Proclaiming the Gospel in a Post-Christian Culture
In the United States, we are living in what is being called a “post-Christian culture.”The number of people who claim no religious affiliation is on the rise. Millennials are rejecting religion in a substantial measure. Add to that an accelerating number of church closings along with a drop in the level of commitment from those who do attend church, and we may safely conclude traditional Christianity is finding itself in decline.
Traditional Christianity/the church today is under attack, seemingly like never before. The Bible tells us our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, world powers of this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Great forces are at work to resist, if not defeat, the plan of God to establish His kingdom and restore the nations.
The “nones,” those who self-identify as atheists or agnostics or claim no religious identity at all, now make up roughly 23 percent of the US adult population, according to Pew Research. That’s a big upswing from 16 percent in 2007.
LifeWay’s Facts & Trends dedicated its Winter 2018 edition to the topic of surviving and thriving in a post-Christendom culture. Mike McDaniel, the pastor at Grace Point Church of Northwest Arkansas and author of The Resurgent Church: 7 Critical Ways to Thrive in the New Post-Christendom World, said that while many Americans have adopted more secular values and perspectives, “that doesn’t mean Christianity has died. Rather Christendom has died. The institutional church has lost its influence.”
Culture vs. Christ
From within our church walls, we struggle with issues of gender identification, drug and alcohol abuse, and addiction of all types. The world has invaded the church through the lust of the eye and the pride of life.
Will culture win or will Christ win the hearts of mankind?
In a way, the church is at a crossroads of whether to serve Christ or itself. Salvation and personal sanctification, even the great commission, are at stake.
Today’s church is also facing a growing anti-Christian bias in the culture. Interestingly, it seems to be paralleling growing anti-semitism.
Even though Hollywood has been releasing faith-based films recently, the media tirelessly portrays Christianity as narrow-minded and bigoted. Seeking God is no longer relevant. Moral relativism says you are your own God; the church is just a country club. Science is used to explain away God when it comes to the origins of life, morality and even our destiny.
“Whence came I and whither go I? That is the great unfathomable question, the same for every one of us. Science has no answer to it.” Erwin Schroedinger
Rather than turning to God, the culture turns to technology and instant gratification. Yet the void we feel inside, Pascal’s God-shaped vacuum, remains.
According to the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, church leaders need to be willing to admit that what’s happening within their walls may no longer be enough to attract the seeker since church attendance is no longer a cultural expectation.
Each church community has a distinct personality, vision, and mission. There are always some commonalities of method, but real community impact is as unique as the church bringing the Word to it. Ultimately, it comes down to how believers welcome and support others through fellowship.
According to Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, thriving churches are focused on providing ministry not only to their own members, but also to those outside the church, creating bridges for sharing the gospel.
Searching for Spirituality
Another method to fill the emptiness we feel in a life disconnected from God is the search for spirituality. The idea here is that spirituality and religion are not the same thing. Religions include references to spirituality but being spiritual is not necessarily being religious. One can be very spiritual and pursue spiritual ideas and practices and not be pursuing the Christian God. Millions of Americans eager to “develop their full potential” are being offered magical solutions to life’s problems. This mystical marketplace of self-improvement offers to meet the spiritual and material needs of mankind. Spirituality can be a substitute for Christianity; thereby it becomes another way the Christian church is rejected.
According to research from the Barna Group, adults surveyed were aware of their spiritual needs, but lacked a genuine understanding of the religious value and the importance of incorporating it into their daily lives. People are increasingly dissatisfied with the church for many reasons, one of which is not aligning with their own personal perspectives. It seems the church is no longer relevant, and people are seeking answers elsewhere.
Churches will need to adapt their cultures to become a community that consistently reaches out across the board and welcomes outsiders; looking for non-traditional ways to invite people to experience their ministry.
As the Church recognizes the ever-evolving world in which it lives, it will adapt to these changes, and learn by revelation what can be done to bring the life-changing Gospel to the lost and disheartened people across the street or across the world.
Looking Ahead with Hope in Christ
For your ministry to thrive in this post-Christian culture, it’s important to review your mission of impact and what may need to be shifted to soar in today’s world of reaching people.
How your ministry chooses to recognize, acknowledge, and adapt as you Proclaim the Gospel in our 21st century culture and beyond will directly impact and determine its future.
Developing the insight on who your ministry audience really is, is the key to unlock the secret of how best to communicate your mission. Media research and insights provide clear messaging, touchpoints and the best way to use today’s media for maximum impact.
Despite the serious challenges your ministry faces in today’s post-Christian culture, they are not insurmountable – and can be overcome!
History reveals the Gospel thriving under hardship and persecution. One only need to look at the church in China today for inspiration. Its underground movement has grown exponentially even with deep persecution.
It’s important your ministry reach those who need it most.
Click here to begin deeper conversations about how your ministry can grow in our current culture and into the future. Trust that God’s grace will prevail, then learn how your ministry can help manifest God’s love beyond your walls. Amen.