When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Title: The Brave Return
Shouldn’t surprise you – I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of the Christianity.
As we press on into the future, what does American Christianity look like?
Is Christianity still something that matters, or have people moved on?
“Christian Life”/“Real Life”
Will Christianity remain the dominant understanding of God in the next 20 years?
Or will Omnism be more what we go to? Omnism, if you’re not aware is the belief that all religions are equally valid and beautiful.
Last year – conversation – guy – left Christian Faith
Early last year I had a conversation with a guy who left the Christian faith.
He was raised a Christian, but has since, stopped believing in God.
Not just leaving a particular church, but moved away from having faith that there is a God.
That’s not that unusual, but what I thought was strange was that he said ‘I’m not happy about it. I wish I believed. Life was better when I believed. But at some point, I had to admit to myself that I was basically pretending.’
So while to us, that may sounds strange, it’s becoming more and more common for people to leave the Christian faith.
Graph – NY Times
Religious Affiliation – 2007 and 2014. In America. Spans all regions in the nation (including the bible belt). All Denominations. Between 2007 and 2014
During this time:
- Atheists and agnostics doubled
- Judaism / Islam / Hinduism – up.
- No other times in American history has Christian declined at anywhere near this rate.
American Christianity – “reevaluation”.
American Christianity is going through a time of reevaluation. – That’s no secret at all.
Reevaluation is a good thing. It’s a SIGN OF LIFE.
Movements that don’t reevaluate, are blind and on their way towards extinction.
Institutions that sit around longing for ‘the good ole days’ – are already dead, they just don’t know it yet.
Humbled: Unbelievable – SHIFT –
But an unbelievable amount of people are moving towards lives without God or at a bare minimum, life without Christianity.
And by Christianity, I’m referring to this tradition that is passed down from generation to generation.
- Confessions of Faith
- Corporate worship
How has the world changed, and how do we fit in this world?
Are there things that used to work that don’t work anymore?
Are these things that stopped working, so we abandoned them, but now, they’ll work, so we need to recapture them.
Does Christianity still have a place in our modern culture, or is it a relic from the past that is dying a not-so-slow death?
One of the most interesting examples that we have of this type of ‘Faith Crisis’ is the example of Europe We’ve talked about Europe before, but I think it deserves repeating.
We read in acts 19 about how Paul has a dream – of a man in macedonia (greece) “Come over and help us”. So they cross the sea, come to macedonia. Introduce people to the message of Jesus. Fast forward 1000 years – Europe is largely converted to Christianity. End of the 19th century – clear Christian in europe was in trouble.
Current day Europe :
- Small Movements – Christianity
- As – whole – Secular / Post-christian culture.
There was a man who foresaw this. – Lived in the mid 1800’s
Friedrich Nietzsche – (Knee-Chay) Philosopher/Atheist
Lucust Compared Christianity to a lucust shell on a tree. Still looks like it’s there, but it’s long since died.
Famous parable – The Madman
Talk about a man who comes into a marketplace at noon on a clear day, holding a lantern. – Walks around “Where is God?! I’m looking for God?! Searching for God! Can’t find God anywhere!”
People – laughing, mocking., – middle of the day holding a lantern, looking for God.
Madman says “I’ll tell you where God is, God is dead. We have killed him.” The people just continue to laugh.
He throws his lantern on the ground. “But I can see that I’ve come too soon.”
Meaning: When he says “God is dead”, remember he’s an athiest, so it’s not like he thinks there’s some omnipotent being that’s died. – No, he’s saying – “Christianity, faith in God, is dead.” He can see it, but he knows that other people can’t see that and that’s why he says “I can see that I’ve come too soon.”
Don’t be too hard on the guy, he’s not excited about the current situation. He’s just asking the question “What’s next?”
Christianity had come, taken over, and now it’s dying.
“It’s like we’ve lost the horizon. We don’t know what’s out there that’s coming next.”
Some would consider Knee-Chay a prophet. In his own way. He’s of course an athiest, stark opponent of Christianity, went insane the last 10 years of his life. But he ALSO foresaw tons of stuff including the demise of Christianity in Europe.
Now Europe is considered one of the most ‘Post Christian’ continents in the world.
The Question: Does Christianity in America have a brighter future?
Hard to say.
Mainly b/c it’s so tangled up with american-ism, hard to separate the two.
