Erwin Lutzer doesn’t think that a two-hour Sunday morning church service will do it. The question is, is it worth the effort to live out Christ 24 hours a day on one hand, or be a Christian couch potato on the other. Living out Christ 24 hours a day is hard. It demands discipline, prayer, witness, study, confrontation (Acts 17:16f). Since the “being” of life involves theology, philosophy, ethics, biology, etc. it demands we follow Christ in these areas. But then this is exactly what the Bible teaches.
Lutzer noted that the early church rejected all forms of syncretism because they were convinced that Jesus alone was God and the only way of salvation. Colossians firmly stresses this truth. Thus, as with the early church, so the church must not tolerate the syncretism of our day. We can tolerate genuine pluralism, the idea that the religions of the world can peacefully co-exist, but not syncretism, the idea that the beliefs of various religions can be mindlessly combined. Our society today wants a tolerance that mindlessly accepts all beliefs. This kind of tolerance is unacceptable to the Bible-believing Christian, or at least, it should be.
The 20th Century has witnessed remarkable changes in family structures and dynamics in Western Europe and North America: smaller household sizes, a further shift from extended to nuclear families, a decrease in nuptiality and an increase in separation or divorce, the appearance of new forms of unions such as unmarried cohabitation and living-apart-together, changing gender and intergenerational relations, and, last but not least, a substantial decrease in fertility, often to below-replacement levels.
Kevin Graham Ford, the nephew of Franklin Graham, born in 1965, wrote a book called, Jesus for a New Generation. Here are some of his thoughts.
- The 1970s witnessed churches surging with newly saved twenty-somethings who reinvigorated the church. Unfortunately, the opposite is occurring today. There is a generation missing in many of our churches commonly referred to as Generation X—a generation born between 1961–1981. Gen X represents approximately a third of the U.S. population. These young people are impossible to ignore as they move through society at 93 million strong.
- Media saturation and short attention spans are not the only consequences of the communications transformation. By age sixteen, the typical Generation Xer has witnessed thirty-three thousand murders on TV and in the movies. With all these repetitive images of violence, it’s not surprising that they often see the world as a hostile, dangerous place. Paradoxically, their preoccupation with the media comes in part from a longing for family and human connection. As one Generation Xer puts it, “While Mom and Dad were out working or finding themselves, or in court suing each other for our custody and support payments, TV became our surrogate parent.”
- Another area in which older and younger generations frequently differ is in
the preference of the first-generation members for a monocultural setting,
while the younger generations often feel restricted by such rigid
- “My generation is so inundated with information that we don’t know what is truth anymore, we suffer from information overload. We see the political ads on TV, and we are confused…. We don’t know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. So we vote for the one with the most attractive image.”
- Young people face an uncertain economic future. Contrary to the widely held belief that youth is the best time of one’s life, young people now constitute one of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in the entire population. As we have moved from an industrial to a post-industrial economy over the past several decades, young people have become disenfranchised. We have told youth that they need education, and they do, but the fact of the matter is that today’s youth live in an educationally inflated world. Numerous jobs that once required only a high school education now require a university education, even though the jobs are virtually the same. We educate our children more than we did in the past, and still many youth only see for themselves rather dismal prospects for the future: part-time jobs, poor pay, and competition in a global economy where unpredictable market shifts directly affect opportunities.
- Any society’s survival depends on fellowship and community. The apostle Paul has admonished us, “Let us not give up meeting together,…but let us encourage one another…” (Heb. 10:25 NIV). Fellowship gives a sense of belonging. When church members lose that fellowship and community, they go elsewhere to find it.
- Gen X reacts abhorrently to religious dogmatism. Tolerance, a lenient disposition toward other people’s convictions and practices, embodies this generation’s highest virtue. They aspire a life filled with cultural and relational diversity.
- The issue of worship is one of the most divisive in most churches. The older generations want well known hymns, solemnly sung to organ accompaniment. The younger generations want medleys of repetitive, new choruses led by electric guitars, keyboards and drums. The younger generations prefer a more intimate worship style, with songs that speak to God. The Boomers enjoy lively, loud worship that celebrates God. The older generations prefer to sing formally, about God. Multi-generational churches need to work hard to have something for everyone. The focus needs to be on quality and sensitivity, ensuring a mix of styles, with a blend of old and new. There also needs to be teaching on tolerance and diversity.
- The gospel of hospitality encompasses the cross; it just doesn’t start there. It’s the good news that you’re unconditionally loved not because your sins are forgiven but because mine are; it’s the good news that you’re worth something not because Christ died for you but because he died for me; it’s the good news that there’s joy and meaning not because God accepts you but because God has accepted me. It invites young people to bring their pains, failures, and insecurities to a place where they’re unconditionally accepted and, over time, brought to understand sin and forgiveness. Jesus invited Judas and Peter knowing what was in their hearts, and both men ultimately understood their failures. Hospitality has a way of softening the calcified barriers to the heart.
- We must honestly maintain an evangelistic focus. The ultimate goal is conversion, to lead new people into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and introduce them to the community of forgiven sinners. While maintaining a holistic approach, allowing all kinds of initiatives and ideas that may communicate God’s love the core content of the message must never be diluted.