On the road to Cape Town #1

This is the first blog in preparation of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation, to be held in Cape Town, South-Africa from 16 to 25 October. I will share personal observations and reflections on the relevance of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a postmodern, postchristian society.

The brand new library of my home town Almere is a great place. Four floors of books- probably more than 100.000 of them. A study center, a café, multimedia corners – you name it. I love the place when I need to do stuff that can’t be done in the office or at home: thinking, writing, praying. The physical proximity of books is inspiring. This afternoon I strolled around and got a grip of the vast enormity of books that are written. Always looking for a good book, I tried to locate the ‘Christian spirituality’ section. And after a good search, I found it: on the 4th floor, somewhere in between Architecture and  Sociology. Four rather small shelves with books – all in all maybe 200, including the Religious Sciences ones.  If the collection of books is in any way related to the interests of the general public, what does this tell us about the importance of religion in the eyes of the Almere population?

Rewind a couple of weeks. While writing another article, I go online to find some current statistics on church attendance and religiosity. The actual numbers I found are interesting, but even more interesting is the fact that on this website (www.cbs.nl, the Dutch Statistics Institute) ‘religion’ is a subcategory of ‘Leasure and Culture’. What does this tell us about the importance of religion in the eyes of statisticians?

Another few months before. A colleague hands me a booklet called ‘God is crazy’. A strange title but a fascinating little book. The author confronts the ‘rabid atheism’ that he encounters in factually all the media: God does not exist, and everyone who thinks He does is retarded. The most interesting fact is that the author can be classified as ‘one of them’ – a well known, secular and (in the eyes of many) ungodly writer. Is something happening here?

In the last month, 55.600.000 people searched on ‘God’ on Google, of which 823.000 in The Netherlands. On a population of 16.5M, this is about 5%, against less than 1% worldwide. At the same time: our StudentLife teams spoke with about 600 students last year, and only 3 of them decided to follow Jesus. What does this say?

There is a clear ambivalence with regard to religion. Yes, religion and spirituality are hot – and yes, there are very, very few people nowadays that actually ‘make a choice to follow Jesus’, get ‘converted’, ‘become believers’. Why is that? Don’t we explain it well enough? Is it too hard? Or is it just seen as irrelevant?

The following months, I hope to explore some of the questions I raise here. There might be many more to come, and it remains to be seen if we can come up with answers anyhow. I hope you join me in this journey – feel free to comment, make suggestions, ask questions. I’m looking forward to it.

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