It is Holy week and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was on fire. You no doubt saw the video of the iconic church burn. All the world is heartbroken. The damage is in the millions. One billionaire pledged $339 million to help its rebuilding (even that will not be enough).
As I was watching the images of the fire, I wondered how historians will view this week’s events. Will they say the fire at one of the world’s oldest and most known places of worship during Holy Week is a symbol of the destruction of Christianity in the 21st century? It’s no secret that Christianity in Europe has been on the decline for decades. It is devoid of power and effectiveness. America’s Christianity isn’t far behind. So I wonder if some scholar in two hundred years will write on the “Rise and Fall of the Church of Jesus Christ,” and cite the destruction of Notre Dame to say “the best efforts of the firemen like the best efforts of a few true believers could not stop the destruction of the church. The church died in the 21st century.”
Most watchers of religious trends know that the “nones” (those people affiliated with no church and no religion) are the fastest growing group in America. They have passed the Roman Catholic adherents and every evangelical denominational membership in the last ten years. If not dead, many would say the church is dying. That’s the bad news.
Here’s the Good News: Jesus is still the head of the church. Paul wrote this:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:15-18). In other words, the truth that should be most evident during Holy Week, Jesus specializes in resurrection.
In light of the Notre Dame fire and the fate of Christianity, what can we do? Like the French firemen dosing the flames of Notre Dame, we need to get to work. We can’t simply shake our heads and say to the church, “Rest in Peace.” Everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus must to be about the urgent business of Jesus. We need to be people of prayer. Committed to living and sharing the life of Jesus. We need to love our neighbors and our communities with our presence and with our mouths sharing Christ’s love and hope.
Begin today. This Sunday is Easter. Pray for your neighbors, friends and family members who might be likely to mark “none” on a questionnaire about their religious leanings. But don’t stop at praying, invite them to Easter Sunday services. Make the appeal of Jesus evident in your life. Determine that Christianity isn’t going to come crashing down on our watch. Let us live and embody Jesus’ words so much that the evidence of His resurrection is overwhelming.
Let’s proclaim the Good News so when our imaginary historian writes in 200 years of the fire at Notre Dame it will not be of the Rise and Fall of Christianity but instead it will reflect the “Rise and Fall and Resurrection of the Church of Jesus Christ!”