February 15, 2013
Jonathan Merritt (@jonathanmerritt) is author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars and Jesus is Better Than You Imagined. His columns appear regularly in outlets such as USA Today, The Atlantic, and CNN.com.
10 Things That Defined the Last Decade
For many of us, the last 10 years have coincided with our formative years—a time of maturation, when our faith perspective, worldview and convictions became our own.
It’s also been a formative decade in the Church. New movements rose and fell. Institutional structures that have existed for centuries lost their shine for an upcoming generation of Christians. We’ve taken old ideas and practices and reinterpreted them. Some we’ve thrown out altogether, creating new trajectories of our own.
Here, we present the 10 trends that have shaped us—for better or worse—and been shaped by us in the last decade.
1. The rise of a post-denominational generation
A generation ago, it mattered whether you were Presbyterian or Pentecostal, Lutheran or Baptist. Not so today. In recent years, postmodern Christians began to see the traditional structures of church denominations as limitations. They now consider the differences that once caused schisms to be minor quibbles, viewing denominations as evidence of a fractured faith.
According to LifeWay Research, non-denominational churches have increased dramatically since 1972. Unaffiliated congregations are now the third-largest type of evangelical congregation in America.
Perhaps this trend was driven by the budding individualism of the 21st century, in which people shopped for churches like they would a pair of shoes. Or maybe it’s because this generation shies away from institutions as a whole. Then again, the reputation for infighting many denominations carry might be what repels Christians from joining them. Regardless, this generation approaches church the same way it approaches the rest of life—by placing a premium on autonomy and freedom.
2. The wall between “sacred” and “secular” gets torn down
Christians in the 1970s and ’80s were so turned off by America’s “moral decline,” they created quarantined pockets of Christendom to insulate themselves from the world’s evils. Christian record labels popped up to produce Christian music artists to be broadcast on Christian radio stations. Christian publishing houses worked overtime to fill the shelves of Christian bookstores, and Christian schools and universities proliferated. Whether it was a film or softball league or “Satan’s holiday,” everything had a Christian alternative.
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