For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. [1Co 9:19-23 ESV]
We must be learners continually. “Learners are prepared for the future, the learned are prepared for a world that doesn’t exist any longer,” says Hans Finzel. In 1980, 66% of teenagers indicated that church would play a large part of their lives. In 2010, 33% of teenagers indicate that church will play any part in their lives. In spite of all the so-called “mega-churches” in America, there is not one county in all of the United States that has a greater churched population than it did 10 years ago. In 1991, the number of evangelicals in Asia surpassed the number of evangelicals in the whole of the western world and the gap is increasing exponentially. In 1920, there were 27 churches for every 10,000 Americans. Today there are fewer than 10 churches per 10,000 Americans. The institutional Christian church is dying. It has become disconnected and irrelevant to a generation of 35 yr. olds and younger. This generation has grown up, informed and educated, in a technologically-defined world. It is possible to watch an event around the world, as it is happening, talk or text immediately to anyone around the world and overthrow governments through social media. The arts are important to this generation. They are enamored with creativity and diversity. As a matter of fact, literature abounds, theatre is strong and their music is diverse, complex and seriously misunderstood by some of us old folks. Jesus stepped out of heaven into our situation. He made the incredible effort to get to us where we are, identify with our struggles, pains and confusion. He appealed to us at a very real and understanding level. Making Himself of no reputation, coming in the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:7) Though He was willing and obedient, His “body” (the church) is not so willing to lay aside self-interest, preferences and traditions while the last two generations are becoming so disconnected from Church they do not know Noah or Daniel. They cannot find Genesis in a borrowed Bible and seriously misunderstand a misrepresented Jesus and His love for them. I have little patience for undue criticism that blasts their music, dress, body piercings, tattoos or lack of interest in politics and the things of God or education, especially from anyone that makes no effort to understand. This generation is defined by broken homes and a morally destitute culture delivered to them by our generation. They have been taught that truth is relative, abortion is ok, marriage is optional and God is out there somewhere if he even exists. Evolution is the accepted science of the elite and any other position is non-sense, making the Bible irrelevant, if not a joke. Societal and religious leaders have proven to be people with no integrity who are not willing to work hard for a cause bigger than self. This generation has few examples of those who are willing to press through all the “stuff” to help with the problem. All too often, our efforts to worship and reach the disaffected are answering questions that no one is asking and fixing problems that few are experiencing. We throw the Gospel at them. We should be carrying it to them. Our labor of love to flesh out the Gospel will help to dispel cynicism and confusion. The average age of many churches around us is creeping up year upon year. It is becoming increasingly difficult to retain a younger generation. They recognize their needs are not being addressed or even acknowledged. Leadership and an older generation must become informed, concerned and creative in reaching an inquisitive generation. Christ has promised they will be reached. My desire is that He would do it through us and the ministry of the local church. Let’s be learners and not the learned.