Is it Sunset, or the Dawn?
By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
CBN.com People are flocking to the Internet as the postmodern era dawns to learn about spirituality. As Reggie McNeal said in The Present Future, “…although intrigue with institutional religion is down, interest in spirituality is up.
A 2003 Gallup poll indicates that a vast majority of Americans say that religion has an impact on every area of their life.” The most recent polling by the Pew Internet Group shows that 64 percent of Americans go online looking for answers about God and spirituality.
I believe we are at a dramatic crossroads at the dawn of this new Millennium. In philosophy, western thought has shifted from modern to postmodern. In technology, we have shifted from analogue to digital. In economic terms, we have shifted from the Industrial to the Digital Age. In the Body of Christ, I believe we are shifting from a pastoral-centered focus to a truly five-fold-centered practice – from the ministry of the professional clergy and para-church worker to the ministry of the Saints.
As McNeal points out, this is a climactic, 500-year shift, more dramatic even than the shift from the Medieval era to the era of the Enlightenment.
In his book, The Road Ahead, Bill Gates, founder and Chairman of Microsoft, argued that, “We are watching something historic happen, and it will affect the world seismically.” Gates said that he was “thrilled” to be able to squint “into the future and [catch] that first revealing hint of revolutionary possibilities” at this “beginning of an epochal change,” the most massive economic shift since the Industrial Revolution.
Unlike many Christians today, I don’t believe that the world will continue to grow darker unchecked until the Earth is filled with evil and followers of Jesus Christ are hunkered down in caves waiting and praying for the rapture. Scripture tells us that “…the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day” (Prov. 4:18).
I believe there is much hope in store for the world and the Church – if only the Church would leave the stained glass and take the gospel out into the world of the plain glass.
Don't get me wrong, I do believe that things are getting dark and will continue to darken until Jesus' return. But I also believe that light always dispels darkness -- and it's time for the Church to be the light.
Leonard Sweet is of a similar opinion. In his book, Carpe Manana, he writes:
For the vast majority of Christians, the sunset version of what is happening ('The world has come to an end') eclipses the dawn version ('It’s a whole new world out there'). In a church blind to the world it is in, where it mistakes the dawn for a setting sun, those with open eyelids must reconcile themselves to the role of either seeing-eye dogs or bloodhound… How leaders of the church can sleepwalk into this future is beyond comprehension.
Sweet asks the provocative question, "How many church leaders are on the short list of people who are changing the world?”
Theologian Douglas John Hall defines the need of Christians to take the gospel to their generation through all communication channels available:
Contextuality in theology means that the form of faith’s self-understanding is always determined by the historical configuration in which the community of belief finds itself. … Conscious and thoughtful involvement of the disciple community in its cultural setting is thus the condition … of its right appropriation of its theological discipline.
I believe there is a need for the Church to embrace the Internet and digital platforms as a means for taking the gospel to the nations – both through evangelism and discipleship.
The greatest hindrances to the Church embracing this vision, in my view, include a combined fear of the dangers associated with the Internet; an eschatological belief in the world continuing to decline without hope until Jesus returns; a fixation in western Christianity with materialism and self-centered success; and a lack of vision for the Church to utilize technology to see the Great Commission fulfilled.
The world understands the need to embrace and utilize digital technology. In many cases, sadly, the Church does not.
Visionaries and pioneers in the world understand that mankind is experiencing a momentous shift in technology, philosophy, and spirituality – one that rivals all other great revolutions in human history. One of the early employees of Apple Computer said of founder Steve Jobs and his colleagues, “…[our] fundamental purpose was to innovate, invent, and lead an entire cultural revolution … All the people I met there, passionate young people, truly believed they were changing the world, not selling computers.”
The Church in the new Millennium must adopt this same mindset toward the Great Commission. What we do – in whatever area that each is called to by the Holy Spirit – can and will change the world with God’s grace and anointing. But we must stop wringing our hands and complaining about how bad things are and we must get to work in the job of making Jesus known to the lost and confronting evil.
Part of the reason things have become as bad as they are, in many cases, is that the Church has ceased being salt and light.
Over the last forty years of tumultuous change, as the world shifted from the Modern to the Postmodern era, the Church has taken its fair share of hits. What was once culturally accepted as a Christian norm has shifted dramatically. The Church has found itself outside the cultural mainstream.
Many believers have had a difficult time understanding this massive shift from a Judeo-Christian-oriented society to a post-Christian, pantheistic society. Instead of holding the place of respect in the community, churches have become more and more marginalized in our cities and towns. And instead of confronting the culture with the truth of the gospel, despite the changing societal winds, many churches and individual Christians have shut themselves behind the heavy wooden doors of the Church and pretended that the world is still the same as it was in 1955 when Eisenhower was president.
But believers who have not hidden behind the stained glass – those who have taken Christ’s admonition to be in the world, but not of it, to be salt and light, not hiding the light under a basket – they are stepping out into the calling that God has for their lives. They are asking God to give them creativity, strategies, wisdom, provision and anointing to do the task that is ahead of them. This may be a relatively small number of people compared to the millions of Christians around the world, but it is remarkable what can be done when a group of believers step out in faith, trusting in the word of the Lord.
Bishop John V. Taylor said, “Christ’s renewals and revolutions begin quietly, like faith itself. They start growing from one tiny seed, the staggering thought: things don’t have to be like this."
It is always people of vision and optimism who have made the biggest impact on history.
I have often said, “cynicism is redundant.” We already know what the problems are – anyone with any intelligence can see the difficulties we face in the world today. We don’t need people who think they are smarter than everyone else telling us what is wrong.
What we need are visionaries who have the audacity to take God at His Word, to believe that ‘those who the Son sets free are free indeed’, to seek Him for the answers to the problems that face mankind, and to go to work among lost and hurting people to make a difference in this world.
For you, is it the sunset, or the dawn?
Related article: Is the Best Yet to Come?
Message Board: Tell me what you think: Are things getting progressively worse, or is there hope ahead for the world?
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Resources from these articles:
The Present Future by Reggie McNeal
The Road Ahead by Bill Gates
Carpe Manana by Leonard Sweet
Discipling Nations by Darrow Miller
von Buseck is Ministries Director for CBN.com and the co-host of the Spiritual Gifts webcast on CBN.com. Send
him an e-mail with your comments.
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