Of volcanoes and living missionally in a post-Christian world

We have lava in our backyard. I’m not talking about the red rocks that people people use for landscaping. I’m talking about the bedrock that Bend is built on — and there it is, sticking out of the lawn in our backyard. Bend is one of five cities in the world with a volcano within city limits. Yep, we are neighbors with a volcano. We call it Pilot Butte, which makes it seem tame. But the evidence in our backyard from it and the Cascades range of mountains tells a different tale. We live in a place of huge tectonic activity. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because it’s been named doesn’t mean the volcano has been tamed.

We live in a time of tectonic shifts. (Shift happens.) Culturally, things have been shifting for a long time, but awareness has come slowly even though we’ve felt the tremors. But they’ve happened and we have no choice but to adjust to them.

Canadian author Douglas Coupland wrote a gritty book called Life After God almost 20 years ago. In it, he writes about growing up in a home without any religious faith. His whole life was “after” God, after his parents had given up on God. And he tells stories of a generation of peers for whom God simply doesn’t enter the picture. And the picture he paints is often pretty bleak.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about Bend, it’s that this city lives without reference to God.

When I lived in Lebanon, people would react either positively or negatively when they heard that I was a pastor. Here in Bend, I get blank looks. It doesn’t even register. While many in Lebanon still live in reference to Christianity, Bend is a post-Christian culture.

Like the lava in my yard, the evidence of a post-Christian culture can be seen in all of our backyards. But unlike my backyard, where the lava doesn’t move, post-Christian influence is advancing. This is why not only we Santuccis, but all of us, need to be intently missional. Instead of receding, the gospel needs to advance in our world.

And there is great hope for the gospel and for us.

Douglas Coupland’s book title has a double meaning. Not only are emerging generations raised “after” God (raised after the idea of God has been left behind), there are many who sense a God-shaped void and are seeking “after” God, living a life in pursuit of God. They aren’t interested in showing up in our buildings on Sunday mornings, but they are interested in God.

Our home in Bend is at the edge of these tectonic shifts. But I’m pretty sure that you’ll see evidence of them in your own back yard if to take a look.