How Has the Picture of Faith Changed for 21st Century America?
The picture of faith — it’s kind of a weird phrase, I know. Let me explain.
What I mean by the “picture of faith” is the collective external appearance of Christianity. While the orthodox truths of Scripture have never changed since the New Testament was compiled very early in the first millennium, the ways those truths have expressed themselves has changed drastically.
It is not new information to say that civilization has seen great change over even the past 100 years with new technological advancements and cultural evolution. And it follows that, as members of the human race, all areas of life, including faith, will change as well.
For example, we don’t do the monk thing anymore (at least not within Christianity in the West). No more shaving heads and living in isolation. We don’t go to war anymore in order to evangelize continents of unsaved people. No one (or at least most of us) don’t do services in an archaic language — Latin.
This article is a brief reflection on some of the primary ways that the Christian faith has changed in expression since the past 50 years or so.
In the early 2000’s, with the .com boom, everything started to move online. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, online magazines. All of the sudden, anyone can access anything by hopping on a computer or smartphone.
And what this has done is given a new platform for creativity within our faith. There are so many good sources of information out there which have realized true innovation.
This has been really great for the individual. At any point in time, you can pull up a worship song or a sermon and grow in your faith right in your own basement. As a supplement to your own personal biblical studies, online faith is quite a blessing.
But it has also torn apart the felt need of corporate worship. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say something like, “No, I don’t go to a church, but I listen to Life Holy Cross Church’s sermons every Sunday morning online.”
The truth is you can’t obey a large portion of the New Testament alone.
Just to choose one random example, Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
You can’t “admonish one another” or sing “Psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” with one another without a church body to do it with. You’ve got to able to live life with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Love one another, hold each other accountable, encourage each other on toward love and good deeds.
It is so good to utilize the online resources available, but it must never be the primary expression of faith. Or else you’ll miss something big.
You’ll miss the church.
Faith in Politics
Check out this older article which speaks to this point to an extent which I’m unable to do here in this article.
The fact is that the culture wars over — the moral majority has lost.
It used to be that Christians could just slam down abortion and homosexual marriage, and then people would glorify God. It is no longer that way.
Our faith has been scrutinized not due to a lack of argument for morals, but for a lack of compassion. As the new presidential administration begins, now more than ever has our country been divided (with the exception of that one time…). And people are looking for Christians to love others.
We must express our faith in politics whether we like it or not. It’s how the world sees us. If someone finds out that you’re a Christian, there are automatically a handful of assumptions made about your worldview.
So surprise them as you speak of the love of God and people in a way they have not yet heard from those in office.
Faith and Authenticity
With a marketing culture, the new generations have become so savvy at knowing when someone’s a fraud. Or at least want something from you. People understand when others with a platform are being manipulative.
And so today, there is no room for an inauthentic life if you claim to be a Christian. Because everyone is watching. Any slight hint of hypocrisy (not to mention the large scandals), and all of the sudden you’ve lost your witness.
But more relevantly to everyday life, if you don’t have an authentic faith, no one will want to hear about the good that God has done. You have to truly love people, making time for them and building relationships. You have to practice what you preach!
Which brings me to my next point…
Faith and the Church
How many times have you heard someone say, “I like Jesus, but I hate the church.” Much of the time, the person who said that is completely justified in that statement, because they’ve been unjustly burned by the church in some way.
In America today, we run a style of church which encourages growth in the individual, but does not (often) build a family in the church. But the fact is, an authentic lifestyle in the church means strong community.
And I don’t just mean community, as in “we do events together”, but rather as in, “we live life together.”
Churches all over America are changing their structure in order provide an environment which fosters a family-like community. The trend toward moving the churches into homes is only growing because of this specific reason. It is, after all, how the Apostles ran their churches (check out this older article and this encyclical for a fuller explanation).
The link above to the Christianity Today article sites the following as reasons that house churches have begun popping up:
- Strong, supportive personal relationships and a concern to express in practical ways the aposlle [sic] Paul’s teaching about Christians being ‘members of the Body of Christ’;
- Flexibility and spontaneity in worship and prayer in the context of the home;
- Intensive biblical instruction of new members and children;
- Mutual strengthening of the members, including sharing of material goods as in the early church;
- Investment of money and , time in people rather than expensive buildings. Large meetings are held on occasion in rented buildings.
It is trends like this which tell us that people desire authenticity in the way we do church. And without major changes in our thinking, we will continue to make the same mistakes that don’t work in our culture today.
Consider the changes in the expression of our faith, which must take place or we’ll continue to fight a losing battle with a culture which no longer understands Mid 20th century Christianity.
Originally published at The Borough.