So many of us are in love with this present world, yet it seems we’d rather keep the world — or, more accurately, its sinners — at much more than arm’s length. Far too often we’re a happy and hope-filled people as long as our churches are prospering, as long as we have a seat at the cultural and political table. But it’s highly unlikely we’ll invite the world — other races and creeds and lifestyles — around our own kitchen table. We’re of the world but somehow not in it.Elliot Clark
A growing theme in Christian thinking and writing is the idea of American Christians as cultural exiles, and I completely agree with the idea.
I have a church history class that I teach from time to time. It starts with the Acts church and extends to today. It was somewhere around 2014 when I was teaching an adult Sunday school class the final lesson on the modern church when I ruffled some feathers.
We were discussing the different cultural battles we were seeing; especially the erosion of the nuclear family and marriage (this was before the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage as a constitutional right). Several of the comments made by individuals focused on how we had to fight to win the cultural war. That’s when I shook them a little: I told them that it was too late, that we had already lost the war. We had been too disconnected, too elitist, too hypocritical, and our country had moved on without us.
What do I mean by that? Well, we already live in a nation that does not accept traditional Christian morals, and we are fast approaching a time when a majority of Americans won’t identify as Christian, and I think that’s a good thing. In American, around 65% of the country claims to be Christians, but if you define Christian as someone that believes the Bible and tries to live by it, that number is actually somewhere around 5%. That means there is 60% of the nation claiming to follow Christ and misrepresenting him to others. That is what we call a bad thing.
In Evangelism As Exiles, Clark uses the book of 1 Peter and his personal experiences as a missionary to show how believers can embrace a counter-cultural position and use it to bring the Good News to the world. It is going to take work; quite frankly, it’s going to take more work that most Christians are accustomed to putting in. It’s more than just showing up to church on Sundays — it’s being involved in other peoples lives, actually caring about them, and building relationships that point to Christ. It is something that we have to do intentionally, on purpose. In other words, its Christians doing what we always talk about but often neglect.
What it means to be a Christian in America is going to continue to change as time goes on, and I believe it is going to change dramatically in a fairly short time. But our calling as Christians is the same: Love God, Love Others. That isn’t a passive calling, it’s an active calling, one that we need to embrace.
…the greatest hope for our unbelieving neighbors isn’t them coming to us, but God sending us to them. It’s us living on mission in their neighborhoods, and our home becoming a place where they can meet the Savior.Elliot Clark