A simple and heartfelt acceptance of the present reality of the church’s relationship with the broader culture would bring massive, transformational changes to our educational efforts. Christendom—the era of a strong mutual relationship of the church, as an institution, with Western governments and culture—is over. Though it needs to be said that this relationship was quite harmful to many inside and outside of the church, many in the churches of a Western cultural framework seem to miss that relationship. Perhaps this is why some churches appear to resist acknowledging the reality of change by a thorough reform of educational practice.
Like many raised in the last gasps of Christendom, I attended schools, took part in after-school activities and absorbed media that, especially early on, reinforced much of the moral message of my family and church. This was as expected. My basic spiritual and moral formation was left to the broader culture—with both its faults and benefits—while the distinctive practices and beliefs of my denomination were discussed in the very brief time we spent in Sunday school.
Even though the reality of the church’s relationship with the broader culture has changed dramatically, much of the practice of Christian education and formation has remained the same, with very few effective differences. The revelation of some of the institutional evils of the past contributes to a reluctance to be too forceful with our message and our practice, even among ourselves. We seem to have lost nerve instead of finding repentance. Our education and formation suffer.
The insistence of many Indigenous Christians that we must rediscover discipleship is born in the awareness of some of this reality. For all of us in the church, this post-Christendom reality is a call to believe, live and practice the radical love of Jesus. That call demands a deep and vigorous commitment to a form of Christian education and formation. We are no longer propped up by the institutions of our broader culture. Today, we are called to a Jesus-inspired life that, informed and shaped by the gospel, effectively lives and embodies the world which Jesus promised is coming.