I Was Just Thinking About - - -
There has been an ongoing concern about the role of The Church in a what is often referred to as a “Post-Christian World.” With global cultural shifts that are occurring so rapidly and the shifting value system within the Judeo-Christian application of foundational truth and principles, it seems as though the mandated Church is floundering and dissipating in terms of both its message and mission. There was a time when Education measured its success by using a Learning Curve. It is defined as: “A graphic representation of progress in learning measured against the time required to achieve mastery.” If we applied this curve to the ministry and mission of The Church, what would be the resulting conclusions? Has the Church improved in terms of its message, ministry and mission?
The website that focuses on The Church and Culture with James Emory White makes a statement and conclusion. The statement is made in the context of a soon to be held conference that is following the theme, “Standing On Mars Hill: How To Speak Truth and Grace to a Post-Christian World.” The subject matter will include the following premise: “Perhaps the greatest challenge facing church leaders is learning how to bring the gospel to bear on a culture that is far from God. Specifically, how do we speak to the key issues of the day where public opinion is far from biblical truth? We know we want to bring grace to bear, but how do we simultaneously bring truth in a way that is both winsome and compelling?” Even if this premise is embraced, another consideration pertains to demographic shifts and natural attrition especially within the rural churches that dot the landscape of our nation.
In the day when the Apostle Paul went on his missionary journeys with some associates, a contrast in ministry and mission effectiveness is shared in Acts 17. The summary of the effectiveness is given in Acts 17:10-12, “As soon as night had fallen, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if these teachings were true. As a result, many of them believed, along with quite a few prominent Greek women and men.”
By contrast, the following is observed in Acts 17:16-18, “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply disturbed in his spirit to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, and in the marketplace with those he met each day. Some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also began to debate with him. Some of them asked, What is this babbler trying to say? while others said, He seems to be advocating foreign gods. They said this because Paul was proclaiming the good news of Jesus and the resurrection.” Obviously, there was a cultural stalemate. The whole matter came to a head in Acts 17:19-23, “They took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus (Mars Hill), where they asked him, May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you are bringing some strange notions to our ears, and we want to know what they mean…So Paul stood up before the Areopagus (Mars Hill) and said, Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and examined your objects of worship, I even found an altar with the inscription: To An Unknown God. Therefore what you worship as something unknown, I now proclaim to you.”
The Mars Hill Syndrome reflects on people who are willing to talk about religion and religious themes without any demonstration of application being made of the mandated message and mission of Jesus Christ. The idea of accommodation rather than Biblical adherence prevails within the post-Christian way of thinking. There is a growing and glaring absence of the coupling of Faith with Practice. Rather than accommodation achieving a growing constituency, it has resulted in the sense of irrelevance of the Twenty-First Century Church. One can argue against this conclusion despite the presence of the Mars Hill Syndrome and the increasing number of empty pews in the Churches. Consider these things with me!