I was speaking with a pastor friend the other day and we got into a discussion about culture.
We “lost” the culture wars 20 years ago (outside the Deep South).
Our culture is no longer Christian but very pagan and highly secular.
It no longer advantageous for non-committed people to pretend to be Christians.
Nominal Christianity isn’t worth it anymore–in fact, irreligion gets you the applause, not faith.
So the pews are emptying of nominal people, and our youngest, most culturally-shaped people are leaving as well.
Bible-believing, moral conviction-living Christians can expect to pay greater price tags in the coming days.
Christendom, the “God-and-Flag” position of Christianity as one of the dominant pillars of society, is finished as an approach to life and culture.
Civil religion–the quasi-Christian, vague, public allegiance to God seen in official ceremonies, holidays, public prayers, and marriage laws–is also finished.
Our Strange Excitement
The funny thing is neither of us sees this as a bad thing for the Church.
It’s not so great for our society, but, for Christ-followers, it could well be a godsend!
Willing or not, we’re being shifted by God towards a more relational, more under-the-radar, more First Century/New Testament approach to life, outreach, and faith.
We’re having to learn how to do Christianity the way our Third World brothers and sisters have done Christianity for many, many decades.
Strangers in Our Own Land
We’re being forced to think and operate as foreign missionaries in our own culture.
Instead of requiring people to enter “our world”–to dress differently, sing songs differently, vote differently, and live differently–before the hear the message of Jesus, we’re having to enter their world.
And when we enter their world and become insiders to other insiders, living a loving, inwardly serene and joyful life while living everyday life together among them, we build a bridge for the gospel.
Like our Christ who left heaven, we’ll be leaving our sanctuaries and cultural havens to incarnate and share the message of redemption, mercy, and deliverance from the tyrannical self, the corrupt system, and the real evil behind it all.
So, for all these reasons and more, my friend and I are happy to be alive at such a time, serve Christ at such a time, and embrace the return to New Testament Christianity at such a time.
Some reading these words might be appalled and consider us total idiots, even rank traitors against the faith, for seeing it this way.
They are hugely vested in the God-and-Country, majority religion status of yesteryear.
They cherish the public ceremonies where God is wrapped in the American flag.
They are conservators of tradition, and see former times as simpler, more righteous, and better.
They are angry at being disrespected, disregarded, and dismissed by the movers and shakers of our culture.
They are particularly angry that business leaders have deserted them on moral issues and made common cause with their cultural enemies.
(By the way, a lot of this anger is being taken out on fellow Christians and is causing much conflict within our congregations–compounding our loss of credibility, winsomeness, and evident love.)
They believe if we elect the right people, and win the right elections, and write and enforce the right laws, our moral/cultural decay will be arrested and reversed.
Then the Golden Age will return.
Or was it a Golden Age? And will it ever really return?
Back to the Future
I don’t claim to know what the future will bring, but, curiously, our society is quickly becoming more and more like the Roman Empire of old or the capital city Pan-Em in The Hunger Games books.
And, yes, there were seasons of terrible persecution for the Church and many believers suffered greatly during the first 300 years of our existence.
But in a toe-to-toe contest with reigning paganism, it wasn’t even close.
The bankruptcy and despair of paganism for those at the bottom of society, its utter lack of compelling answers for suffering, meaning, and significance, soon led to a breakdown.
And the contrasting joy, peace, and solidness of Christians–even when suffering and dying for their faith–provided a compelling, winsome picture of real transformation, deliverance from evil, love beyond reason, and undying, unconquerable hope.
May we now do the same!