The Fading of Western Christianity

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The term “Western Christianity” doesn’t quite encompass all it should.  By “Western Christianity” I mean the Christianity of Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia.  These are areas dominated by Europeans and their descendents.  In these regions, the gears of Christianity have shifted into reverse.

This is not the case in the rest of the world.  The kingdom is exploding in the Southern latitudes.  Adherents in Africa, Asia and South America are quickly outnumbering their European spiritual siblings.  It may be long after I am gone, but I worry that the same malaise that afflicts the Western church will, in time, infect the kingdom there as well.

I say this because in too many cases we missionaries have recreated a “Western” manifestation of Christianity duly adopted by non-Western churches.  Yes, they look good now, but what happens when their nations eventually and inevitably possess the material wealth and secular education and outlook of their former missionaries’ homelands?  The time to think about this is now.

How does the kingdom flourish in a secular, materialistic culture?  That’s the question we must answer right now in the West for the sake of the kingdom here and in the two-thirds world.  We must ask that question because Western Christianity is not flourishing now.  It’s fading.  Does that bother you like it does me?

It seems to me we have three choices: (1) we can ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist, (2) we can keep insanely applying the same old ineffective measures or, (3) we can back off, take a hard look at what Jesus told us to do and just do it.

Of course, number three is my choice.  Why don’t we take an honest look at what we are doing (or not doing) now and answer the question, “Are we really doing what Jesus told us to do?”  It seems to me that we are so involved in peripheral matters that we have neglected (or just ignored) the core matters.

If Jesus or Peter or Paul suddenly made a surprise visit to survey the followers of Christ today, what would they think about our professional staffs, buildings, schools and all the other tangential things on which we concentrate?  And all this while the people around us are separate from Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope, without God and continually straying like sheep?  Be honest now!

Am I on the right track here?  Let me know what you think.

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7 Comments

Filed under church, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth

7 responses to “The Fading of Western Christianity

  1. Bob Chapman

    Yes, you are right on Dwight.
    There is no security or comfort in the track you are on and the one we all need to be on.
    Bob

  2. Kay Malan

    In our bible study class this past Sunday, the question was posed, “What would the church look like if each member tried to be Christ to the world?” The answers surprised me. To relate just a few: One said, “We would be out there and not in here worrying how to pay the bills, or arguing over what color to paint the auditorium.” Another suggested, “All our time would be devoted to the people in our community and it would be a very different sort of area than it is now.” Another said, “The gospels say that Jesus spent very little time at the temple; most of the time he was out among the people. We probably wouldn’t need a church building at all.” Still another said, “Then I suppose that our worship really would be a ‘daily sacrifice’.
    I believe that if the kingdom has come and if we are the kingdom workers, then our daily work and interaction with ALL people is fraught with opportunities to be Christ to the world. It’s not the activity but the emphasis which must change. We must begin to see our daily lives and work as being THE avenue of our worship to God, and our meeting together on a Sunday as a convenient opportunity to encourage each other in that quest.
    If we continue to see Sundays as our worship and kingdom work as something we get to do maybe once or twice a year when we “go on a mission”, then the western church will continue to decline.
    The question remains, how to change the emphasis without causing ructions and “splitting the church”?

  3. Well, of course you’re right, brother! I have a notion you just might suggest some good ideas on how to “fix” it.
    Thanks for reminding us to evaluate our sacrifice, at home and abroad. Now about the choice of new carpet color…

    Kay – I can see good things coming to a family like yours!

  4. dwhitsett

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to “fix” it without causing the division and chaos that forced changes usually bring. I think Kay is right on: “It’s not the activity but the emphasis which must change.” That’s a great statement! I do believe, however, that when the emphasis changes the activity will change as well.

  5. Jerry Starling

    Dwight,
    Thanks for raising these questions. These are things that are troubling to me as well. In my work with Eastern European Mission, I see some hopeful signs – but I also see missionaries trying to establish “clones” of the American churches – established preachers, church buildings, services three times each week, etc. – just as we did when I was in New Zealand.

    Among the hopeful signs is the work of Alexander Propochuk. I blogged about that here. The sad thing is that some of the Americans working elsewhere in Ukraine have practically called EEM reps liars for thinking that things like that can be happening in the same country in which they are working! The attitude seems to be, “If we aren’t doing it, it can’t be happening!”

    I’ll be interested to see what responses you receive – and your own comments as well.

    Jerry Starling
    committedtotruth.wordpress.com

  6. throughout the last several weeks I have had many conversations with several ministers about this very problem. I notice that the churches holding on to those past traditions like lifelines are slowly passing away and becoming ineffective to communicate with the younger generation.

  7. dwhitsett

    Thanks to Joseph, Jerry, Dennis, Kay and Bob for your comments. Others have come via Facebook and YouTube. It is obvious we have hit a nerve here…so many contemplating the same issue: how do we, as followers of Christ, relate to our culture in ways that connect? And let’s make no mistake…our (Western) culture is becoming the culture of the world for good or ill. We have much to do!

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