Last Saturday I left the board meeting for European Initiative and realised that not much has changed in recognizing the need to "love our European neighbors". I recalled the following blog from last year. If moved, EI would greatly appreciate your financial support:
With WI-FI available on my flight to Atlanta I'd thought I'd put up a quick blog.
I was speaking at an insurance event in Houston this week. The purpose of my speech was to encourage business owners to stay focused on global trends and discern how changes may affect their business immediately or in the future.
One of the statements I made, which always gets a funny look, was “Watch France. As goes France, so goes the world.” I am far from the first person to assert this notion.
It only takes a short study of history to understand the truth that exists in the statement. Take a short look back in history and you can see the influences of France. From the European born Renaissance, the Enlightenment, modern science, diplomacy, democracy, philosophy, and art.
Philosophy from; Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Camus, and Sartre. Scientist like; Bequerel, Charpak, Lavoisier, Proust, Gay-Lussac, Curie and the father of modern medicine Pasteur. And how could we ever forget Paschal. And of course the French Revolution and later the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Even in what may seem to you unimportant, fashion is formed and birthed in France. This bleeds into cultural realities, norms, expectations, etc.
After a short contemporary study of the actions of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and you need only skim the surface of the current U.S. administration to see the influence of the French.
The Economistrecently reported that French business always hate a call from the Elysee Palace. Sarkozy and his government attempt to dictate to French business what information should be relayed to the government and they have attempted to thwart foreign investment and takeovers. And of course with part government ownership in many businesses, they can push their will. Sound familiar? Of course, it sounds like the last year in the United States. As goes France…
I would argue when it come to the future of Christianity in American we need only look to France for a glimpse. France pulls the United States further into a reality of laïcité. Look it up.
Less than 1% of the French are followers of Jesus Christ. The majority of the nation has never read a Bible. As Lark News reported:
With the number of spiritually-inclined people declining in this country for the last century, the 2000 French census showed a new wrinkle: not a single respondent identified himself as Christian. In fact, more people reported worshiping their pet turtles.
"We didn't expect the trend to bottom out so quickly, but it's not entirely a surprise," said census expert Rolf Begamian, who helped oversee the French census. He said it's probably the first time since the early Roman Empire that the number of Christians has fallen to zero.
"That's astonishing," said president Jacques Chirac in response to the news. "All the better for us. Christianity reeks of Americanism."
People interviewed on the street showed mixed reactions.
"What's a Christian again?" said Louie Ruffault, 33, a baker on Paris' Left Bank. "Are those the architects who build cathedrals? Yes, I wish there were more Christians in France because their buildings are very beautiful."
I have a friend on the ground in Paris. After four years of service there, they just recently had the great joy of seeing someone come to the saving knowledge of Christ. Only one person in four years.
I love the big beautiful churches of Europe. I am in awe of Notre Dame in Paris, St Vitus in Prague, Pfarramt Heilig Geist of Heidelburg, and Das Berliner Dom in Berlin. The only thing missing…worshipers. There are plenty of people on a Sunday morning, but they are all tourist.
I’ve been to Berlin a few times, and the only time I have seen people worshipping God was a small handful on a 40 degree night in dirty old Maur Park on the north side of town.
It’s tragic, and you need only look to France to see the future of Christianity in America. Sartre continues to influence our young and they don’t even know who he was.
There are defined reasons for my involvement in European Initiative. I have been challenged by friends that say there is much to do in the US. So why put my energy into Europe?
My first reason is a deep love of the Serio family and knowing their heart for the loss.
The second and most compelling reason is this: If we can see how God is working through his followers to touch the lives of Europeans, we may learn what changes we need to make now in the United States to keep it from becoming as spiritually dead and Europe.
The third is this; to learn how to serve Christ in a Christ-less society. Understanding this may be the most important lessons of Discipleship we’ll need to teach our children so they are prepared to face the future.
Unless you are in one of the new mega churches, then chances are 99 out a 100 that the attendance at your church is shrinking. I would argue that the question is not, if denominational Christianity in the US will die, but when. The fate of mega churches will be the same, as people move to hear speakers, not to serve in a “life Together”.
I was in one of the largest churches I had ever been in Dallas a few weeks ago. It was a Saturday when I walked into Hillcrest church for a meeting. The place was a mall. Huge entry way, state of the art greeting center, etc. I asked some of the guys there how many people attended the church. Their answer, “400”.
How in the world are there only 400 people here I asked them. They shared with me that a few years ago it was 4,000 people. Then, the pastor retired. Then, the people left.
Every mega church with a State of the Art Pastor need only look to Hillcrest to know the future of their churches. The majority of American Christian churchgoers do not go to serve, but to be served and to be entertained.
I must confess, I find the mega church a more attractive alternative these days, but for all the wrong reasons.
If in the spiritual dead places of France we can rediscover the New Testament Church, a better version of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and Costs of Discipleship, then maybe we can get back on the track God is going down and experience the fruit he prepared in advance for us to do.
Denominational Christians are so afraid of change, yet change is happening to us daily. People are not interested in what we are selling in sermons. When they look to us, seldom do they see Jesus, so they see nothing attractive.
The fate of Denominational "Institutional" Christianity has been sealed. It is dead, but few within are aware. Look to France. The Denominations have seperated the true "church" and spued hate and distrust of each other - look to France. Denominational attendance is in decline - look to France. Denominations have their "Clergy" and they behave as the Pharisees of old - look to France. The Denominations are ineffective - look to France.
Christ calls us to BE the church - look to Christ. He says we are all ordained and clergy- Look in Hebrews. We are to gather together where we are - look to Acts. Where are the divided denominations? - Not there.
Look to France for the spiritual future of the United States unless the people of God are willing to humble ourselves and seek his face and ask him the hard questions, “Where did we go wrong?” And then, “What would you have us change?”