Such idyllic scenes may have been common across America in the past, but in our increasingly post-Christian society, such situations are acted out less often. In this current era, it is much more likely that Mr. Smith and Ms. Jones will live together for years, raising their kids together without feeling the need to be married. The neighbors across the street could be a married couple named Tom and John. The two couples are more likely to go camping together for the weekend than to attend church, and if they do happen to attend church, it is probably for a special service at either Christmas or Easter.
By all accounts, the North American church is enduring diﬃcult times. Most Christians realize that churches are struggling to reach out to the surrounding community, but people are not sure why churches are struggling or what they, as individuals, can do about it.
Though there are many reasons churches are struggling, the primary reason is that North American culture is experiencing rapid change, while most churches remain unchanged. Therefore, churches are struggling to reach the generations that are emerging from this new culture.
Some churches have made it clear that they do not intend to change, even if it means their membership will keep shrinking. These churches have ignored culture and vainly hope that people will come to faith even though—because of cultural diﬀerences—those people cannot understand the church’s message. Other churches have adjusted their core values and tossed out all their time-honored traditions in the hope that the community will respond positively to their radical change. Such churches have lost much of their identity and are frequently still in decline as they abandon biblical principles and ﬁnd themselves adrift in an ocean of rapidly changing theology.
Many evangelical churches are looking for a third option. These churches are willing to adopt certain levels of change to reach their community but are determined not to give up their core values and biblical principles in the process. Tough American culture is always changing; the timeless truth of the gospel remains the same. How we communicate the gospel may change, but the gospel itself never changes. The gospel is relevant to all cultures in all time periods. We must hold true to the gospel while discovering new ways to communicate with a non-Christian culture.
An excerpt from Terry Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway.