The Church at History’s Hinge -- By: Leith Anderson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 151:601 (Jan 1994)
Article: The Church at History’s Hinge
Author: Leith Anderson

The Church at History’s Hinge

Leith Anderson

[Leith Anderson is Senior Pastor, Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, Minnesota.]

[This is article one in the four-part series, “Christian Ministry in the 21st Century,” delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 2–5, 1993.]

The year A.D. 2000 has begun to capture the world’s attention as has no other date. The end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century have given common theme and title to magazines, books, television, and radio shows, New Age optimism, and apocalyptic pessimism. In one sense it is just another date. It will come and go like all others. In another sense it symbolizes the end of one era and the beginning of another. It has come to symbolize not only specific changes but also change itself.

As many analysts have stated, the world is at a “hinge of history.” This is a time like the time of Christ, the fall of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Industrial Revolution. The primary similarity is that each of these hinges swung the world in a new direction. Each left behind the way the culture operated and society was organized. Each introduced a new era unlike the one before. Each was a time of fear and hope, resistance and welcome. There was no going back.

In a sense the 21st century has already begun. Some argue that the 20th century did not begin until around 1917 with World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution. Also they suggest the 20th century ended around 1989 with the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the advent of rapidly accelerating societal change worldwide.

It is not that change is new but that the rate of change is unprecedented. More changes have occurred in the past 94 years than in the previous 2, 000 years. Changes in the final six years of this decade (from 1994 through 1999) may match if not exceed the changes of the first 94 years of this century.

This rate of change is like a large truck that has been increasing speed on a level surface. It comes to a downhill stretch that is so long and steep that the bottom cannot be seen. Every mile doubles the speed traveled the mile before. It is a thrilling ride, but will the truck soon be totally out of control or blow apart because it was not designed to travel so fast? This series of articles is a simple attempt to understand how to approach Christian ministry amid rapid changes in culture, particularly North American culture.

Some Christians prefer to ignore these changes. They assume that ignoring them will make them go away. They hope that tomorrow will turn out to be y...

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