Everyday Christianity in America

IMG_1027In a controversial Newsweek editorial in 2009, Jon Meacham predicted the “End of Christian America.” Citing a 10 percentage point drop in the number of self-identified Christians, Meacham applied the term “post-Christian” to an American society in which Christianity is continuing to lose influence.

The future of religion in America is constantly under debate. Some researchers argue religion is stable, while others warn of its decline. Regardless, we as Christians must not become complacent. The increasing secularization of Europe should cause us to re-examine the way we approach community and missions.

I recently read Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, in which the authors describe their experiences with the church in Europe. The outlook is gloomier than that of the church in America.

For example, although 59.3 percent of the United Kingdom’s population claim to be Christian, only 6.3 percent are in church on any given Sunday (down from 25 percent in 1851). A recent Tearfund report shows 60 percent of the population are not open to attending a service in the future.

The church is unlikely to succeed in convincing this 60 percent to attend a service. Chester and Timmis make a strong point:

“We cannot compete on entertainment… The more we become like the world, the less we have to offer. (p. 48-49)”

If British churches try to persuade the 60 percent to go to church by offering cool music, new friends, or large events, they will be unsuccessful. It is impossible to compete with the allure of video games, TV, and secular concerts.

Although Christianity in America is a long way from its status in Britain, we can still learn from the missional principles described in Everyday Church. In order to show God’s love to non-Christians, the authors argue, our purpose is twofold. We need to let our Christian faith shine through in every aspect of our everyday lives, and we need to spend ordinary time with both Christians and non-Christians.

Even if our culture becomes more secular, we can truly “thrive at the margins,” say Chester and Timmis.

Instead of proposing new outreach programs or treating spiritual conversations as “extraordinary interventions,” the authors advocate witnessing “throughout your day as opportunities arise.” They summarize,

“It’s about sharing the gospel of God in the context of sharing our lives. (p.66)”

I recently witnessed this in action when I played Ultimate Frisbee with a collection of students on campus. They meet every Sunday from 3:00-5:00 on Fountain Mall. Anyone is welcome, regardless of skill level. Before the games began, we opened in prayer. While playing, I was blown away by the encouragement. Everyone was competitive, but never angry, critical, or condescending.

Witnessing through “Everyday Church” could be going to coffee with a friend, taking time to ask about their relationship with God. It could be making a friend a card, letting them know you are praying for them. Despite our busy schedules, we need to make an effort to invest in the lives of others. “Relationships are time intensive,” as the authors say, but God calls us to “serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

A variation of this article was originally published in the Baylor Lariat on 2/5/13.

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13 responses to “Everyday Christianity in America

  1. Somewhere along the line we have started buying into the notion that entertainment can provoke a non-spiritual person to become interested in spiritual things. The reality is that many people are not interested in genuinely following Jesus and no amount of entertainment can fix that.

    I appreciated the quote in the article about the inability of religion to compete with secular entertainment: I think it is very accurate. Not to say that Christians ought to be boring and unable to enjoy life: Christians have more reason than anybody to be joyful. Nonetheless, my focus in preaching and teaching is to try to reach those souls who are genuinely interested, understanding that there will be many others I encounter along the way who will show themselves to be uninterested.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking post, and forgive me for taking several days longer than intended to post a reply.

    • No problem! I greatly appreciate your comments and I’m happy whenever you stop by. I think you hit the nail on the head. You mentioned preaching- are you a pastor? Or were you referring to the preaching of everyday life?

      • I am a preacher, but my remark was not to be limited to preachers. Christians do well to seek opportunities to find folks who are genuinely interested in spiritual matters: there are many who will have that interest superficially but soon show it is not a deep or genuine desire.

        And on the other hand, and to the heart of what I was trying to say, there are some people who are simply not interested. I struggle to see how using gimmicks to try to create an interest is going to do much good.

    • One thing I miss on this blog is the little “thumbs up” button that others have. So, in lieu of that….the above comment gets a big “thumbs up” from Dave at The Southern Voice!

  2. Nice post. It reminds of the saying that church is not a building, it’s the people. When I think of the apologetics movement in the UK, I have hope. Our greatest intellectual questions are satisfied by the Christian worldview, and our deepest existential needs are fulfilled by Christ.

    • Amen. That is what I liked about the book as well. Though it focuses on the dire situation, it does not lament the situation or scold Christians. It offers a message of hope, that we truly can “thrive at the margins,” just as early Christians did under persecution.

  3. My pastor has said it many times, “The greatest draw on a lost man to Christianity is contained in the power of a changed life.” Great article, Danny! Glad to see a fellow Christian blogger who relates principle to every day life. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks! I really enjoy your posts as well. Just saw you did one on Friedman – I’m using the expectation of reading it as motivation to finish my homework first. (Yet, of course, I had to get online and reply here before homework…)

  4. Here’s a quotable that has stuck with me ; Preach the gospel; if necessary use words. That’s what I like about the Ultimate Frisbee example. The gospel was made incarnate as much or more with the way the group played together as prayed together.

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