I have been thinking a lot lately about the future of Christianity in a post-Christian culture. This is of course where we find ourselves today. Many basic virtues and values that were at one time held in a tight fist have been loosened to accommodate limp-wristed relativity.
When I was growing up in the home of my parents, it was precisely their role to pass down the faith to me. They did this wonderfully. Dad and mom continued to share with me the beauty of the gospel. They modeled for me a basic Christianity where Jesus was the centerpiece of worship and the church was a place of worship. I was always on the receiving end of instruction, admonition, discipleship and teaching. But I have realized for a good while now — that it is my turn to take this baton of faith, which has been carefully passed on to me — and to do the same for this up and coming generation. This adds a type of pressure that many of you reading this might not have experienced before.
My parents and your parents, provided that they were faithful Christians — did what they could to raise us up in the way of the Lord. They did this to the best of their God-given ability. We were glad recipients of this. God is now raising up another generation to do this same work — maybe even more gloriously — by his grace and for the joy of His people.
It is now our turn to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. I consider this simultaneously a privilege and a responsibility. As the famous ecclesiast reminds us: “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This means that how the gospel was understood and applied in the past generation – was a clear indicator of the effect of the gospel in the lives of people. This same concept applies to the current generation. The battle for sanctification and worship is lost or won based on our adequate grasp of what the gospel really is.
In this post, I do not want to compare generations as much as provide some caution to the current generation. Here are two items that I believe are of chief importance. These items are areas in which we either will demonstrate biblical faithfulness or fail to use a precise gospel filter.
1. Blurred lines between “open” and “close” handed issues. Our parents generation hardly engaged in a theological argument regarding the divinity of Christ, the sufficiency of Scripture or the importance of not neglecting to meet together for corporate worship. While this current generation might not squabble much about external appearance, they will engage in hot debates about basic tenants upon which Christianity stands or falls. Moreover, loyalty to a local church is being replaced for a more consumer-driven concoction. When needs are not met, people are not nice or a program is not progressive enough, people will simply choose to go somewhere else. I devoted a whole series to church you can read by clicking here.
2. Embracing the myth that doctrine is divisive. I was having a conversation with a friend recently. He said that there are many people in his life who are extremely pleasant, warm and welcoming. This mode of operation ceases to exist once doctrinal issues are brought up and discussed. We need to learn how to disagree agreeably. We need to be known for what we are for rather than what we are against. The spiritual success of this current generation will either stand or fall based upon the solid grasp of the gospel. Here is what Paul told a young pastor named Timothy: “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:13). He continues by saying that you also need to “guard the good deposit entrusted to you (2 Tim. 1:14). Paul is precise about the clear focus that is needed around doctrine. What you believe will determine how you live. What you believe is what you teach. What you teach is how your people whom you shepherd and lead will live. A loose theology produces unnecessary shipwrecks that create casualties and many avoidable issues.
I am more than excited about the resurgence of robust theology love among young people. I love that most young people who I know are listening to three plus sermon podcasts a week. I am thrilled that most young people are buying Christian books by great authors. I praise God for this. People should be obsessed with Jesus. How could you not be? You killed Him and He saved you! This is such great news!
My sincere hope would be that we are enveloped with Jesus rather than with things that are about him. That we would be aggressively pursuing Jesus as God rather than Jesus as an idea. My prayer is that this knowledge that we have does not puff us up but rather stirs up humble hearts and humble servants. I pray that this resurgence will not be reversed in any way in the near future. I pray that we would be able to be faithful disciples who produce new disciples in this generation. I pray that we would continue to keep in a tight fist the close handed question and avoid any limp-wristed relativity. We are not just talking here about ourselves individually. We have to think about this new generation, collectively and corporately.
I want to close with this following passage that Paul wrote to the Ephesian church. I pray that it will speak into your heart and be embedded onto your mind:
“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:14-16).
Question: What other cautions/concerns would you provide for this current generation? What are some things that need to be carried forward from the past generation?