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.

1 comment:

Woody Woodward said...

In support of your thoughts on “The Kingdom rolls forward”. I will never forget on one of my Mission Trips to Moldova, thinking how “neat it was for me to be there doing the Lord’s work”, (prideful, you bet!) Talking to several of the “tent making pastors” who shared their own stories of mission to me was truly a humbling experience. Here is one of the amazing stories, proving your point. It’s not about us, doing mission work, it’s HIM doing His Mission work through those who are willing to say, “Yes Lord, here am I send me!”
I first met Vitallie and Nelle on mission trip 2003. Pastor Vitallie invited me and Pavel to have lunch at their house. Now talking about mission work. Wow was I in for a big bite of humble pie! It seems that most every young Moldavian pastor is required by the local body to serve one year in a far, far northern boundaries of Siberia. Vatalie works with what we would think of as Eskimo kind of Indians. These folks live so far north they have never seen a tree or even a flower! What a fascinating video presentation he had produced! I got cold just looking at it. These folks eat nothing but raw caribou and fish. They don’t have wood, so there are no fires. They never take bathes and they wear the same caribou-skin garments, everyday, for one year. Then they put on the new skins. Before these brave Russian speaking missionaries from Moldova came to them, these folks were 100% pagan. They worship idols and followed all kinds of ancient and ridiculous superstitions. We heard about some of their crude cultural practices, stuff that would make your head turn. Vitilie said there was much more he could tell us but he said, “I don’t want to offend or scare you.” Every other year, Vitilie and a new team of serving missioners travel 3000 miles by air, then by train another 3000 miles. Then the team boards this huge army like ATV’s, where the wheels are life 4 feet tall, and they travel another day or so to reach their final destination. The tiny villages have no names and every 2 weeks they follow the caribou herds on to another place to call home. In the winter, it is a balmy 40 below zero, and the warmest month is July, at 40*. Vitalie said that many a native has died from just a few minutes of exposure. We praised the Lord with them about their new church building, with a membership of 20. And 10 years ago, none of them have ever heard the precious name of Jesus. And I thought my mission was tough work. You know when we spoiled American’s thank of mission, we think of going to places where we “think” we will be blessing those we are serving. I think we got our priorities all wrong. We should approach mission, going in His Name, doing whatever we can to be the hands of feet of Jesus. But most importantly be willing to listen and learn from those whom we are serving. Learning from the folks we are serving is the real blessing. This kind of blessing is what Paul shared in I Corinthians 3:10-15; “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”