This is an early preview of my Crosswalk Column for next week:
If I had a dollar for every Debbie Downer book on the American church, I’d make Warren Buffet look like a poverty-stricken college freshman.
It seems every single day, Christian pollsters, pastors, authors, and just ordinary folks are telling us that the American church is basically fat, lazy, and doesn’t care. And if we don’t do certain things (the seven points in their book), the church will cease to exist.
But I don’t see it. In fact, I’m excited about the next generation of believers, especially among the young people I see.
I just had the privilege of attending a conference where hundreds of people were getting instruction on how to creatively communicate the Gospel to this generation. I was amazed at the new and different ministries and the stories of people, around the world, who are coming to faith in Christ.
I’ve had the chance to interact with many teen authors, bloggers, and ministry leaders across the country. I’m moved by the passion and fire I see. I’m moved by their willingness to want to reach their worlds for Jesus.
Sure, there are a lot of problems with American Christianity. There is a certain level of shallowness. Some evangelicals seem okay with dangerous levels of compromise. And yet, at the same time, I see a great boldness, a rough-and-ready authenticity. Recently I talked with several leaders of youth organizations who told me of the scores of young people coming to faith.
Here is one thing I know. God’s church will endure. Not because of our clever marketing ideas. Not because this generation is more powerful or more holy than the last. Not because of the latest and greatest methods.
God’s church will endure because our future doesn’t depend on us. It depends on God. Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16 that “the gates of hell” will not prevail against His church.
So no cultural shift. No terrible trends. No human indifference is more powerful than God.
Furthermore, while criticism is good and discernment is biblical, sometimes I think we’d rather trash the Church, because it’s a convenient target. Throw together some questionable stats, throw in a quote or two by a guy from the 1800’s, share an anecdote about a failing Christian and you have a narrative that the Church, as you know it, is headed for certain death.
It’s much more difficult to actually look inward. To continually examine our own flaws in our own lives.
What we need in the church is robust Bible preaching, strong leadership, but also encouragement and hope. Rather than bashing Christ’s body, let’s edify it. Instead of bemoaning all the sorry Christians we think exist, why not find those who are doing it right and find hope in their futures?
Because I don’t know exactly what the church will look like in 100 years, but I do know this. The Church will exist and be strong.
Don’t take my word for it. Take the words of Jesus.