Christians have been called to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Unfortunately, three powerful social forces in society undermine the effectiveness of the gospel in this country and around the world. Writers such as Peter Berger and Os Guinness have documented and described these forces. They are secularization, pluralization, and privatization.
The first is secularization. It is the process by which sectors of society and culture are removed from the influence of religious institutions and symbols. A biblical description of secularization can be found in Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Today the forces of darkness raise up arguments against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) which blunt the effectiveness of the gospel.
A second social force is pluralization, which is the process that has increased the number of choices in the world. With so many choices, we do not know what is true. Ultimately all truth and values become relative (postmodernism, moral relativism). People are being taken captive by world views that are contrary to Bible teaching (Colossians 2:8).
Privatization is a third force. It occurs as a response to the previous two forces. It is withdrawal from religious institutions and a retreat inward with an emphasis on self. It is what Christopher Lasch called an attempt at “psychic survival.”
The combined impact of these three forces on Christianity has been to make it irrelevant, at least to the cultural and social aspects of society. Theodore Roszak once said that American Christianity is “privately engaging but socially irrelevant.”
If Christians are to be effective in the 21st century, they must understand and counter these powerful forces.