{26}     The future: Postmodern Church

ERA 8 << Postmodern Church: World Evangelism (AD 2000–??) >>

26.1  Challenge from Postmodernism & Secularism

        26.1.1  Challenge from the prevailing culture

·         Materialism: One of the biggest yet least perceivable challenge is the predominance of materialism. Advancing technology, mass production, globalization, and rising income have made available to everyone more materials and luxuries than before. Pursuit of materials becomes the objective of life for many Christians. The love of the world dilutes the love of a godly life (1 John 2:15-16).

·         Human rights: With the over-emphasis of human rights and freedom in western culture, man is the centre of the universe and the sole arbitrator of conflicts, with no reference to any supernatural God.

·         Postmodernism: This cultural trend predominant in late 20th-c provides difficult challenges to Christianity in 3 areas: [1] Subjectivism: Subjective feelings are more important than objective reasoning. It encourages one to follow the heart instead of the head, thus making irrational decisions, leading to hedonistic tendencies. It also denies objective truth and objective revelation from God. [2] Relativism: Both truth and morality are relative, and vary for different societies and times, thus leading to the denial of absolute truth and absolute morality. This ethical relativism encourages one to live in sin away from God. [3] Pluralism: All religious are valid; they all lead to the objective of doing good. Thus there is no one true faith.

        26.1.2  Challenge from atheists

·         Darwinism: The push to teach only Darwinism (evolution) in school aims at controlling the education of our next generation and leading them to deny creation by God.

·         Scientism: This is the view that science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, or spiritual explanations. The scientific method implies the testing of all claims and the refusal to accept any absolute authority, including God. It has helped to undermine man’s sense of dependence upon God.

·         Secular humanism: Secularism is the belief that social institutions should exist outside religions. In other words, its objective is to exclude and expel God out of human society, restricting religion only to the realm of private belief and thus leaving the society dominated by atheism. Secularism and atheism, therefore, have similar objectives. They work together against religions, though mostly against Christianity. Modern humanism is the philosophy that “Man is the measure of all things”—man in place of God.

·         Atheist Counterattack: The acceptance of the existence of God by Antony Flew (the pope of atheism) in 2004 threatens the viability and the every existence of atheism. As a result, numerous theists published popular books rejecting theism. They bring new challenges to Christianity.

        26.1.3  Challenge from secularists & liberals on moral issues

·         Moral issues: Secularists and liberals have challenged the absolutely morality of the Scripture. While they concentrate their attack on traditional morality in the issues of abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia, their ultimate objective is to attack the truth of the Bible.

·         Marginalization: In the US, atheists and secularists tried to marginalize Christianity. Liberal judges helped them by handing down decisions excluding religion from the public square. Religious instruction in public school was outlawed [1948]. State-approved public prayers were banned [1962]. Voluntary state-approved Bible reading was disapproved [1963].

·         Invisible persecutions: Besides pushing for the legalization of abortion, same sex marriage, and euthanasia, secularists also try to limit the free speech of Christians. At the present, the hottest contested issue is homosexuality. Secularists have try to use lawsuits to silence Christian objection of homosexuality as immoral.

        26.1.4  Challenge from cults

·         Cause: Today, because many churches do not preach the true gospel and salvation of Jesus Christ, the spiritual needs of those people were not satisfied. Many of them try to find answers from cults.

·         Characteristics: Many of the cults are characterized by the denial of the essential deity of Christ and by their antinomian moral teaching.

26.2  Decline of Western Christianity

        26.2.1  Decreasing church attendance in the West

·         De-Christianization of Europe: The North is becoming increasingly de-Christianized, while the greatest numeric gains are taking place in the South. There has been a large decline in church attendance such as Scandinavia (2% attending church), Germany (5%), and Great Britain (10%).

·         North America: While church attendance continues to decline in the US (40% attending church) and Canada (18%), the situation is slightly less dismal than in Europe. Attendance is higher in ethnic churches.

·         Optimistic trend: The dramatic decreases are almost exclusively found in liberal denominations. Those denominations that still faithfully profess the authentic gospel and proclaim the Word of God continue to grow or at worst remain stable. These include evangelical denominations and the Pentecostal churches.

26.3  Contemporary Persecutions: A Full Cycle

        26.3.1  Contemporary persecutions

·         Baptism of fire: Persecutions of Christians have been severe and widespread in 20th-c, like the Roman persecutions in the early church. Persecutions have a useful function of purifying the church in a baptism of fire. Church history now has come to a full cycle. These persecutions perhaps signify the last era of the world.

·         Modes: Persecutions range from discrimination from jobs, shunning by family members and friends, forced exile, confiscation and destruction of homes and properties, physical assault, imprisonment, torture, and death.

·         Political persecutions: They have been perpetrated by totalitarian states from both left and right—communist governments like China, authoritarian governments like Burma.

·         Religious persecutions of Christians: They have been perpetrated mainly by Muslims in Islamic countries. In the last few years, religious persecutions have increased in India by Hindus.

26.4  Rise of Third World Christianity

        26.4.1  Overview

·         In the West: Christianity has been weakened by cultural accommodation and materialism. The majority still profess as Christians but are in name only, not living a Christian life and not participating in a church.

·         In the Second World (former communist eastern Europe): Since 1990, the dismantling of communism has resulted in a renewal of Christian evangelism and rapid growth in churches.

·         In the Third World: In contrast, a disciplined spirituality, prayer life, and passionate evangelism have brought explosive growth to the Third World. African, Asian, and Latin American nations witness unprecedented increases in Christian conversions. They even send out missionaries to the West.





Early (1) Persecutions



Early (2) Stability



Medieval (1) Expansion & Conflicts



Medieval (2) Growth & Decline of the Papacy



Modern (1) Reformation & Struggles



Modern (2) Revival & Missions



Modern (3) Ecumenism & Adaptations




[1] treasure our heritage

God’s church is still alive and well through challenges and persecutions. The baton is now in our hands.

[2] appreciate God’s providence

God has been shepherding his church for 2000 years.

[3] avoid past errors

When the gospel is diluted, decreasing membership is inevitable.

[4] apply our knowledge

The focus of today’s Christianity is still the same—to extend the kingdom of God through evangelism and discipleship—the Great Commission.

[5] follow past saints

We should keep the example of modern-day Christian martyrs.