The writing might as well be on the wall. Social Christianity is sputtering, heaving for its last breaths. Power is dwindling. The vast acceptance of the Christian morals is shrinking. And more often than not, the bold Christian is placed on "the wrong side of history".
Enter any variety of Church circles and you will begin to see that reactions to this potentially alarming dilemma range from the militant to crass conformity. A county clerk uses the song "The eye of the tiger" to summarise here 'Christian' refusal to sign marriage documents for same-sex couples.
Buzzfeed finds Christians perfectly content to shape their faith to liberal ideals (I'm a Christian but I'm Not). As Alan Noble so succinctly puts it, "I'm a Christian, but don't worry, I won't create tension in society. I've managed to mold my personal individual faith perfectly inline with liberal democratic, mass-consumerist values". The Church has become a tumultuous sea of responses.
And yet, perhaps the most sane and biblically grounded response to the Church's decline came from a friend as she sat across from me in a small tea shop. Her simple words have profound relevance. "Maybe we just need to grow small"
Look at any number of agendas that have gripped the church throughout the wicked life of Christendom. The faith was used as a tool of assimilation throughout the Roman Empire and then later a weapon of war when England expanded it's influence; convert or die was a mantra that rang out during mass baptisms.
Even as we return to the religious climate during the time of our King Jesus, we see a messianic hope warped so much by power struggles that many missed the Messiah himself! The kingdom mentality of the day had people looking for overthrows and political significance, all the while Jesus said "behold the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke Chapter 17 verse 21).
Growing up small
So how does growing up small do anything for a Church that has once again found itself attempting to establish a kingdom through inappropriate channels of power?
The first avenue that leads the church into error is her willingness to focus on the big things, without tending care to the small and often mundane things of life. When Jesus taught on true spirituality his most concise word's were, "Love the Lord your God... And love your neighbour as yourself" (Mark chapter 12 verse 30-31). We grow small by actually doing what our King has said. Look into intentionally creating community where you live.
The Spirit tells us through Peter that we have been intentionally placed into our specific contexts by God himself so that he might be found by us and through us (Acts 17:26) You are a divinely placed instrument of God's engagement with the world! Engaging your neighbours by inviting them into your life through dinners and parties can be a good first step to growing small in your approach to a public faith.
This would be walking as Christ walked. His life was marked by dinners and parties with the people around him. We can use this natural connection to grow small in our faith.
Later, James adds another facet to the faith well lived, he says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction..." (James chapter 1 verse 26-27). Every community has the marginalised and less fortunate. We can grow our faith small by looking for, and attending to the needs of those in both relational and economical need.
These are things we should do. The Bible lays them before us as commands for a life that would follow King Jesus. And yet we cannot do them by ourselves. We are made to grow together in the love of God (Colossians chapter 2 verse 19).
So invite someone into your endeavour to grow small. And remember, as we show our love and commitment to Christ by actually doing as he commands, the Divine presence will literally come and make their home in our very being (John chapter 14 verse 23).
Dan Peterson lives near Chicago, Illinois, USA. He enjoys discovering old books, new places, and good coffees. His dream is to summit a mountain on every continent and have a pet pygmy marmoset.
Dan Peterson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/dan-peterson.html