Consider this a dispatch from my neighborhood to yours. Christianity Today doesn’t typically publish Orthodox Jewish writers, so you might consider me a distant cousin, writing in an effort to understand and encourage American evangelicals as they adjust to a dominant culture that is increasingly postmodern and even pagan. While Jews see this era as but another chapter in a long journey, many American evangelicals seem to have lost their ballast—and with it, the cohesion and vision necessary to flourish as a minority.

What can this distant cousin offer? Let me take you on a tour of my community. Anchored by the rules of Shabbat (Sabbath), we live one day a week (plus major holidays) as if we were, as one visiting pastor friend remarked, “from the 1950s,” before automobiles, television, and apps came to dominate daily life.

Streets fill with people walking—to a neighbor’s house, a park, a prayer service, a celebration—and we encounter many familiar faces and get caught up in conversations along the way. Weekly life is sustained day in and day out by a strong set of place-based institutions working in tandem—schools, synagogues, restaurants, charities, and interfamily networks—together creating a string of close-knit communities across the country.

How is this different from what CT readers most likely observe and experience in their daily rhythms? Socialized to believe that their culture was the majority, it seems Christians have invested much less than Orthodox Jews in four key elements of faithful living required to thrive as a minority: educating children separately from the broader society, marking space and time to bolster community cohesion, strengthening local institutions, and reducing the influence of secular media.

From my vantage, it appears that American Christians in general and evangelicals in particular are perplexed as to how to handle a world in which they are but a minority. Nationally, many Christians are trying to reshape the majority culture and political landscape as if their own future depended on it, creating a backlash against the faith that makes sustaining and enlarging it even harder.

What would truly help American Christians pass the promise of their faith to subsequent generations? Here are a few practical suggestions from my experience living embedded in an Orthodox Jewish community, where those four elements constantly shape daily life for me and my family.

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First, educate children separately from the broader society and make that learning a lifelong part of the faith. Jews are famous for our focus on learning. We are, after all, the “People of the Book,” and learning Torah is the central element in our faith.

But there is another rarely stated reason religious education is so important to us: Historically, only Jews who emphasized learning in Jewish schools and absorbing Jewish ideas were able to transmit their iden­tity to subsequent generations; every­one who did not do so assimilated. As such, religious Jews build schools everywhere we go and (speaking from personal experience) take on enormous hardship to ensure that our children only go to such institutions. Public schools are not an option. And while some homeschool, most Jews believe that communal educational settings inculcate values and knowledge that could not be replicated otherwise.

Second, mark space and time in ways that can sustain culture, values, rituals, and identity. Education is only the start if a minority identity and set of beliefs are to be transmitted generation to generation. We must deliberately develop for our community—and especially our youth—an independent culture, backed by its own history and narrative and instilling a sense of quiet strength (and belief in the ultimate vindication of our beliefs).

Engagement and even partial integra­tion with mainstream society is permissible, but it should be done in ways that do not undermine our community’s values and cohesion. Practically speaking, it is okay to live in a city, go to a secular college, and work in a big company, as long as you live and mainly socialize with your own community. It is essential to observe Sabbath and major holidays.

This observance is a “setting aside” that involves both space and time. Sabbath and major holidays do more to bond and interweave the community than any other practice. They force our communi­ty to live within walking distance of each other (no driving is allowed on these days), to temporarily isolate ourselves from the surrounding society (use of phones, televisions, and other devices is also banned at these times), to pray and eat together (families with families), and to celebrate our unique history and culture (through Torah read­ings, speeches, and classes). These days are a vital element in Jewish continuity. As a famous Jewish maxim says: “More than the Jew has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jew.”

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Third, establish a dense network of local institutions to support individ­ual communities as well as the broader diaspora (or for you, the global church). Jewish communities establish a wide network of institutions wherever we go—synagogues, schools, mikvot (ritual baths), cemeteries, gemachim (free-loan funds), professional support networks, and so on. The unique Jewish mix of individualism and communalism encourages this de­velopment, but surely thousands of years of minority life must have nurtured the habit.

When you live in small communi­ties that must survive without the help of (and sometimes in opposition to) the government, you must quickly develop new mechanisms to support yourself. These various social institutions—some formally established, many operat­ing ad hoc or on the margins in smaller communities—play crucial roles not only in helping people but also in bonding them together in a way that builds social cohesion, identity, and resilience.

Fourth, reduce the impact of mainstream media. Jews establish our own media outlets and carefully regulate what information is consumed, especially by children. For Christians, this is where publications such as CT and its partners are so essential.

Media aimed at children are especially important. While my kids are active borrowers of books from the local library, and I encourage them to read a wide variety of carefully selected classical literature and history, we also subscribe to compelling Jewish magazine and book subscriptions. Some Orthodox Jews (my­self included) have found it is better to use radios rather than televisions and to carry older-style cell phones instead of smartphones. Kids in my community typically get their own phones at a later age than elsewhere in America, and our schools do not allow phones anywhere near a classroom. (On the Sabbath and major holidays, there is no access for anyone, of course.)

A Christian reader may counter that Jewish rules seem legalistic. Yes, Jewish rules are indeed commands. This is a key difference in our faiths, and Christians seem to enjoy a liberty that Jews do not. I wonder, though, if community-held “constraints” would bring Christians greater freedom. Could they leave you unhindered by the burden of trying to change the majority culture and free instead to pursue joy as a flourishing minority?

This framework is not incompatible with the Christian emphasis on evangelism. If Christians built place-based church community around the four practical elements above, Christianity might return to the fervency of its formative years—before Constantine—when the faith was all about building close-knit, countercultural communities distant from power in ways that offered the world a bold new vision.

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Strengths latent in Christianity could again become apparent if Christians offer a great counter to our mainstream culture, which has done so much to atomize and isolate us from one another. For example, Sabbath-keeping has always been a central tenet of both our faiths. I have met many younger Christians with an interest in recovering Sabbath rhythms and the community they engender.

But, as rabbi Jonathan Sacks warns, becoming “a creative minority” is “not easy, because it involves maintaining strong links with the outside world while staying true to your faith, seeking not merely to keep the sacred flame burning but also to transform the larger society of which you are a part. This is, as Jews can testify, a demanding and risk-laden choice.”

Jeremiah saw the destruction of Solomon’s temple and his people taken captive to Babylon, but he shared a hopeful—and practical—vision. He instructed the Jews:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (29:5–7)

Twenty-six centuries ago, Jeremiah foresaw that it is possible to not only survive as a creative minority but to flourish in a way that contributes to and shapes the surrounding society. Long accustomed to living in exile, Jews have fully internalized this message. Amid a paganizing culture, what will American Christians choose to do?

Seth D. Kaplan, a lecturer at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, is author of the new book Fragile Neighborhoods: Repairing American Society, One Zip Code at a Time.