GUEST POST: "Christianity is no longer the norm"
By Curtis W. Freeman
...research professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. His book Pilgrim Journey: Instruction in the Mystery of the Gospel
was published in September by Fortress Press as a sequel to Pilgrim Letters: Instruction in the Basic Teaching of Christ.
This proposal for reordering in discipleship isn’t an attempt to be “seeker-sensitive,” in the worst sense of the phrase, giving nonbelievers less to disbelieve. It’s a realistic response to our society’s profound cultural and political shifts. It’s a recognition that Christianity is no longer the norm and, therefore, does not feel normal to many of our neighbors.
We can no longer assume a basic familiarity with our faith that makes a sense of belonging, at least superficially, relatively easy to achieve. We must start with belonging in the sense of “faith as trust” in God and membership in God’s family, not belief in the sense of “faith as understanding,” because getting to the doctrinal affirmations is a much longer journey than it used to be. In post-Christendom, occasional church attendance is not a sufficient basis for making Christians—if that attendance happens at all.
Moreover, the disciple-making process is not about enculturating people into an affinity group of support and togetherness. It’s about cultivating a community committed to following Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). In a secular society, to believe and behave, we must be able to grasp that we belong not only to that community but to God who created us and demonstrated a profound love for us in Jesus Christ.
Belonging, then, is not simply a matter of church attendance or even membership. It’s a covenant relationship based on trust and commitment. It’s deeper than cultural similarities or consumer attraction to a congregation’s programming. It’s belonging to God and one another in the ties that bind our hearts in Christian love. It’s the fellowship of kindred minds. It’s bearing one another’s burdens and sharing the joy of blessings. It’s a common journey and a common hope.