My mother-in-law sent me this article in which the former Archbishop of Canterbury warns that Christianity could be only a generation away from extinction. He says that British churches must have a breakthrough in reaching young people, most of whom greet the church with “rolled eyes and a yawn of boredom.”
Truthfully, in the U.S. we started long ago trying to reach young people, to become “relevant” to their lives, only to end up seeming more and more irrelevant the harder we tried. The yawns of boredom continued. I can’t speak for the U.K., but over here in the good ole U.S. of A we started watering down our teaching. We started trying to eliminate certain “offensive” words from our churches’ vocabularies. We thought if we stopped talking about sin and hell and the cross and the blood and all that unpleasantness that young people would find church more appealing.
So, we turned church into a feel-good place. We wanted people to be on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next family movie night or the next addition to the nursery wing. We turned Christianity into a boring religion. We made the Gospel look all sweet and pretty and pulled all of the ferocious teeth out of it. And we were left with a faith with no grit, no power, and very little truth.
We wanted the church to be comfortable. We didn’t want this faith to ask anything of people. We wanted to present the Gospel as if it will solve your problems. We didn’t want to talk about the sacrifices involved or about dying to self or about giving up everything you are.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t a self-help guide. It’s an daring challenge. Deciding to follow Christ is the bravest decision you will ever make. It’s not a call to becoming a better citizen (although it will make you one). Jesus said that following Him is carrying a cross of crucifixion on your back. It is agreeing that the world will hate you. It is deciding that you are willing to lay your life down for your friends. It is signing up to be different, to oppose what the world thinks is right but the Bible says is wrong. Choosing to believe Jesus is choosing a steep, uphill, rocky climb with a cross on your shoulders, giving up a life of comfort and ease and emptiness for an abundant life filled with joy, and, yes, lots of sacrifice.
If young people think the Gospel is boring, then we are doing a poor job of presenting the Gospel. Because the true Gospel of this man, this God Jesus is the most exciting thing that ever happened to this planet. Living for the glory of the God of the Universe is never dull. Being personally acquainted with God isn’t yawn-inducing. On the contrary! It is life-giving. It keeps you alert and excited by the thrilling wait to see what He will do next in your life and in this world.
I’m not saying that there are never times in the Christian life that feel like drudgery. The steep uphill climbs can seem to last awhile. But, we have a traveling companion like no other. And He helps to smooth the rough places. He calls us to a life of adventure. We can take risks for His sake because He promised He would never leave or forsake us.
So, when you’re a Christian, even if you never leave the same small town, you have chosen a courageous and valiant and true way to live. Personally, I see our churches in America getting back to that type of teaching. We are finally realizing that young people aren’t looking for an easy religion. They are looking for Truth that requires sacrifice. They’re looking for a faith that calls them to be more, to do more, to give up everything. They’re looking for the chance to say yes to a life not of ease and comfort, but of deep meaning and purpose.
Life: personally acquainted with the God of Heaven, letting go of an inferior version of yourself, choosing to live for a bigger purpose no matter the cost, going wherever He leads even when it’s terrifying. This sure doesn’t sound like a boring Gospel to me.
In fact, I’m on the edge of my seat.