How do we see ourselves in a culture either hostile or indifferent about us as the church and our beliefs? This seems to be the major question for us once we have finally realized the influence and power we have lost. For a long time we convinced ourselves we were just a silent majority, but I think the writing is on the wall for that fallacy. Rod Dreher has called us to the Benedict Option and Russell Moore has called for us to see ourselves as exiles. Both of these calls should be heeded, I believe, for us to be faithful in the culture we find ourselves now and in the future. But, what is needed to take a Benedict Option, what is needed to be faithful exiles? It will take what I call consequential faith. Or maybe more simply put a deep belief and trust in the traditional orthodox Christian faith that matters.
We have long cared more about cultural relevance and meeting consumerist standards of success than we have about imparting a consequential faith. Being relevant has meant being able to play non-Christian songs in worship and teaching in a way that shows we are clever instead of leading our people to a deep faith. We have longed for the non-believing world to see us as creative or relevant instead of preparing our people to live in the broken life under the sun, as Solomon says. We have been so concerned about size we have allowed our front door to be open and yet our back door to be even more wide open. As long as we can have you walk an aisle and baptize you and count you on our roll we are satisfied. We don’t care to prepare you for life with a deep faith. We don’t care to call you into a life of complete worship. We don’t care to teach you the truth of sound doctrine. We don’t have the patience for long-term ministry in one place for an extended period of time. We may say every number represents people, but many times we are more concerned with our own celebrity than the numbers or the people they represent. We can see the correction to this in the plea for a return to the importance and necessity of discipleship in the local church from many different voices and to be faithful to who we are called to be we must listen to these varied voices.
What will happen, and is already happening, in a culture more hostile to traditional orthodox Christian faith is many nominal Christians will fall away. Easy believism won’t be so easy anymore. When believing the truth of the Scripture has consequences it will be shown just how many in our midst don’t actually believe these truths. But, it will also prove how we have failed to give our people the deep truths of the faith to believe in having settled for giving them biblical principles tied to a relevant theme instead of the Bible and its beautiful and complex truths. To live in this culture we have been awakened to, though we have been here a while, the church will have to have a faith that matters. We will have to have a consequential faith able to stand for truth with love, to turn the other cheek, to remain faithful to orthodox Christianity even when it is not popular. For too long we have celebrated nominalism in so many ways. We have celebrated numerical growth over spiritual growth. We have called people to attendance instead of allegiance. We have not asked our people to come and die, to take up their cross as Jesus calls us in Luke 9:23. We have not led and we have not asked our people to have a consequential faith, and the truth is now obvious inconsequential faith, shallow faith, will not stand up against the inroads culture has already made into our minds, hearts, and lives.
Make no mistake, our culture is calling us to worship, they are calling us to give up something in order to gain a greater good. For too long we have been calling for people to just come and see. We have not made the biblical call for them to come and die. We have given them nothing to live or die for. We have offered them something to believe in addition to their lives in the culture, not something to give their lives to over against the lies of the culture and now in these days, as in many days before, where many will be asked whom will you serve many will choose the culture and not the church.
This is not all bad news for the church. This falling away of the nominal in many ways can lead us back to being the faithful exiles or aliens we have always truly been even though we had deceived ourselves into thinking this is our home. We can now be a creative, prophetic minority and I would argue from the Bible and history this is where the church thrives the most. What it will call for from us, those in the church, is to live, preach, teach, and call others to this consequential faith. It will mean going back to history and seeing how to be faithful in a culture hostile to orthodox Christian faith. It will mean laying down cultural power for kingdom power. It will mean giving up a place at the table to be faithful to Scripture. We must come and die and in dying to political power and cultural acceptance truly find life. I see this day as a great opportunity for the church to truly be who she has always been called to be. We can see this as an opportunity to take off the blinders and the false hopes of being cool and approved. The choice will come for us, do we want to be accepted or do we want to be faithful? A consequential faith can help us stay faithful even when there are consequences.
I write this not from a place of fear. We are not being persecuted for our faith and to say we are at this point is a stretch, but there is a trajectory in our culture pushing those who hold to biblical orthodoxy to the margins of society. I don’t think all in all this is a necessarily bad thing. God is on the margins. Consequential faith helps us stand on the foundation of His word and our tradition even when it may cost us jobs, privilege, acceptance, and anything else the world tries to take from us. When all we care about is come and see, attend and let us count you we are not preparing men and women to stand for their faith or to drink from the deep well of the faith. We are preparing them for their eventual exit. We must teach, we must preach, we must make our worship services and our discipleship all about a deep, consequential, orthodox faith that matters and can stand even when the world turns against us. We don’t just call people to come and see we call them, like Jesus, to come and die.