Thanks to Team Pyro I read through an article on the coming collapse of evangelicalism. There is much truth there but also a lot of pessimism. I still hold out hope that the picture will not come to pass with that much failure.
Two things from the article and where it intersects with myself.
We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.
I do not question this in the slightest. The failure I see here has come from the home, though. It has come through disengaged parents who bought into the concept that children need to be given the freedom to choose their own path, with regards to their faith. There is a difference between giving your child the freedom to inquire and question, and refusing to teach your child the truth. If you let your own faith in Jesus just be “an option” to your child, you are doing not just a disservice, but you are blindfolding that child and pushing him into a furnace. He may find his way back out the door before he burns to a cinder, but the odds aren’t good. If Jesus isn’t the way, the truth and the life for your child, then how can you claim he is yours?
After thinking about what I wrote, maybe I can blame the church after all. The church failed to teach parents to disciple their kids. That is a failure of the church. They failed to communicate to parents the essentiality of passing on their faith to their children – to “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut 11:18-19). How could we miss teaching this to parents? How did we allow parents to abdicate their roles as their family’s spiritual leaders?
I myself am a product of that. I am 34 years old and only recently have I really begun to be equipped to really share with someone that faith that I have. Only recently have I begun to understand why church isn’t just an option for a Sunday morning. Only recently have I really begun to realize that the Bible isn’t just something to read, but it is LIFE. What have all these realizations done? They have spurred me to live my faith in a way that others might call vocationally, but dang it, we ALL need to be living this way! Our church isn’t can’t be just a few leaders actually following God and the rest just following the leaders. We need to grasp hold of the treasure we have been given!
A third point – the phrase “…a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it.” Take out the young part. It is the young and old who have fallen into this trap of relying on their emotions as their guide instead of their will. Through many many books, lessons, and sermons, I have been convinced that love and marriage is not about “falling for someone” and then living in that passion for the rest of your days. Deciding to marry on that basis is folly and the reason why marriages are failing left, right and centre. Ever since culture accepted the premise of emotion as the basis for marriage, marriages have been falling apart. The truth is that love is a choice. Entering into marriage with a decision and not an emotion lends stability to the marriage, and insulates it against the ebb and flow of emotion, which is fickle and we all know it.
We’ve taught this and I think that most people in the church get that. But what many, especially the young, but also those who perhaps have experienced major spiritual and emotional highs with their faith, have fallen into this exact same trap with regards to their faith. Faith is a decision that is not based on emotion, not based on an act of God. It is based upon your deciding to believe in the cross, in Jesus’ atonement, death and resurrection, and all that comes from that. If you base your faith in even small part upon the experience of God, or of emotion related to God, then when that goes, you conclude your faith is gone, or diminished somehow. That means when you do something “spiritual” like praying or singing a worship song and don’t feel anything, you question whether it is all fake because the emotion isn’t there. How fragile is that? Where is the bedrock of your faith? If it is an emotion, then it is here and gone like a breath. That is not the faith that the Bible describes. When the Bible speaks of faith, it speaks of a volitional decision. “…As for me and my house, we WILL serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:15b) Our Lord gave us all a choice – that was why he made us – so that we could choose to love and serve him. If our choice is based on how we feel then there is nothing to keep it from blowing away.
I’ve gone on pretty long here. I’ll save the other piece of the article for later.