The Generation Gap

Posted on June 14, 2012

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As the succession gap of generations continues to grow between nominal Christians and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who’ve abandoned Christianity, it is now increasingly common for us to have visitors who have no idea what is going on in our service.

It’s not just that there are unfamiliar elements such as the corporate confession or creed, the entire service is entirely alien to them with literally no familiar elements except for the sermon, and even there its markedly different from anything they’ve experienced before, if they’ve ever experienced it at all, outside of a situation comedy or a funeral eulogy.

The expression on their faces is a little like what you’d expect of a Jewish family who had accidentally wandered into a Greek Orthodox church thinking it was a synagogue.

Rico Tice, cofounder of Christianity Explored, made the point at a recent workshop that there now exists four barriers between unbelievers and the gospel that must be overcome before you can even begin to preach Christ:

  1. Christianity is weird.
  2. Christianity is irrelevant.
  3. Christianity is just untrue.
  4. Christianity is homophobic.

Seeking to adapt to the widening gap repentance has become “O Lord my life is empty, fill me,” rather than the biblical gospel, “O Lord, I am your enemy, rescue me.” The cross becomes an example rather than a rescue. Worship becomes Opening Song, Greeting, Song, Song, Song, Offering, Videos (or skit), Sermon (with videos), Closing Song. Godly worship fades and the human-centered “contemporvent” is born.

Whether declining mainline, trendy emergent or evangelical, the logic of becoming more attractive to unbelievers ignores what Scripture says: There are no seekers. A spiritual person is no closer to God than someone who never gives God a second thought. All of us, without God’s mercy, deliberately suppresses the truth about God. As generation of unbeliever succeeds unbeliever and the vestiges of Christianity are lost, what common ground is left to attract except that of popular culture or human-centered need?

Evangelism must be initiated by one-to-one discussion and guided through reading the gospel narrative, then reiterated in small group and preached from the front in sermon. The days of “just bring ’em in” and let the worship service do the rest are gone. It worked for a generation but the gap is widening every year. All we are left with is more bland, got-to-be-happy-or-else motivational rallies.