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  • Writer's pictureJesse

Forecasting the Church Future: Grey Matter

Part 2 of 3

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of the Canadian Messenger Magazine.

In the past two issues, I have focused on some of the leading trends influencing our society. In order to better serve our communities, the church must forecast changes that are taking place so we are in a position of offence instead of trying to catch up. This month I am examining the emerging culture of what I call “grey matter.” Our society is gradually moving from a Newtonian (everything is black and white) to a more nuanced postmodern “acceptance of everything.”

A few years ago, I was surprised to find a lottery ticket under the church pew. I knew exactly who normally sat in that spot during church. How could one of my faithful members be gambling? Do you have friends who seem to partake in certain behaviours that are not in line with the church? Do they have a cavalier attitude toward these vices? Our society is drifting toward varying degrees of acceptance in matters that were once considered “off limits.” As a result, Christians have been influenced by these cultural norms, eventually proclaiming that their own Christianity reflects an acceptance of these certain behaviours.

In 2005, Ron Sider wrote about this emerging trend in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?* The book title alone reflects the changing attitudes we now see in the Christian world. Sider cites that Christian “practices” such as divorce, gambling, and alcohol consumption have now become normative, if not even more prevalent than within our secular counterparts.

In his groundbreaking book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church … and Rethinking Faith,** author and researcher David Kinnaman reported that people often feel judged and unloved because of lifestyle decisions that are deemed to contradict the teachings of traditional Christianity.

How, then, can the local church still be faithful to the teachings of Scripture, while accepting individuals in our community who don’t share the church’s standards? How can church leaders better understand the shifting culture and ideologies that differ from our traditional beliefs? Is there space for people to discover and learn within the confines of the church?

*Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.

**Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016.

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