The strength of Western Christianity is wearing thin. Millions of young Christians are either leaving or living beyond the essentials of faith, and who can blame them? The life of faith modeled to them might be characterized as weak, distracted, compromised, and hypocritical.
The McDonalidization of the church feeds on the consumeristic and materialistic idolatry of our culture. Statistically, many cultural values that should identify Christ-followers from non-followers are undifferentiable. Much of this derives from our media, our public and post-secondary educational system, and smartphone technologies resulting in a cultural war on Biblical values. These forces leave us with a generation lost in the post-modern ethos of despair where the flailing of anxiety and depression replace the security of a connection to an authoritative, loving, eternal Truth.
Before we digress to the wholesomeness of yesteryear, let’s be honest about some of the pathologies in the stereotypical church and family. Leaders in all sectors have fallen into immorality, greed, and abuse of power before our eyes. It is true that in a simpler age of assumed values, raising children was easier. I taught my children “what” to think; they need to teach their children “how” to think. Relying on old assumptions and contracting out discipleship will lead to a further demise of young faith.
Which is more difficult to swallow – the idealistic nuclear family hiding hypocrisies and dysfunction, or the openly rebellious though authentic generation deconstructing faith into Christian Humanism or Bhudism at best or militant Atheism at worst?
The past ten years of working among those in the Millennial and Gen Z generations have opened my eyes to potentially the greatest missionally equipped generation in my lifetime. As in any era, these people bring attractive qualities. The progressive nature in which many of my colleagues see the world serves to challenge my assumptions and reflect on my way forward in the world in which I live. Daily, I see exhibited values for authenticity, community, justice, and mercy. Given these great missionary qualities, why are we not seeing the next great wave of young people mobilized to a hurting and needy world?
The strength of my generation was a work ethic and an assumed Biblical worldview strong enough to push through in spite of unspoken deficiencies of mental wellness and life’s dirty debris swept under the rug. We grew up with assumptions of right or wrong, true or false. The current generation suffers from the various maladies resulting from a screen between them and meaningful relationships; fear, anxiety, and depression born of a lifetime of coddling; and a post-modern worldview that results in total relativism. These significant challenges send our young adults away from faith and church in droves. More than 1,000,000 young people per year leave the church.
To equip the remnant, we, the older generation, need to empathize with where they find themselves. The treatment looks like bringing peers together under multi-generational mentorship to search for truth in a world that has lost its way. While every institution defends itself against deconstruction, we instead need to rebuild a Biblical worldview through the lens of a new generation. We need to validate the fears, depressions, and anxieties rather than judge them. We need to speak truth to feelings. We ourselves need transformation and growth as we invest in the healing and development of a new generation. We need to give each other time to reflect, rebuild, and reestablish the foundations required to go out and minister in a hurting world.