pillar of External Christianity} as we know it!

Creating fear-based “Mad Libs” by filling in those brackets becomes an exercise in identifying EM Christianity:

The homosexual lobby is going to destroy our children by infiltrating our schools with pro-homosexual children’s books, which will lead to sexual identity confusion in our children, and the end of the family as we know it!


The Democrats are going to destroy our legal system by failing to approve conservative judges, which will lead to godless special interest groups running the country, and the end of the United States of America as we know it!

You can go on an on with this formula.

What’s sobering for Christianity is the resemblance of that thinking to the following:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

—John 11:47-48

And we know exactly how that ended. The chief priests’ and the Pharisees’ cry sounds very much like the fearful lament of EM Christianity, based as it is in spending all its time and effort in propping up systems and institutions that are secondary (or possibly in opposition) to the expansion of the Kingdom.

Another troublesome issue within EM Christianity concerns its reliance on charismatic leaders to push its agenda forward. When such a leader stumbles, the flock who followed him scatter and the movement loses momentum or falls into public disgrace. We see this all the time and it hurts the cause of Christ in this country immeasurably.

Lastly, those who follow an EM Christianity find themselves subject to the whims of forces having nothing to do with the expansion of the Kingdom of God. Their emotional state shifts with whatever perceived “win” or “loss” follows their cause. Because their faith is so rooted in externalities that can suffer at the hands of the godless, they set themselves up as martyrs even though they may very well lack the proper grounding to be true martyrs for the Faith. Theirs becomes an angry expression of Christianity because of this dilemma.

Yet despite these lacks, EM Christianity is still Christianity. It’s the response of people who have had their eyes opened to the pernicious realities of sin, but have not yet developed an understanding of the Faith that goes beyond labeling others as sinners or saints. EM Christianity is not a seasoned expression of our faith in Christ, but a waypoint on the path to true maturity.

Internally Motivated Christianity, in sharp contrast, invests little time and energy in externalities. Its hope is not in systems and institutions because it understands that those succumb to entropic forces. To the IM Christian, the Kingdom of God cannot rest on externalities prone to decay:

And when [Jesus] was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

—Luke 17:20-21

The distinguishing mark of IM Christianity is the Holy Spirit, who dwells inside each believer. The Kingdom exists because the Spirit comes to live in each believer, that indwelling marking the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New. The externalities, the mere representations of the Kingdom of God, surrender at Pentecost. Therefore, the Kingdom of God cannot be destroyed from without because the Kingdom of God is within us. When attacked, IM Christianity responds with grace and love. It continues to offer Christ to all, even to those who oppose it.

For this reason, IM Christianity signals the mature Faith because nothing can diminish it. Its liberality comes from its freedom to give without fear of loss. IM Christians have considered ALL things lost, receiving in return what cannot be taken away. Though all the systems and institutions collapse and the heathens run amok, IM Christianity remains at peace because its adherents carry within them the fruit of the Kingdom. The Enemy cannot prevail against IM Christianity and cannot sway its adherents because they realize the Kingdom of God lives inside them. The power of God doesn’t come to them from the systems they create, but through the Holy Spirit working miracles in the absence of those systems. They live their faith from the inside out.

IM Christians…

…have humbly died to the externalities.

…don’t concentrate on defending external systems and institutions prone to decay.

…concentrate on the real mission of evangelism and disciple-making.

… comprehend that they are expendable for the Lord because their lives are hidden in Christ.

…work best under persecution.

…have nothing to fear because what they have cannot be taken away from them.

…are truly free.

When we examine the state of the Church in 2007, we find that EM Christianity predominates in the American Church, while IM Christianity marks most regions of the world undergoing revival. IM Christianity thrives in places like China, India, and South America. Those lands have no institutions or systems that support Christianity, anathema to an EM Christian. In fact, institutions and systems in those countries oppose Christianity. This forces the Church there to internalize the Faith. And so it flourishes.

If a warning exists for IM Christianity, it comes in the form of the giant step backward. As noted earlier, EM Christianity exists as a waypoint on the journey to mature faith. However, IM Christianity’s misguided tendency is to retreat by creating systems and institutions that must be defended at all cost. Persecution helps keep this in check, and may explain why the Chinese Church actively prays that the American Church will suffer like it does. When all the systems and institutions fall away, IM Christianity will be forced to take root or people will fall away.

Two Christianities: Externally Motivated and Internally Motivated.

Lord Jesus, make us Internally Motivated Christians.