Hope for Christianity Coming from the Next Christians

Gabe Lyons has written a very insightful article for CNN.com entitled, “Young Christians optimistic despite Christian America’s demise.” He writes,

“While some megachurches are flourishing in suburban Christian enclaves, the number of self-identifying Christians has fallen 10 points over as many years. Each year, the Christian church experiences a net loss in attendees and the waning political influence of the movement is now more than apparent.”

This decline in the number of Christians and churches is alarming to most evangelicals. The response by many (what Lyons calls the “old guard evangelicals”) is to engage in the culture war, some going so far as to claim that America was founded as a Christian nation and that we need to reestablish our Christian heritage.

Instead of looking backward to some mythical past, Lyons advocates looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead. He writes, “But young Christians, it turns out, are far more optimistic about what the future might hold for the two-thousand-year-old faith.”

“Over the last several years, I’ve conducted hundreds of focus groups, interviews, and gatherings of young Christian leaders. I have tracked and compiled a list of their common characteristics—from the desire to create good cultural artifacts to a strong sense of calling—and these leaders’ optimistic outlook on the future has steamrolled me.”

Lyons gives a few real-life examples of the good work that the “Next Christians” are doing that are helping make Christianity a viable cultural phenomenon in our day. Then he states,

“Rather than strive for relevance or some amorphous ‘cool’ factor, they simply set out to accomplish good for the sake of the Christian Gospel. The only thing pragmatic about them is the way they try to solve pressing problems.

Additionally, they are far less interested in partisan politics. We are seeing more diversity in the ways young Christians define themselves politically, if they choose to do so at all. For example, when given the choice between ‘traditionalist / conservative,’ ‘centrist,’ or ‘modernist / progressive,’ almost all choose ‘centrist.’  In order to solve problems and make progress, young Christians are finding they often have to reach across party lines and work issue by issue.”

As I work with young Christians in my ministry, I have to give an exuberant “yes” to what Lyons is discovering about the Next Christians:

“As I’ve studied the next Christians, it’s apparent that they have a particular way of thinking, being, and doing that is radically different from previous generations. They are purposeful in choosing their careers, optimistic about changing social problems, and eager to infuse the world with beauty and grace.

‘Christian America’ as we’ve known it is no doubt coming to an abrupt close, and the jury is out on how the next generation of Christians will shape public perceptions or solve pressing global concerns. Only time will tell, but if you ask them, they’d tell you the future is bright.”

How purposeful are you in choosing your career?

How optimistic are you about our ability to be change agents of unjust and systemic social problems?

How eager are you to take up the mantle of “image bearer” and create as our God creates with beauty and grace?



caucazhin said...

If Mark Driscoll, Greg Boyd and the " emerging church" are examples of this then the church is sinking even deeper into the mire in my opinion.
And how much brass should we polish on the TITANIC. I think Paul gives us clear examples throughout his letters. Jesus didnt come to save the world he came to save those out of the world. " Be not of the world "

Bob Robinson said...

Your analogy of comparing God's good creation with the Titanic falls woefully short. God created this amazing place, and God actually became incarnate ("Oh my! How could God put on human flesh, how scandalous!," says the Gnostics). Paul clearly teaches in Romans 8:19-22 that "the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."

This is no sinking ship. It is God's Creation, and he wants to restore it.

You've done a classic hermeneutical error, which is called "Illegitimate Totality Transfer." You've taken one definition of "World" and have transfered that meaning into every time that word appears in Scripture. But, in fact there are three different meanings in the Bible for the word "WORLD."
1. The physical creation which is glorious because God created it. (Psalm 19:1)
2. The people who live in the world, all of whom God sees with great value. (John 3:16-17)
3. The system of human society organized apart from God and operating at cross-purposes to him. (1 John 2)

You assume that definition 3 trumps the other two, but that is bad biblical hermeneutics.

Your User Profile says that you are in the "ARTS." Why? What good is art if it is of the world? Does this not demean your calling if this were true?

caucazhin said...

You and I went through this before on an old post of yours when we rallied back and forth about gnisticism & " the flesh" and how Jesus became "sinful flesh " because all flesh is corrupt thats why " the creation groans "..
But thats not really here nor there in this argument what I meant when I say "the world as the Titanic" is the worlds political systems & ungodly culture....
In other words if we think we can reform and " Christianize the world" we are very misguided...
I hope that clears things up....PEACE

Bob Robinson said...

Yes, thanks!
Have a great Christmas!