Today Christianity in the Western nations has had its day it seems; or at least that is how it looks. Instead of spreading out in the west it is thinning out. According to Ed Stetzer, 3500-4000 churches are closing their doors annually.** Facts are facts. When I go out into my neighborhood to share Christ I am amazed how many households no longer hold a church affiliation. It is no wonder the culture is moving away from God. The culture only moves away from Him when people move away from him. That is what prompted me to see that my evangelistic efforts are closer to 1st century resistance than 21st century acceptance. It's like starting over.
Twenty First Century Evangelism
How should a Christian approach evangelism in the twenty-first century? By evangelism I mean the effective transformation of culture by the Lord through believers whose sole goal is to bring the non-believing into a fruitful, happy, and life altering relationship with God.
For starters we need to look at the evangelical landscape as it currently exists in relation to the culture it is settled in. To the studied believer, the current landscape of Christianity is not too blurred. We can easily draw the lines between those church denominations that have followed the way of the liberal progressive movement, embracing things that were once anathema to the church and those who are traditionalist conservatives, holding to a more literal interpretation of Scripture.*
As to the culture, one only needs to peruse the popular topics and trends of the day to see that sexual immorality of all flavors is rampant. Drug abuse is getting worse. Biblical Marriage has fallen into disrepute. Morality is cultural and based on trends. An authoritative God of the Bible is left out of the picture completely or exists but only narrowly and within pop culture confines, having been relegated to a non-authoritative existence subject to mans own liking. i.e. man controls the here, now, and then.
The most effective way to gauge evangelism in this culture is to match it to the religious stance that most closely resembles it. Using the linear time scale below you can see that beginning in the late 1800's modern liberalism began to flourish. As it spread from Germany into America the inerrancy of Scripture began to be questioned. So called reason and criticism opened the flood gate to modernism.
"Modernism is an openness to truth as discerned through modern efforts in science, philosophy and religious studies. It includes a readiness to adapt Christianity to all modern discoveries. It includes an evolutionary view of truth ("the newer the truer"): change is always good because we are "moving toward the truth." -Concise Church History. In reality modern discovery was never to be the basis for theological belief. But since modernism gained wide acceptance in the educational world it soon became acceptable in the church.
Progressive/Liberal stance as seen by some
In the progressive camp society is not as depraved as those in the conservative world would have you believe. Homosexuality is not sinful, it was determined at birth; Lesbians and Gays can become pastors, since there is no inherent sin in their lifestyle. Fornication is just as outdated as marriage; it's just another choice where love and attraction can find expression. Abortion is not murder, as long as the child has not left the womb. All religions lead to the same place and will one day converge as one. The bible has been redacted and interpolated so much that a literal rendering cannot be trustworthy. And all people are inherently good and it is that goodness that leads to God.
This stance does not see a cultural problem with the society in which we live. The only major morality issue is their discontent with conservatives who have not yet learned the meaning of "love" and "just getting along." The divisiveness is sharp and conservatives need to chill out.
Conservative stance as seen by some
The conservative world view sees society turned upon its head and moving clearly away from the Christian ethic propounded in the Scripture. The Bible, in its autographs, should be taken as the literal word of God as breathed out by the Holy Spirit, (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). There are very few redaction's and interpolation's that can be conclusively proven to be true, therefore it is fully trustworthy. Since the Bible speaks often on the same topic, any redaction within a phrase that changes the intent of the author, should also be redacted in all other locations of the same topic; but this is not the case. Homosexuality was not determined at birth, but rather, is learned through social, cultural, and historical interactions. Pastors are to be men of God called by the Spirit to take positions of leadership. They are to have exemplary behavior and be models to others, (1 Tim. 3:1-7). Blatant immorality in the face of Scripture is not how a Shepherd of the flock is to behave, (Isaiah 56:10-12). This includes lifestyles that are filled with unrepentant sexual immorality, homosexuality, adultery, and any sinful activity that places a stain on the holiness of God. Abortion is murder. From the time a child is conceived until the time of death it is God who is the creator, and sustainer of life. In Him we live, we move we have our being, (Acts 17:28). There is only one way to heaven and it through the Righteousness that came by Jesus Christ, (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 12:25; John 14:6).
So if we look at the stances from both sides of the fence we can see the to a large extent that the culture is only a reflex of the people who make it up. If it seems to be anti-christian and resistant to conservative traditional values its easy to see why. When a large percentage of the church backs that worldview why wouldn't it be? Now is the time for repentance... before it's too late.
*In this post I purposely overlook radical liberalism and radical conservatism with the express opinion that most know there are some wackos on both sides of the fence.