We live in a post-Christian world.
Actually, having been born and raised in Canada, and living my entire adult life in California, I’ve always lived in a post-Christian world.
For Christians living in Bible Belt areas, like the American south and midwest, the relentless march towards post-Christianity is not just a concern, it can feel terrifying.
There are challenges to living in a post-Christian society. I won’t try to convince you it’s better. It’s not. But the news isn’t all bad. In some ways, it’s kind of refreshing. There are actually some advantages to living in a culture where people don’t feel obligated to say they’re a Christian.
So, as someone who’s lived there all my life, while maintaining a strong faith and Christian witness, I can tell you there are some silver linings in those impending clouds.
Here are five advantages to be found among the rubble:
1. People Are Less Likely To Be Living Hypocritically
Current church membership is below 50 percent for the first time in a couple generations. One of the main reasons for this is that many people who used to say they belonged to a church did so out of habit, tradition, or societal pressure. Now, they don’t feel that pressure, so they’re answering more honestly.
Honesty is always better, even when the news is bad.
Today, if someone says they’re a Christian, it’s more likely to be true. And if they’re not, they’re less likely to pretend they are.
2. Being A Christian Is A Clear Choice
When you live in a culture surrounded by Christian symbols, language, music, and traditions, it’s easy to get swept up in it without really considering if you believe it or not.
When those cultural Christian markers are removed, people who say they’re followers of Jesus are more likely making that choice consciously and purposefully.
Those are the followers Jesus has always desired. When arguing with the Pharisees, Jesus denounced the culturally religious people by saying, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)
Followers by choice, rather than followers by habit, family, or tradition, has always been what Jesus wants.
3. It Helps Us Major On The Majors
When your Christian faith is in the minority, you appreciate focusing on issues that make a difference in the real world.
In a conversation with several midwest pastors, I was silent as they debated how to deal with the issue of teenagers wearing hats and torn jeans to church. At one point, they noticed my silence and asked, “Is this not as big an issue in California as it is here?”
“It’s not,” I responded. “When teenagers come to our church, some of them have faced resistance from their friends and family just to show up on Sunday. Hats and torn jeans don’t matter at all. We’re just happy they’re there, worshiping and serving with us.”
Living in a post-Christian culture has a way of narrowing our focus.
4. It Can Reduce Petty Inside-Church Arguments
The church is an army. The New Testament uses that imagery a lot (Luke 14:31; Eph 6:10-18; Rom 8:37; Rom 13:4; 1 Timothy 6:12).
We’re created to fight. But that fight is not against flesh and blood, with swords and guns (Matt 26:52; 2 Cor 10:4). And it shouldn’t be against each other (James 4:1-2).
But, because that desire to fight is within us, when we’re not directing it where it needs to go, against things like evil (Rom 12:9), injustice (Deut 16:19), and hatred (Matt 5:43-45), we can turn against each other.
For almost 1600 days, I’ve put this verse on my Twitter feed: Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:23)
Why? When we’re really on mission with Jesus, especially in a post-Christian culture, we can’t waste our time fighting each other over trivial matters.
5. The Opportunities For Christian Witness Are Different, But Straightforward
In a post-Christian world, people won’t be drawn to Jesus because your church held a concert, threw a festival, or spent a ton of money on advertising. Sure, you may draw a crowd that way, but it’s likely that the members of the crowd will already be Christians. And if not, it’s less likely than ever that they’ll make a decision to follow Jesus because of it.
What will get them to consider Christ? Simple conversations, with Christians they trust, in an unhyped environment.
This generation can spot hype a mile away. And churches look cheesy when they try. But an honest life, lived simply, kindly, and consistently is something they’ll notice.
(Photo by Dirk Fokken | Flickr)