Right now our hearts are very, very full. Most people who visit the UK go from tourist spot to tourist spot. We, by contrast, have been moving from church to church. And the experience has been overwhelming.
I can't really put into words all that I am feeling. But I wanted to share just one impression two weeks into the trip.
A lot has been written recently about the rise of the "nones" in the United States, the increase of those not identifying with any religious tradition along with the correlated decline of religious affiliation across denominational lines, from mainline to evangelical.
There's been a lot of handwringing in response to those trends, about what might be done to stop the bleeding to slow or prevent America from becoming a thoroughly post-Christian nation.
Well, I've been dipping into this post-Christian world over here in the UK, the place where America is heading, and I wanted to share a few things.
It is true that, compared to the US, the churches here are smaller. And those smaller numbers do present the expected sorts of problems and hardships. But what Jana and I have experienced, over and over, is that the small churches in this post-Christian context are vibrant, passionate, Spirit-filled communities. Christianity isn't dead in Europe. Christianity isn't in decline.
Checked boxes on demographic surveys of "religious affiliation" cannot capture the winds of the Spirit.
Currently, Jana and I live in Texas. It's a place where just about everyone is a Christian. Which means, to echo Kierkegaard, that no one is a Christian. Here in the UK nominal affiliation has melted away leaving churches behind that, yes, are smaller but churches that have been distilled, a Christianity that has been purged and reduced to a potent spiritual concentrate. The believers and faith communities in a post-Christian context are powerful thing to behold.
I'm thinking here of Hannah, her joy, passion, generosity and love of Taize worship. Of Becky, her kindness and stunning jewelry. I'm thinking of Sunday afternoon on Jersey with Simon and Katie. Conversations with Paul and Kirsty. A nighttime walk in London with Stephen and Clare. The weekend away with the City Gate church with Andy, Curtis and JoJo. Sunday lunch with Mike and Pam. Dinner at Gwen and Johnny's. Conversations in pubs with Martin and Tim. Sunday worship and fellowship at St Ouen's in Jersey and One Church in Brighton. Listening to Julie's stories on unforgettable evening with Eve, Tim, Roger and Matthew.
I could go on and on. The people I've mentioned are some of the most amazing people we've ever met. And our trip is not yet over.
There is a lot of fear in America about the decline of the church. Well, I've seen a vision of what that looks like in the UK, what the church looks like in a post-Christian culture. True, the church is smaller here. But the church is so much more vibrant and exciting.
Religious affiliation is on the decline in America. They say the church is dying.
And I couldn't be more excited.