In Exile: Some Initial Thoughts
If you've spoken to me recently about church and the future there will be some key phrases which will keep popping up. (If you've not picked my brain of late then let me buy you a coffee and we can chat.) Some of the phrases which you will hear are "missional", "outward facing", "discipleship", "communitas", "de-emasculating", "incarnational", "offensively gracious", "rejection of one man ministry", "counter cultural generosity" and many others. While any of these would make an interesting blog post in their own right, I'm not going to talk about any of them. Instead, I'm going to look at another phrase... "postchristendom."
Christendom denotes the time period where Christianity was the defining worldview for the western world. It stretches back to when Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire, and arguably stretches all the way to today. It is also possible to argue that we have moved out of this period and are now in postchristendom. While many of the structures of our culture are rooted in Christ's Kingdom, when I spend time with my peers it is clear that Christianity is no longer the lens through which we view values and form our worldview. We are not a fully secular society but, in my opinion, we are in the onset of postchristendom.
This leaves us with many questions. The most pertinent for me is, how do we, the church, live in postchristendom?
An interesting question I'm sure you'll agree and (you may be disappointed to hear) one which I'm not going to answer here.
I'm not sure it is possible to answer such a big question in a blog post without offering nice tidy answers. My intuition says the answers to this question won't be nice and tidy but rather difficult, messy, full of trial and error and trial and error and success and error and trial and success and error and you get the picture.
So, if I'm not going to answer the question, why am I blogging on the subject. My intention today is to open up a thought. A thought which might give us a starting point towards answering the question at hand. A thought which will form the backbone for our teaching at the Rock during 2015/2016.
So, a thought...
If we want to learn how to be disciples in postchristendom perhaps the best place to start is looking at the early church and the Hebrew nation before them as they dealt with being minority groups in another culture.
What can we learn from Esther in how she interacted with Xerxes and the decadence of the Persian Empire? What can we learn from Daniel and his commitment to worshipping God in amongst the edicts that praying to God would see you chucked to the lions? What can we learn from Jeremiah's prophecies to the Hebrews in Babylonian exile? What can Jonah teach us in carrying a message to a people who seem at odds with our beliefs? What can Moses, the parting of the Red Sea and 40 years in the wilderness teach us about living in exilic freedom and faithfulness? What parallels can we learn from the apostle's writing to the exiles, dispersed, and the foreigners in 1 Peter? What does John the Revelator's apocalyptic call to faithfulness in the midst of Rome's Empire teach us about living in the midst of our modern day empires?
So, in conclusion...or perhaps in introduction...let us journey in the mindset of exiles; for perhaps in these ancient stories we encounter the keys to living out our modern stories.
In the here and now.
In the pursuit of living as disciples. In the excitement of looking forward. In the willingness to look back. In learning. In wisdom. In exile.
This blog post was brought to you by....Oli Higham
Oli Higham is part of the leadership team at the Rock Community Church. He finds it hard to sum himself up in a few sentences. However he loves Jesus and is also rather fond of his family, films, coffee, rugby, Arsenal FC, poetry, spray paint, beards, cooking and laughing.