Mary DeMuth was a panelist at the CT-sponsored panel discussion, “Living Christianly in a Post-Christian Culture,” held this past weekend at the Christian Book Expo in Dallas. Mary, an author and former missionary to France, gave an internationally informed perspective to the discussion, which also included Don Miller, Andy Crouch, Ruth Haley Barton, and Randy Frazee. The interaction was interesting and wide-ranging, and we’ll provide a video when it becomes available.
DeMuth had planned to provide a closing statement, but time did not allow this. So she has agreed to let me post her thoughts below for your consideration. They’re well worth your time.
If I could give every Christian a gift it would be this: to send him/her to another country, particularly one where materialism isn’t firmly entrenched. Taking ourselves from our culture, then reintroducing ourselves back into American culture is an important first step if we want to be engaged and pure within our culture. Why? Because we cannot accurately see how deeply entrenched the word “American” is connected to “American Christianity.” We’re Christ-followers with a consumer mindset. Until we walk dusty roads through countries where folks value community yet worry about daily bread, we will have an incomplete view of life and theology.
Last summer, my son Aidan who was 12 at the time, traveled with me to Ghana, West Africa. We went because of his God-breathed dream—to see a well dug for the village of Sankpem. While there, Aidan danced with villagers. He listened. He shared the gospel with Muslims and saw several give their hearts to Jesus. Together we heard our friend Paul say, “For ten years I never knew when my next meal was coming.”
Aidan came home changed. Our family, because of France and Ghana, sees America like a Potemkin village—a series of strange and beautiful facades masking the spiritual poverty inside. We are determined, by God’s grace, to understand who Jesus is and how He wants to interact with folks here. We’ve come to understand that love for people and broken authenticity is what this world needs to see the irresistibility of Jesus—not more programs, more clever marketing campaigns, more hype.
Living in a post-Christian culture takes the kind of spiritual sensitivity that can see beyond politics into the face of Jesus Christ—He who engaged unsavory folks, yet followed His Father perfectly. That calls for radical relationship and a determination to know Jesus profoundly today. It calls for an abandonment of the idea that true life comes from buying or acquiring a commodity. It calls for a radical re-engagement in the lives of people.
I am not afraid of the shift in our culture. Why?
· Because the majesty and capability of God is greater than my finite understanding of culture.
· Because a shift causes us all to exegete the Christian culture we’re a part of, learning to see what is truly biblical and what is simply cultural.
· Because genuine transformation doesn’t come from the outside in; it comes from the Holy Spirit renewing us from the inside out.
· Because any time we’re shifting, we realize how unsteady the ground is, and it makes us cling all the more fiercely to the Rock.
The shift in worldview is simply another opportunity to live out the redemptive story of Jesus.
My son Aidan understands this, though he may not articulate it thus. Now thirteen, he longs to return to Ghana, and he’s taken up the cause to continue to build wells there, letting go of his own slice of the American dream pie. He does this because Jesus has transformed him from the inside out, and he’s opened up his mind to the vast beauty of God’s needy world. He is engaged, yet striving to be pure. He’s just an average teenager, but his dreams for the world have expanded and his Ameri-centric view of Christianity has shifted.
It’s my prayer that you also would dare to look beyond the four walls of our nation to dream big for the Kingdom of God. Let the transformation start with you and Jesus. Dare to engage, yet do so while holding the hand of Jesus—the irresistible Savior.