This a longer post than normal, but I felt it better to post singly rather than break it up into a series.
Evangelistic fervor—the core of evangelicalism—ebbs and flows in the West.
Lately, it seems more ebb than flow. Entire regions of the country lag behind population growth in church growth. That is, people are not being converted to Jesus at the same pace as birth and immigration rates are increasing. Part of this, I think, is the unwillingness or inability of Christians in America to adapt evangelistic efforts to new realities around them.
Yesterday, LifeWay Research released the results of a survey that should cause every pastor and every church to evaluate their evangelism strategies: nearly half of non-church attenders never think about the afterlife; almost 75% would not attend a seeker small group; more than 60% would not attend a worship service. But, 61% would attend a church sponsored event on neighborhood safety. This signals what for many churches would be a significant shift in how we spread the gospel.
The enduring question for the church is this: how do we fulfill the Great Commission in a rapidly changing world?
We—the church of the West—receive no exception from the question.
But it appears that despite our best efforts to keep up with the ever-morphing values and circumstances of Western cultures, the answer eludes us.
For many , the answer is not to adapt or change at all, but merely to maintain as if by some force of will the imagined halcyon days gone by of Christendom come full circle (or at least feels nostalgic for the faith of their grandfathers). But Christendom is over and no amount of wishing will make it return.
The Great Nostalgia is not the Great Commission.
The answer does not lie at some outlying extreme of either constant adaptation or constant constancy. Instead, our churches must continue the hard work of contextualizing the message of Jesus Christ to all tongues, tribes, and nations, whether in the Congo or in California.
This is just good missionary work.
The strategy needed is a counter-cultural return to biblical mission. What we need to do is advance back to the scriptural blueprint for the church on mission. What the church in the West desperately needs is a missional renaissance.
How might the church address the issues of the world? In other words, how might the church undergo this missional renaissance to embody the gospel in the post-Christendom West?
Three primary steps are needed: a rediscovery of the biblical mission, a reconsidering of the nature of the gospel, and a re-turning away from modernity.