Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Post-Christendom?
Catholic church in San Miguel de Allende
We were told we were moving to the "Zone of Silence" here in Guadalajara.  This title is used to refer to the fact that the evangelical population is almost non-exsistant here.  Now, although it can be somewhat daunting (coming from a predominantly evangelical area), it does not mean that folks here are non-religious.  

One of the wonderful things about living here is that we are surrounded by Mexican's who are predominantly Catholic.  Why is that wonderful you might ask?  Well, it means they are spiritual, and that we have many similar beliefs.  We believe in Jesus, so do they.  We believe He rose from the dead, so do they.  We believe in the Bible, so do they. That said, there are differences, many of them, but we have a place to start, and many common terms and concepts. The fact that they are a spiritual people means that those conversations are ripe for the taking; you just need wisdom, love, and the ability to build bridges and not walls.

Recently we had one such conversation.  We were visiting with a young friend of ours.  And, as luck would have it (or by God's provident hand) the discussion turned spiritual in nature.  He made a revealing statement.  He said (when speaking of Catholicism), "I like the liquid (content) just not the glass (container)."  What he tried to communicate was that he was indeed spiritual, he liked what religion had to offer, he just did not like the way it was offered.  He found all the ritual, all the folklore, all the extras that were added, to be tiring.  He believed in God, saw the whole thing as feasable, but the packaging was all wrong.  He said his generation did not like the church (the glass) but they thought the liquid was intriqueing.

I have heard the same thing said by North American youth; have even attended workshops and lectures on the topic.  So what do we do?  We have an open door to a discussion of great importance.  What will our response be to the people who are seeking the 'liquid' (even if they don't know that that is what they are seeking), a relationship with Jesus Christ, but find the glass, the traditional church, to be irrelevant? In other words, the dilemma/problem seems to be more and more a reality of postmodern North America (including all 3 countries) whether that be the Evangelical or the Catholic world.  

I’d like to make two observations: 

     1) I think that one of the challenges of ‘religion' (whatever form it takes) is the ever present tendency to focus on the container rather than on the content - to fall into legalism, ritual, tradition, etc. rather than focusing on the essentials. At the end of the day Christianity is about relationship not religion, it’s about a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. 

     2) What some would bemoan as the loss of influence (Christendom) others see as an opportunity, a chance for new birth, for resurrection. IF this is true, whether we’re talking about the north or the south, then it does represent an opportunity for us. However, it also means that we can’t be offering different, freshly painted, versions of the same ‘glass’. 

23.5 carat gold plating in Guanajuato church
Please pray for our team here in Guadalajara, as we seek to make connections, and as we seek to identify and respond to those who are spiritually open, spiritually hungry. Pray that the Holy Spirit would prepare the way.     

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