Tired of going through the motions, four college students left their routine Christian lives in the U.S. in a quest to find what it really means to be a follower of Jesus outside the Christian setting.
"Sometimes you just get churched out. You go to Bible studies, you go to Bible camp, and you just kind of keep doing the same things, hearing the same sermons, doing the same stuff," Alex Carroll, one of the students, admits.
So the question sums up to: "How do we get away from that and really examine ourselves and try and figure out what does Jesus want from us?"
"Beware of Christians" is a brave and fun new documentary that follows Carroll, Michael Allen, Will Bakke and Matt Owen who travel across Europe for six weeks. During their 10-city trip, they ask people on the streets for their views on Christians and tackle issues such as identity, materialism, sex and relationships, church, wealth, entertainment and alcohol.
"Would you be able to say 'they are Christian' by the way that they act?" they ask passers-by on the street. The students often get back the answer "not really."
"It's just that they're busy on Sundays," one person responds in the film.
As the four young men explore the different issues, they discover a disconnect between what they grew up with in church and what a true Christian looks like.
On the matter of materialism, one of the students points out that while growing up, "everyone had everything and everyone was a Christian. It confused me because the Christian influence in my life was successful people that love God, that had nice things. So that shaped the way I viewed materialism. I love having stuff … [So] I couldn't grasp my mind around the fact that maybe we are not supposed to have all these things for us."
They come to a similar understanding on sex: "We either need to let go of following Jesus or let go of the relationship. The first step is if we are willing to call sin, sin."
They conclude, "If you are truly a Christian and if you are truly trying to distinguish your lifestyle from this world, it's going to suck and it's going to be hard and you are going to be made fun of but it's worth it."
Producers Allen and Bakke noted to The Christian Post that while in Europe, some of the reactions to their questions were notably harsh but not dramatic.
"Most people that don't believe in God just laugh it off, or just don't think about it very much. Some people in Europe would make fun of us," Bakke recalled. "One guy just stood yelling in the street, cursing us out for about half an hour. We got some bad reactions, but it wasn't a dramatic thing most of the time."
They found that people were basing their answers on Christians they knew or met.
The college students also found that young Christians often dismiss their faith as soon as their parents' or pastor's voices are silenced by the cacophony of the world outside.
Allen observed, "It's not that they are falling away from their faith; it's just that they never had a faith to begin with."
"What they thought was Christian – like showing up to church or not smoking or not drinking, following a set of rules that are culturally acceptable – is not actual faith, and it's just doing what you are told," Allen explained. "So when the time comes when there is no one telling you what to do anymore, then you default to what's best for you and that's why a lot of people start living differently a lot in college."
For the four students, it may be easy for them to fall into default mode as well. But after searching for their own answers and reexamining the Christian life, they've come to new realizations, leaving them without any excuses.
"The biggest change that came to us was the outlook on Christianity. When we are willing to say that 'following God is the most important thing there is and it's so pointless and stupid to make excuses and do what you want to do,' once you are willing to say that your life really changes a lot," said Allen.
"Beware of Christians" is currently available for pre-orders with a tag price of "Name Your Own Price." All proceeds will go to funding a tour to screen and distribute the film to young adults in Southeast U.S.
The students hope to show their peers and others that "there is a better way to do things, because that's what Jesus told people, there are better ways to do things than you are doing now; the only catch is that it's backwards from what you know."