The Challenge of Living in a Post-Christendom World

One of the key challenges for churches today is the fact that we live in a post-Christendom society.  My church no longer exists in a Christendom culture and I bet neither does yours.

Dr. Howard Congdon inviting residents to the new Northminster Presbyterian Church in the early 1950sDr. Howard Congdon inviting residents to the new Northminster Presbyterian Church in the early 1950s

What is Christendom?

Christendom refers to what Darrell L. Guder, in Missional Church, says are “the centuries in which Western civilization considered itself formally and officially Christian” (pp. 5-6).  You will be hard pressed to find a community in Western culture that today considers “itself formally and officially Christian.”

Alan Kreider, in The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom, states, “In Christendom everyone is a Christian” (p. 94).  As a result, in a Christendom culture, churches spring into being because people expect to attend church somewhere.  My church, Northminster Presbyterian Church, was launched in the early 1950s when our founding pastor, Dr. Howard Congdon, went door to door through the streets of Clairemont informing residents when and where this new church would meet.

Church Growth is No Longer Guaranteed

Through such simple outreach the church was guaranteed to grow in attendance and membership because those who lived nearby with a Presbyterian background were certain to attend.

This is exactly what happened with my church, and it is undoubtedly how most of our mainline churches were founded.  The challenge today is that simply announcing that a church exists or that people are invited to church doesn’t necessarily attract churchgoers.  In today’s post-Christendom society, growing and sustaining a church is a lot harder than it used to be. 

However...  I believe churches can grow and can have a positive impact on those in their communities as we get to know our neighbors and neighborhoods and reach out with the tangible love of God in ways that are truly meaningful to those around us.

How did your church get started?  Would the same church-launching strategy work today in your neighborhood?  In what ways have you seen the decline of Christendom in your neighborhood?  Do you see the decline of Christendom as positive or negative?

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