“I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me. – John 17:20-23
One of my friends expressed incredulity this week regarding news media reports that Christianity is on the decline. Reporting suggests church attendance is dwindling and that faith in God is moving out of the mainstream and into the periphery of society.
“I don’t know where they get their information,” he said. “I look around here and I am encouraged by the life, the number of people, and the level of commitment I see.”
Of course he is talking about a faith-based community where people are enthusiastic about worship and not afraid to live as if the Good News about Jesus is actually true, and relevant, and vitally important.
Some “Christianity” should be in decline!
But the reporting isn’t necessarily wrong. What is in decline is the idea that showing up at church is something people do simply because they are in America and that is what Americans do. And – if you ask me – it is high time that kind of “lightly Christianized cultural religiosity” faded into the irrelevancy it should always have been.
Instead, I urge everyone to consider what it might mean to live a life of authentic faith where the key idea is being a disciple of Jesus.
It is my highly opinionated point of view that the “Christianity” many non-believers have rejected has little to do with Jesus, and a lot to do with a religious nationalism that lifts high the flag – or the political affiliation – rather than the cross.
So now it is more important than ever to invite people to make a connection with the Jesus who is, and who has always been, more radical and countercultural than the church or society ever wanted him to be.
Today is one week after the celebration of Easter Sunday. Here’s a story that tells you where we are at here on Capital Boulevard:
The last “Allelujah” sounded and Rebekah had offered her benediction. I greeted a young family visiting for the first time.
“This was great!” they exclaimed. “We love it! If church was always like this we’d be here every week.”
Before I had a chance to answer, one of our young couples jumped into the conversation. “But it is like this every week,” they said. “This is what going to church is like when the Good News fills everyone with new life!”
I was so proud of them! They get it. And this is why we are not one of those congregations where the church will quietly die out in a generation or two. To the contrary! We are animated by the Resurrection and we are overflowing with light and life and love and invitation (Wake-Forest-Presbyterian-Church)
Why? Because God calls us to live something more authentic than the cynical cultural appropriation of religion that puts Jesus on the sidelines.
This is the Gospel, friends! This is the Good News! This is Jesus! This is light and life and love and invitation!
I will see you in church – DEREK