>Last Sunday, we wrapped up Missions month at our church. We spent the month talking about local missions, individual calling, corporate calling and we finished off with a speaker who is serving as a missionary at Henderson Settlement in southeastern Kentucky. I think it was a great month. We focused a lot on what it means to be called to missions, but I think we also did a good job of emphasizing the fact that the mission field is no longer “out there,” but that it is in our own backyard. This is a significant shift from years past.

I’ve been reading Postmodern Youth Ministry this month, and one of the key points in this book is that we need to shift from a community chaplain mindset to a missionary mindset. As much as people will claim that America is a Christian nation, it is not. People who are married and buried by the pastor are not necessarily Christians. The fact that 80% (or whatever the percentage may be) say they believe there is a God does not necessitate that we are a Christian nation – there are a lot of false idols and incorrect images of God throughout America, and I’m not speaking of theological differences here either.

The bottom line is this: we are no longer living in a society in which it is taken for granted that people will be in church on Sunday morning. We are living in a society that goes on its whims, and follows the latest trends from the “fashion forward” segments of the country. We are living in a non-Christian society. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not railing against American society. Sure, there’s a lot that’s wrong with it, but that’s not my point right now. This is an honest assessment of the state of America – it is a secular nation. In other words, America is a mission field. That’s the reality. Instead of bemoaning the fact that America is losing touch with its “Christian roots” – a fact that is certainly debatable – we should embrace the opportunity that is all around us.

What is it that missionaries do before going into the mission field? They learn the culture; they learn the language; they learn the customs. But do we do this? As Christians living in a secular American society, we have two choices: 1) we can learn the culture, language and customs, or 2) we can choose to isolate ourselves from the “evils of secular society.” I think for too long, Christians have decided to do the latter. We have consciously decided to isolate ourselves in order to maintain the “purity” of the Christian faith. We have taken the “higher road” in order to be more holy in an unholy society. We have separated ourselves and failed to connect with our host culture.

Is this the way it has to be? Is there a way for Christians to become missionaries in a secular American society? Yes, but it won’t be easy. There needs to be a mindset shift in order to accomplish this. We need to understand our society and we need to connect to it. There are elements that point to the need for a savior; we just need to understand those elements and speak the truth of the gospel into those situations. Shifting a mindset takes time. It takes significant time and a true commitment to do so. It is not easy, but it is possible. In fact, I believe all things are possible if we are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. So the question is: are we ready to come to terms with the fact that America is a secular society? If the answer is yes, then we need to find a way to connect to our host culture. If the answer is no, then we are in for a long, hurtful and unproductive ministry in this mission field.

Just some musings from a traveling pilgrim.