Nashville is the worst place in the world for name dropping. If you start talking about anybody famous, someone in your conversation will claim to know that person and know them well. Given Nashville’s laid-back attitude about its stars, the claims aren’t out of the ordinary. Famous music stars are regularly seen in local restaurants, grocery stores and coffee shops. Cordial run-ins are commonplace around here. Most of the time, the stars are very gracious, and the exchange of greetings can give you something to talk about later.

Those greetings shouldn’t be confused with friendships. They shouldn’t even be considered an acquaintance. Yet, on more than one occasion, I’ve had someone tell me they “knew” a famous star only to find out they didn’t really “know” the person at all. They may have seen them around town, but they don’t know that person –not even close.

They’re just dropping names.

This is what I thought about as I read about how Christianity is facing a rapid decline in attendance and those who attend church. According to recent studies, as much of 40% of students will walk away from the Christian faith as they become adults. Millions of people have stopped coming to church at all and deny any kind of religious affiliation.

I get it. There are, of course, several reasons that feed into this new reality. One of them is honesty. Several years ago, being a member of a local church was a social expectation. No one really cared if you attended or not, or if you adhered to the church’s statements of faith. You just had to be a member. That means denominational executives were able to claim thousands of members who were never active in any reasonable manner in any church. Their names were the rolls. That’s it.

So, when the numbers started dropping, I wasn’t surprised. I thought we were finally getting our numbers straightened out. The numbers seemed to be a little more accurate – at least from my experience. Let’s just say there have never been as many Christians in local churches as was claimed.

We have a lot of name droppers.

True, we used to live in a “Christian” society where everyone was assumed to be Christian. For the most part, we used the same religious language and we shared the same assumptions about life and love, good and evil. As our nation has become more and more diverse, this is no longer the case. However, in a lot of places assumed to be “Bible Belt America”, it would still hold true.

We assume everyone is a Christian. They aren’t.

They claimed to know Jesus when they had only actually run into Him at youth camp or a revival meeting. They may have even had an emotional encounter.

But they never really met Jesus. They never became a disciple of Jesus. They never thought about it that much. They just followed along as long it was convenient, and when it stopped being convenient, they stopped following. The numbers dropped across the nation. People didn’t have to go church anymore to be socially accepted.

So, they didn’t.

And I’m OK with that. At least we’re beginning from a place of honesty. If you don’t believe, fine. Just be honest about it and let’s begin the conversation with where you really are. If you don’t know Jesus, that’s fine. Just say that up front. Had a bad experience at church? I get it. Have trouble believing some of the difficult passages of the Bible? Me too. Let’s talk about it.

I am a Christ-follower. I try my best to live according to His teaching and in such a way that honors Him. I fail, and I fail a lot, but it’s not for lack of trying. I’m learning every day how to do it better. I think following Christ is the best way to live. I’d love to tell you about the difference Jesus makes in my life.

I’d love to hear your story. And if you decide not to believe, I’ll respect your choice. I won’t necessarily like it, but I’ll respect it.

And we’ll still be friends.

But let’s spare each other the name dropping. Friends deserve more from each other.