I’ve been reading and enjoying a book called A Resurrected Church. It’s been timely, as it covers some of the same issues I’ve been wrestling with. My earlier post about the end of Christendom triggered a few comments wondering what I was getting at and why I didn’t seem to be committed to God’s truth being injected into our society. Here’s some of what the author (Charles Bayer) says, along with some of my thoughts. Christendom is a “cultural ethos dominated by the church.” Christendom started with Constantine and only recently ended. In this era, the church was a (sometimes the) dominant force within society. Few would argue that age has ended. The church (at least in the Western world) is no longer a dominant societal force. We live in a secular, perhaps even a pagan, culture. Few would argue with this. (For instance, more people go to Ikea on Sundays in London, England than attend church.) Faced with the end of Christendom, we can either redouble our efforts to revive it, or we can take a completely different approach. Bayer suggests:
The slow demise of Christendom and the end of the Constantinian age may be God’s gift to the church in our era. At least it is a challenge and an opportunity for an authenticity we may not have had for a long time. It puts us on the margins again, and perhaps that is our proper location. That is where Jesus lived his life, with and on behalf of the marginalized…The challenge before us is to discover and live into a new ecclesial paradigm – a new church for the post-Christendom millennium.
Mayer suggests, “The very weakness of the church, without political power or cultural or acceptance, may spell out the details of its greatest opportunity for authenticity.” To put it another way, we as the church may have our best opportunity to live out the Gospel in these next years, in a way that’s similar to how Paul and the other apostles lived it out. Having political power clouds things, at least for me. When we had no Sunday shopping, banned gay marriage, and we said prayer in schools, I could fool myself into thinking that we were a righteous nation. I mentioned this in a sermon the other week. It’s like the parable of the house the demon left. It was all swept and clean, and all it did was make room for seven more demons. Our faux Christianity may have been the worst thing for us. I would argue that the Gospel has thrived the most when it has been marginalized, persecuted, and rejected. That’s where we’re headed. Do I like it? No, not necessarily. But we don’t have a choice, and it does present an opportunity. Perhaps our greatest opportunity. So yes, we need boldness – but not a boldness to re-enter the age of Christendom. We need boldness to live faithfully in an era that scares us to death, a boldness not to give up even though it looks like everything is against us.