Twenty years ago I moved from Canada to teach at a conservative Bible college in the midwest. I looked forward to working in a supportive, Christian context. Nothing prepared me for what it meant to be a moderate, missional Christian in the center of Christendom.Nothing prepared me for what it meant to be a moderate, missional Christian in the center of Christendom. Click To Tweet
In Christendom, when they hear rumors that you’re asking uncomfortable questions about how the Bible is applied to the culture, they write blog posts.
In Christendom, when they think you might be teaching things that are different from what they teach, they attack you behind your back.
In Christendom, when they think you’re making them look bad, they worry about losing supporter dollars, they call you up before boards to defend yourself, they go on tours of churches to undermine you, they work against your promotions, and circulate petitions to try to get you fired.
What they don’t do is say, “Brother, let’s talk. Help me understand.” or, “Brother, you’re younger. Let me mentor you.” That would be a behavior of relationship, openness, even vulnerability. But Christendom has forgotten such ways in favor of power, manipulation, and fear.
What they don’t do is say, “You’re from a different culture, let me explain how things work here.” That would be a behavior of understanding and welcome.
But Christendom has forgotten such ways in favor of domination. The majority voice does not have to explain itself to outsiders. It’s the work of the minority to do all the translation and accommodation.
I’m tired, confused, heartbroken, and sick.
After twenty years, I’m still waiting for someone to reach out to me in the way of Jesus and say, “Let’s talk.”
And I’ve watched others being treated in similar ways.
I’ve watched as pastors who work in poverty (their own and others’) and who rely on funds from suburban churches suddenly lose their funding over wording in a newsletter. Often without much explanation.
I’ve watched as young women, feeling the call to ministry, are seen as a threat, evoking such responses as, “You are obviously gifted but God does not gift women in those ways so your gifts must be from the devil.”
I’ve watched as urban pastors who have to engage in post-Christian contexts that make their denominations uneasy get raked over the coals and asked to defend their missional practices to a generation of leaders who say, “Just preach like we’ve always preached, use these tracts we’ve always used. There must be something wrong with you if you’re not baptizing people every Sunday.”
The past continues into the present. I watch as a generation of creative, engaged leaders are overlooked and belittled, as people who ask hard questions are systematically undermined, as people who explore the leading of the Spirit in strange new ways for a strange new age are dispensed with, often without explanation.
It looks like what happens when the powerful feel their power slipping. It looks like fear. It looks like desperation. It looks like a movement under the power of principalities. It doesn’t look like Jesus.Missionaries to the poor dismissed. Women seen as a threat. Urban pastors berated. This is #Christendom. Click To Tweet
In the post-Christian contexts where I’ve lived before, I’d never seen these kinds of behaviors among Christians. Disagreements, sure. Differences of opinion, of course. But these are approached in a way that assumes we share the spirit of Christ, with a desire for reconciliation. Approached by setting aside power.
In post-Christian places, Christians have long ago lost any kind of cultural or political sway and are less threatened by one another’s differences. In the face of so much diversity outside of the church, any kind of difference within the church no longer feels so different.
With so few people involved in mission, we’re happy to have any leaders who are willing to step up, even if they’re not “ideal” or like us. With so much need for the church to witness to the world around it, we don’t feel the luxury to divide within it. We know that if we split over every issue of theology and practice, over tongues and inerrancy and women’s roles and creeds and baptism, there would be a congregation of two people here, of five people over there.
We don’t feel our mission hinges on what politicians do. In a post-Christian context, we have been reminded where our power lies, and it’s not in human institutions. We feel deeply Jesus’ prayer that the world might know Him through our unity—even in our differences of opinion.
There are parts of this country that are post-Christian, and there are parts of this country where Christianity is still the majority worldview. And there are places where the transition is taking place. The people caught in those places experience that transition in very disturbing and personal ways, ways that affect their livelihoods, sense of purpose, relationships, health, and ministries. Something is crumbling in this country, and as it falls it does immeasurable damage to real Christian brothers and sisters.
Pray for us.
This article is published anonymously and some details have been changed to protect the identity of the author who still lives in daily fear of personal attack and loss of employment. However, none of the details have been exaggerated.