Just as we are tired of hearing people say that Jesus would not recognize the Church [today], we are also tired of hearing people talk about “reimagining” the Church, as if the Church needs to be revamped for a new generation. We didn’t imagine the Church in the first place, so we don’t need to reimagine it (nor is it our place to do so). The Church was founded by Jesus Christ and His apostles, and we want to affirm that Christ’s vision for the Church is still alive, in spite of human failures throughout her history. The problem is not that the Church needs to change to conform to a new generation (Rom 12:2); the Church needs to reclaim her power to change the world.
Back when the Church was persecuted by the Roman Empire, there was no question that the Church was countercultural. The Church converted the (known) world and influenced it for the better. This was a mixed blessing, because subsequently the line between the Church and the world was blurred. That line is being drawn again, sometimes by the Church and sometimes by the world, and Christians today must realize that living the faith means being countercultural.
We are not saying the culture is inherently evil or that all expressions of culture are sinful. Although polls suggest that a majority of people in our country still identify themselves as Christian, it is an unwitting collaboration of the nonreligious minority and non-practicing Christians that now drives the factors that impact our culture. These factors include politics, entertainment media, and consumer marketing.
… Maybe you have also heard that the Church is no longer relevant to the current generation. This is ridiculous. First of all, the mission of the Church is not relevance. Second, the definition of what is relevant changes by the moment and depends on the person. The focus on relevance is in many ways a symptom of the very relativism we encounter all around ourselves. Having said that, even if the Church is perceived as being out of touch with the current generation, the problem is with the generation, not with the Church. Was Jesus being irrelevant when He called His own generation adulterous and sinful? (Matt 11:16-17).
… Christians will be increasingly threatened with marginalization and even legal action, and they will be tempted to compromise their beliefs for the sake of their livelihoods. …More Christian business owners will face lawsuits for trying to run their businesses according to their principles. More restrictions on religious practice and religious expression will be written into law. …
It’s tempting to hide away in private devotion or, for some, to give up on Church altogether. But to do that is to contribute to the social entropy that is hastening the decay of our culture.
Excerpt taken from How Christianity Saved Civilization … And Must Do So Again, by Mike Aquilina & James L. Papandrea (Sophia Institute Press, 2018), from Chapter 9, “The Church Can Change the World Again,” pp. 215-16. www.SophiaInstitute.com.
MIKE AQUILINA has written over 50 books on Catholic history, doctrine, and devotion. He has cohosted nine series on EWTN, hosted documentaries on early Christianity, and is a frequent guest on Catholic radio.
JAMES PAPANDREA is a Catholic author, professor, speaker, and musician, as well as fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology