Keller, Piper, and Carson on Thriving Churches in a Hostile Culture

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Many Christians are fearful of the changes they see around them. What are the prospects of a thriving church if our culture continues to grow more hostile?

“We must neither panic on the one hand nor assume persecution is always good on the other,” Tim Keller explains in a new roundtable video with Don Carson and John Piper [audio]. “Persecution is inevitable, but there is no way to simply say it’s good or bad for the church.”

We must think in “far bigger, biblical categories than mere number-based, pundit-generated trend analysis,” adds Carson, author of Christ and Culture Revisited (Eerdmans, 2012). “Our cues must come from Scripture again and again.”

The church’s relationship with culture has been likened to seasonal progression: winter (totalitarian oppression), spring (growth), summer (Christendom), and fall (post-Christendom). “I’m not sure we in America know much about fall,” Keller observes. “We’re shocked by the fact we’re seen as bad citizens, as immoral—and we don’t seem to have good counternarratives.”

Indeed, we have much to learn from believers in places farther along the path of post-Christian opposition. (Carson mentions France and the Czech Republic as two examples.) “Part of our witness,” he explains, “will involve Christians not acting defensive and embattled, but delighting in the Lord and loving one another within the hostile context.”

Piper agrees. “Against a rising tide of hostility or deceit, we don’t bunker down or lick our wounds,” he says. “We love each other, we rejoice greatly, and then we speak into the tide—and live into the tide—in a winsome way.

Watch the full 12-minute video to hear these three leaders discuss the power of camaraderie, why Piper wants to smack the other two.