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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Faking it?

Taking a break for a moment from the series of Pastorates Manuscript posts.  (Thanks to those of you who keep coming back!)  We'll be back to the pastorates shortly.  For now, what do you think when you hear the term "faking it"?

"Faking it" is never a good thing.  Think about the phrase -- doesn't it give you a nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach?  You don't want to be close to those who are faking anything.  Words like lying, hypocrisy, and broken trust follow quickly behind.

The same is true in the church.

Here's a fascinating exchange that happened during Christianity Today's 2013 interview with Rick Warren.  The interviewer asked the question in bold, and Warren responded:

More resources are expended on evangelism in America than in almost any other nation. Yet surveys say the country is becoming less Christian. What’s your take?

Cultural Christianity is dying. Genuine Christianity is not. The number of cultural Christians is going down because they never really were Christian in the first place. They don’t have to pretend by going to church anymore. 
I don’t trust all the surveys out there. Newsweek did a cover on the decline of Christian America based on a Pew survey that said the number of Protestants has dropped precipitously. That’s an old term. It’s like saying I’m a Pilgrim. Nobody calls themselves a Pilgrim or a Puritan anymore. So the number of Pilgrims and the number of Puritans have dropped precipitously in America! That’s a straw man. 
Of course Protestantism has dropped. The only people who might still call themselves Protestants are the liberal Protestant churches—the ones that have died the most.
I think Rick Warren has nailed something here.  Church attendance in big, mainline churches is dropping like a rock.  This is no surprise.  Cultural Christianity -- the sort of social system that sees itself as more-or-less-Christian -- is dying.  Look around you:  Schools don't avoid programming on Wednesday evenings (if you're over 40, do you remember "church night"?)  and even if the schools avoid Wednesdays or Sunday mornings, for that matter, the community leagues are all over those time slots.  Cultural Christianity is no longer part of the social expectations that most people live with.

So in essence, what Warren is saying above is that people don't feel pressure to "fake it" anymore.  They don't have to pretend.

What do Jesus followers do with this bit of information?  We can grieve the loss of power.  We can mourn that people no longer feel pressured to behave like Christians.  Or -- and this is a big change -- we can recognize that we have an opportunity to be salt and light in a darkened culture.

Churches that get what it means to be in the world but not of it -- to live in the world and rub shoulders with the world, but not to soak up its values -- will thrive in this environment.  Churches that don't get how to live for Jesus in the midst of a world that doesn't share those values will decline.

Pretty simple.  But look at the churches around your neighborhood.  How many get it?  How many are wishing we could go back to the days when people felt the pressure to fake it?

What about you?  Do you wish we could go back to the days when the church was at the center of social power?  Or do you recognize the movement of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to a time when Jesus' followers have an opportunity to be salt and light in their own neighborhoods?

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