The English poet Dorothy Sayers once said, “if we really want a Christian society, we must teach Christianity”. For many long-time Christians, this would be the obvious case. But as culture moves in not just a post-modern but post-Christendom society, we must be churches that welcome and embrace every age group.
This includes tackling the challenge of young people having the most substantial rate of church dropouts once they graduate high school in their transition to university and work.
Often churches have acted in reactionary fear of falling attendance and have begun working like the world to align themselves more with the times. But the unforeseen consequence is often the result that such an approach opens such churches up to comparisons with worldly alternatives.
The new progressive and hip churches may include a range of fancy lights and loudspeakers that play secular music to attract young people. But in the minds of many young people, such church has lost its sanctity and is now just another music event they have on their list of activity options for the weekend.
But let’s dig deeper, beyond the façade of the lights and sounds and look at what some faith leaders are doing to young evangelicals. As young people trade in traditional Christian convictions for a gospel filled with compromise, they’re trying to update what it means to be evangelical.
But this change is for the worse. In trying to get with the times to be mainstream and socially acceptable, many have forgotten that the Gospel is a timeless truth.
On being evangelical
The understanding of what it means to be a Christian, let alone an evangelical Christian, is changing. There have been countless headlines declaring that Christianity is doomed because of the exodus in church attendance over past decades.
It is also no secret that especially in the West, the contemporary modern values have drifted far from traditionally mainstream Christian teachings. But an unfortunate trend is even within many churches in the West, what is acceptable as evangelical Christianity is widening between the generations.
Although not a new phenomenon, traditional churches are increasingly unfairly targeted for preaching the Gospel faithfully. With accusations of having too many rules, being homophobic and bigoted, these are the excuses that the secular world throws at Christians to narrow the Overton window in the public sphere. It’s all too common for the post-Christendom society to attempt to keep Christianity imprisoned within the walls of the chapel.
Christians ought not to be helping the popular discourse that demands that we change our message to “coexist,” “tolerate,” and “keep out of it”. This is a compromise that is being marketed to a new generation of young Christians at the expense of being evangelical.
The world will always be against Christ, let us not aid and abet it by doing things such as keeping Jesus to locked up within the confines of the Sunday service.
Being evangelical means holding God’s word as the authority for Christian doctrine. It is unfortunate that even in some congregations, the truth has been made relative. Bible passages that mention anything that could be vaguely deemed offensive are avoided.
Ultimately it is the assertion of God’s supremacy that is diminished to market the church to as wide an audience as possible. By the comprising of doctrine to draw a crowd, we have removed the poignant nature of Scripture.
The trajectory of faith and culture will not only intersect but will continue to collide. However, the reality is that our country’s economic and political future will remain dependant on our convictions and faith (or the lack of). The future rest of the church especially in the West relies heavily on the worldviews of young Christians.
The popularity of the “feel good” doctrine is playing a big part in the West’s moral decline with Millennial and Generation Z’s religious practices dependent primarily on how it makes themselves feel or how others feel, regardless of whether such activities are Biblical or not.
The truth is that following Christ is not merely about love, but it also about living in a way that is set apart by God. That is why Jesus said: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John chapter 14 verse 23).
It’s no secret to Christians that popular culture deliberately gets “truth” wrong, especially when it comes to faith. The apostle John’s warning remains as relevant as ever, even in the twenty-first century today.
“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully” (2 John chapter 1 verse 7 to 8).
The Living Word
Evangelism in real life often isn’t going around handing out Christian tracts, but rather being able to give a faithful Christian response on the spot during a conversation to someone desperate for help.
Make no mistake: the trend away from Biblical truth is not concentrated in the hipster city limits. It is up to each one of us as followers of Jesus to change the trajectory of faith and culture, starting in our churches, workplaces, and communities.
Let’s take a moment to ponder about Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11 to 12: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”. Therefore, if we as evangelicals shy away from the public square and fail to equip the rising generation of Christian leaders, then we risk losing our public voice, followed by our religious freedoms.
Should the young Christians in our churches choose either the couch-potato-route that espouses that we ought to “stay out of it” or the cafeteria-style version of the belief that says “pick and choose” what feels good, then Australia is in serious trouble. Both paths lead to Christians’ handing over our religious freedoms. Both paths give up on our being a “salt and light” to the world.
We must hold fast and return to the Christian principles that our country has been founded upon. By doing this, can preserve prosperity and freedoms. But we do this not for ourselves but to the glory of God as Matthew chapter 5 verse16 reminds us: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.
This article was first published in Christian Today Australia on Thursday 18 April 2019