In response to the assertion those of us in ‘Western’ nations are led to believe, namely that ‘Christianity’ is fading away and being overtaken by secularisation, my past three posts have sought to highlight what is really going on in the world. They have demonstrated that God’s Kingdom is clearly expanding around the globe – in Asia, in Africa, and in Latin America.
So, what about in ‘Western’ nations in Europe, North America, and Australasia/Oceania? While ‘Christianity’ is clearly on the increase everywhere else, in the West it does seem on face value, that it is on the wane. For example, figures indicate a clear trend that Europe as a whole is becoming more ‘non-Christian’. It certainly can no longer claim to be the centre of the Christian faith.
Marginalised and Under Attack
Christianity is increasingly under attack in Western society, and becoming despised and marginalised. Christianity is no longer the norm but if this relates to some kind of cultural identity (‘cultural Christians’), then maybe that isn’t such a bad thing? Certainly, Christendom – the alliance of church and state started by Constantine in the fourth century – is a spent force. But Christianity was never intended to be a civil religion in the first place. It became institutionalised and lost its power in the process.
In a post-Christendom context, there is a need to become a Christian movement once again. Too many churches have become institutions or local/global organisations after the pattern of the world.
Church and the Boiling Frog
There is also a need for the Church as Christ’s ekklesia (governing assembly) to once again teach and disciple society, rather than the other way round. Secularisation has been eroding biblical values and the Church has allowed postmodern secular humanism to take over with a rejection of biblical foundations.
In the twentieth century, evangelicals came to consider social action to be alien territory. Having vacated active involvement in most areas of society thinking they were merely ‘secular’ and not spiritual, it is hardly surprising what we are contending with today.
The Church has been the proverbial frog in boiling water. The wider Church has failed to take an active role in getting the gospel of the kingdom into the affairs of the nation during the decades when the greatest social changes have taken place. Instead, in some quarters it has perhaps been overly preoccupied with waiting for an end-times revival or vacating planet Earth via some kind of rapture event. Rather than focusing on Christ’s command to seed and fill the Earth with His kingdom.
Christian Evidence throughout Western Society
Although the West has largely rejected its spiritual and biblical roots, my friend and author, Vishal Mangalwadi, call’s the Bible the soul of Western Civilization. This is because it was the Bible that propelled the development of everything good in the West. Its notion of human dignity, human rights, human equality, justice, optimism, heroism, rationality, family, education, universities, technology, science, culture of compassion, great literature, heroism, economic progress, political freedom, and democracy. While many would like to distance or even cut-off the West from its biblical foundations, the fact remains that much of Western society still displays its Christian values and influences.
Signs of New Growth and Advancement
While we have witnessed in the West a growing spiritual blindness to truth, and with some exceptions, a passive, silent Church, God’s kingdom is still expanding. Nominalism, institutionalism, and passivity is being stripped away.
While some forms of church are receding there are also many signs of new life and growth. New and effective ways of mission are being adopted. Greater engagement within society is taking place. A fuller understanding of God’s plan for kingdom restoration which encompasses the whole of life is being downloaded into the hearts of His people.
We therefore need to remember that while God’s kingdom is clearly expanding numerically in other parts of the world, here in the West, a different kind of growth is taking place. Foundations are being shaken as in previous generations and as recorded in scripture concerning the nation of Israel.
What is vitally important is that God’s people are not found wanting but rise up in revitalised faith, with confidence in biblical truth, and fervency of spirit. It’s time for the prodigal Church in the West to come home!