Young and old, rich and poor, and people from every social, economic, political and cultural background are starting to rethink their faith. A fresh movement is happening, and in its purest form is about one thing: following Christ. This transformation is reshaping the Christian landscape. Believers are starting to simplify their faith in order to exemplify Christ—a simple yet profound way to live out the gospel. This has become a revolutionary concept.
This “new” Christianity is sick of culture wars, political agendas, hypocrisy and legalistic doctrines. They prefer inclusion over restriction, dialogue over debate, practice over preaching, and love over judgment. Authentic communities are preferred over institutionalized organizations, and grassroots groups gain wisdom and knowledge from relational interaction, social media, the web, and an array of other sources—there is no monopoly controlling leadership or sources of information.
Previously ignored issues such as environmentalism, social justice, equality and human rights are back at the forefront, and the love of Christ is starting to supersede any social, political or religious agenda.
And while many traditional Evangelicals decry this movement as being shallow, theologically weak and even heretical, many see it as a step in the right direction—a revolution similar to that of the early church: authentically living out Christ’s model of service, sacrifice and holistic love.
Revolutions involve excitement, energy, rebellion and inspiration. But revolutions can quickly devolve into self-righteousness, where the distinct sense of what is right and wrong—the clarity of vision—can turn into elitism and pharisaical hypocrisy.
For modern Christian revolutionaries, it can be an easy temptation to judge Christianity’s past mistakes: They clung too tightly to political organizations, idolized their religious affiliations, publicly berated others, were violent, were bigoted, refused to engage in meaningful conversations and routinely spewed apocalyptic judgments against those with opposing views.
We see the past and current Evangelical atmosphere as “conservative, ” “old-fashioned” and “ignorant.” And while these classifications are often deserved and warranted, what we often fail to understand is that at one point in time, they were just like us—the revolutionaries.
It was only a few decades ago, during the turbulent 60s and 70s, that a similar Christian revolution was happening. House churches were forming, Christians were distancing themselves from political and traditional religious institutions, and the idea of loving people in a way that copied the example of Christ was sweeping the nation. Revival was in the air, and it was reshaping the American Christian landscape.
But then the fervor of following Christ subtly changed into distinct ideologies—each with small but nuanced theological differences—that slowly turned into idols. Factions formed based on their preferred beliefs, and these groups were formalized back into “official” churches, organizations and denominations—each seemingly holding an exclusive ownership over what was constituted as “truth.”
These groups then refused to listen to those that went in different directions, the unity was lost, and Christians began to splinter. The simple idea of following Christ was complicated by vicious and constant infighting, debating, accusing, indoctrinating, propagating and proselytizing. They craved power, privilege and the desire to decide what was right and wrong.
For the current revolutionaries, it’s almost impossible to see the “legalistic fundamentalists” of today as inspired revolutionaries who were once in our shoes—but they were.
When it comes to following Christ, it’s easy to get distracted by things that don’t matter, and Satan is always trying to divide and destroy. This is how something as simple as following Christ’s example becomes a complicated mess filled with thousands of theologies, practices and conflicting beliefs.
The reality is that our current revolution has happened before, and is actually a movement that is recycled every couple of decades—let this be a somber warning to us. Never stop being humble, always focus on love, and constantly strive to emulate Christ. When this happens, the revolution will never become a religion, but will instead become an inspired relationship with God.
Stephen Mattson has written for Relevant, Sojourners, and The Burnside Writer’s Collective. He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.