We are living in post-Christendom. Most scholars identify the time from the Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century to the early 2000’s as the era of Christendom in the West. For 1,700 years Christianity had the cultural winds at her back. A few years ago, however, a noticeable shift in the direction of the wind began taking place. The cultural winds changed from a tailwind to a headwind. Christianity began moving from majority to minority status. Today, less than half of North Americans affiliate with a house of worship.
Most churches feel this headwind. There was a day when it was relatively easy to grow a church. Almost effortlessly congregations grew through immigration, migration and procreation. Additionally, society did its part by making church affiliation something expected for upstanding members of the community. All of this, of course, is less and less true.
This is not the first time God’s people have experienced a rapid change from majority to minority status. In 586 BC God’s people living in Israel (majority status) were captured and deported to Babylon (minority status). In the midst of this change, Jeremiah penned a letter to the exiles that included instructions for living as a minority culture in a foreign land.
Here Are Some Encouragements for Life as a Minority Culture:
Encouragement 1: Recognize God’s Hand in This
Interestingly, Jeremiah 29:1 says that Nebuchadnezzar carried God’s people into exile but in 29:4 The Lord says, “I carried you into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” How we got to minority status is complicated, of course, but God says that this is part of his larger plan.
Encouragement 2: Embrace the New
Jeremiah’s word to the exiles is to build houses, settle down, plant gardens and eat the fruit of their labors (Jer. 29:4). In other words, DON’T GIVE UP! Some churches and some believers are quitting. They’re saying, “This is too hard.” God says, “I expect you to keep on keeping on.”
Encouragement 3: Flourish as Families of Faith
The exiles could not always impact the world in which they lived but they could impact their families for God and for good. As a community they were to increase (Jer. 24:6). Our first goal is healthy God-focused homes and churches that create a mustard seed movement in society.
Encouragement 4: Seek to be a Blessing
God tells his people to, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you” (Jer. 29:7). Moving from majority to minority status means shifting from being served to serving. This may be a good thing. When Christianity leverages power, she tends to behave badly.
Encouragement 5: Be Honest with What Is So
Jeremiah 29:8-9 unmasks “prophets and diviners” who say things aren’t as bad as they appear, and things will improve shortly. God tells his people to be honest about what is so and courageously find new ways of being faithful in a reality that is difficult but not impossible.
Encouragement 6: Believe That God Has a Good Plan for His Church
The verses from Jeremiah 29:11-13 are among the most quoted in the Bible. God promises to give his people “hope and a future.” This was an important encouragement to those living as a faith minority 2,500 years ago and as a faith minority today. Believe that God has this and has you.
Encouragement 7: The Best is Still Before Us
Renewal congregations often look back on the past when pews were full and children abundant and bemoan that the best is behind them. God’s word is, “I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you” (Jer. 29:14). God’s church will flourish and already is flourishing around the world. Christ’s promise to build his church does not have an expiration date.