Christianity is at a turning point. A moment of transformation that many are predicting will be more monumental than that of the Great Reformation of the 16th Century. This reformation has been slowly bubbling over the past two decades and is finally coming to a boiling point where a new kind of Christian faith, and indeed, religious faith in general are beginning to reshape into something brand new. Some have called this new think “Emergence Christianity”, others “Convergence”, and many of us are still unsure of what to call it. But one thing is for sure. “It” is happening. These changes are not seen as clearly anywhere as they are in the United States. America has been the Christian nation (for better or for worse) for nearly 200 years and was the birthplace of modern Christendom. It was in America that the great revivals of the third-wave movement began. It is in America that the evangelical publishing industry took off. It is in America that religious leaders are treated as celebrities. This modern-day Christendom has been the predominate reality for Western Christianity for nearly a century. But today, in 2014, Christendom has died. The influence of American Christianity is in a steady decline. Churches of all denominational affiliations are closing left and right.
To many onlookers, it may seem that these signs mark the end of the Christian faith in the West. But in the midst of this season of death, new life is emerging. New generations are having encounters with Jesus Christ that are transforming their lives, but in a way that looks very different from the faith of our fathers and mothers. Whereas the older versions of Christianity were focused on tribal identities, this new version is broadly ecumenical and epistemologically humble. The older versions of Christianity were highly institutionalized and ran the local church like a fourtne-500 company, while this new version of Christian faith calls us to radical simplicity and community. The older expression of Christianity experienced a near universal position of privilege, while this new version of Christianity has lost most of its privilege and has been forced back down to a faith which spreads on the ground through families and friendships. The older versions tried to remain “culturally relevant” by imitating the culture, while these newer versions are finding their expression in ancient traditions and expressions. The number of contrasts is truly astounding. And while I hate to be overly optimistic, it surely seems that this modern day reformation is causing followers of Jesus to return to the messy, rough, organic nature of discipleship beyond the white-washed versions of Christianity that have dominated the West for so long. We seem to be finding the radical message and methods of Jesus, our peasant King from the rough part of town, to be truly salvific in light of our materialistic, capitalistic, post-Christian culture.
For some time now, as men and women have been awakened to this new thing that God is doing in our midst, they have come together to form new churches, communities, and organizations that are committed to this fresh expression of Christianity. From coast to coast in the U.S. there are thousands of small cohorts of people who are in tune with God’s Spirit and are doing absolutely amazing things in their communities. But one major area that we have been lacking in is in networking- communicating with one another, sharing ideas and resources, time and talent to help foster this reformation nation-wide and around the world. Many have tried through social media and other online channels to create a tool that would foster this sort of connectivity, but it just hasn’t seemed to be enough. That’s why I am so excited about the CANA Initiative. Finally, a network is being organized of Christians from across the country, from various races and socio-economic statuses, different theological persuasions and political orientations, who are passionately involved in the work of this new reformation. CANA seeks to provide us all with the resource to be able to connect, share, work with, pray for, support, and inform one another about the awesome things that God is doing in our corner of the world and to enable this movement to gain more force and traction to show the broader culture and world this amazing new kind of Christianity that is emerging right under their noses.
These are truly exciting times to be alive. We have such a great opportunity to once again be a witness to the world of the radical, unconditional love of God for all people. We have the momentum like never before in the history of Christianity that is enabling us to work to establish the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We all get to work together to pioneer a version of Christian faith that is truly unique, tailored to our postmodern, post Christian, post secular culture and yet are deeply rooted in history, tradition, and the person of Jesus Christ. I don’t think anyone is exactly sure what this will look like in the long run. One of the most beautiful aspects of this new movement is that there is so much diversity even among the active participants. We are Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox, Mennonite, and “Spiritual”. We all have different visions of what Christian expression could look like and different understandings of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. But ever increasingly it seems that we are all share one singular passion that unites us- love and admiration for Jesus. We are united by the belief that following Jesus may actually be crazy enough to work. Crazy enough to bring hope to the hopeless. Crazy enough to end world poverty. Crazy enough to liberate the captives. Crazy enough to set our world right, once and for all. And it is precisely that hope that makes me so committed to and excited for the work of the CANA Initiative.
Our best days are still ahead.