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For Such a Time as This

July 21, 2010

Much has been made about the crisis of Christianity in America.  Researchers like Barna and Rainer have made it clear to us that with each generation the Christian movement is in decline.  We don’t really need statistics to know this is true.  Most of us can sense it. 

We live in a mission field.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if we simply continued to use methods that worked in other eras even though they don’t seem to be effective now.  I am not talking about music, technology, or seeker sensitivity.  This is not about contemporary versus old school (actually I am arguing for an “ultra-traditional” form of church).  I am speaking of our mission philosophy, our message to the world around us, and our preparation of believers to conduct this mission. 

Things are different now then they were 50-60 years ago.  The gospel is the same!  It never changes.  Jesus doesn’t change.  We cannot present a different gospel or different Jesus in order to be effective (as some have done).  However, we need to understand that this generation of Americans respond to the gospel of Jesus differently than in previous eras.  The gospel doesn’t change but society does.  In the past, people accepted the authorities of the Bible and the church.  That is no longer true.  Evangelism was different when we used to be able to say, “Believe in Jesus because the Bible says to.”  Today, the  next comment would be, “Why should I believe the Bible?”  In other words, we are not in need of a different methodology as much as a deeper articulation of the gospel than ever before because our world demands it.  If we do not do this and continue to operate like we did in a more “golden age” of evangelism conducted in a much more “Christian” society, then we will fail the generations ahead of us and miss our calling for a time like this.

How can we generally describe our current spiritual landscape?  First, there is a resistence to authority and institution.  People are skeptical of authorities and scared to possibly be duped by the them.  Second, while there is still a certain understanding of sin in our world, the idea of “sinfulness” (in terms of nature) is nearly lost.  The idea that “I am a sinner” is not one that we can assume people already have.  We used to have this foundation to build on and now it must be built from scratch.  Third, there is a desire for adventure, social justice, and activism.  In the past several years, people have donated huge sums of money to AIDS, earthquake, tsunami, and hurricane relief.  They are hungry to make a difference in the world.  Fourth, authenticity is highly valued and manipulation is hated.  Our world desires things that are truthful.  It doesn’t want a “dog and pony show.”  Any kind of showiness or gimmick will be rejected.  Fifth, people are spiritually hungry.  They are in search of meaning, truth, justice, beauty, community, and joy.  This means that things are ripe for the gospel. 

With this said, in the days to come I am going to offer you a plan for gospel collision with the with world.  It is a plan to offer a “deep” and “authentic” encounter with the gospel for such a time as this.  Truthfully, we (at HWC) have been operating out of these values for some time now.  They continue to grow and change in us.  I should also say that these values are a call to reformation of sorts.  I think of them as ultra-traditional and a return to ancient ways – partially because truth is ancient and doesn’t change, and partially because our pluralistic society has much in common with the polytheistic ancient world.  In the days ahead I will write on each of these:

  1. Ultra-traditional not Reminiscent
  2. Jesus not Institution. 
  3. Radical (deeper) not Relevant (broader). 
  4. Gospel of Grace not Spirit of the Law.
  5. Community not Individual.
  6. Disciples not Customers.
  7. Present not Future.
  8. Calling not Creed.
  9. Glocal not Gatherers.
  10. Activism not Judgment. 

My belief is that each one of these are completely biblical, and in fact are a return to a more basic state of Christianity.  Each of them will be contained in a different post.  I hope they provoke your heart.  I write them because my heart is provoked for a generation that we seem to be losing right now.

  1. Larry Nichols permalink
    July 21, 2010 4:59 pm

    You have certainly “thrown down the gauntlet” to HWC. The challenges you’ve issued have certainly been straightforward. I do appreciate your insights. However, upon personal introspection, I am aware of how deficient I am. During the Sunday evening service, I experienced a time of heaviness. I should have been encouraged, but I cannot say that I was. I have much to reflect upon.


  2. Sandy permalink
    July 21, 2010 9:57 pm

    Thank you Nathan… for allowing us to see that it is okay to be radical and understand that we “need to be intentionally” radical especially with all that is happening now days. Also for helping me see that it is about giving that extra bit of attention to digging a little deeper. I am so totally amazed when I put forth a little more effort and read again scriptures that I have read hundreds of times and find a revelation that I had not even noticed before. I am so blessed to be a part of the body of Christ at HWC and to have you as our Shepherd.

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