Survival Lesson #2: THEY FEEL NO FEAR, WHY SHOULD YOU?
(The Reality of the Post-Christian World)
“It may be impossible to know how many zombies are out there, if a bridge is down, or if all the boats in a marina are gone. So know your terrain. At least that factor will not change with an outbreak.” – Brooks (p. 96)
When setting out to look for supplies in a zombie-infested area, you need to understand your environment. What does the surroundings look like? Looking at the landscape of the Western Church, one key question arises: Why is it difficult for the church to connect and attract people today? Has something shifted? Is this change about issues of methodology, approach or has something greater happened. How widespread is the outbreak?
In the Western world, the Christian church has experienced a massive decline in its influence and impact on culture. Instead of responding with clear eyes and learning posture, the church seems to have adapted its approach to that of an ostrich. It has simply put its head in the sand and ignored the problem. “Christianity moved from being the dynamic, revolutionary, social, and spiritual movement to being a static religious institution with its attendant structures, priesthood, and sacraments” (Frost Exiles p. 5). This shift has brought about a virtual rigor mortis in the church; it has become rigid and lifeless.
Western Christianity is still grappling and grabbing for the way it used to be. The only problem is, its influence upon Western Society has long been shifting from the center of culture onto the margins. The sober reality is that the church’s time of prominence is long gone and it’s not coming back. “Religious faith is no longer a primary and ethical guide” (Frost p. 6). Instead of embracing this change, Christians are by in large, resisting it. This resistance further alienates them from the unbelieving masses that they are called to reach out to by the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-12). How can you reach those that you have taken intentional steps to be separated from?
As we have seen when dealing with zombies, being loud and causing a stir rarely helps you, it only attracts the enemy and death. In an attempt to regain its place in society, the church has often resorted to age-old tactics of “shock and awe.” We loudly and judgmentally proclaim our beliefs as loudly as possible in the media, with bumper stickers, over blogs and also through our callous actions in the face of the watching world. The church has adopted a mentality that is driven by the core belief that we don’t have to be kind as long as we’re right. Being right, as they see it, is the most important thing. As a result, Christians are seen in contemporary culture as, “judgmental, hypocritical, too political, and antihomosexual” (Lyons The Next Christians p. 4). There is a gulf that must be dealt with if the church is going to exist in the 21st century.
Working in ministry both inside and outside the church has afforded me the benefit of being able to see things in a unique way. It was actually my experience working in a church that drove me to work in a parachurch. I remember the moment that I officially lost faith in the institutional church. I was a youth pastor in a large church. Within the few months that I was there, our youth group more than doubled in size with around 200 teenagers attending every Wednesday. I sat across the desk of the senior pastor during one of our weekly meetings. He was not happy about the growth. “We just don’t want those kinds of kids in our church,” he exclaimed to me with conviction. By ‘those kids’ he meant, the non-Christian ones. They didn’t like the fact that teenagers that were not raised in the church didn’t act like the ones that were. That was the moment my heart for the church died. I, then, spent the next seven years in ministry working outside the walls of the church with at-risk teenagers.
I know well the gulf that exists between the church and contemporary culture and have come to the conclusion that the only way to overcome this gap is by living differently. Too often have we seen ourselves as bridge builders when some gaps are not meant to be crossed. Instead of finding ways to fix the problem, I am offering an alternative. Abandon the institutional church and go live within contemporary culture. The church understands itself to be four walls constructed to house Christians for weekly services. What if we walked away from the problem completely? In the reality of the zombie apocalypse, we must become adept at discerning what to let go of and what to hold on to. The building that we once called home before the outbreak had begun now becomes a liability to us if we are not willing to let go of it. Staying mobile and moving light are the keys to our survival. With the new reality of the post-Christian world, we must pack light because the gospel was meant to travel.
Michael Frost, in his book, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture, likens the current state of church to captives living in exile under the shadow of the dominant culture. If we begin to live in this way, our outlook changes. “Given the situation of the Church in the West, much will now depend on whether we are willing to break out of a stifling herd instinct and find God again in the context of the advancing kingdom of God” (Hirsch The Forgotten Ways p.114). Next, we must begin to understand the second new reality that the church is grappling to make sense of: globalization.