Prompted with reflections, celebration and concerns in the light of Christianity’s celebrated growth as cited in the Cape Commitment (CTC), more specifically in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific regions; the supernatural power of God’s love is evident. Still, it is essential to analyse Christianity’s steady decline in Europe and the Americas. Begging the question, why is Christianity losing its drawing power? How does God require one to respond? Smacked hard on one cheek by the firm first of the ever-growing challenges of religious pluralism and trodden down under the feet of relativism ––claiming that all truth is equal and there is no such thing as truth, respectively. I am asking how one as a leader can prepare the Church to circumvent these challenges? How urgent is the need for the Church to think “missionally” not merely denominationally?
Victory in the South, Compromise in the North
As one (I) reflects upon its humble beginnings two millennia ago, in the region of Palestine with only a handful of convicted followers, Christianity’s growth is not short of a supernatural phenomenon. Two millennials later, it has spread so vast, in comparison, no single continent or nation can claim indisputably it is Christianity’s global centre. In contrast, Islam a religion projected to outgrow Christianity’s long reign mainly because of its fertility (natural birth) strategy. Christianity, by contrast, owes its growth through the supernatural –the New Birth through Jesus Christ (John 3:7). Christianity’s distinctive touch!
Still, following its expansion southeast of the globe, namely the African and Eastern regions as stated in the Cape Town Commitment (CTC, Wright, 2011, n.p), growth calls for celebration. Yet, considerable concern (to me) regarding the decline of Christianity, mainly in the north-western nations, is a disconcerting reality and worthy of urgent recognition in light of the Church’s Mission (Matt 28). According to Pew Research Centre, Christianity’s made up for 32% of the world’s population, compared to 35% a century ago (Pew Research Centre, on Religion & Public life in 2011). This is a challenging reality! Furthermore, if one appeals to the determination of the remarkable Lausanne Covenant (1974); (needly to mention, a remarkably comprehensive evangelical strategy,) written by one of its chief architects, John Stott (1921), with a scope too magnanimous to mention in this post, except for its commendable impulse and provoking call to the Church (me included) to work towards Christian unity and to make Jesus known to the world. Moreover, from Lausanne Covenant, the Cape Town Commitment (2011) pollinates. However, one (I) beg the question, why is Christianity losing “gained ground?”
The aim of this post is not argumentative but expository –highlighting the compromise in the North and identifying the most significant threat against the Christian worldview. Nevertheless, what is God’s remedy? Honestly, the answer fail me. Still, the colossal Mission and the words that keep echoing in the chamber of my heart “bring the revival back to Europe,” should be (I believe the LORD, says) interpreted in the urgent need to engage these nations in “robust apologetics” –one of the most vital missional agendas.
Tolerance the New Religion
The CTC is cited as “one of the most important Christian documents of our day” and justified reason. Subsequentially, like a beautiful tapestry, we (I’m) presented with a hassle to emphasise one single mandate over another. The nature of sound theology helps one define sound theology as the ability to speak the eternal “truth” into the temporal “situation” or culture. Certain theologians argue that theology must be reflective (orthopathos) –feeling the love between us, our neighbour and creation, but it must also be engaging (orthopraxi) –referring to the right action within our cultural
situation. “Spiritual Mapping” further guides us (me) to diagnose the spiritual typology, helping us (me) identify the cause for the hostility and regress in nations and regions.
Inadvertently one of the most provoking statements in the CTC entails bearing witness to the “Truth of Christ in a postmodern culture.” Perhaps one strategic way to regain lost ground and maintain new territory requires the Church (me) to seriously relook the sentiment of R.C. Sproul, who said, “Empty heads do not nourish burning hearts” (Prov 19:2). I am troubled by the reality of a Church in love with a God they do not really know, let alone able to defend in an apologetic sense. It is disconcerting, for instance, to accept that the focus in evangelical tradition is on mainly proclamation and not an explanation of the Gospel. Dr Francis Schaeffer helps us (me) understand the value of explanation by referring to apologetics as “pre-evangelism”, not evangelism. The former is necessary to engage a culture that does not believe in the Bible at all.
If our postmodern, post-logic, and post-truth culture is the greatest threat to true liberty, justice and freedom, values cherished by the Christian worldview, then should the Church (me as a leader) not be equipping the saints and training its troops for Acts 17 styled evangelism?
Pluralism Faces Christ
Once again, one of the cardinal truths that need “defending” are outlined in the CTC statement that says, “Bearing witness to the truth of Christ in a pluralistic, globalised world.” It is profoundly encouraging (to me) that Christ’ exclusive truth claims are not unique. No single religion or worldview posits inclusivity. Therefore, defaming Christians as religious bigots or as narrow-minded is both discriminatory and logically self-defeating. In this aspect of truth, one (I) sense the LORD’s leading to defend the truth claims of Christ (John 8:38).
Christologically, the LORD’s uniqueness in Personage, Nature and Mission, concerning human beings and creation is a glorious truth and the very thrust of the Gospel, I am determined to “proclaim”.
Lastly, the “must live Truth” statement in the CTC document also inspires one (me) to think in an orthopraxi manner –Truth should not only be studied, but the truth should also be incarnate (God help me). The Biblical prescription by which the light can shine through the blindness in the minds of the lost and seeking, that they may see Jesus Christ as the image of the invisible God ( 2Cor 4:4).
If sound theology is the ability to speak the eternal “truth” into the temporal “situation” or culture. The challenge I perceive is how theological reverent is our message in a Postmodern world that is hostile to the Biblical agenda? In the new spiritual landscape of our postmodern, post-truth, post-logic world, I sense the overwhelming burden to equip myself and the Church to think “apologetically.”