Where is Christianity Headed?
By Peter Youngren
There is a battle for the hearts, minds and souls of people everywhere!
Thought police in Canada? Who saw it coming?
A myriad of voices are vying for our attention, so where will Christianity be 5, 10 or 20 years from now?
There is a battle across the world, and it is a struggle for the hearts, minds and souls of people everywhere! Who are the influencers? At the very top, there is Social Media. Teenagers spend 9 hours per day, while baby boomers [those born between 1946 and 1964] spend 27 hours per week on social media, mostly on Facebook. Some say, ‘people are busy, they don’t have time for God’, but maybe the opposite is true, maybe people have never had more discretionary time. On the streets, in parks, in church foyers, and even while driving, people check their phones. Social Media sets the trends in fashion, thought and political correctness. It identifies celebrities, what they wear, and by implication what you should wear, think and believe. Traditional media, the entertainment industry, religion, family and friends continue to influence, just less. One study suggested that parents spend 130 seconds per day of meaningful conversation with their teenage child. Bottom line, the world is in flux, up for grabs. Who will win the battle for people’s hearts and minds?
Statistics in the United States tell us that tens of millions who, in 2000 attended a so-called born-again Evangelical church, are gone and they’re not coming back – maybe 60 million or more. Christianity has its own myriad of voices. While some pursue more liturgical forms of worship, to others, the ideal is a pastor with a Coke in one hand and an iPad Bible in the other, a tight T-shirt that accentuates an often too large belly and skinny jeans. Frankly, when it comes to style, I want it all.
Destiny is a popular word. To some it means self-realization, while to others it is about making your life count for something greater. Some propagate an introspective type of Christianity, even as far as a monastic lifestyle, while others focus on making an impact for the gospel. It’s ‘I want to realize my dreams, I want personal fulfillment’ versus ‘I want to be a world changer.’ Celebrity Christianity is huge and many are influenced by their favourite music artist or preacher, rather than thinking for themselves.
Today, like 2000 years ago, some trust in the gospel of God’s grace while others want performance oriented religion with a list of don’ts and do’s. Fear sells, especially when it comes to end time prophecy. After decades of wrong predictions about blood-moons, Y2K and the Lord’s return, people still get caught up in fictitious interpretations, often with a self-serving, America-centric, slant. If you have been a Christian for a while,you may remember that King Carlos of Spain, Henry Kissinger and Gorbachev were but a few of yesteryear’s candidates for the role of the Anti-Christ. Years ago, a guest lecturer at World Impact Bible Institute had convinced many of the students that the 1990 Bush – Gorbachev Summit was the beginning of the great tribulation. Someone may ask, “Peter, why even mention this?” Because when believers become sidetracked, their spiritual energy is drained. Often the very believers who potentially could make an impact for the gospel also have a penchant for sensationalism that pulls them off course.
Inside and outside the church we face a barrage of ideas about marriage, gender and religion. Earlier this year the government of Canada required that applicants for certain government grants must answer questions about abortion, gender theory and same-sex rights in order to apply. Amazingly the government gets away with this. Thought police in Canada? Who saw it coming? Who or what is next?
My purpose is not to analyze or address these topics but merely to show that there is an unprecedented battle for people’s minds and hearts. Where is the gospel? Where are the gospel believers? I make two observations:
The world is in flux, up for grabs. Who will win?
When believers become side-tracked, their spiritual energy is drained.
Observation #1: In order to engage in a cause, one must believe that what we have to offer is of great value, something that others don’t have.
We don’t “push” our faith, but like Simon Peter, we say, ‘what I have I give you’.
Is Christianity a club or a cause?
Annual Pride Parades, held in large and small cities, are organized by people who believe that they have something to contribute. When Muslims stand on street corners giving out pamphlets, a common sight in many European cities, it’s because they believe they have something of value. The same goes for the gospel believers. If we think that the gospel is highly valuable, we will share it. If not, we won’t.
To make it personal, why do I do what I do? Why Gospel campaigns? Why Gospel TV? Why do we engage with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists? Why do I try to inspire Christians to share the gospel and give finances? ANSWER: Because my deep conviction is that once people discover God’s love in Jesus Christ, they will lead more wholesome, peaceful and productive lives, that Christ’s gospel, not only improves lives, but transforms and ultimately leads to a better society.
Communism may be the most deplorable philosophy of all time, but still at its height, around 1975, it dominated more than 50% of the world. Hundreds of millions believed in communism, and tens of millions died for it. Karl Marx finished the Communist Manifesto, which was a guide for the Communist movement, with the words: ‘You have a world to win.’ Think what we may –they did have a clear cut goal. Bible readers will quickly remember the final words of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which could also be summarized: ‘You have a world to win.’
Why is it that many Christians don’t see themselves having something of great value to contribute to the others? I note two reasons.
In contrast, there is an unattractive, all too common teaching, which perpetuates the myth that Christianity is for losers, suckers – people looking for a crutch. In this misrepresentation we are inundated with the idea of how “needy” we are, and we hear phrases like, ‘God wants to meet all of our needs’, and ‘we are a needy people.’ While this sounds spiritual it is not the Gospel, which says that God already has met our needs through Jesus Christ. The gospel is not about pining and begging for God’s presence, hoping for a handout. On the contrary, we are joint heirs with Christ, we have the answer; Christ is in us. This beggarly type of Christianity reduces our motivation to evangelize. Who wants to share a miserable, beggarly religion? If we see the gospel as it truly is, a victorious message for all, then we have something very precious to impart. Imagine believers 2000 years ago in Jerusalem telling everybody how needy they were. No, they were persuaded that they had something valuable to offer, and they were right.
