Posted by: whereintheworldismike | September 8, 2012

Major Cultural Shift

The globe makes me think of the world and I’m writing about the world Church

When we packed up the kids and our belongings and first headed to Japan as a family in 1994, America was definitely still in “Christendom mode.” The Bible Belt was still a strong influence; TV censors watched out for us from a Judeo-Christian perspective; pedophiles were thought to be bad and pastors were thought to be good. People generally thought there was such a thing as absolute truth, hell, heaven, and one God. Even then true believers in Christ, the One and Only Son of God and the Maker of All Things were a minority (the Bible calls us a “remnant”). These are believers who know the commands of Christ and are committed to following them–even if they do not feel gifted in that special way.  In the Modernist environment we found ourselves enmeshed in, faith was stripped of supernatural manifestations which though biblical were thought to be superstitious and suspect as something that could not be corroborated scientifically–and therefore trusted. This pitiful excuse for biblical faith has resulted in churches that have been likened to a mortally ill bride confined to a hospital bed and with green pallor punctured with more than one IV (Neil Cole in Organic Church). Now churches in N America (USA and Canada) find themselves increasingly irrelevant and 80% are either declining in membership or plateaued (Great Commission Research Journal Vol 3, No 2 and Vol 4, No 1). What is the cause of this undeniable malaise?

Let me jump ahead in time. In 2009 we returned to southern California to find the environment shockingly different. We were very comfortable with the extreme cultural diversity our daughter encountered at college–and we did too, for that matter–in what had been predominately white middle class neighborhoods. After all we had been living for the last nearly 20 years as minorities in Japan. We had even grown to appreciate some aspects of our adopted culture over what we had grown up with. Now back “home” in the USA we pretty swiftly realized that the culture had taken a fundamental turn–major change–in the time we had resided overseas. The culture could best be described as “Post-Christian.” Now on TV we were often shocked (Frog in the Kettle-George Barna). Some churches we visited were obviously struggling with too many funerals and not enough baptisms while others had about the same number of members as we remembered but most were new and unfamiliar to us (church merry-go-round). Now the media often vilified pastors and church members, and what once would have been consensus perversion was not only accepted but promoted in public schools and the mainstream media.

From my reading of the Old Testament, it is clear that when Israel turned their backs on God, they got a streak of incompetent leaders; their enemies multiplied; their economy tanked; and finally, perversion (according to God’s Law) became the common coin of the realm. As if anyone needed more evidence that God loves us and has taken great care in providing for anyone who will follow his narrow way (Jesus Christ).

Dear friends, we are not what we own, we are not what we do, and we are not what others say about us (Henri Nouwen on YouTube)!  We are the beloved of God! He is calling us to live as peculiar people (not strange, but distinct). He wants his people who claim to follow Jesus to imitate Jesus by helping who they can and giving to the Lord’s work as they are enabled. He wants us to rest in him in prayer so we can be an aroma of Christ, the Prince of Peace, in every context we find ourselves in. He will refine us as we submit to his leadership in our lives. Sometimes that process can be painful. But his presence is “un-lose-able” and so comforting no matter what we face–in Hebrews 11 it talks about some who were being sawed in half and sang hymns right up to the end of their ability. They were comforted in this momentary affliction. And they had a greater reward–eternal reward–waiting for them once they had crossed over into the eternal Kingdom of our Loving God.  Maranatha!

Can you guess where the photo at the beginning was taken? It was one of my breaks from computer work (many hats in the mission now) with a friend of mine on our bikes. It is a well-known place and in California. Met a nice young man there who snapped the shot with the mosaic globe.


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