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The Great Fall of Christendom

• Kris Beckert

This sermon addresses what Christendom is and compares it to an apostolic posture. While many bemoan the fall of Christendom, could this actually be a good thing as it makes space for us to return to the apostolic posture?

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Today, the Christian faith is no longer predominant as people abandon the faith, leave the church or see no reason to pursue it. Gone are the days of things like “blue laws” where stores closed on Sundays so that church could be a focus. We are experiencing the “Fall of Christendom.” How do we respond to this reality?

Guest speaker, Kris Beckert, addresses this question starting with the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty. Interestingly, in the original poem, there is no reference to an egg sitting on the wall. Actually, it may have referred to a cannon that was named Humpty Dumpty that was positioned high upon a wall, in a position that was easily shot down. It was in a place that it was never meant to be and its falling was merely a symptom of the fact that it was out of its natural location. This illustrates something about Christendom. It is falling off the wall, but the reality is that it was never meant to be in the position that it was.

This sets us up to understand two postures of Christianity. The first is called the apostolic posture. It was the common approach of the first three centuries of the early church. While other religions were built around holy places, holy people and holy relics, Christianity had none of these. It grew in the margins, just as Jesus had modeled in his ministry. Instead of building buildings, setting up rituals and hiring clergy, early Christianity mobilized everyone to live their faith in their daily lives. We see this playing out in Acts 8:1-8.

The apostolic posture embraces the scattering of God’s people as sending. It is not dependent on structures and the power of humans but on the supernatural power of the Spirit. In the early church this led to persecution until the early fourth century when Emperor Constantine experienced a vision of the cross in the heavens with the words “In this sign, conquer.” Constantine’s victory led to his eventual embrace of Christianity. In 313, the joint emperors Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, a manifesto of toleration, granting Christians full legal rights. Christianity assumed not only a position of favor with the state, but it became the chosen instrument for political regeneration. This leads us to the second posture.

Posture number two is Christendom. Overnight, Christianity became the favored recipient of limitless imperial resources. Buildings were erected, prestigious clergy rose, the church employed power and coercion to accomplish its goals. We can see manifestations of Christendom throughout history since Constantine. It has been the norm. The church has aligned with worldly power and we must ask if this is representative of the self-sacrificial love of the carpenter from Nazareth?

As we are now experiencing the demise of the second posture, we must ask if this fall is actually a great thing. Does it make room for us to return to the character and posture of Christ, the Apostolic mode? This means four things for us:

  1. Embrace being scattered.
  2. Embrace the work of the Spirit in community.
  3. Embrace the margins.
  4. Embrace and allow the Spirit to work.

We can bemoan the Great Fall of Christendom, or we can release it and see the adventure ahead. We need not hunker down or rebuild Christendom. We are called to embrace the scattering and being sent.

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Topics: Community, Evangelism

Sermon Series: Unraveling Truth

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Focus Scripture:

  • Acts 8:1-8

    On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.

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2 thoughts on “The Great Fall of Christendom

  1. JAZZED says:

    Kris WOW thank you! Christ in a DOME how did we ever get back to that?

    I’ve been jotting done a few things along this line I like to share that may help confirm Kris’s sermon

    The arrival of Jesus signaled the END [not abolishment] of the Old Covenant, a nation-specific Temple Model [a COCOON], that granted extraordinary power to sacred men in sacred places who determined the meaning of sacred texts —- marking the BEGINNING of a Brand New [covenant, command, ethic, movement] Jesus BIRTHED when on the cross He said “it is finished” and the temple vail tore in two [fulfillment].

    Paul states again: Acts 17:24-31 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does NOT live in temples [DOMES] built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. ………. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent……

    The Temple Model, tailored for the elite, requiring followers to come make peace with God caused leaders to become self-righteous, followers to become hypocrites, texts to be manipulated and people to be mistreated.

    Within the Temple Model, there was a three-tiered Jewish educational system for boys. [Only]

    1. Bet Sefer – house of the book – ages (6-10) – memorized Tora [Genesis to Deuteronomy] Most students would go back to their father’s trade however those who showed promise [the top of the class]: – next

    2. Bet Talmud – house of learning – ages (10-14) –memorized the prophets [Joshua to Malachi] – then they would learn the art of answering a question with a question and then [the best of the best the Harvard boys]: – next

    3. Bet Midrash – house of study – ages (15 and up) – Had the potential to study under a Jewish Rabi. They would be grilled and questioned and if they were found to have enough potential they would be invited by the Rabi to “Come follow me”. A huge honor for a select few.

