Powerful forces are hard at work today to draw us away from Christ. Advances in technology and science tempt us to place our trust in man’s capabilities, not God’s. Distractions and demands shift our focus from the eternal to simply getting through the day. Culture’s emphasis on self directs our attention to personal fulfillment, ambition and freedom.
The gravitational pull of Christmas draws us back in the opposite direction. Christmas points us to the Source of absolute truth, not feelings. Christmas beckons us to find security in God, not advances or finances. Christmas calls for a return to the roots of our faith, not programs and power.
Yet the ways churches have responded to evolving social norms do not look much like the Christmas story…
- Offering more comfortable facilities when Jesus was born in a manger in a barn
- Increasing convenience when the magi traveled for months to see Jesus
- Lowering expectations when Joseph and Mary risked their lives for Jesus
Those accommodative “advances” by churches precipitate, not stem, America’s demise by conforming to, rather than transforming, culture.
Threats to Christianity will grow, soon calling into question the acceptability and legal rights of a religion that claims exclusivity and does not explicitly approve of the values they cherish. As our nation increasingly persecutes Christians, it may awaken a sleeping giant, causing the Church to disorganize, disciple and disperse – the catalysts for growth in its earliest days. When God closes a window, He opens a door. We have an opportunity now to preempt persecution by proactively shifting back toward those original biblical principles – each of which runs counter to prevailing trends in our churches and culture.
Christmas is the time to #ReimagineCompassion, discipleship and evangelism. The birth of Christ provides the only escape route from the pitfalls of progress and prosperity that are accelerating America toward secularism. Christmas holds 7 keys to not just surviving, but thriving, in the modern world. For each of those keys, we have an opportunity to leverage our progress and prosperity to overcome the adverse consequences of that same progress and prosperity:
- Confront Hate with Love
- Run social media campaigns to remind society that most of the values they hold dear originated with Christians who introduced radical concepts like ending slavery, fighting for women’s rights and serving the poor into highly corrupt civilizations
- Reverse perceptions of Christians as self-righteous and judgmental by being the chief instigators of humility and love in the face of animosity and injustice
- Exchange Conformance for Courage
- Use online tools like Meet The Need’s new Artificial Intelligence platform to equip churchgoers to live Prayer, Care, Share lifestyles where they work and live
- Commission Christians to serve as “pastors” of their neighborhoods, adopting the biblical definition of “church” – a far more effective and efficient model for Kingdom-building, particularly during a pandemic
- Replace Relativism with Truth
- Convey hard truths to church members through multiple channels Monday through Saturday – like the priesthood of believers, necessity of repentance, costs of discipleship, and expectation of joy in the midst of trials
- Understand that making the case for Christ isn’t possible without referencing “sin”, yet let love compel evangelism at the risk of offending sensitive ears
- Abandon Complexity for Simplicity
- Rather than just replicating the status quo online (i.e. “virtual church”), use a free system like Love Your Neighbor to decentralize and mobilize church members to be the hands and feet of Christ all week long
- Strip away the clutter and expense of church growth models and politics and get back to the basics of disciple multiplication, which is best done 1-on-1 or in triads
- Combat Division with Unity
- At this critical moment when our nation has never been so divided, shine the light of Jesus brightly this Christmas by overlooking our differences and embracing the Savior and mission we all share as Christians
- Die to self, resist any hint of self-righteousness, and humbly confess our sins so those who don’t know Jesus will see that they, like us, are all accomplices to His murder
- Eliminate Distractions through Focus
- Overcome the short attention spans of “Generation Screen” by reaching them where they live and breathe…online – not to advertise church events but to engage, educate, disciple, build community, and mobilize to serve others
- This Christmas, give glory to God for healing to awaken a society busy celebrating the triumph of the human spirit, collectively saying “together, we did it”, heaping accolades on scientists and doctors, and not on the Lord, as COVID-19 vaccinations begin
- End Competition with Compassion
- Transactional solutions to poverty, measured in numbers of meals served or toys distributed, creates dependence and provides bragging rights to entice donations away from other ministries – whereas relational compassion is less glamorous but far more dignifying and effective
- Jesus spoke sternly about serving the poor but few churches dedicate any physical or online real estate to that purpose; while churchgoers look much like other Americans in acquiring assets that divert attention from those in need
Christmas is about love, courage, truth, simplicity, unity, focus and compassion. The world operates on a different set of principles like progress, prosperity and power. Revival does not depend on a President who occupies the White House but a King who sits on the throne. The pursuit of greater influence and a louder voice has only solidified the opposition’s resistance to Christian positions on social and moral issues. It’s time for a new approach – using modern tools to equip disciples and decentralize distribution of the timeless message of Christmas to a nation losing interest in the building-centric version of Christianity they have been sold for decades.
It’s Your Turn…
What innovations have you seen churches or ministries use to #ReimagineCompassion, evangelism or discipleship?