Changing the Expression of Christianity in a Generation
Can the expression of Christianity be changed in a generation? History says, "Absolutely."
You can trace Christianity from its first days and discover how it has re-invented itself in each generation to express systematic concerns over particular issues of culture. Every generation produces leaders who think they understand their day and respond as they believe God would -- some of it good, some of it bad, some very bad.
We don't have to go back to the Crusades, or the Reformation, or the ongoing brutal wars between Christian factions and denominations to see the ability to change Christianity's face, heart and values. Yet there was once a time when being Christian meant a simple understanding that Jesus' purpose on earth was to proclaim the kingdom of God now at hand; when Christian meant the reality of a kingdom totally supernatural, spiritual, of another realm; unseen but known; now but not yet; practical but mysterious.
There was a time...
There was a time when followers of Jesus were known by his model and declaration of "I do only what I see the Father doing." Jesus knew the Father and he knew what pleased the Father because he had ultimate illumination as to the DNA of his Father. Not so long ago people looked for this supernatural experience of being born from above (receiving the DNA of God) in order to enter this supernatural kingdom instead of looking for an escape from hell with a "pray the prayer" mentality.
And there was a time when followers of Jesus knew without a shadow of unbelief that the kingdom of God was, first and foremost, about love, agape, and anything done without agape was absolutely worthless.
We have just now ended a generation that witnessed a few men changing the expression of Christianity in much the same way a movie changed how a generation perceived the ocean and sharks. (Remember Jaws?) These men were and are (some still living) good people. They believed and took action. They laid a new foundation, a new understanding, and a new model for Christianity that famously became known as the Moral Majority.
A negatively charged Christianity
But this movement, with all its good, in the end so negatively charged Christianity that we who are called Christians, and particularly American evangelical Christians, are more known around the world today for our hate and judgment than our love; more for our desire to be moral than our desire to love our neighbor; more for our desire to build buildings where people can be indoctrinated in our manifestos rather than to cross the street to meet and care for our neighbor.
We have developed a litmus test as to whether one is really a Christian and accepted and used by God based upon adherence to doctrine. Many could rightly conclude that success in our faith is measured by the outward expressions of life, not the inward change of heart and of our becoming like our God who is still (He never changes!) compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, merciful, truth, covenantal faithful and forgiving.
Our (baby boomer) generation even saw the definition of sin changed and, therefore, at a greater cost, the understanding of grace and the need for grace. Sin became synonymous primarily with morality and things like drinking and smoking. In a single generation we have convinced those who desire to follow Jesus that he is more interested in whether they drink wine than whether they're compassionate and gracious to their neighbor; more interested in sexual activity than whether they are forgiving to those who hurt them. The heart issue of Christianity has taken such a backseat to the moral issues of our culture that more and more of those who have met the Father prefer to be identified as "a follower of Christ" instead of a "Christian."
On a new journey to find Jesus
The Bible tells the story of Mary Magdalene going to the tomb to look for the crucified Jesus who is no longer there. She tells Jesus, whom she mistakes for the gardener, "They have taken away my Lord and I don't know where they have put him."
As we move into 2011, we are again looking for where they have taken our Lord, our Jesus, the King of the Kingdom of God, the Eternal Seed, the One who offers freedom from all the systems of man, all the kingdoms of the world; the one who said of David, the King, the adulterer and murderer, "He is a man after my own heart" even though he sorely failed most of today's litmus test.
Change is inevitable. People have grown weary of the judgments of man and are worn out trying to walk under the yokes of self-righteous moralists. The people of God are once again on a journey, as was Mary, to find Jesus. He will be re-resurrected in all his glory, to the great surprise of those who have stolen him and his "I give you a new commandment: love your neighbor." He demonstrated the will of the Father in his everyday life, hanging with sinners, the hated of society, the prisoners of the systems, the discarded, the discouraged, the lonely, those who could not find any identity or worth in the religious, commercial, or political market places of man.
Can we dare believe it can happen again? Can we find and re-center on a God who so loves all and a Son who simply wants to introduce us to his Father and the Kingdom he chose to confer on us? Can 2011 be that year? I believe so.
So, come Holy Spirit! More, Lord!
David VanCronkhite Contact David