For young Christians growing up, it is undoubted that challenges of secularism abound. But even within once evangelical families, the shifts in recent decades of the meanings of faith and belief are one that draws into question our modern church approaches to youth ministry.
Increasingly commonplace views in the post-Christendom world are that the primacy of life is one of ensuring universal happiness and liberation of the oppressed. The role of God in life is of minimal importance and, to a growing extent, offensive to the functioning of modern society.
Even many leaders in youth ministry have resolved that all that one needs, is to believe in the death of Jesus for our sins which was the greatest act of love to the world, hence we ought to be loving one another in the wider community no matter of their background, religion, sexuality, social status and so forth. The only exception to this new Gospel teaching would be traditional evangelicals and those holding alternative hermeneutical points of view.
The ‘God is love FULL STOP’ attitude
As churches continue to grapple with the balancing act being both a hospital for the sick and a school for sinners, the undergrowth of a “God is love FULL STOP” attitude has arisen to the surface and often become mainstream in the younger and more progressive generations of Christians. The lacking in the ability to articulate basic teachings beyond the slogans of evangelistic tracts has created an underclass of believers that more traditional evangelicals may (perhaps unfairly or not) deem as Christians in name only.
The growth of unchallenged relativism with claims of Biblical silence as the dismissal of questions of theological and doctrinal significance, could arguably be fostering a new religion that premises the expiation of sin through demonstrative virtue. Whereas the true Gospel preaches a message of repentance from sin, such new “cultural Christianity” placates itself as being an improved successor to traditional evangelical doctrine.
Even among what was once a nominally Christian society, many norms that upheld God’s sovereignty have inevitably been superseded by practices of individualism that exclude sin as something to be wrestled with. The pursuit of self-actualisation through the “God is love FULL STOP” teachings, exclude core doctrines which bear great weight on the wrath and just nature of God.
Post-Christendom society has not yet seen the full undergrounding of the Christian faith by secular society, nor does it appear that the non-believing world will necessarily be the ones to yield the shovels. It is sadly the practices of many Christians by name, that are digging the grave of faithful evangelical churches.
Once commonly held beliefs within the church, that only Christians who faithfully believe in Jesus Christ will go to heaven, are slowly but increasingly seen as perpetuating divisive points of view. The grave societal pressure to downplay the uniqueness of Christianity in the pursuit of tolerance, is seen with denials of the faith’s absolute claims to truth by many claiming to be believers.
The casualisation of Christian fellowship
Another shift in the upholding of evangelical Christian values is the decline in the centrality of the church in our society as a meeting point beyond the Sunday service. With the casualisation of Christian fellowship across most denominations, the cultural value of Christianity and religion have also been ceded to the mainstream secular environment.
In speaking of the next generation, churches must not shy away from the topic of children, in particular, the birthing of offspring. Christmas should not be the only time of year where teachings of children being born and maturing into adulthood are espoused. From Luke chapter 2 verse 41 to 52, we read the story of Jesus in the Temple as a child to see the utmost importance of the solid evangelical study of God’s word.
The nuclear family and the wider church family play fundamental roles in the upbringing of children to set them up on a path to receive faith. Youth ministries in modern churches today often focus on spiritual growth for teenagers and young adults but overlook the pristine time in preparation for starting a family with children. Discussions in youth group about sex and dating have failed to convey the sacredness of marriage, and the goodness of family, especially regarding childbearing (if such forms part of God’s plan for you) being a societal good.
Long time faithful Christians may have started to notice the implications of the liberalisation of the next generation and its links with growing secularisation in the post-Christendom cultural context. However, the issue at hand moves beyond just declining church attendance figures or shifting public perceptions of Christianity in the public square. Rather it is the uptake of a new doctrine with radically different theological underpinnings masquerading as Christianity that should be of most concern.
When churches preach the same calls to action and virtue signal likewise to that the secular society, it would be inevitable that the distinct taste of faithful evangelical Christianity is lost. The absence of salt and light in our churches leaves only empty shell buildings without fruitful substance.
It is only through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that encourages us to first repent, and subsequently live in light of the Cross, that we can bridge the widening gulf of faith and belief in our society.
Families need to play a starting role in prioritising church and Christian fellowship as of the utmost importance throughout the week. Such is needed to be met by faith Christian ministers to promote trusting and welcoming relationships for the next generation. The next generation needs true Godly exposure to the Christian community from a young age beyond just regular Sunday service attendance.
The next generation of Godly faithful Christians can only come about from a culture of where families strive together in the endeavour to fragrance their household and beyond with the Word. Ensuring healthy spiritual lives of young people is quintessential to enabling the next generation to become evangelically grounded in the truths of the Christian faith against an increasingly hostile climate.
This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Monday 18 January 2021.
Also submitted to Cumberland City Council Youth Week Story Expo – Wednesday 21 April 2021 as Roydon Ng’s reflections on working with young people in the Christian church in Western Sydney.