Two interesting articles about the future of Christianity. Much of this can be applied in Canada too with the disdain that Wynne and Justin have for prolife Catholics.
The quote from Ezekiel about whitewash is very apt. The government run “catholic” school system is a whitewashing. For example, we have 40,000 kids in the Catholic school system in Ottawa. How many kids are at weekly mass?? 1000? We have a 400% decrease in per capital Catholic weddings in the last 40 years.
Yet, the Bishops and so many others put on a happy face. “All is well”, they say. “We have a school system, we have Alpha programs, etc. We will keep giving “catholics” like Justin communion and pretend it isn’t that bad”
“‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”
“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord. So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign Lord.”’
Christian ministers must look to the future. They must know both the times and the Bible, for they are organically inter-related. If you do not know the times you will misapply the Bible. Christians in the West as they come to accept the immensity of the cultural shifts need to learn to own the Biblical word for what we are entering. Historical illustrations such as the Titanic (or the Dark Ages or historical seasons of totalitarian rule in Russia etc) can take us only so far in our understanding. We must appropriate the Biblical image: Exile.
The first step believers must take is help one another to accept the reality that Exile is coming to the Western Church. Pretty much everything we have seen about how to plant, manage, fund, grow and lead churches is going to have to change. People’s expectations of career for themselves and their children will have to change. People’s commitment levels to church will have to change.
Helping one another be open to the reality of Exile and its implications is the first step. I know of people who are developing friendships with believers who presently have more experience of these things, and I know of many who are spending hours reading about how the church has survived in previous ages that had similarities.
Secondly the Church must accept that the Exile could well last centuries. The Iceberg has struck the ship and the fatal hole below the waterline cannot be sealed. But the outworkings of that and the full suffering of Exile is far from complete. The Egyptians and Babylonians had many ways to increase the suffering of God’s people: more bricks with less straw, a newly built golden statue, and the lion’s den. Our Exile will not be identical to the past Exiles – but it is clear in the Bible that Exile is often multi generational. The cycle plays out from parents to children to grandchildren to great-grandchildren and beyond.
Given that, we must prepare for the future by investing in and helping the future leaders. They need to be prepared to suffer and serve in ways that we have not yet seen in our nations. At least not in living memory. How will we find the generation of servants to care for the church through perhaps centuries of Exile? We must seek out and mentor the people with the spiritual genes of Issachar’s tribe: ‘Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.’ (1 Chron. 12:32 ESV)
If we are willing to suffer publicly and love people quietly, we will attract to ourselves people like those from the tribe of Issachar. If we meet together, pray and seek God’s ways, he will guide us and them. A good start could be to meet together and read about the Confessing Church from Weimar Germany (e.g. For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler by Victoria Barnett) or read about the lives of ordinary people under Communist Russia (The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia by Orlando Figes). Most of all, read the Bible books of Daniel and Ezekiel. Pray over those texts and
strengthen one another’s faith. Seek to find ways to do church that could outlast sudden changes in the acceptability of Christian meetings, financing and speech. They will be needed.