A few weeks ago I asked a group of young people who all follow Jesus to come have dinner with my family. I asked those who were scattered around my house if they attended the church I was working for at the time.
They all responded with a hesitant, “No.”
I asked if they attended any church service anywhere on the weekends.
Again, they responded with, “No.”
This conversation could be repeated in living rooms and coffee shops around the country with similar responses. Our culture has gone through a paradigm shift over the last century from Christendom into Post-Christendom. At one time we might have been a Christian culture but all research points to the new reality that we are post-Christian.
This means that we cannot expect the church to be the central gathering place for local communities. We cannot expect people to agree with the teachings of the Bible or the way of Jesus, simply because “the Bible clearly states…” Due to the influence of postmodern philosophy we exist in a culture that is skeptical of institutional houses of worship, rejects coercive metanarratives, and seeks knowledge from within a lived community.
Given the culture that we currently exist in and that we are called to minister to, our practices must reflect this new reality. To use tools, resources and methods that were utilized and successful during Christendom would be counterproductive in our post-Christian reality. As our culture has shifted our practices must as well. Here are three practices I have found helpful while engaging our post-Christian culture with the Gospel:
1. The Practice of Being Sent
After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. – Luke 10:1-4
In our current context we must begin to understand youth ministry as a missionary endeavor. We can no longer expect students to flock to incredible buildings and flashy programs. The students are “out there” and we must adopt the practice of being sent to where they already live, play and work.
Being sent means we enter into a culture as a guest. We go to where people gather and learn the culture and the practices. We do not go to win a culture. We go to reveal Jesus in the midst of the already existing culture.
I have made it my practice to go to RabbitFoot Records and Cafe every Friday and set up my office on a cafe table. RabbitFoot is this quirky hybrid of a coffee shop and a vinyl record store. It serves as a sanctuary for marginalized communities, punk rock kids and the LGBTQ+ community in my city. In this small store I am the guest entering into a foreign space. As I am sent to this place, I go ready to discern what God is doing in and amongst the people who walk through the doors. These people have no idea who Jesus is. They would never set foot in an institutional church no matter how great the programs. Without the practice of being sent, these people would never have the chance to know Jesus.