The Church was Built for the 21st Century
Much of what we hear about the current status of the Church is that it’s in decline. First Europe, and then North America. While institutionalized Christianity does seem to be losing influence in the West, there is a different kind of activity that is forming and actually, starting to breathe on its own. The Church is becoming more transportable and carries an energy that is transforming the way we see and experience its teachings.
Concrete location is becoming less important as we see growth in the nomadic wandering of Christians within community. As it turns out, we’re discovering the very dwellings that we were supposed to be looking for in the beginning! We’re reaching deeper into the lives of others on their soil and within their territory. To the dismay of some, the Church is becoming geographically rootless yet rooted deeper than ever in the hope of the Son of God. There are several implications of this that are working themselves out in the early part of the 21stCentury.
The Holy Flow of Missional Living
In the past, faith was often static. The experience of fellowship and community existed within a building. As the “social institution concept” loses momentum, the Body of Christ remains intact. Johnny’s no longer walking to church. Johnny’s force to “be the Church” or “be something else.” Faith is becoming more and more free to roam the streets. Faith is becoming a greater centerpiece of conversations and we’re becoming freer to “agree to disagree.” While this seems to do little for the “growth of Christianity”, I believe the dialogue is healthier than anything we’ve seen before.
The result is that authentic people are being authentic and inauthentic people are falling into newly formed categories that are still being determined. Authentic followers of Jesus are understanding that their faith is to be carried and used everywhere and anywhere. Loving God and neighbor applies to the context of our daily lives, wherever we are and within all surrounding areas of society. There is a Holy Flow that moves in and out of lands that are not constricted by walls.
In 2005, New York Times Columnist, Thomas Friedman released an international bestseller titled, The World is Flat. This book discusses how globalization and the constant flow of information through social, political, and economic institutions are changing the way we see the world and do business. The “Flat World” also has implications for communities of faith. Our beliefs and how we carry these out are no longer isolated. They are actively present in the world.
Secularization Theory suggested that further secularization in societies would lead to the
end of religion as we understood it. It may very well lead to the end of religion as we currently understand it, but Christianity will be understood in ever-more genuine ways. Christianity is growing in the global south. And the technologies that have produced ongoing secularization are also being used to spread the Gospel. Some churches are becoming deeply innovative and involved in this creative process. We are finding new ways to reach people with the life changing message of Jesus.
Pluralism, Communication, and Authenticity
Our ability to utilize technology leads to “flatter world.” This also creates a space for more honest and authentic dialogue about some of the greatest questions, fears, and doubts about Christianity. Through the growth of pluralistic societies in the West, we’re further understanding that we can “agree to disagree.” This is bringing about more authentic conversation, but also producing a more authentic Christianity that cannot hide behind walls of safety and comfort.
People are in a position like never before: They are being called out for their beliefs and being asked questions about the “why.” While many fall away through this process, authentic Christians are rising to the occasion. Much like the predictions of the Parable of the Sower we find in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Globalism and Sacred Identity
In a world in which the everyday person has “global reach” in influence and ability, the sacred identity is more important than ever. The future of Christianity will depend on how believers live out their lives in everyday settings. The Two Great Commandments are more important than ever and the formal settings in which we typically engage are reshaping and changing in substance. Christian community has always will always require active participation. Our greatest questions will be where are the primary venues in which we participate and how many brothers and sisters will be walking beside us? These are questions that only God can answer.