Some days, life feels like a high-speed roller coaster ride with flips and turns that make us nauseous with excessive motion. We feel desperate to get our feet back on the ground and regain our equilibrium.
Could it be that God is doing a new thing in our day? That we have the rare privilege of welcoming a new expression of the Christian faith into our world?
The 500-Year Cycle
It doesn’t feel like it but we have been here before… historically speaking.
In her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why Phyllis Tickle explains a repetitive phenomenon that has marked massive transitions in the church about every 500 years for the past two millennia.
• 500 years ago – Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church initiating the Great Reformation.
• 1,000 years ago – the Great Schism in the 11th century.
• 1,500 years ago – the fall of Rome and the resulting feudal system was the catalyst for the church to decentralize into monasticism. This kept the faith alive in small communities during the Dark Ages.
• 2,000 years ago –in God’s perfect timing the Messiah, Jesus Christ started this thing we love to call the Church.
3 Amazing Outcomes
According to Tickle, in each of these seasons of culture-shattering upheaval, at least three consistent transformations resulted.
1. Out of the distress emerged a new and more vital form of Christianity.
2. Previously dominant expressions of Christianity were “reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self.”
3. Most importantly, the faith spread more dramatically than ever before and the Church grew exponentially.
Cultural Characteristics of Hinge Times
Looking back, all of these seasons of cataclysmic change in the Church took place in a corresponding environment of disorder and instability.
Tickle has labeled them “hinge times” because they all share these common characteristics:
• widespread social upheaval
• political chaos
• economic collapse
• and, violent intercultural / inter-religious clashes.
Does this not sound like our world today? There is a cascading effect of change on multiple fronts forcing more change to everything in its path.
And the avalanche has only begun!
So, it’s our turn.
We are now living one of those 500-year cycles of turbulence – and we feel it.
Will we hunker down and go into survival mode? Or, will we embrace the opportunity to create new church models that will thrive in a destabilized world?
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