The Move from the Centre to the Periphery
Updated: Jul 6, 2019
As Christians living in Australia at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are in an environment that is decidedly unchristian in its values, presuppositions, and ideas. It is a world that is post-Christian. Christianity is no longer at the centre of what is happening in today’s world instead it’s on the periphery of the things that matter. The church and God’s people rarely engaged the world in any meaningful way rather they appear to be isolated and cut off from the dominant society.
Many Christians live fragmented, almost schizophrenic lives. What they do on Sunday in the church has very little meaning or relevance for what they do during the rest of the week. Now, I realise that what I have only just stated is somewhat of a generalisation and that generalisations are generally untrue. However, there is enough truth in this generalisation to make us concerned. In fact, the church in Western society has rarely been so marginalise nor so disengaged from the action. There was a period in Western civilization when the church was at the centre of society.
In the nineteenth century in the wake of the evangelical revival, Christian men and women were at the centre of reform in almost every area of life – slavery, prisons, education, trade unions, etc. However, the ideologies that came out of the Enlightenment; namely, secularism, materialism, humanism, rationalism, pluralism, naturalism, existentialism, nihilism, and hedonism have chipped away at our Western Christian heritage until it no longer has meaning in the public arena of life. Also, the Liberalism and Fundamentalist debate of the 20s and the resultant social action debate of the 30s have so weakened Western Christianity as a united front that it was unable to combat the pressures of the Enlightenment ideologies. To add to this some of the modern methods of evangelism has resulted in easy believism have also weakened the Churches ability to withstand outside pressures.
Then more recently the growth of postmodernism as a secular reaction to and a by-product of the Enlightenment as finally put to rest the idea of Christendom. And so we have indeed entered the post-Christian era in which the Church, as the God’s people, have been removed to the periphery of a society, which mainly sees us as irrelevant. However, the periphery is a wonderful place to start a new journey of faith as the people of God because mission always begins at the periphery for mission comes most powerfully from a position of weakness.