“Theology in the twenty-first century is in crisis… Globalization, postmodernism, intellectualism, secularization, and other buzzwords are quickly held responsible for this crisis. Christian theology, it appears, has simply become too large, too divided, too abstract, and too worldly to connect God and a pluralistic reality.” (Vondey, 2010, p. 2)
Reflecting on the 2016 Australian census with the decline in Christianity over the last 50 years as well as the rapid increase of people reporting “No Religion” (30.1%), one must admit that Christianity has lost traction in a postmodern society. But is this a theological crisis?
I propose that we do not necessarily have a Christian theological crisis but maybe a Christian educational crisis. The Church has attempted to engage the community through seeker-sensitive strategies, impressive big events, intellectual debates and unleashing as many “believers” as possible to share the Good News of Jesus. So why are we experiencing such pronounced decline in Christianity in Australia?
Could it be that in our attempt to mass-produce Christians, we have undermined the one strategy that changed the world almost 2000 years ago? Could it be that in order to expand our influence quickly, we trained Christians to “sell-the-Jesus-creed” instead of “being-the-Jesus-breed“? Could it be that in our attempt to grow the church from the “outside-in,” we lost the art of growing the church from the “inside-out”?
Maybe our postmodern society does not need a new Christ, but a new type of Christian… A disciple who smells like Jesus, who relates like Jesus, who behaves like Jesus (1 John 4:7b). The world does not need a more convincing presentation of our theological assertions, rather the postmodern world, just like the pre-modern world, needs a group of people who illustrate the Jesus-possibility; who authentically live out the Jesus-DNA, more consistently.
So, how do we support the multiplication of authentic Jesus-like disciples?
There maybe so many ways to embark on this incredibly fulfilling journey- yet one thing is for certain- it won’t happen through mass-production.
Disciples are NOT mass-produced, it takes time to produce disciples. A leader must devote the time, patience, understanding, prayer and personal attention to his/her group members in order to produce disciples.” [Eims, 1978, p. 45-46]