As everyone is trying to figure out what in the world is going on in our culture and how we, as the church, are going to respond, there is a little debate as to whether or not we are pre or post Christian.
This is a great conversation to be had. It is clear that less and less people have any connection to Christianity, to the Christian story and to the Judeo-Christian moral universe. This is proving problematic as we continue to do church for the true believers and turn our back to those outside the church.
Many are looking to the pre-Christian world of Acts for a roadmap. Paul killed it when it came to pre-Christian evangelism. He was brilliant in his understanding of scripture and of the culture around him. He was able to draw connections and find the thin place where the gospel might take root. We should follow in Paul's footsteps and be experts in the Word and in the culture around us.
In a pre-Christian world, all Paul had going against him was a strange teaching. The people of Athens didn't stone Paul or kick him out of the city. They sneered. That's it. What a strange teaching, it doesn't make sense to us, the end. Paul left and went on to fight another day. Pre-Christian culture doesn't have any connection to the Christian story or its ethic, and that is it!
How great would that be if that is true for us.
Unfortunately, we are not in a pre-Christian context, we are in a post-Christian context. This means we have it way worse than Paul. Our context has no context to the Christian story or its ethic, AND at the same time it is hostile and suspicious to those who are connected to the Church.
While more and more people may not be have any connection to the Christian story, they have plenty of connection to the church. Either through their own experience, the a run in with an overbearing relative, or the never ending cultural story that has informed their media consumption for over 20 years, people in a post-Christian world have a deep distrust, even hatred for Christians, and in turn, the church and the One we serve.
This cultural moment requires something totally unique from us than from the generations that have gone before us. We are not only called to be faithful witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ, but we are also ambassadors who must do some major repair work to the reputation of the church.
The easy way out is to throw the church under the bus. But that is not a long term option. We must be authentic, humble, grace filled, open handed, generous followers of Christ who seek and value unity. And until we restore the reputation of the church, we will have an impossible time reaching this post-Christian world with the full gospel of Jesus Christ.