“You can call me, text me, message me, inbox me, Skype me. I can see your face, hear your voice and see your words, but that doesn’t make you with me.” (13 year old Facebook friend)
In my travels across Canada I have seen church buildings turned into theatres, restaurants, art galleries, dance studios, museums and homes. This is evidence of the post-Christian context in which we live. It can feel a little disconcerting.
The Church has lost much of its influence and respect in Canadian society. Although not totally disregarded, it is being increasingly overlooked and unnoticed. Institutional religion has become unsavoury with fewer people interested in sampling what faith has to offer.
While this may cause concern, it is also a reason to celebrate. In post-Christendom, faith has the potential to become disentangled from institutional religion. Jesus has the potential of being rediscovered. That which gave birth to Christianity can once again become an emerging movement. The hunger of the human heart has not changed, but that which religion offers no longer has appeal. The appetite for meaning, fulfillment, forgiveness, grace, reconciliation – is still alive. This is what excites me. The core of what the Church offers is still very attractive to a post-Christendom society.
I was speaking with a Mennonite Church Canada pastor who worked previously in retail sales. In light of the retail sales experience, I asked; “What tag line would you use to advertise your congregation?” Following a brief moment of reflection the following response emerged: “A place to get involved in something big”.
This is an appealing invitation. People do want their lives to mean something. It is a result of the image of God in us stirring for greater release. And this is something the Church still has to offer.
The other human yearning is for more community. People will always want to belong, as displayed in the poetic utterance of my 13 year old Facebook friend. Technology is simply another way of belonging but it has not replaced the community offered by the Church.
Even in the midst of historical paradigm shifts the Church remains aligned to the core longings of the human heart. Unfold the table. Set the meal. We have what a post-Christendom society hungers for.