Earlier this week, I signed up for an experimental online bible study. The organizers were looking for gentlemen across the nation between the ages of twenty and fifty. It was quite a shock to me, then, to receive an email saying that they couldn’t find enough interest to organize a men’s group! I found the notion ridiculous. Just tonight, I attended a bible study with ten men in their prime, and this was apart from the separate all-men’s bible study in the same building! How could one organization excel so well while another organization falls so short? I figured that I’d put my thoughts to text on evangelism with my generation and younger.
Before I begin, I’d like to address first some armchair criticism from the Christians on the sidelines. “We have to find a way to reach the young folk.” “Young people just don’t attend church anymore!” “The younger generations today are so lost in sin.” Be that as it may, I’m not going to blame those who don’t know Christ for not knowing Christ. We live by different rules because we were given a ruleset, not because of anything we did. Somebody out there has to teach them Christ, show them Christ. By separating yourself from “the younger generations,” you are discouraging them from ever crossing that gap. I know I wouldn’t want to add a set of rules to my life if I thought them to be pointless.
I’d start by saying that my generation is surprisingly adept at handling what they consider to be fake. About a year ago, I was listening to a podcast with my dad. As soon as the podcast started a read for an advertisement, I moved the podcast forward to almost to the exact moment the read ended. I am not alone. Advertisements just don’t work on my generation. We are suspicious of any proposition; we engage in the things we want to do, when we want to do them.
I’d also comment that fun and free stuff doesn’t cut it. There are dozens of free online multiplayer games. Each one of them is more fun from the outside than weekly attendance to read a chapter of a book, maybe including written homework, no matter how much you spruce it up. On paper, my generation might seem poor, but we are certainly well off enough to eat whatever we want whenever we want. Free pizza has a cost, and three hours of a reading is not worth it. If I might denote, the preconception that someone who wouldn’t come otherwise will come for a few slices of cheap pizza… well, reverse the situation, with your current preferences, and see how you feel. Bring free stuff if you want to be nice or if you want to retain an audience; just don’t make it a selling point. How then can you attract an audience that has everything it could ever want?
Someone who has lived their entire life on fast food will value an uncooked stalk of broccoli for its novelty. A couch potato will remember a walk through the park more than a daily runner. Quick, flashy entertainment lacks purpose, and my generation craves it. Why do you think political movements attract so many? They need something they think is real in the chaos of life. So, let’s apply that. Why do we have these rules and traditions? Because they make us better people. Why do we go to church every Sunday, and to a Bible study every week? Because rigidity and dedication is important. Why do you abstain from all these things you call sin? Because we are protecting our life and by proxy our community and society from falling into disorganization. We are not a book club. We are an army, and we act like one.
The concept is not well thought out yet. I don’t expect it to be; there are so few who understand this, let alone promote it. It requires a different mindset, and years of perfection and improvement. Still, it is a way out of the apparent death spiral in which the Western church has found itself. It will require hard work and discipline, but God has not abandoned us.