In 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.
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.