Thus I read this thread on Twitter this morning with interest:
This starts with this Tweet
Observing Twitter conversations regarding the decline of the church is interesting. There seems to be two solutions offered:— R.C. (@ryanacook) September 6, 2017
I think Ryan Cook is largely right in his next Tweet that on Twitter and elsewhere on social media (including, we might observe, this blog!!) there is a quickfire reaction to church decline which (a) blames and (b) globalises the problem with antithetical - they both cannot be right - conclusions.
Not progressive enough? Yeah, right (as we Kiwis say). All those cool dude atheists with strong social progressive agendas and antiTrump stickers on their car bumpers are just waiting for the moment when the church approves SSM and drops its opposition to abortion and euthanasia.
Not conservative enough? Yeah, right. All those keyboard warriors with their white is might, government is always wrong, world is going to hell on a skateboard named Gramsci (cultural Marxism) are just waiting for Francis and Welby to stop their ambiguities on social policies and their neoMarxisms on economic policies and then they will turn the computer off in order to activise in the church instead.
If you search diligently on the Twitter thread above you will find my own tuppence worth. Here I summarise as this:
Whatever number of Christians left in the world, we must be faithful to the gospel. We must believe that Jesus Christ is good news for the world though the kind of good news that many will reject. But we must not subvert the good news by mistaking it for this (progressive) or that (conservative) agenda. The good news of Jesus is very good news but it is very good distinctive good news.
Our challenge is to find that distinctiveness in today's world (a challenge because some blurring has occurred through the centuries of Christendom) and to communicate it in terms which relate to the context in which we live.
Vital here, IMHO, is that the gospel is not one and only one set of words. At the very beginnings of our life as a Christian community there were at least five different versions of the gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul. Those first Christians translated the good news of Jesus in at least five different ways.
A translation of course which did not create five different gospels - a Martian looking upon the global church today could be forgiven for thinking that today's church has lost sight of that simple historical fact!
Actually, buried in global statistics of decline are narratives of growing churches. Churches, that is, which are translating the gospel in a manner which is understandable of the people. Here in NZ I too see that happening, though perhaps not as frequently as desirable.