Though it is common now, and quite understandable, to lament the relationships and institutions that have been changed and broken over the past seven years, I also think it’s worth keeping our eyes open to the relationships and coalitions being formed.
I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but back in 2015 my relational circles were fairly narrow, mostly concentrated around the PCA, Acts 29, and SBC (though my SBC friendships were almost entirely online). They were also almost entirely American and white Americans at that.
These days the only preaching I listen to other than my pastor’s is a black Baptist in Chicago. The podcast I listen to most regularly is from a non-denominational Australian pastor. I talk semi-regularly with Christians from a number of different countries around the world. Here at Mere O we still have PCA, Acts 29, and SBC readers and contributors, but now we also have people from the ACNA, a variety of smaller denominations, and Catholic and Orthodox readers and writers, as well as a growing international contingent. (London and Sydney both regularly appear in our top ten cities for readers per Google Analytics.)
I’ve seen this pick up in my own work too: I had about the same number of interviews for both books. But the second book had considerably more international interviews and the reader responses have come in from a more international audience as well. Off the top of my head, I’ve done or have scheduled interviews with folks from seven different countries. (If it matters, this book has also sold better. So less exposure in certain American markets has not, in my case at least, meant a decrease in sales. Rather, the things that have made my work less interesting to those American readerships seems also to have made it more accessible and engaging to many others.)
Where I think this is headed: The social and cultural trends right now tend to be pushing away from centralized institutions and toward distributed networks. What this means is that the coalitions that are forming may be smaller and not as institutionally grounded. I don’t think any Gen X or Millennial evangelical pastor in the reformed space is likely to create anything like Desiring God or Redeemer City to City or The Gospel Coalition.
However, I think what we are going to see are the formation of coalitions that are finding each other and coming together around a common love of Jesus, a common desire to work for his purposes in the world, and a keen interest in helping churches and Christians get better at evangelization, catechesis, and discipleship.
Put another way, I think we’re going to see coalitions forming made up of people who want to be part of a preparer generation. We’re confronting rampant idolatry and ideology, often in the church as much as it is in the culture, and we’re trying to do what we can during our short span of years, to clear the ground so that our children and grandchildren can hopefully build things that are better and more faithful. And there is something deeply exciting about that. Jenkins argues that this is a unique historical moment in that Christianity truly is a global faith in a way that it hasn’t been since, arguably, the 9th or 10th century. Well, if you are finding discouragement in many of your established Christian communities you’re part of, be of good cheer: In the first place, God has given you what you need to work for fidelity in those communities. And, secondly, God always preserves a remnant who have not bowed the knee to Baal—sometimes it just takes a little time to find them.