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What is the Church to do?

March 14, 2006

“ ‘I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, non-religious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized – whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ – but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view’ (1 Corinthians 9:19-22, the Message).

This is an exciting time to be alive. The world is changing fast. We are thinking differently, approaching life with new expectations and a different set of questions. Sociologists call it a paradigm shift.

Author Leonard Sweet describes different reactions to this shift, distinguishing those who are native to the new worldview (generally younger people born in post modernity) from those (generally older people) who find themselves immigrants, seeking to learn a new language of thought that will never be their mother tongue.

But whether you are a native or an immigrant, the challenges of relating what you believe to the world in which you find yourself remain the same. Graham Clay has noted that Western culture experiences major cultural shifts at least every 200 years. He argues that, just as the world changed forever with the invention of the printing press and the industrial revolution, so this generation stands at a time of profound social change. With the invention of the Internet, satellite communication, and low-cost air travel (not to mention global terrorism and the rise of tribalism), the Western worldview is becoming more complex and possibly less rationalistic.

The challenges for the Church at such a time are profound. A generation that finds itself in the crux of such a change has a significant responsibility for shaping the new ways of thinking that will define its own age but also that of the coming era. When Christians get it right at such times, adapting themselves to the changing culture and finding new language for timeless truths, the Gospel spreads more easily for years to come because it makes sense to people. However, when the Church gets it wrong by resisting change and enshining nostalgia, we risk apparent irrelevance and an upward struggle.

Will Jesus Christ be famous and favored in the coming age, or will He be a peripheral choice on the menu of social preference? You can call the culture “progressive”, “emerging”, or “post modern”. The challenge is the same: To reinvent the Church without changing the message, to reach this generation for the sake of the age to come.”

Pete Greig and Dave Roberts from Red Moon Rising

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From → Books, Faith

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