Lukewarm faith that surrenders to the values of secular culture will not accomplish the mission God has given us.
Yesterday I received an email from Antonio Cordero, a psychologist from Venezuela who holds a doctorate in science management and serves part-time as a youth pastor. He had been reading my blog and wished to respond. He began by mentioning several issues he feels presents “a gloomy spiritual future for the nation of America.”
Mr. Cordero explained:
“Well I believe there is still a fundamental misunderstanding in very many American Christians today: They confuse their own culture with Christianity. Somehow main stream historical denominations of Christianity are engulfed within a culture, which they define as western, civilized and Christian. But, the truth is that the suburban American way of life has mostly succeeded in placing the message of the gospel inside some sort of cultural cocoon, where it feels safe from a hostile environment but that makes it unable to have an effect on the outer world. . . “
“If Christians in America really want their country back serving God, they need to abandon their comfort zone and sacrifice mainstream culture for the sake of saving the lost that live among them. That might represent a tremendous sacrifice, very necessary when the Nation is in great peril.”
What Antonio Cordero is describing has been recognized before by many others. A number of people have called the American version of Christianity Christendom. (See my blog post Christendom Vs. Christianity.) Of course, the problem has been with the church for a long time. A major change took place in the church when Constantine professed Christianity in the fourth century. At that time historians estimate Christians probably made up less than ten percent of the population of the Roman empire. But in a few short years it grew to become the dominate culture of that society.
The problem with this is that the church was no longer made up of highly committed individuals who had experienced a spiritual transformation. It had become a cultural institution, the official religion of the Roman empire. What the church had gained in human quantity, it had lost in spiritual quality. Church and society had become one and the same. This was the birth of Christendom!
Some theologians in Europe, as early as the 1950s were talking about the death of Christendom and the end of the “Constantinian era.” This because of declining interest in the institutional church on the part of Europeans. Increasingly, we are seeing that same decline taking place in the United States.
Early Christians, prior to Constantine, lived in a world extremely hostile to the Christian faith. We have witnessed seventeen hundred years of Christendom in Europe and the Americas. However, our world is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. Perhaps we need to reexamine the lives of the early believers and scrutinize how they not only coped, but how they advanced the gospel in an inhospitable environment.
One thing seems certain, my new friend Antonio Cordero is right. Lukewarm faith that surrenders to the values of secular culture will not accomplish the mission God has given us. At present we are more often being transformed by our culture rather than successfully transforming others. This is why I’m personally so determined to help churches develop committed, obedient, mature disciples who rise above culture to follow Jesus Christ.
QUESTION: Do you believe “Christendom” is dying in America? If so, do you think this is a good or bad thing? Please respond in the Comments section below.