The following post comes from David Virtue of virtueonline.org, an Anglican blog worth following. I highly recommend this post for your consideration and discussion. How do we offer Christ effectively in our time?
Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby Face Enormous Hurdles in a Post-Christian World
Can they succeed in reaching Millenials for Christ?
By David W. Virtue DD
December 27, 2013
By any standard, the challenge facing both Western Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church in the coming decade is how and who will reach Millenials for Jesus Christ.
With mainline Protestant denominations in the US and Canada aging and dying, and having played out liberal Protestantism to its logical conclusion – a total loss of transcendence and an attendant focus on social issues – a whole generation has been lost to the gospel.
Evangelicalism in America has become so vapid and lightweight it is little more than a sentimental repetition of Bible verses, bad “Christian” TV, and simplistic choruses that fail to touch the deepest roots of the angst that Millenials presumably feel when they are alone with nothing but their thoughts.
I know whereof I speak. I have a nephew who is an American None. He believes in nothing. No, he is not an angry atheist — that would take hard work. He is not even an agnostic, because that presumes he knows enough to care about what he does or does not believe. He is not a bad person. He abides by the law. He has never had so much as a speeding ticket. He is not a skeptic about religion. He is not against religion nor is he against Jesus. He quite simply sees no point in believing anything that does not touch him. Cajoling him about his need of a Savior doesn’t touch him. He has never taken drugs. He doesn’t drink. He has a job; he is not interested in marrying or having children. He simply exists from day to day, mindlessly going through life as though nothing really matters. He is probably depressed but denies it. He watches sports on a large TV screen with his friends, goes out on the town with his friends, and then, when they all get bored they go their separate ways. He can be induced into having sex with a girl but there is no sense of commitment to her or to marriage. He rents because he doesn’t want the angst of owning a house and paying a mortgage because he might lose his job and then lose the home. He has seen enough of his friends already getting divorced so he says he will never marry even though he is 38. He has no ticking clock because he never wants children. He works out to keep his body fit, but doesn’t know why. It fills in a few hours each week. He is alone and doesn’t care. He is the new American male.
He is not alone. I am told there are literally millions of American men like him. He is one of the reasons women are angry that they can’t find a husband, because men like my nephew won’t make a commitment to anything or anybody for very long.
I have also met better-educated Millenials with better paying jobs, but the mentality is just the same. They are not interested in committing themselves to a woman because they are now so wealthy that they fear losing it in the event of a divorce. Some of these men are nominal Catholics, but their faith means nothing. They go to church only when their parents insist, but it leaves them feeling empty. Secular Jews I meet are no different or better. They maybe smarter, more aggressive in business, but when it comes to religion they have none. If they observe the high holy days, it is at the insistence of parents, but for them, it means nothing. They too are Nones. To all intents and purposes God is dead. They are not even waiting for Godot…and so for Millenials, Christianity and Judaism are quite simply irrelevant. Some of them believe in something called “spirituality”, but they don’t really know what it means. They don’t believe in Oprah or Jesus, care little for politics, and could not care less if you are Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, or Baptist. They simply don’t care.
Let me be absolutely clear. Nones are not bad people. They don’t go around breaking the law; they hold down jobs; they save money; but they are committed to NOTHING spiritually. That is the tragedy.
What I want to know is: who and how is someone going to reach my nephew and the millions of other men (and women) like him for Christ? I have been praying for my nephew for more than a quarter of a century to no avail. I once told him I had been praying for him for over three decades and he simply said, “Well it hasn’t done much good has it?” He wasn’t mad or disappointed. It was simply an observation. He was not trying to hurt me. He just simply didn’t see the point.
I can tell you this. Billy Graham crusades won’t touch Millennials, neither will ALPHA courses. Mega churches won’t touch them, either. Bishops who wear pointy hats and clergy in collars leaves them unmoved. They are way too cynical for the health and wealth prosperity gospel they see and hear on TV. Islam sends them flying to the hills. Death and destruction on TV leaves them unmoved when it happens in real life. They have seen so much of it on television that it now leaves them cold. Watching Aleppo (in Syria) being bombed might just as well be a scene from a movie. For them, Jesus does not save. They don’t even know what the questions are.
