One of the trends of the West - and arguably one can say that it is a trend - is the slow rise of the disregard if not smoldering hostility for Christianity. Christianity is by and large no longer welcome in the public square (somewhere interestingly to me, other religions such as Buddhism or Islam have a sort of "cool" or "novelty" factor that goes along with them). We have not yet reached the point of active hostile persecution but are certainly entering a time of soft persecution.
Where do we go in such times?
Again, I do not discuss politics or religious apologetics on this site. There are people that do and are quite good at it. My thoughts try to run to the more practical. What are Christians to do?
I suggest we go back in our history, back to the early days of the church. Where was the growth?
With the poor. With the needy. With those that the Christians served.
Read the words of Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria:
"Many of our brother-Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy, for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead, turning the common formula that is normally an empty courtesy into a reality: "Your humble servant bids you goodbye.". The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high condemnation, so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom. With willing hands they raised the bodies of the saints to their bosoms; they closed their eyes and mouths, carried them on their shoulders, and laid them out; they clung to them, embraced them, washed them, and wrapped them in grave clothes. Very soon the same services were done for them, since those left behind were constantly following those gone before.
The heathens behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape." - Eusebius, The History of the Church (Penguin, 1989, p. 237).
I do not know that my thoughts are fully developed on this - but I will say this: the world likes to practice the sort of charity that is seen by others and is too often related to special causes that occur occasionally. The real work of need goes on day in and day out, in the hidden spaces that most cannot or will not do.
Here are the holes that Christianity can plug. Here are the places where we can make God real. Here are the places that we can impact lives. Here are the places that perceptions or beliefs about how Christians "are" run smack into the deeds that they do.
The world is consumed with itself. Christianity commands us to first be consumed with God\, then with others, self last of all.
Our influence may be temporarily - or permanently - waning. The soft persecution of words and laughter may pass into the hard persecution of abuse or imprisonment or even death. But we have a chance to really take a part of the world by storm, a part that society too often pays lip service to or is passively served by Government.
As I stated earlier, the path of success to anything is laid out. We need only to follow the footprints of those who have gone before.