The religious landscape in the West has changed, in that we can no longer expect people to accept or understand Christianity as the norm in our society.
Professor and pastor Kennon Callahan writes, “The day of the churched culture is over…the day has gone where the church was generally valued by the society as important to the social and moral order and when for that reason, people tended to seek out a church for themselves. We sail in a different kind of sea….we are caught between a Constantinian Christendom that has ended and to which we cannot return and the culture’s relegation of the church to the private realm.”
These days, rather than seeing the church as a place of safety, people in the West are sceptical about the church and see it as irrelevant to their needs. The times that we live in are certainly challenging. The church is breathing in a new and more challenging atmosphere, which requires better praxis for the space we are moving in. If the church in the West now needs to see itself as being located in a mission field, this means we cannot assume that the culture we are interacting with is Christian. If Christendom is over then we cannot assume the privilege that we once had. If the church has in the midst of this, lost its sense of identity, has become turned in on itself, then it will need to rediscover its purpose and once again set out to sail the turbulent seas of our changing times with discernment and good navigation. This means that the people of God will need to be formed into a missionary people in order to be the light that Jesus has called us to be in our respective communities.
If the church is changing, is this then a time for more church planting? If our times are changing, which means the church must change, do we then need new models, pioneering leaders and a deeper exploration of our culture in order to better serve our cities and neighbourhoods? I think the answer is yes. Church planting can take many forms and we discuss this in our Church Planting Certificate that we offer at Morling in partnership with our denomination. Sometimes people feel called to explore new places and neighbourhoods, other times people feel led to explore different models of church. Whatever the call, what is needed is more people who are discerning of the times that we live in and are willing to adapt their practices while keeping to the core of the gospel in order to reach those in our community who find church irrelevant. This is not to say that there is no room for existing churches, however these well-established churches can support missional communities and send them out to places where more creative and flexible expressions of church are needed in order for people to connect with the message of Jesus.