We're Not In Kansas Anymore...

In 1939 the world was introduced to a musical fantasy film titled, "The Wizard of Oz." In this film the main character, Dorothy, finds herself trapped in a massive Kansas tornado. As a result she is struck in the head and knocked unconscious. While being unconscious she dreams that this immense Kansas tornado grabs a hold of her house, spins it around and magically transports her to the magical Land of Oz.

Over the last decade the Christian church in America has been finding itself identifying with Dorothy as we gaze out of the front doors of the church at a constantly changing cultural landscape. Somewhere along the line, we were wrapped up in a tornado-like storm and, as a result, we are face-to-face with an environment that is unfamiliar, different and frankly at times overwhelming. Eddie Gibbs, in his book Church Next, expounds on this thought by saying, "Churches can become so traumatized by their internal problems that they fail to notice that society at large is in the midst of a cultural shift of seismic proportions, which affects every area of society."

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy Gale

Soon after arriving to this new magical Land of Oz, Dorothy utters the now famous, often-quoted words (and often misquoted), “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

At one time the Christian church was in a cultural majority; the church was very influential in society; and the church was embraced and supported by culture. This resulted in a society that understood the basics of the Christian story. Words like ‘grace and atonement’ were understood in a biblical context. In evangelism, many understood the basics of Christianity which granted a common platform of language and context for the gospel to be delivered. People would seek out the pastor for assistance and input in life’s issues. Overall there was a uniform and common foundation for understanding life. Francis Shaeffer comments on this period in history saying, “…in evangelism, in spiritual matters, and in Christian education, you can begin with the certainty that your audience understands you.” I could go on and on but you get the picture.

“There is No Place Like Home” Dorothy Gale

In the last several decades we have seen dramatic changes as prayer has been removed from school, the Ten Commandments removed from courthouses and the name of God stricken. Right before our eyes, the church has shifted into a cultural minority position resulting in less cultural support and a Christian voice that is often not heard, sought out nor respected. Furthermore, the Christian story has been lost in our culture and words like ‘grace and atonement’ conjure up thoughts of ‘perfume’ and a recent ‘Academy Award winning movie.’ We not only see this shift in the church’s place in society, but we also see a shift in the way that people think and process the world and understand truth. We have entered into a new period and a new culture; we are no longer living in a world familiar to us.

It is easy to close our eyes, click our heals and whisper with a hopeful determination, “There is no place like home” only to open our eyes and see that we are not back in Kansas but still in the Land of Oz. We also find ourselves looking backwards to Kansas longing and reaching for the days that the church was respected, honored and held in the majority.

Another option is to engage this new culture, but then we soon realize that “if we Christians try to talk to people as though they are from Kansas when in reality they are from the Land of Oz, we will only beat the air. (Francis Shaeffer Paraphrase)” In my opinion, all of these options miss the point that this new culture is here and I believe that it is here to stay. We might be in the Land of Oz for quite some time!

This is the part where I should offer a solution, assurance or a list of ways to deal with the struggle. In all reality, I believe the solution is quite simple; it is found in the heartbeat of the Gospel of Christ. Christ, the very word of God, became flesh and blood and ‘moved’ into the neighborhood (John 1:14, MSG). For God so ‘loved’ the world that He ‘gave’ His one and only Son (John 3:16 NIV). Quite simply this new generation and new culture needs ‘Jesus and His redeeming love.’ They don’t need to move to Kansas first to get Jesus. Rather we can pray, “Lord God grant me the spirit of your servant missionary heart so that I may find myself loving and going into the this world to bring Jesus upon this culture.” The fight that we find ourselves in is not to get back to Kansas or fighting to reject the new Land of Oz but to see Jesus delivered to the hearts and lives of people who are around us.

As the Lord grants us His grace to minister into this new culture we can have the assurance that we have received a heart like the Tin Man (Ezekiel 36:24-27; A New Heart); a brain (with wisdom) like the Scarecrow (1 Corinthians 1:18; The Foolishness of the Cross); and courage like the Lion (Exodus 14:14; The Lord will fight for us). May God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, compel, teach, and guide us into this unchartered territory to give Jesus away in the fullness of His forgiveness of sin and healing grace, because Dorothy was right, there is no place like “home.”