Your Church’s Response to an Increasingly Complex World
Last week BreakPoint published a symposium on “Challenges Facing the Church in 2018.” Almost thirty Christian thinkers answered the question, “What are the most pressing cultural issues facing Christians in 2018 and what will Christian faithfulness look like in light of those issues?”
The huge variety of their answers reveals the complexity of our times. Listed in no particular order, they mentioned:
- Gender and sexuality
- Our secular age
- Wealth and generosity
- Global persecution
- Our selfish, self-identity obsessed culture
- Denial of objective reality in favor of subjectivity
- Confusion over human worth, value and equality
- Religious liberty
- Political confusion
- The generational divide
- Christians’ moral credibility
- Lack of Christian worldview
- Cultural fragmentation
- Fragmentation in the Church itself
- Lack of life in Christ
Maybe Os Guinness put it best: “If we fight the battle at any point except where the battle is really being fought, we might as well not fight. Luther’s famous maxim is urgent for Christians today. The U.S. is experiencing its gravest crisis since the Civil War, but there is no agreement as to what the crux of the battle is.”
This very list shows more than fifteen issues identified by Christian leaders. They’re all so different, yet I don’t think any of them is wrong. What’s the crux of the battle? Where do we even begin? Where should your church begin?
People Who Can Plan
“The U.S. is experiencing its gravest crisis since the Civil War, but there is no agreement as to what the crux of the battle is.”
It calls to mind a conversation I had with a retired Air Force general several years ago. There were rumors at the time that America was thinking of invading Iran. I’d heard a Pentagon spokesperson on the news saying, “We have no plans for any invasion.”
I mentioned to my military friend that I didn’t believe it. “There have got to be plans on the shelves there at the Pentagon,” I said, “for war with almost any potential enemy.”
He said, “No, there probably aren’t. What we have instead are people who can develop great plans in a very short amount of time.”
If so, I thought, they must be very good planners indeed, fully supplied with up-to-the-minute information, skilled in assessing it and trusted with delivering good ideas.
I’m still not sure I believe there are no plans on Pentagon shelves, but I like the thought of what he said anyway. Stock, static plans are only of marginal use — maybe as a bare starting point, but little more — for complex and dynamic situations like war, which thankfully didn’t happen anyway, at least not in Iran.
Christians Who Can Think
The world we face as Christians is even more complex, even more dynamic; and we really are in spiritual battle. It’s happening on multiple fronts, all of them changing day by day. We need great thinkers, fully equipped with up-to-the-minute awareness, skilled in sorting it all out, and trustworthy to deliver good ideas and good answers.
But we don’t just need this in some “Pentagon.” Every leader on the ground has to make tough decisions in fast-changing circumstances. Every church, every Christian body needs to come up to speed with their own capabilities to read and respond to urgent needs in their own changing worlds.
In a word, we need Christian thinkers. Faithful, God-soaked, Bible-built, spiritually sound, culturally aware, mentally competent ones. Many of them will be in pulpits, but not all, for this calls for fairly specialized skills, and a pastor’s job is typically broader than what I’m describing here. The Church itself needs to take responsibility to build such thinkers, to equip them and ultimately to listen to them. And that means your church needs to take that responsibility.
Because if we fight the battle at any point but where it’s really being fought, “we might as well not fight it.” But it’s not just that there’s no agreement where the crux of the battle is. There is no one crux to this battle; it’s everywhere. Ordinary thinking won’t lead us to great responses. We need to equip ourselves to do better.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ. Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.