I had the chance last week to speak at the Shepherds 360 Church Leaders Conference in Cary, NC to a group of pastors and church leaders on three unchanging truths for a “post-truth” world. Here are some of the highlights from that talk:
A post-Christian age is not a problem for God.
And while this may seem counterintuitive, in many ways post-Christianity is an advantage to the church, because it’s an opportunity for truths and to see what only the gospel can do.
In a “post-everything” world, we can no longer appeal to religious sensibilities. We can no longer market an improved version to people of what they already kind of believe in. In a morally confused, philosophically complex, theologically vacuous culture, we now get to see how much we’ve always needed the supernaturality and truths of Christianity.
We minister in confusing times. Difficult days. Moral confusion. Gender confusion. Political division.
And the way the American Church has gone about trying to navigate the complexity and chaos has been combative or consumeristic. In this spiritually confused – often hostile when not ambivalent – post-everything world, the best thing the church can be is herself.
There are three things we can draw from Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-41 that the world will never be “post” – three unchanging truths in a changing world:
1) The World will Never be “Post” – The Saltiness of the Church
One of the very reasons God has ordained the gospel of Jesus to create a new covenant people is to provide to a divided, confused world, a living, breathing witness to the reality of his united, coherent kingdom. In other words, this is one of the unchanging truths that says the church is meant to be a signpost to a lost world that the beauty and peace of heaven is true.
This is why the mission of the church begins with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes such a stark difference between the people of God and business as usual that it is non-ignorable by the outside world (Acts 2:13-15). The first outside observances to the witness of the church surmised they were drunk!
As the church is first formed through the good news of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descends and marks the believers with something like tongues of fire. And people who previously could not understand each other, suddenly did, “We can hear in our native language!”(Acts 2:7)
Pentecost becomes the great un-babeling of Babel (Gen 11). Where there was division and confusion, now there is unity and understanding. Where there was conflict between humans centered on themselves, now there was peace between humans who were centered on Christ.
The Holy Spirit makes a new humanity at Pentecost.
The repentance & baptism that Peter calls for in 2:38-41 amounts to going another way. It is counter-cultural. The church isn’t meant to reflect the culture back to itself, to offer a spiritualized version of itself back to it. That is a church that has lost its saltiness according to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:13).
What is God’s plan for combating the darkness of those who reject His counter-cultural mandate? The church. The church founded on Christ and working by the Holy Spirit is God’s hope for the world.
The church is God’s Plan A, and there is no Plan B.
No matter the state of the world, it will never be beyond the sanctifying, prophetic witness of the church centered on the gospel. Indeed, the Lord has ordained the experience of church not for smooth sailing in favorable winds and peaceful waters, but precisely for apparently insurmountable cultural moments like ours. “This corrupt generation” is not more powerful than a group of broken sinners who’ve decided to stop going their own way and in lowliness and meekness turn to the saving glory of the Lord. Even hell itself is no match for the salt and light of the church.
Do you convey that reality to your people? You should.
There should be no more victim mentality in the church. The Holy Spirit has poured himself out on us. Even should they kill us, we’ll only get stronger.