Finally got around to reading the infamous Newsweek cover story on the demise of "Christian America". Nothing in it was news to me. However, it reinforced for me the reality that Christianity in the West continues to struggle to define itself apart from the institutions, structures, personalities and methodologies with which it used to be almost solely identified. To my observation, there is a splintering going on in the American Church which has given us the New Reformed, the Missional and Emerging crowd, the Post Charismatics, The House Church-ers, The New Orthodox and even some new Anglicans (witness the fascinating recent developments in the life of my friend Todd Hunter) and others. It's amazing to recall that for much of my earlier lifetime Billy Graham spoke for many, many American evangelicals and his presence in the halls of power was, for the most part, respected as an undeniable sign that we had a place at the table. Who speaks for "us" now? Rick Warren? Joel Osteen? Bono?
I, for one, think that the former order of things -- institutional church life in America -- is sinking like the Titanic. Alot of the activity and noise I witness resembles people frantically moving around the decks while the band plays on. But I've already lept into the ocean and am looking for something much smaller than a luxury liner to cling on to while the call goes up to heaven for help and salvation.
I see this as a time to "build myself down" in the faith -- to abandon my formerly comfortable and somewhat bloated notions of what supporting a Christian commitment looks like -- in favor of a stripped down, simplifed, organic and streamlined alternative. For me right now, less is more. Give me the BASICS of fellowship, Christian service, lifestyle witness and tough-minded simplicity and keep the change. It's probably a good time to go underground a bit, to retool our message and our ministry priorities, to "remonk" (as Kevin Rains puts it), to find a few key Kingdom focuses and concentrate on them. For me, they are mentoring of next generation disciples/leaders, simple and focused expressions of lifestyle evangelism, fellowship that produces "family" rather than crowds, and (perhaps most of all) empowering everyday people to take the ministry of Jesus to everyday places. Hunkering down and keeping it as real as can be may not seem impressive, but -- at least to me -- it seems vital.