Faith for a New Generation and The Culture Change Required

In the 1st Century Roman world of the New Testament, children didn’t have a lot of rights and the old saying of kids should be seen but not heard was the way of life for youth. They were educated, but getting to be in the presence of Christ or mature religious leaders was something kids were discouraged from by most.

When Jesus entered into this world and became human He challenged that perspective by not only allowing kids to approach Him and take His time but encouraging His disciples and His followers to be more like them.

“He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’” Matthew 18:1–5.

If we are not careful, the 21st-century church may become just like the 1st-century Jewish culture that Jesus was trying to change. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Church membership in the US is down by 20% since 1999 despite the church continuing to do what it has always done. From 1937-1976 the U.S. population’s church membership was 70% or higher. It dropped 2% to 68% from 1970-1999. But the past 20 years it has dropped 20%. Culture has shifted. Church, for the most part, hasn’t. Research shows that only 10% of kids who grew up going to church in the 1990s and 2000’s actually attend church a minimum of once a month today, are committed to Jesus, and trust firmly in the authority of the Bible. The other 90% don’t. Simply put, they don’t take the time for something they see as irrelevant to their lives nor is the church a core part of their social and spiritual lives. However, culture always shifts right? Doesn’t the Bible talk about that in both the Old and the New Testament? So why should I care? Well, because Jesus did, and called his disciples to make disciples of all Nations and Baptise them (matt 28:19). So pause for a minute before you internally play the blame game and think that you need to not worry about this shift in culture. Let’s make it personal.

Think about all the friends you had at church when you were a kid. ( If you grew up in the 40s 50s and 60s, you are a Baby boomer and this next section is to you. Your generation is by percentage the largest generation of churchgoers. After all, the modern church was designed by you for you to reach you. Your kids in the late 60s and 70s, Generation X, are the next largest group of church goers. They have a Love-Hate relationship with church. When you boomers started youth ministries to cater to your kids and keep them happy off in a corner in hopes they would love church and want to be apart of it as an adult. However, when they became adults and realized youth ministry stopped and “boring” started, they, started the Worship wars (early 90’s) in an attempt to make your church more relevant to culture but still hold true to the gospel. That caused the latest non-denominational movement because you didn’t want to change. Your grand-kids, the millennials, bailed and are bailing on church.

So to you Boomers, you may still have a few friends that go to church regularly and are faithful to Christ. In fact, most of them probably are. However, to all of those of younger than you who grew up going to church in the ’80s, ’90s, and after, 10% of them stayed a part of Boomer church, your church. The rest, 90% of those who grew up in the system that worked so well for your generation, well they are gone.
If we continue down the same path, doing the same things in this new digital world, we are on target to disciple a mere 1% of those kids and teens that we have in our churches, which is already a fraction of the 75 million total millennials. Research also shows that those “Exiles” (kids who grew up in the church but aren’t apart of it anymore, aren’t coming back when they have families like those from the Boomer and even Gen X generations did. What’s that say about Western Culture? What’s that say about discipleship in the Church? What’s that say about Christianity in the US? Well, to me, there is hope!

In their recently released new Book “Faith for Exiles,” David Kinnamen and Mark Matlock, two researchers and advocates for training the next generation of Christian Disciples argue that the digital revolution has had a far greater impact on our youth that many in the older generations may have underestimated. Kinnamen proposes that teens and young adults today are more akin to Jews living in Babylonian captivity than to Christians living in a post-Christian world. (Get the Book).

What’s all this mean for our church today?

  1. We have to be open to new ways and methods of interacting with “the nations” because our call is not to better ourselves, but to make disciples.
  2. We have to be open to new ideas about how we can build Resilient Disciples. What does that mean? Disciples who can thrive in adulthood and find Joy in Christ, despite what the world will throw at them
    • They need an intimate relationship with Jesus
    • They have developed a strong ability to discern culture
    • They have intergenerational relationships
    • They are trained to be able to talk about their Faith to others who will ridicule them
    • They are being shown how to stop the entitlement and self-centered tendencies they inherited and engage in counter-cultural mission

So, in the end, I write to you Boomers, because I sit in a building built by Boomers, apart of a church structure designed by Boomers, engaging in work that Boomers hope will make discipleship happen. And I sit here thankful. But I look to the future with a mind reflecting on the past. The freedom that the greatest generation, your grandparents, gave you through their self sacrifice and suffering, is the very thing your grandkids need from you now. Our church culture needs to continue to create space for the Holy Spirit to lead us and we need to continue to look towards the Gospel and the freedom it gives to help us fulfill our calling of discipling and baptizing all nations, all generations.

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One of Us - Laurie Templeton

There Is More…There Is Power - Ross Thomson

Transformed - Andres Badillo

Thanksgiving Family - Brent Dooley



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