Is Christianity a club or a cause? A club exists to cater to its membership; golf clubs cater to golfers and curling clubs to curlers. If the church is a club then church workers must focus on keeping the members happy. While I realize that the church is much more than a cause, it is a cause! We have an assignment from God to enlighten darkened minds about who God is, and who we humans are, because God loves us. We have a world to win.
We have a world to win.
We have an assignment from God to enlighten darkened minds about who God is, and who we humans are, because God loves us.
Observation #2: Every believer has a decisive role to play in the struggles for the hearts and minds and souls of people.
Do nothing and die slowly!
In Acts chapter 13 the Holy Spirit commissioned the entire church to send Paul and Barnabas into missionary ministry. Gospel ministry must never be outsourced – it is for every believer. If we see ourselves as powerless bystanders we are deceived. Gideon saw himself insignificant and unworthy, but God had a different view and told him, ‘Go in your might’. I think God is similarly tired today to hear Christians describe themselves as inconsequential, powerless, needing more, instead of seeing what they already have in Christ.
A well-known Bible story speaks to today’s situation. There was a desperate famine in Samaria, some ate ‘donkey heads’ and ‘dove droppings’, while others resorted to cannibalism. The situation turned around when four hopeless lepers, who were facing death, marched against the enemy army, because they said; ‘Why are we sitting here until we die? , [2nd Kings 7:3].
Do nothing and die slowly. If Abraham had stayed in his birth city of Ur he would have missed God’s purposes. If David had stayed on the farm, or hid in the cave, he would’ve forfeited his destiny. If Simon Peter had not stepped out of the boat, or had not stepped up on the day of Pentecost, if the believers in the Book of Acts had refused to leave Jerusalem, and if Paul had ignored the vision of the man from Macedonia, these may have become a footnote of history. Christianity is a way forward! We are the people of ‘the way!’
This beggarly type of Christianity reduces our motivation to evangelise
The only way to escape criticism is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.
STEP OUT OR MISS OUT
The four staggering lepers were unlikely history makers. They had no idea that God would multiply the sounds of their feet, causing the enemy to think that there was an attack from an overwhelming force. Had the lepers not stepped out they would have missed out on God’s miracle provision, and the same goes for us.
STEP OUT IN SPITE OF FAILURES
Everyone will fail, some learn from their failures and others don’t. Ponder this: The fact that you’ve been knocked down is of limited interest, the length of time before you get up again is what’s important. Learn from failure! Ask yourself: What have I learned? Were my goals disconnected from God’s purpose? Were my plans out of sync with the peace of God in my heart? The four lepers and the whole city of Samaria had failed. The Bible is full of stories about failures; Samson failed terribly, before he saw his greatest victory. Simon Peter sank, but he didn’t drown; he walked on the water.
STEP OUT IN SPITE OF NEGATIVE VOICES
The story about the famine in Samaria begins by recounting a negative voice, a military officer, who claimed that if God would pour bread from heaven, the famine could not be averted. Naysayers and impossibility thinkers will always be with us. The only way to escape criticism is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. The apostle Paul saw the glass half full, not half empty, when he wrote; ‘a great and effective door has opened to me and there are many adversaries’. Notice that ‘many adversaries’ did not stop Paul from pursuing the great and effective door.
STEP OUT - YOUR DESTINY IS WAITING
The four lepers come to the deserted military camp, only to find abundance of food and clothing. They ate, until they couldn’t eat anymore, and then it hit them that they must tell the city about what they had discovered: “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent.” That’s a message for us; we must not remain silent, we have fabulous good news about a love that never fails and about Jesus Christ who has revealed that love. We are blessed to be a blessing.
Learn from failure! Ask yourself: What have I learned?
Where is Christianity headed? It depends on every believer; all of us have a decisive role to play.
Many voices seek to dullen our motivation to share the gospel. Just one very small example. From time to time you hear a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – father of the Franciscan Order: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary”. The idea is that it is more virtuous to proclaim the gospel by a exemplary life than with voice. Just one problem; St. Francis of Assisi never said that. In fact historians record that Francis was quite a preacher, giving sermons in up to five villages in one day. Someone added the famous quote a couple hundred years after Francis‘ death. Ultimately, Francis of Assisi or not we take the words of Jesus to go into all the world and preach the gospel. My thought is; preach with words and demonstrate with your life that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Where is Christianity headed? It depends on every believer; all of us have a decisive role to play. We have a stark warning from history. For 1200 years, the country known as Turkey was a bastion for the gospel, but today Christianity is almost extinct. One recent report stated that within a generation Christianity may be wiped out in Nigeria, a country that many have viewed as a hotbed for Christian revival. Countries are up for grabs. What will happen to your nation? Take courage because: time and opportunity happen to all, (Ecclesiastes 9:11). This is our time! The battle for the hearts and souls and minds of people is happening now. Step up for the Gospel and take your place! Become involved by sharing, sending and going with the Good News!