But most would have to admit: The idea that Christianity will remain a dominant culture is wishful thinking.
MY hope, for Christianity in America: Will be the radical alternative of a minority.
More authentic / honest / passionate / devoted.
But I also believe it will be the faith of a minority.
“The Brave Return.”
I guess it’s time to tell you what I mean by the Brave Return.
Christianity is at a bit of a crossroads right now, and that’s for sure.
No movement is without it’s mis-steps. And Christianity, to put it lightly, has had some pretty good missteps.
As someone who is a leader in the Christian church of America, I can confidently say:
- We’ve hurt people.
- We’ve been cruel.
- We’ve made being ‘right’ more important than being loving.
- We’ve shunned the seeker
- We’ve created a community where we shrink the sins of the people inside the holy club, and magnified the sins of those outside the club.
We have a tremendous amount of ‘course correcting’ to do as a community. But at the same time, I see this beautiful new wave of people returning to the Christian faith. Disillusioned, frustrated, and skeptical, they’ve begun their journey back. People who have said “never again’ are saying ‘I’ll give Christianity one more try’. Opening their hearts not only to God, but also to the beautiful tradition of the Christian faith.
But what’s amazing is what we’re seeing in the world right now is a beautiful sense of reconciliation between broken people and a broken church. And I don’t mean ‘Church’ like one particular church, or even this global network of churches, I mean church how Jesus said church – the gathering together of people under the flag Jesus – to celebrate him and receive from him.
Forming – imperfect communities.
Which brings us to you.
Some of you in here have never been anything but blessed by Christians, you can’t wait to come to church, you love everything about it, you can’t imagine ever being hurt by it. If I’m being honest, there’s large parts of my story, that are basically that.
Others in here – have felt the sting of a Christian community that looks nothing like Christ. You’ve woke up and realized “Man, why is it that the least loving, most judgmental people I know are all Christians?!”
Every week: Everyones journey is sacred
I’m learning to see the beauty in people’s struggle with the Christian faith.
It’s not about ‘arriving’ to Christianity, but it’s this journey, where beautiful and terrible things happen.
But we learn to trust God, and we have good years and bad years. Good decades and bad decades, and it’s all part of your journey, your story.
Distinction – life before Christ (B.C) / after.
A lot of Christians make this distinction between their life before Christ (B.C) and their life after.
I was bad, then I saw the light. No more darkness, no more night. As if it’s ever that clean cut.
There is no B.C. in our lives, no “Before Christ.” Neither is there any B.C. in anyone else who is not a confessed Christian. Christ is always present, for all of us. Just because we have no awareness of the presence and action of God does not mean that God was absent. We must not naively assume that the Christian life begins with us. (Eugene Peterson – Book- Practice Resurrection)
You can call me a hippie, but I’ve just started to think of the people in the world as being cared for by God, on these unique journeys of learning, and growing.
The journey of the Christian faith has lots of different phases. But they’re all part of the journey.
I’m honored that this community is being used by God to help people in their brave return.
My prayer is that we’ll continue echo the voice of Jesus when he says to all of us ‘Come. Come you also.’
As I close
One more thought before we take communion.
I’ve been thinking about how God speaks to us. Some people just say they hear God tell them which lane to drive in on the freeway. That’s totally cool, but that’s never been me. But lately, I’ve been feeling that if God speaks to us at all, then you have to believe that one of the ways he speaks is through our story,
- Think about your journey.
- Where you are now.
- Where you came from.
- Where you’ve been.
- Where do you feel like God is taking you?
- Who’s he making you?
We can be so goal oriented that we never realize the season that we’re in, and that right here, right now, is a sacred moment.
As pass – I want you to look at your life – see sacred story
“Your life is a sacred journey. It is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path… exactly where you are meant to be right now… And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing, of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love.” (Caroline Adams)
I just can’t get away from this: God’s not sitting there waiting for you to reach your potential. He’s with you on your journey.
You might be at a low point, you might be at a high point. You might love Christianity, you might just barely be willing to touch your pinky toe in the water.
Jesus “Come all the same” – There’s room for you at my table.
The tendency with communion is to think that it’s you coming and reconnecting with Jesus, but we didn’t invite Jesus, He invites us.
So our returning is simply us saying ‘Yes’.
For our confession of faith, I’d like us to recite the apostles creed together.