Thursday, February 28, 2013
The Kingdom rolls forward...
Few things get under my skin like statements that practically relate American Christianity with Christianity. It's like Christianity is relegated to this small nation of 350 million people. I even heard one pastor label this era as "Post Christendom". That's ridiculous.
Christendom is a term for the worldwide community of Christians. I would definitely concede we are living in "Post Christian" America, but not a Post-Christendom world. No way. More people identify with Christianity than any other religion- including Islam. Now, I know not all of the 2 billion people claiming Christianity are born again (nor are the close to 2 billion Muslims faithful Islamists..thankfully), but nevertheless, Christendom is growing, not shrinking. Christendom still makes up over 1/3 the population on planet earth. We are not in "Post Christendom".
Some observe the lack of effect the Church seems to be having on American culture and paint a broad stroke over the world regarding Christianity. If Christianity isn't transforming culture then it must not exist, some would say. While I wouldn't label myself an outright transformationalist, I do think a faithful, pious, church, will impact culture significantly. However, such impact might be that of a lone prophet chirping out in a vast sea of unbelieving, disobedient, people (picture Jeremiah). Still though, the Church will be known and she will make an impact. The Church's impact won't always be in the form of mass conversions or some kind of popular status. Conversions are God's business. Simply put, the Church must be faithful to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. Some epochs will see God give great fruit to the Church's efforts, other times we'll be called to endure lots of opposition and difficulty. We are living in times that are sliding toward more difficulty and persecution for Christians, at least in the U.S. To be sure, however, we are not living in any sort of Post Christendom epoch.
Even conservative statistics show the African and Asian churches growing by millions annually. Yes, I said millions. I just talked to a Ugandan pastor who has personally overseen the planting of 5 medium sized Reformed churches in his region of the country, over the past 15 years. Reformed churches are in the minority for such church growth. I know missionaries working in "closed" Asian countries who testify to nothing short of an epic revival and evangelistic explosion in that region of the world. Remember, it could mean your livelihood or life to claim Christ in many of these places. There's every reason to believe the Asian evangelistic explosion is authentic. We're not talking Joel Osteen Christians here. I think it is a mistake to think, based on American Christianity, that Christianity the world over is lagging. It simply is not true. The Kingdom rolls on. Governments come and go. The Church's outward exposure waxes and wanes. Sometimes revival is evident and clearly shows itself in a given culture. Other times there is a slow boil below the surface. Yes, the church sometimes appears as a lone dessert rose.
When the Church is faithful to preach the gospel, sinners repent and more are added to the Kingdom. Honestly, I think one of the reasons for such a dismal sense about American Christianity is the lack of faithfulness on the part of the Church to do the most essential task of faithfully preaching of the gospel. Many American churches have done well to exercise mercy to those around us by providing for people physically, but they have forgotten or forsaken the delivery of the Word of Life. We should do both. Too many American churches think people know the gospel message, therefore we need to be feeding and clothing everyone. How about bringing the message of Christ (in words) while also ministering the heart of Christ (deeds)? I believe the chief mistake of the American church is forsaking a clear and constant delivery of the gospel.
Thankfully, such unfaithfulness is not rampant in the Church the world over.