The Changing Face of American Spirituality

Ikki Soma

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Making disciples one conversation at a time

 “America has moved from an Acts 2 spiritual culture to an Acts 17 spiritual culture!”  So stated a podcast by Dr. James Emery White a year ago. What did Dr. White mean? In Acts 2, we read of Peter preaching to Jews who believe in the one true God, who believe that the Old Testament is authoritative, and who believe that a Messiah is coming. But in Acts 17, we read of Paul preaching to Greeks who believe in a pantheon of gods and idols, who don’t believe the Old Testament, and who don’t expect a Messiah. Today’s spiritual climate in America resembles Acts 17 more than Acts 2. In an Acts 2 spiritual climate, you can have stadium-filling evangelistic crusades and large megachurches that make every Sunday an outreach; in an Acts 17 spiritual climate, you need extensive personal interaction.

This chart from missiologist James Engle quantifies the spiritual range of people:

In an Acts 2 spiritual climate, non-Christians were at a -3 or -4, but in our current Acts 17 spiritual climate, non-Christians are at a -8 or -9. In an Acts 17 spiritual climate, there is much more explaining to do. And explaining takes time. It takes sitting down in a coffee shop for hours, day after day. As America becomes more and more post-Christian, we must cultivate friendships with non-Christians. We must be patient. We must stop using “Christianese” words and phrases. We must love people as God loves them.

Instead of seeing the new spiritual climate in America as a challenge, let’s see it as an opportunity.