In part 1 of this series, I talked about why the postmodern, post-Christian world doesn’t trust the church. I think the factors I discuss there hold true across the USA, in and out of the Bible belt. I also think they are generally true in Europe.
In part 2, I talked about how there are things 1. that the world desperately wants from the church, 2. that the church is incredibly good at when it is focused on being the church (and not focused on fighting the culture wars), and 3. that open doors for people to see and hear Christ in us.
In the final part of the series, I want to tie it all together by telling you what to expect when you encounter the postmodern, post-Christian world. What will you find?
FIRST, you will find that the world is divided. Everyone is taking up arms against everyone else. The current generation is militant, graceless, and pissed. And it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.
Take the risk. Follow Jesus’ example. Look for opportunities to cross barriers. Reach across divisions. Expect to face suspicion and hostility; if I’m right (part 1), we’ve earned at least some of the blowback.
Jesus reached across the divisions. When he assembled his apostles, he brought together the first-century equivalent of SJW’s and MAGA’s and progressives and regressives. Follow Jesus’ example.
SECOND, you will find that the world is messy. Jesus loved people past, around, in spite of their messiness. He didn’t try to fix everyone; he tried to show them the central things, that God was at work doing something new (“the Kingdom of God is here!”).
People need to hear and accept THAT before we try to fix their problems.
The world is messy. People are messy. Be honest: YOU’RE just as messy, you just may be better at hiding it. DON’T TRY TO FIX THEM. Love them, let Jesus love them, and the opportunity to fix may present itself. Or it may not. Love them anyway.
THIRD, people have all kinds of misconceptions about God, religion, Christianity, etc. Talk to them at their level. Show respect. Listen. HEAR.
The world desperately wants answers to spiritual questions. Show them (don’t just tell them, and don’t tell them until after you have shown them) how to find those answers in Jesus; take them and help them explore their questions and Jesus’ answers for themselves.
FOURTH, don’t reject anyone that Jesus doesn’t reject. And Jesus doesn’t reject anyone.
If your theology tells you that Jesus hates Samaritans, guess what? Your theology sucks.
If your theology tells you that Jesus hates poor people or rich people or immigrants or Pharisees or gays or straights or alt-rights or SJW’s or MAGA’s, YOU NEED NEW THEOLOGY. Because Jesus accepts them all.
Love them. Listen to them. LIVE God’s truth before you speak God’s truth.
And somehow, God’s truth will satisfy people’s needs, and the impact will spread.