Tim Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, urged British politicians on Tuesday to allow Christians to be different and live by their ideals.
Speaking at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in the U.K., the influential American pastor said, "Jesus' metaphor was that Christians could be salt as long as they're not the same as the meat — they're different," as reported by Premier.
"British society should let Christians be different, and Muslims be different. They should not say, 'You must be secular.' Christians benefit society more when they are not just like everyone else in society,'" he told an audience that included U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
"We're not going to benefit society filled with self-actualizers unless we really are different and we do believe Jesus died for us and we live by self-sacrifice."
He stressed, "Don't demand that they become like everyone else. Modern society says we believe and respect difference but here's what you should do: tell Christians to be true to their ideals but then critique them on those ideals, not on someone else's."
Keller was the keynote speaker at the prayer breakfast that was attended by hundreds of Members of Parliament and church leaders. The attendees prayed for the country as well as the poor and marginalized. They also sang hymns and recited the Lord's Prayer.
The theme of this year's breakfast was "What can Christianity offer our society in the 21st century?"
May said in a statement that the "Christian gospel has transformed the United Kingdom, with its values and teachings helping to shape the laws, customs and society of the country." The Tuesday event, she added, served as an opportunity to "celebrate Christians' ongoing contribution to this country and to reflect on the role Christianity can play in contemporary public life."
Also noting that Britain has been shaped by Christianity, Keller said during his address, "The ethos that we all take for granted, is the fruit of the Bible and Christianity." "What society needed" was "millions of people who have been shaped by the self-giving of Jesus Christ."
World famous Christian musicians Keith and Kristyn Getty performed at the breakfast.
Bible Society CEO Paul Williams, which sponsored the event, said that it turned out "encouraging and moving."
"We want to encourage the Church to recover confidence in the Bible," Williams said, adding that Christians can "help preserve what's good and draw out what's best in society."
Several polls and studies have found that Christianity continues to shrink in the U.K. A study in May 2017 by the Benedict XVI Center for Religion and Society found that 26 believers abandon the faith for every atheist or agnostic who decides to become a Christian.
The statistics showed that 24.3 million people, or 48.6 percent of the British adult population, identified as "nones" in 2015, with the majority of them being young, white and male.
Survey data from NatCen's British Social Attitudes in September 2017 also found that for the first time ever, the number of people in Britain who say that they have no religion is over half the population, or 53 percent.
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. Paul Bayes, told The Christian Post earlier that despite the findings, "God remains relevant" in the U.K.
"The Church remains relevant. We in the Church, and all who love the Church, need to keep finding ways to show and tell those who say they have 'no religion' that faith — faith in the God who loves them still — can make that life-transforming difference for them and for the world," Bayes said.