Ideas, actions, and lives can all lie very close to one another at their inception and look very similar. However, what appears enmeshed and indistinguishable at first can actually be flowing in opposite directions. Given enough time, the delineation will become strikingly clear. Just as the snow on the Great Divide eventually melts and begins to cascade down to the East or the West, moral and ideological divergence becomes evident only as the trajectory is followed.
Two very remarkable things happened to the landscape of Christianity in the West during the last two decades. It experienced a tremendous boom of growth, and at the same time became quite homogeneous in outward appearance. Relative to what characterized the 20th century, the widespread commonality reached in the three primary features of form was astonishing. The three qualities I refer to are communication, style of worship, and corporate activity. Multitudes of churches and ministries arrived at a point where they were saying very similar things through similar mediums, expressing devotion in very similar ways, and demonstrating concern for very similar issues.
A few years ago someone could have walked into a Baptist church on the East Coast and non-denominational, store-front church on the West coast and likely heard a sermon of similar length about similar topics, sung some of the very same worship songs played in the same basic style, and then discovered on their strikingly similar websites that they could sign up to follow the churches on twitter for updates about what they are doing to stop abortion in their city. There were and are scores of exceptions, but the scenario just described seemed to be the majority.
This strange conformity of form posed a challenge. When everything looked the same, and felt the same, there was the temptation to believe that it was the same. Of course all the growth was never the same, and now that is beginning to show. All”worship” is not the same, regardless of what the music sounds like. The swelling interest in social justice is not all equal and is actually being pursued out of very different motivations. An uplifting feeling alone can’t measure preaching – it must actually be founded upon sound doctrine rather than the imaginations of men.
Enough time has elapsed to allow for a small margin of separation to be observed in these areas and many others. Today the divergence remains minimal, but enough to see that two very distinct currents are flowing. The line that separates these opposite paths, however faint it may be right now, is slowly becoming discernible as certain moral and doctrinal issues have started to exert a polarizing effect upon the Christian world.
What is this great divide of our generation? What is the most fundamental question that lies at the heart of the subjects that are beginning to create to a fissure in the foundation of the Western Church? I will offer an attempt at an answer in the follow up post tomorrow.
This post is part of the series titled Jesus at the Crossroads. If you would like to support this website and Stephen’s ministry, simply give via the Paypal link on the right or click here for more information on specific needs and different ways to partner with Stephen financially.