Theologian John Piper explained how the church in America is living with "cultural indifference or derision or exclusion or hostility," and why this is not strange but normal, and how Christians are called to respond to it according to the Bible.
Speaking at the Bethlehem 2016 Conference for Pastors and Church Leaders in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Piper quoted Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, as saying that Christianity in America is becoming "less nominal, more defined, and more outside of the mainstream of American culture."
"More outside of the mainstream of American culture" is not the same as saying true Christianity is declining in numbers or faithfulness, clarified Piper, founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
The theme of the three-day conference, which concluded Wednesday, was: "Think It Not Strange: Fiery Trials and the Testimony of Christ."
The forces that are making it desirable for nominal Christians to become non-Christians are the same forces that are making our culture increasingly inhospitable to true Christianity, Piper explained, referring to the rise of the "nones."
"The worldview and the moral convictions of mainstream American culture are increasingly at odds with the worldview and the moral convictions taught in the Bible," he said, adding, "The condition of unbelieving culture is not the report card of the church."
Piper said the aim of the conference is "to strengthen your settled and peaceful conviction that living with cultural indifference or derision or exclusion or hostility is not strange but normal, that God calls in those many sorrows to live a life of overflowing and Christ-exalting joy and love."
He quoted 1 Peter 4:12–19, which he said, tells us what is coming upon the Christians in this life and how they should respond.
The sufferings of Christ stand before the believers as a summary of what they can expect, he said. "When these kinds of things happen to you as Christians, they are not strange. This is normal."
"…In God's wisdom, He has planned that the sufferings of Christ save us from the sufferings of punishment, not the sufferings of purification. They save us from the fires of hell, not from the fires of refining," Piper explained.