Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College has articulated a helpful concept for living in post-Christendom – “Convictional Minority.” Christendom assumes that a Christian worldview is the accepted view of culture. This is no longer true. Peter addressed his first letter to “Strangers in the world” (I Peter 1:1), calling them “aliens and strangers in the world” ( I Peter 2:11). Being a stranger today takes on a whole new meaning for me in comparison to my coming of age spiritual during the Jesus movement of the early 70’s. “Let’s put this into the facts that we know about our population,” Stetzer suggests. “If the percentage of people who are nominally Christian is shrinking and nominal Christians become Nones, then we are dwelling in an increasingly secular land.”
Being part of a conviction minority means we will be missionaries in a neo-pagan culture. This can be a new and radical perspective for some men reading this blog. The word “pagan” suggests we are living in occupied territory, where the essence of the gospel is unknown. Knowing that we will be hate, Jesus prays that we will be protected from the evil one. “And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but the keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:14-15)
Stetzer exhorts us to develop “gospel clarity.” “Being labeled Christian,” notes Stetzer, “no longer means a ‘social Christian’, but instead it is someone who’s been changed by the power of the gospel.” We are to live as soulful men rescued by grace and being conformed in the image of Christ . “I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the pagans, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits” ( I Peter 2:11-12). A soulful man will respond with love. “What matters is something for more interior: faith expressed in love” (Gal. 5:6 – Phillips).
We live says Stetzer, “in an age of outrage.” Jesus warned of this outrage. “A brother is going to betray his own brother to death, and a father his own child. Children will stand up against their parents and condemn them to death. There will come a time when the whole world will hate you because you are known as my followers. Yet the man who holds out in the end will be saved” (Mark 13:1213). Outrage is a normal response among pagans.
We should be engaging the culture observes Stetzer less with “you owe me” and more with “How can I engage the culture we are in via the mission we are on?” We should expect to be tested in our faith. “I beg you not to be unduly alarmed,” Peter tells us, “at the fiery ordeals which comes to test your faith, as though this were so abnormal experience. You should be glad, because it means that you are sharing in Christ’s suffering” ( I Peter 4:12 – Phil). Don’t expect to be warmly accepted among the unbelieving majority..
Russell Moore’s view is that America has not become so much “post-Christian” but rather a society in a “post-pretend-Christian” state. Today we have the opportunity to view ourselves as missionaries on a mission field that is “pre-Christian.” “It may be,” says Russell, “that this land is filled with people who, though often Christ-haunted, have never known the power of the gospel yet.” A soulful man has confidence in the power of the gospel to change lives.