Monday, September 2, 2013

Defining a Post-Christian Culture

This coming week, I'm going to start a new sermon series at Cornerstone called "What Church Is" (a study in 1 Peter).  Peter addresses the church as foreigners, strangers, and exiles (1:12; 1:17; 2:11).  This is exactly what we are--living in a post-Christian culture.

What is a post-Christian culture?  Stuart Murray in his book After Christendom defines it as a society that is shaped less and less by the story of the Christian faith and characterized by a decline in influence of institutions meant to express Christian convictions. He lists seven transitions from a Christianized culture to a post-Christian culture:

1.  From the center to the margins.  Moving from where the Christian story and churches were central to post-Christian where these are marginal.

2.  From majority to minority.  Moving from Christians comprising the majority to where we are the minority.  [I would add that this is more than those calling themselves Christians, but those who are devoted followers of Christ.]

3.  From settlers to sojourners.  Moving from a place where Christians feel comfortable in society [and I would add, complacent], to where they feel like outsiders in their own culture.

4.  From privilege to plurality.  Moving from a place where Christians enjoyed many privileges to a post-Christian culture where our community is one among many in a pluralistic society.

5.  From control to witness.  Moving from where Christians could exert influence on society to where we must communicate (witness to) the story of God and its implications to influence individuals.

6.  From maintenance to mission.  Moving from a place where our focus is on maintaining a supposedly 'Christian' status quo, to being on mission in a contested (and sometimes) hostile environment.

7. From institution to movement.  Moving from a place where the focus was significantly on operating and growing the institution, to a place where the focus must be on once again becoming a Christian movement. [I would add that this movement is a result of the moving of the Holy Spirit--not new gimmicks, programs, or the latest fads.]

I may be in the minority on this, but I am actually encouraged by reading this list.  We lament the state of the American church and the rapid decline in the culture and values of our society.  But what a great opportunity for those who respond the right way and are willing to make the adjustments in how they share the good news (evangelize) in a post-Christian culture.

We need to be shaken out of our comfort, complacency and apathy.  When we become a member of the family of God, our identity is to be so radically changed that it should always appear to the rest of society that we offer an alternative that cannot ever be fulfilled or adequately explained by the world.  In other words, we are foreigners and strangers and exiles in a post-Christian America--called out by the Holy Spirit to be on God's mission.  What a great place to be!

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