All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth. (Psalm 25:9)
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching… Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:14-15)
The October 2021 Barna Research Report on “New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence: Millennials in America” identifies disconcerting facts about the future of Christianity and our culture:
- 29% of younger Millennials (ages 18-25) are counted as having some type of mental disorder. Overall, 54% of those surveyed acknowledged some degree of emotional fragility or even mental illness.
- 24 out of every 25 Millennials (96%) lack a biblical worldview.
- 75% believe that all religious faiths are of equal value.
- 75% say they lack meaning and purpose in life.
- Are the most populous generation in American society
- Are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in our history
- Currently constitute close to four out of every ten working-age Americans
- Comprise the primary parenting-age segment in the United States
In addition, a record-breaking 40% don’t know, believe, or care if God exists. And most reject the existence of absolute moral truth. You can download a free copy of the report here: https://www.arizonachristian.edu/culturalresearchcenter/digital-report-free/
This generation of growing influencers is swimming in a culture without any framework for absolute moral truth, just as St. Paul described the people of his day, “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming…” (Ephesians 4:14).
In such troubled waters, how can we reach our culture, and especially the next generation, with the transforming love of Jesus Christ?
Let me begin with the heart. Psalm 25 reminds us that God’s paths are always mercy and truth. Jesus demonstrated this duality when he deliberately and mercifully lowered social and relational barriers to rub shoulders with sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors. He stopped everything to attend to the cries of blind Bartimaeus, the touch of a chronically hemorrhaging woman, and the curiosity of a despised cheat and tax collector hiding in a tree. Jesus cared withoutcompromising the truth. So should we. Jesus calls us to this same posture of mercifully and lovingly engaging others with biblical truth.
Recently, I met a young man working at a coffee shop who is a strong follower of Jesus. When I asked him how he shares his faith with others, he admitted that it’s hard. For example, a 16-year-old girl who rants about how Christians are homophobic and racist bigots comes into the shop regularly. While serving her, he strives to never be defensive, always smile, and show that he cares for her. After many weeks, he’s had opportunities to share Jesus, and she’s beginning to listen. She told him that he’s one of the few “Ok” Christians! Trust is building, deeper questions and conversations will follow, and one more soul is closer to the light than to the darkness. Do we model the transforming love of Jesus Christ and his radical hospitality as we share the truth of the Gospel?
A presentation by the Rev. Randy Forrester in a series called “Fear Naught” hosted by the Rev. Al Zadig, Rector of St. Michaels’s Charleston, offers additional insight into this dilemma. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3Fo9ARpFks) Randy Forrester has directed the Ridley Institute and directs the Holy City Fellows, immersing himself in reaching the next generation for Christ.
Forrester presented three aspects of biblical truth to share with those lacking a biblical worldview:
- The truth in the Bible is Beautiful.
People love beautiful stories, and the larger story of creation, fall, salvation, and redemption is a beautiful and compelling story from beginning to end. Through Israel and then through Jesus, God came to rescue us and restore in us his image and, through us, redeem the whole creation. It’s a story more engaging and compelling than any in the media!
2. The truth in the Bible is Practical.
Truth works—it makes life better! The Ten Commandments are not limits imposed by a cranky God; they are ten expositions on how to be fully human and fully alive. According to Barna, 95% of the next generation seek “life improvements.” Demonstrating the practical reality that humility works better than pride, contentment better than envy, honesty better than lying, and true love better than hate will help open the next generation to a biblical worldview.
3. The truth in the Bible is Resilient.
Faith in Christ welcomes and withstands the most difficult questions and challenging objections. “There is no -ismthat can overcome the truth in God’s word, the Bible,” says Forrester. We can and ought to welcome faith questions and challenges. Unlike Job’s friends who gave pat answers to the questions worth asking, we must be ready to empathize with those challenging us, do our homework, and provide biblically faithful answers without compromising, just as Jesus did.
How can we address the number one crisis facing Millennials—the lack of a meaningful, biblical worldview? Or, in the words of Randy Forrester, how might the Church come alongside a younger generation “tossed to and fro” by the currents of our culture? We come with hearts as merciful, loving, and welcoming as the Prodigal’s father (Luke 15) and with a rich understanding of biblical truth to give an answer, with gentleness and respect, for the hope we have in Christ (I Peter 3:15).