The more traditional type of Christian communities tend to operate largely in a sort of inertia as membership goes. Historically, for the last few centuries in this country and Europe, most people were Christians of one sort or another and there was little crossover between churches/denominations. We are now living in a secular culture where people readily change religions.
The historical method of evangelization, from the early medieval period onward, has been to convert the king or leaders of a nation. Christianity is then made the state religion and the masses baptized. The next few centuries are spent getting the common people to become authentically, rather than nominally, Christian. For example, the entire Slavic Christian culture (the Holy Rus) in one sense is the result of converting one man (Vladimir the Great).
This method is uncomfortable to many evangelicals, who are concerned about authenticity. I understand their concern and to a degree sympathize. However it has been, in the past, largely successful. Evangelicals and the mega church types generally are more concerned with the conversion of individuals than of the culture (they do care about culture but it seems largely off their radar) this is a very American type of religion.
What is really needed is a both/and approach. Generally speaking we no longer have monarchs to make use of so other means of Christianizing the culture need to be created. The lynch pins of modern society need to be identified and targeted, for Christ. The missionaries of old were very deliberate, convert the King and you can save the nation. We need to be deliberate as well, we need to take over Hollywood. This needs to be organized and ruthless. Any Christian who finds in their state of life an opportunity to influence culture needs to take advantage of it in an intelligent and ruthless manner.
As regards converting the individual. This also needs to be deliberate and organized. We in the traditional churches have something authentic and fulfilling but we don’t know how to share it with those outside. Our people need to be taught. Firstly they need to know what they believe, we have really failed in this for the last couple of generations. They also need to be taught apologetics to understand the common objections to the faith and why they don’t wash. Finally they also need to learn how to effectively communicate the faith. Evangelicals have a lingo, formulaic ways of explaining things (the ‘Roman road’ for example) to the un-churched. I may think these formulas are a bit inadequate and simplistic but they do have some success with them.
We have been doing a horrible job at outreach. We need to do better.
In the next installment I’ll wrap things up with an explanation of why this outreach cannot take place inside the liturgy.
To be continued…..