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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Future of Christianity
The Future of Christianity

Courage to Ask the Question

Sunday, November 27, 2022

In a recent webcast, CAC faculty joined together to discuss the future of Christianity. Brian McLaren opened the conversation:

Our question that brings us together today is the question of the future of Christianity. This is a question that I have lived with really my whole adult life. I sensed it was part of my calling or vocation to live with and wrestle with this question.

And I think we should realize there are some people who would find it dangerous that we are even asking this question, because to raise the question of the future of Christianity suggests that the future might be different than the past or the present. And there are a lot of people who are very, very invested in making sure the future is exactly the same as the past or the present. And I think the question is also dangerous within each of us, depending on how we answer it. If we were to look at some positive trends and say, “Oh, the future of Christianity is bright! The future of Christianity is wonderful,” there’s a certain way that that kind of positive and even wishful thinking could then give us, inside of the privacy of our own minds, permission to say, “Everything’s going to be fine. I can return to my previously scheduled apathy and complacency.”

There’s another way of answering the question that says, “The future of Christianity is [bleak] and terrible and hopeless.” And we could succumb to a kind of despair or a cynicism that would allow us to say, “Nothing I can do about it. It will be what it will be. It’s out of my hands.” And that would allow us to return to our previously scheduled apathy and complacency.

But there’s another way of asking this question and engaging it with an open heart, an open imagination, an open mind. And that’s a way that leads to a sense of empowerment for us to be open to the ways that the future of Christianity could be influenced by what we know our story begins with: one person impacting twelve people who impacted several hundred more [and so on].

McLaren finds hope for Christianity’s future in viewing its past as an ever-evolving movement:

For centuries, Christianity has presented itself as an “organized religion”—a change-averse institution . . . that protects and promotes a timeless system of beliefs that were handed down fully formed in the past. Yet Christianity’s actual history is a story of change and adaptation. We Christians have repeatedly adapted our message, methods, and mission to the contours of our time. What might happen if we understand the core Christian ethos as creative, constructive, and forward-leaning—as an “organizing religion” that challenges all institutions (including its own) to learn, grow, and mature toward a deepening, enduring vision of reconciliation with God, self, neighbor, enemy, and creation? [1]


[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (New York: Convergent, 2016), 3.

Adapted from Brian McLaren, “The Question of the Future of Christianity,” in The Future of Christianity: A Virtual Summit, Center for Action and Contemplation, streamed live on August 23, 2022, YouTube video, 1:56:18.  

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Image credit: Christopher Holt, Newgrange Triple Spiral (detail), 2014, Ireland, photograph, Wikimedia. Joanna Kosinska, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Nasa and ESA, M104 Sombrero Galaxy (detail), 2003, United States, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

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There was a time when I considered leaving the Church. The Daily Meditations have freed me to continue my spiritual journey honestly. Yesterday at Mass, as often happens these days, I was overcome by an intimate and passionate welling up inside of me. As I observed the rich ritual and the beautiful statues, time seemed to stand still, and I literally felt grace filling me and spilling into the space and people around me. I thought of the hundreds of times I have sat in a Catholic church, surrounded by loved ones and strangers. I felt the comfort of my long-ago deceased parents and their constant gifts of love. Richard Rohr’s words, whether in books, the Daily Meditations, videos or other means, have been a great source of inspiration and comfort, especially when doubt, anxiety, and fear creep in. Thank you! —Jody G.

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