    A better word for a student would be a disciple but even better would be an apprentice. A student can learn for the sake of knowledge but an apprentice learns in order to NOT just hear but to think, be and do just-like, a carbon copy of, the WAY of their teacher. There was a common blessing of the day “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi”.

    When Jesus invited the disciples to follow they were not the elite but the Bet Sefer level boys and likewise today we [gals now included] are invited to follow Jesus however, it’s along a narrow path, close in the dust, with the wisdom to NOT only hear but also DO.

    The 630+ laws, all vertical, how am [I] doing, [temple thinking], Jesus raised the bar so high on — none could meet. Then Jesus said God is not in need of your peace offerings, [by vertical grace – a free gift – you’re in – you’re fine because your mine], but rather if you want to know how you’re doing look around [horizontal] to the folks on your left and right for there is NOTHING more sacred then these now, a free gift you can’t earn it, Spirit inhabited mobile temple folk. 1 Cor 6:19

    An ἐκκλησία, [gathering/assembly], not about attendance or offerings or even what’s legal but rather “What does love require of me?” as portable temples everywhere at all times, is more scared than the temple model [a church sacred place].

    [NOT] only hear but also DO. What?

    All the Old Covenant rules were for the most part things NOT to DO.

    Jesus unhitched from that list with a simple replacement command “As I have loved us you must love one another”. with a few NOT to’s

    Life can be scary. Believe it or not, there’s a way to live without fear [NOT] . . . even when there’s something to be afraid of.

    In Christ: You can’t live this life; you can only let Christ live [radiate] His life through you, however:

    You must: Romans 6:11-14 in the same way, count [Declare] yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let [Decide] sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part [Devote -] of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part [Devote +] of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

    We assume that our sin makes God angry but Jesus gave us a new reason not to sin, and it’s better than fear or guilt. SIN NOT [continued subconscious habits] or a follow Jesus [conscious Declare, Decide, Devote]

    When you wrestle [duplicity] with sin, which side of the argument, [I shouldn’t but I want to], do you identify with? Which side is the IN in your argument side [Adam or Christ]? Which side you identify [Decide] with, [who you used to be or IN Christ], will determine the outcome.

    The future is uncertain and sometimes scary. This one truth can help you to live free of worry NOT.

    People size each other up all the time. We all do it. This command from Jesus has the power to change all of your relationships. Judge NOT

    Wouldn’t it be great to have faith without doubts? This one question posed by Jesus has the power to help you move past your doubt [NOT].

    The five NOT’s are actually YES to DO commands!

    Consider the original SIN was the FEAR God was trying to pull something over them and in so DOUBTED His CHARACTER and decided to become like Him managing good and evil by JUDGING it themselves, definitely above their pay grade, resulting in WORRY and more FEAR. All SIN!

    The bottom line is the only way to SIN NOT is to trust God’s CHARACTER, NOT our IN Adam, staying on the narrow path, fruit of the Spirit, of wisdom.

    The NOT emotions belong to the wide road, works of the flesh, of folly, and are all sins.

  2. JAZZED more says:

    Couple more thoughts:

    Galatians 5:24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step [close in the dust] with the Spirit.

    Keeping in step versus keeping the law.
    1. Accept your new identity.
    2. Embrace this new approach.
    3. Refuse to interact with God on the basis of law.
    “I did it again.” vs. “I got out of step.”

    The Christian life is about the life of Christ that has been given to you.
    1. Guarantees you to go to heaven someday.
    2. Guarantees the power of sin has no hold on you.
    3. Allows you to say NO to sin.

    Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against [out of step] flesh and blood, but against [1 the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world] and against the [2 spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms]. Implies neither list is flesh & blood!

    If you can’t live this life on your own but only let Christ live [radiate] His life through you then the battle concerning other flesh and blood folk is limited to they are just out of step, wrong road, because they are being influenced by things that are not flesh and blood [lists above] and the only recourse we have is to, by example, show them how to keep in step on the narrow fruit of the spirit path. The fruit of the spirit list affords us no options but to love them even if they are our enemies.

    However, If we put equal weight on the Old Covenant with the New we can then justify a whole course of actions not in the fruit list because well it’s more than just out of step for these flesh & blood folk.

    Is this Temple Model with a sprinkle of Jesus approach someday Heaven worthy or [duplicity] left at the gate?

    To follow IN Christ the WAY; HATE the SIN, incoherent emotional works of the flesh [Spiritual realms of Power], but LOVE the sinner, the flesh and blood, that Jesus died for – there is only ONE Way John 14:6 all else is still IN Adam.

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