In an earlier post, I wrote of the generation, my generation, of Baby Boomers who by and large in raising our children either abdicated or ignored the teaching of defined cultural, social and societal distinctions that we were once taught by our parents: the “Elder Generation”. So if we find it difficult to understand or even accept that our children are not really like us at all, it’s because of our lack of understanding of who they really are. There are a number of features we might enumerate that define “Generation X” and the “Millennials”. (Almost sounds like a rock group doesn’t it?) The most troubling, insidious and pervasive distinction however, is the evident and declared absence of any religious affiliation or association with the God of the Bible, or more particularly in Christianity. In fact, the data show that fully 30% of adolescents surveyed have no beliefs at all… in anything.
Very well, some may say, if we ourselves had no serious, deep spiritual convictions – the sort that form and temper solid convictions about life, and its meaning including the possibility of an eternal life then the result of those missing lessons and modeling of how to live spiritually for our children should not surprise us. In the interest of fairness, perhaps we can’t be completely faulted for concentrating on our careers or higher education for better careers; how we acquire things and the satisfaction they can bring. But if this was our chief aim, how then can we possibly be surprised to learn Junior (or Princess) rejects even the notion of spiritual and religious significance? And so with no solid foundational beliefs their generation has even begun to question their very future. visit Valueoptions.com
For the most part we gave the job of training up our children in the ways they should go to the Sowers of the Wind: the student radicals, feminists, protestors and assorted social and cultural firebrands of the Boomer generation in the 60’s and early 70’s who in turn became our children’s teachers, lawyers, politicians and media mavens. They have become the cultural and societal influencers. These same influencers are our brothers or sisters, friends and neighbors I might add. Did we really think these rebels just went away? Did we really believe our unbelief would somehow become believable for our sons and daughters? It’s said that elections have consequences. That’s certainly true, because the loss of cultural anchoring has consequences for voters. How is it possible we as Christians can expect anything different as a consequence?
Is there a connection between cultural meltdown and the pulpit?
If our congregants and parishioners have merely lived their lives as “Cultural Christians”, our children and certainly our children’s children will be much less likely to consider the relevance of anything Christ-like (or Platonic or even Aristotelian for that matter) much less in terms of concrete Biblical injunctions. If for whatever reason we think things are bad now we may rest assured the current trend looks particularly grim. Whatever the measure of our faith, it is now being – and certainly will be – severely tested. Indeed, if we do not take our belief seriously enough to engage in the cultural issues of our times that are eroding our values, then the erosion will ultimately lead to abandonment of faith altogether, and we will be swept into the current of current events and ultimately drown. This isn’t just my opinion based on assumption either. We would do well to read the research, read the scriptures and pray that God will inspire and encourage us to lead the way. “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” Col. 2:4
In a recently released survey as reported initially at onenewsnow.com, George Barna of The Barna Group revealed some pretty sobering statistics he is compiling for American Culture and Faith Institute. This institute has been studying where theologically conservative pastors are politically.
From this survey Barna has concluded and is quoted as saying 90% of 2,935 pastors surveyed acknowledged: “Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues” referring to the challenges posed by homosexuality, abortion, drug addiction, poverty, the loss of liberty and a host of other contemporary issues that assault our culture. The same survey however revealed that less than 10% are actually determined to teach what the Bible says about these very same issues. And when asked of the number of pastor’s willing to get their people active in the political process, Barna said, “It’s next to nothing.” He then goes on to say, “So the thing that struck me has been that when we talk about the separation of church and state, it’s that churches have separated themselves from the activities of the state – and that’s to the detriment of the state and its people.” This same survey also revealed five factors these pastors claimed demonstrated success:
Number of programs
Number of staff
It is true that these are factors for measuring success, but when I explore scripture, I simply find no evidence that Jesus died on the cross for any of these reasons. Could this possibly be at least part of the explanation for why we are not impacting the culture more than we are?
Do not mistake what you are reading as a rebuke – it’s not
But let me declare emphatically: The purpose of writing such a post as this is certainly not to discourage anyone, much less lecture those called by God to pastor, but quite the opposite. This alliance of leaders and laity has a determined passion for encouragement and assistance, and yes, inspiration.
Whatever we may think will happen in the future is still in the hands of God, that much is certain. It’s neither our agenda nor our efforts that determine how and when God will bring this age to a conclusion. Moreover, based on my personal experience at least, He tends to surprise and delight as well as convict. As believers, we should know this. But it is our spiritual mandate to truly be the salt and a light in a very dark and dying world. I believe the only effective safeguard to the corrosive effects of pervasive secularism is the changing of our hearts and the renewing of our minds; and then to go and make disciples. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. – Isaiah 1:18. Our God is a reasonable God. He wants us arrive at our own conclusions – so available is the logic of it all.
So here then is our challenge: To offer meaning. To offer Truth. To offer what we know of life and the hope of life. When we offer Jesus, we offer all that. And all that is all that is needed.
It’s quite possible, indeed likely that what we preach from the pulpit will not always be popular. Not everything Jesus said was popular either – certainly not to the Pharisees, the “legalists” and those who denied His authority and His divinity. Since we are often not popular anyway, why not give our detractors a real reason for their discomfort? I have begun to make a habit of saying, ‘If I’m going to be arrested for my faith in Jesus, I want the charges to stick’.
At Shenandoah Christian Alliance, this should be our scripture verse that inspires, encourages and shapes our every effort: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” II Cor.10:5
You might want to take the time to visit American Culture and Faith and review the statistics and survey results this organization is publishing. It will be encouraging for many of you to see and read how conservative pastors approach the forum of cultural ideas affecting our nation today with clear, defined and strongly held beliefs and principles. Moreover it’s a good way to compare and contrast how others in the culture we live in view these same issues.
We cannot expect anyone, certainly America’s emerging adults to develop proper determination if all we are taught is some form of determinism based on political and materialistic metrics. Absent the presence of taught and modeled motivation based on sound Biblical injunctions for life, including liberty and justice, the value of life and the possibility of life beyond the immediate is out of reach for emerging adults. The result is a life-long sense of hopelessness; the loss of meaning. This is a dreadful legacy.
Prayerfully consider how politics, culture and faith are not so easily separated and why they really shouldn’t be. There is a way to subvert the subversion of God’s creation and His order. But are we guilty of separating the Church from the state? It would be helpful to remind ourselves we don’t go to church, we are the Church. As American citizens, we have as much right as anyone to speak out on the issues and be the influence we are meant to be.
Remember this – it’s more than just an expression of wishful thinking: It’s not too late.
When pastors and teachers have the support and encouragement of everyone in their flock, and all are operating in proper sync, we will be informed, equipped and inspired to bring the hope to the nations, and America will reinstate herself in her rightful place as a nation blessed by God. But the time to speak out on the issues with conviction – with meaning – is now.
May God richly bless us all.