One of the dominant sociological processes of the past 300 years has been the process of secularization. To many Christians who have belonged in the church for the past 20+ years, we confuse secularization with the concept of being "worldly". Worldliness is the theological quality of living according to a world view that is opposed, or antagonistic against the will and way of God. Secularization is somewhat different. It is the description of the way in which religion, in its multifaceted expressions, becomes less and less important to cultures, organizations, communities, and individuals.
Secularization began in earnest during the time in which historians call the enlightenment, or the age of modernity. It is in that age that scientific inquiry became the dominant way in which we validated truth. Therefore, the worldview became more empirical and there was less room for the supernatura. Evidence of secularization can be seen in the diminishing importance of religious institutions, organizations and even religious symbols in the daily lives of individuals. Additionally, "religion" becomes more inwardly focused and "private" as opposed to universal and community based expression (i.e. "going to church"). The world as a whole is seen as less sacred and less mysterious as a whole (What Max Weber would call "disenchantment").
Secularization has taken its toll on the church. Whereas in its past, the Church expressed its mission in an holistic manner, building educational systems, health systems, offering humanitarian assistance, defining and supporting relational health, and providing the context in which Jesus Christ was to be known, worshipped and experienced. While I understand that in doing many of these things, the institutional church often had confused and conflicting motives, but the important thing is that the community as a whole saw these things within the realm of the church's expression of its mission.
Currently, most churches have shrunk down to the providers of religous rites. We baptize and offer communion. We often sing songs that no one else uses and use language that is not easily understood outside of our context. Most church's see education, healthcare, and even compassion as the role of government or non-religious charities. More couples opted for civil wedding ceremonies than ever before, and we, as churches, do not prioritize care for the poor highly.
If the Kingdom of God (church word, I can't help it; it is the presence and power of God demonstrated thorugh Jesus and His followers) is manifest through His church, shouldn't we be doing what Jesus did as he ushered in the presence of God with healing, empowering, encouraging and touching. Its funny that Jesus only did the Lord's supper once and did not baptize anyone. Is this all there is? Have we relinquished our positions as ambassadors for Jesus to being holders of religious traditions and rites.
Lets reverse this process within the church. Lets stop seeing things as sacred and secular and begin seeing things as Jesus looked at the world. Everything that we do, including working our jobs, eating our food, choosing our friends, and even washing our clothes is sacred if Jesus is in it. Do not allow your faith to shrink to involve only religioius rites, but all of life . I leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.(NIV)
Pastor M Traylor