A Few Words in Defense of Bigness (and other comments on recent iMonk/BoarsHead content)
And here is a very interesting post by Michael Spencer about the real grassroots visible unity among Christians in Appalachia. It's a lovely essay, informed by his discerning love for the people of the region in which he works. But I can't help but notice that almost all of the instances of visible unity which he highlights take place in the public sphere, not the church sphere. This isn't "altar and pulpit fellowship" -- this is strong ministries directed at public schools, hospitals, the drug abuse problem, along with the pervasive blessing by the church of family events: funerals and weddings. The base of it all is the assumption:
There is a general feeling in our community that most people are Christians, or if they are not, they will be when they face some of life’s realities. Conversions in our community are frequent, and almost always take the path of a person raised inside the faith returning to the faith of their family and church; the faith of grandparents and parents.
Now in areas with large non-Christian populations this feeling cannot be reproduced. But also it relies on a good deal of practical "Constantinianism" -- the identification of public institutions with the Christian community. You can see the logic here:
Because our community has a large public school that is the primary source of community pride and identity, local churches and Christians focus on ministry in the public schools. This means that organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are generously supported by churches and the school administration. The lack of religious and cultural diversity in our community means that demonstrations of Christian faith are common in the public schools. Teachers have no fear of prosecution if they read the Bible or lead a class in prayer.
Local ministers have also used the “Ten Commandments” cases in a neighboring county to promote a strong, across-the-spectrum support for public display of the commandments. One day I was giving a test over the Ten Commandments in a high school Bible class, when I noticed, in the middle of the exam, that someone had hung a large, ornate copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall. I had no idea where it came from, but the students were grateful. (emphasis added).