The raw naked truth is that virtually nobody has a handle on reaching a generation of men and women who have no denominational loyalty, no sense of sin, no apparent fear of God, and no apparent real need of God or a savior.
If you think I exaggerate, go to any local bar and start talking to men and women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Ask them what makes them really tick. It might be money, it might be sex or sports, for a few it might be power. One thing it won’t be is fear of God, or judgment or eternity without Christ.
Enter two new religious leaders.
First on the scene is an evangelical Anglican, Archbishop Justin Welby, an ALPHA convert who came by it honestly through family tragedy. He is not a None. (Rowan Williams was staggeringly irrelevant not only to the Anglican Communion but to anyone without faith.) Welby really believes in Jesus. There is no doubt about his own personal conversion and, like St. Paul, he wants to spread the word. To date he has not been very successful. He is flip flopping on (homo)sexuality issues (most Nones really don’t care about what sexual preference you like or have) so he is coming across as weak and insecure.
Ninety percent of the British public could not care less about the Church of England and, if Archbishop George Carey is right, the CofE won’t be around in 25 years anyway. Disestablishment might hold off disintegration for a while, perhaps even jump start things, but don’t hold your breath. Death is in the air for the Church of England. You can smell it. Islam is quietly growing and become more insistent in its demands with each passing year in the British Isles. They will not be stopped. The whole homosexual enterprise and drive is nothing more than the bankrupt end of a dying decrepit church. Pansexuality saves no one and nothing.
Next on the scene is a Global South leader in the person of Pope Francis. To no one’s surprise, the election of Pope Francis was selected as the year’s No. 1 religion story by the journalists in the Religion Newswriters Association, with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI being the No. 2 story. Pope Francis was also named “Religion Newsmaker” of the Year.
This humble man has shown that he wants a church focused on mission, that keeps Catholic doctrine but with a renewed commitment to mercy and pastoral care for the poor, the powerless and those of little or no faith. He wants to build a church defined by its actions, not just by words, as one commentator noted. He lambastes the rich, feels for the poor, practices humility and will probably pick up a Nobel Prize for peace at least once in his life time.
Fair enough. But will that jump start Millenials who don’t give a damn about doctrine. They have heard, seen and been inundated with calls to give money to more organizations than you can swing a cat at. They have been solicited by organizations ranging from the Salvation Army to the ASPCA and everything in between and they are inured to it. Reaching out with a helping hand works for healthy seniors and retirees with money and time on their hands, but it won’t move Millenials.
For all his humility, honesty and love of the poor, admiration for this man will temper over time because the culture, already in free fall, will catch up with him and ultimately sideline him. Mainstream media will get bored with him. Pansexualists will rise up to call him homophobic because they will discover that he really hasn’t changed his or his church’s teaching on sexuality. They will quickly discard him.
There is no William Buckley with his cool Catholic intellectualness or a Cardinal Sheen capable of jumpstarting faith in Millenials waiting in the wings.
Orthodox Protestant soteriological differences with Rome won’t touch Millenials. That day is gone.
So the question must be asked, what will jump start Millenials in North America and Western Europe to faith in Jesus Christ?
There are seeds of hope. Small non-denominational storefront churches are reaching out to Millenials with some success, but they are few and far between. Pastors of these churches I talk to have to work through layers and layers of fundamentalism, fear, abuse, and rejection before they get to first base with the faith. The few they reach are drops in the bucket, but they are drops.
Christian therapists I talk to spend hours with Millenials untangling horror stories of faith once believed, then lost, and now hated.
Is revival possible? Can there be a revival without the ground work being laid first? Perhaps. Or is it, as one theologian wrote, “I am so weary of the tyranny of the gay lobby. I fully expect physical persecution from this quarter soon. What accounts for the sudden contagion in so many societies? It can’t be nature all of a sudden. It has to be a moral plague as a result of psychological susceptibility to Satanic suggestion exerted culturally with enormous persuasive force in a blind and godless world.”
But then he said something that scared me. “Divine restraint is being withdrawn [in the land] and horrible violence and inhumanity will inevitably ensue. Government and media and worthless celebrities are ensnared in the deceit. I tremble.” And so will Millenials. Perhaps then and only then will the fear of the Lord be the beginning of wisdom.