Future Watch: The Rise of Secularity. 5 Trends Affecting the Church.

February 03, 2016

Future Watch: The Rise of Secularity. 5 Trends Affecting the Church.

When post-modernity gripped our social conscience, the one positive from religious pundits was the rise of spirituality and mystery. Though they weren't necessarily a group who embraced traditional forms of religion, we were nevertheless given some hope that as churches, we could find means by which to reach this otherwise open generation.

Despite this apparent openness, churches are not seeing the kind of growth or inquiry such openness would invite. Given this disparity I want to highlight a number of influences that are affecting the way many people are approaching spirituality. Within the majority of popular literature, from self-help to business, there are common threads that can be identified. From Sam Harris to Alain de Botton, the prevailing ideologies they present are gaining in traction and influence. In a nutshell, they advocate taking the best that religion has to offer but jettisoning God.

It's a movement towards what I call “secularity.” Granted, this progression has been happening culturally for some time, but feel it is moving at a much faster pace than previous generations. Much of the literature advocates for such disciplines as meditation, fasting, giving away your riches, doing good, and even acknowledging a higher authority, even though in most cases that “authority” is rarely defined or expounded.

In others its ignored altogether. It’s putting sovereignty squarely in the hands of the individual. Now, I’m all for self-improvement and discipline, but am uncomfortable with its overall presentation of its merits without a solid foundation in God. Imagine how this affects churches, especially if they have any sensitivity to reaching out in ways that speak into the culture at large.

So, in light of this tension, here are the trends that will continue to affect the church both now and in the future.        

1. Mistakers, not sinners.

The predominant mantra of the times is that we are inherently good people who simply make mistakes. Therefore, from that philosophical posture, whatever deficiencies exist can be likewise corrected. Gone is any talk of repentance, let alone being termed a sinner, in the biblical sense. At best, there is a tendency for sin-management, but nothing near a call for being accountable with our lives before a holy and righteous God.

2. Science-based faith.

Recently, James Emory White in his article, The Secular Christian wrote how the people in Iceland who claimed christian faith did not believe God created the world. In other words, even though 40% of young Icelanders claim to be believers, none of them believed in a creator God. Again, we've been seeing this trend for some time, but its hit a tipping point in that our naturalistic worldview stands over and above biblical revelation. Which leads to the next point.

3. Culture over revelation

This has always been a point of tension, but again, I feel its escalated in recent years. We all have a tendency to view scripture through the lens of our worldview, but there is a sense in which humanity, at least in North America, is hitting its evolutionary peak. What I mean is for many of these modern-day prophets, humanity is entering a new age of enlightenment and cultural advancement. Therefore, whatever was unacceptable in the past, is fully embraced without hesitation. From drugs to sexuality, from economic policies to political ideologies, the horizon of human potential is advancing towards a new dawn.

4. Cause-oriented over service-oriented

When I was growing up the cool thing to do was start a rock band, but in this generation, its starting a non-profit. How times have changed. And with it the mindset of those whom we need as volunteers in the church. The drive towards "serving for a cause" as opposed to "serving for serving sake" is taking a toll on the local church. Its akin to saying that you won't give to an organization to help them pay rent and keep the lights on?

Unless its "changing the world" or making "significant inroads" its not going to interest me? What is unfortunate, is that even the most life-changing churches are built on a foundational structure that needs people willing to serve, because without them, the entire enterprise will fail.

5. Label and lash

There is a sense in which our culture has lost the ability to dialogue, especially with respect to matters of critical importance. Instead, we see what I call "label and lash." It goes like this. Someone labels a person, an organization, a people-group, and once they fix the label, they feel they have the right to lash out at them.

Once people are labelled, there is a host of presumptions that follow. Ever hear how Christians are judgmental and homophobic? I think you get the idea! Culture is changing rapidly all around us and for those of us in the church it can be a dizzying experience. Its not easy staying on top of all the changes, but hopefully this blog has given you something to ponder. Until next time.

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