Tom Gilson

Leadership for Post-Comfortable Christianity

Series: Awakening Church

Some writers have described America as moving into a post-Christian era; others have spoken of religious persecution. There is truth in both views. There are large and influential segments within our country that consider Christianity a culturally interesting but otherwise irrelevant vestige. There are pockets of persecution, and some genuine threats to religious freedom in America.

But Christianity remains too vibrant here for America to be truly post-Christian after the European model. And although persecution is on the increase—and for those who experience it directly, it’s far from trivial—its level here is still very far from what it has been in many other times and places.

So in my view, neither post-Christian nor persecuted describes our situation; yet we cannot escape noticing that something has changed. Christianity once fit easily and comfortably within our culture, but no longer. Christianity thrives here, but in the midst of rapidly increasing opposition. We are entering an age of post-comfortable Christianity.

It’s not the catchiest phrase in the world, I’ll admit. Still it’s helpful, in my view, for it captures the uniqueness of our day. We have models of how to handle persecution: it’s all over church history, not to mention many parts of the world today. We have examples of post-Christianity to learn from, primarily in Europe. I’m not aware, however, of any time or place that has taken such a turn from Christian cultural dominance to such deep polarization.

Most of us can remember when it was easy to be a sleepy Christian. In many ways it still is. We face the real temptation of trying to shut out the changing realities of our world, so we can continue in our drowsy churchiness.

So we need fresh thinking and leadership. I have written of this in my Worldview and You column at BreakPoint this week: Leadership for Post-Comfortable Christianity. This continues a two-part series I began last month.

I see this more as an opportunity than as a problem, by the way: sleepy Christianity is not real Christianity. This is a time to go deeper and to grow stronger in Christ, and to let our light shine (Matthew 5:16) in such a way that others will see it and glorify our Father in heaven.

Series Navigation (Awakening Church):<<< Post-Comfortable Christianity
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9 thoughts on “Leadership for Post-Comfortable Christianity

  1. Down here we use the term post- Christendom which I think accurately captures the state of affairs. I think you are right about the opportunities though. As the culture becomes less Christian the real power the church (as a community of reconciliation and healing fueled by the Holy Spirit) becomes more obvious as it stands in stark contrast to what surrounds it.

  2. “Post-Christendom” is a better name as far as the way it scans, and it’s certainly accurate.

    I still like “post-comfortable” for the way it describes where we’ve formerly been and where we no longer are, on an individual person/church level, and not on an abstract macro level. I’d like to think it helps clarify the kind of leadership that’s called for. But the other name will probably prevail, and I’ll probably go along with it 🙂 .

  3. Some people might say Christians are entering a “post-arrogant” era. It’s certainly good if you’re not arrogant.

    For the past 1,600 years or so, the Christians have persecuted more than they’ve been persecuted.

    I heartily agree that there’s plenty of middle ground between arrogant dominance and being persecuted. We all need to share views in a respectful exchange.

  4. Yes I agree Tom. What is interesting is that even during the centuries of Christendom there were Christians who were unwilling to settle for a comfortable Christianity who clashed with some leaders that wanted a comfortable Christianity. In the current context though those churches that choose comfort are bound to become increasingly insular and lack impact in their local community.

  5. John, your comparison on persecution may be true in the West, but certainly not anywhere else.

    As for “post-arrogant,” I’d be interested to know more of what you mean by that. Thanks.

  6. I guess what I mean by arrogance is just to assume that everyone must agree with you, and to persecute those who don’t toe the line. Trying to legislate religion is an example.

    Thinking again, I guess Christians have persecuted each other a lot too, with different sects fighting. So maybe Christians persecuted just as much as they were persecuted.

    This may be what Melissa is referring to. Martin Luther, for example, didn’t want the “comfortable Christianity” offered by the Catholic church in those days.

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