If you are like me, you pay close attention to the headlines these days. There is a lot that is going on in our world–political unrest among the nations, earthquakes, and court rulings that could affect the future of religious liberty. Things seem to be changing around us at an accelerated pace, and those of us who hold to biblical authority can feel a bit overwhelmed and discouraged. In my news feed today, the following headlines really caught my attention:
“Millennials leaving the church in droves, study says”
“Christians drop, ‘nones’ soar in new religion portrait”
“Is Christianity Dying?”
These findings are disturbing and should get our attention. How we respond as the church is important and is the challenge of our day. While I am very appreciative of those who do research and follow facts and trends, let me remind you that the sky is not falling, contrary to what you may have heard. Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). I believe that these findings merely reflect generations of non-discipleship in our churches. For years, we have not focused on making disciples, and now we are beginning to reap the consequences. We have done an excellent job at creating a consumer culture in the church, and if we would be honest, most church growth has been sheep who are trading in their older sheep pen for a newer model with a new car smell. Consumers will never embrace the mission of confronting their culture with the gospel. True disciples will, however.
What about these mysterious millennials that everyone seems to be talking about these days? What does it take to reach them? The same thing it takes to reach their parents and grandparents–the gospel. It has been my experience that younger generations of Christians are simply tired of business as usual in the church, and they long to see their lives count for something. They are not interested in the show; they are hungry for substance. The good news is that pastors and churches that recognize this can rise to the occasion. Instead of trying to be popular, faithful pastors must preach and teach the Bible and make disciples by investing in others. Practice the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2 which teaches us the value of entrusting the truth to some faithful men who will be able to teach others. These headlines only indicate that it is time for the church to knock the dust off of her Bibles, quit throwing money and personnel at ineffective programming, and once more call people to take up their cross and follow Christ in discipleship. God’s plan for reaching the world remains the same, and it involves sharing the gospel and making disciples.