Have you ever doubted the things you believe? Or maybe you’ve wondered if it really matters all that much when you see so many non-believers that seem to be getting along just fine without faith or church?
My own experiences of doubt regarding faith and spirituality have helped me to understand those who don’t share my beliefs, and what’s more, reflecting on my times of doubt have helped me begin thinking about the drastic changes happening right now in people’s values and attitudes towards things like church and Christian living. There’s a massive earthquake going on in the world of faith and spirituality as we’ve known it in the western world, and Christian believers and leaders are finding the need for big changes to the typical modes of sharing faith and being the church.
Today I had the opportunity to give an early morning “sit-down” chat session with a group of students, and these questions were a part. Our topic was one very close to my heart- Christianity’s place in a Post-Christian (or officially, “Post-Christendom”) world; a world that no longer understands the faith, or the way of life that Christians live by. As always when opening things up for a discussion, student contributions helped to enrich the content of the discussion and enhance the things I had prepared in advance.
If you’re interested in these issues or if you’re a searching doubter/skeptic, or you’re trying to understand how to be a Christian in a VERY non-Christian world, you will probably enjoy the rest of my thoughts on the topic below. I would love to receive feedback with your reaction (good or bad), your questions, and further insights.
One thing I find myself thinking about constantly is the way that contemporary western society no longer understands Christianity and the church, and vice-versa, the way that Christianity (and much of the church) in contemporary western society has often failed to understand this lack of understanding! By “understanding” I mean much more than just a list of information or beliefs. I’m talking about a whole system of values, approaches to life, self-understanding, and social connectedness. It’s worth noting that this growing gap is mainly a western phenomenon right now, especially when looking at the past hold of the church as a cultural pillar of western society. That pillar has long since been taken down.
Most people in western cultures simply “don’t get it” anymore. It’s not that they are antagonistic towards faith or church, or purposely avoiding belief; I truly believe that many are searching and open, but the modernist (i.e. certainty-without-question, as an expectation) approach that Christianity has taken in recent decades is no longer as effective as it once was. It tends to turn people off. People react against someone telling them that the authority on truth comes from a source outside of themselves – it’s a tough thing to analyze or describe in only a few words, but it’s the new normal. And people of faith need to understand this reality.
The values of Christianity are also increasingly foreign to our culture, yet wise and experienced leaders know that the visible church that meets together must somehow retain visibility and functionality as the “Body of Christ” in the world, because powerful and transformative things happen when believers meet together! One of the big questions for forward-thinking leaders is, “How?”
Even if people know the beliefs of Christianity and actually find some merit in them, today’s generations are so far removed from orienting their lives around faith, and things like “going to church,” that walking someone into the Christian way of doing life is like taking someone for a ride to the moon. I should add that such a ride to the moon is a very good ride to take! Indeed, my whole life has been transformed through the things that have happened to me as a believer in the Jesus Christ of the Gospels and New Testament. But that doesn’t mean that I have never struggled, questioned, or doubted my faith, or the expression of that faith visibly and corporately. I have taken dives into all of that, even when I was pastoring!
In the long run, uncertainty about what I believe has helped me to understand the world outside of my faith bubbles, and caused me to dig much deeper and harder to find out why I believe the things I profess to believe. As a result of these searches my faith has grown, and I have found higher and more solid ground to stand on.
If I were to summarize the thrust of what I’m hoping to pass on to people (and with God’s help, model myself) it’s this:
In a world where Christianity is foreign, people need to see it lived out for real in the lives of everyday believers, and then feel it in the warmth of Christian love and the presence of God in the life of the church.
If you’re also thinking about the things I’m thinking about you will probably have some things to share. You might even have your own blogs or favorite places to go and read on the subject – it’s a big discussion about a very important need, and this short post barely scratches the surface.
But we have to start somewhere.
I would love to hear from you here in the blog commenting space below.
Thanks for reading!