Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Christianiy is not Reaching the Hearts and Minds of Today's Youth.

For the first time in the history of the Western World there is a generation of young people not moved by the preaching of the Old Time Gospel. Frankly, they are simply not interested and could not care less.
This is not to say that many young people are not attending churches, but for the first time in the Western history there are millions of young people who have never been inside a church building, have never had any associated with a religious youth group and are not familiar with Bible characters like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-ndigo.Even the youths who do go to church on a regular basis ( meaning at least once each week) have never heard the Biblical story of king Solomon's threat to take his royal sword and sever the tiny body of an innocent baby giving half of the child to each of two women, each of whom was claiming to be the infant's mother.(1 Kings 3:16 -27).
But why this waning interest in the "Old Time Religion" which the grandmothers of these young boys and girls once lustily sang was "good enough" for them?
What has changed?
Why has Christianity ( in the islands of the Caribbean for example) lost so much of its impact?
Western-style Christianity is no longer reaching the hearts, minds and emotions of the young generation simply because its method of delivery and its very core-story are deemed as being no longer relevant to today's youths.
The church is behind the times. Most of its ministers still do not know how to copy and paste on a computer,this is significant because it symbolizes the inability of too many ministers to communicate effectively with the younger generation, and it is also witnessed in church having a church leadership that is prepared to swear by the effectiveness of the open-air service ( a type of street meeting dating back to the days of Charles Wesley and John Calvin).
The open-air service itself is not the problem; the problem is that the churches still practice the very same methods used by the missionaries who came to the Caribbean on boats and drove around in Volkswagen; they still use the method of: two "hot" testimonies from Sister Paula and Brother Peters, a solo from the Blake Sisters and then the inevitable sermon by Pastor Paulson who bellows for an hour or so about the cruel, bloody death of Jesus on the cross. He then pleads with "sinners" to come forward as the gathered congregation a-back of him sings "Just as I am without one plea" in as mournful a tone as they are able to muster after standing for so long.
There is only one difference between what Pastor Olson has done and what Charles Wesley, Surgeon and Graham did.
No penitent "sinner" is coming forward.
The story of a dying Jesus, suffering for the sins of humanity once drew extremely tearful responses from those who heard those preachers of the past. Millions rushed to the "mourners bench"( the altar) confessing that they were the cause of the suffering of their Lord because, though they had rejected him for so long, they were sorry for causing him so much suffering, were begging him to forgive them for not recognizing how much pain they had caused him, pleaded with him to enter their hearts and change their wicked ways.
This is not taking place today, but why?
Young people are no longer emotionally moved by what they most likely see as a half-naked man languishing on a cross; had it not been for the story of Jesus preached by puritan ministers, many Westerners would not even know what a cross was and what was its purpose.It is no longer possible to easily convince young people that Jesus died because of their wrong doing. As far as they are concerned, even if Jesus did actually die on a cross, it happened an inordinately long time ago, long before they were born. This generation of young people is incapable of relating to times so far removed from theirs. This is a generation weaned on immediacy, and as such see far more relevance in looking forward than looking back, and particularly looking back more than two thousand years to make any connection to their contemporary significance. They do not care about a man who did not even speak their language, screaming bloodied from a wooden cross, surrounded by men dressed in metal-skirts while holding crude first-century spears in their hands.
This generation does not care, not because it is hardhearted and lost, but because it is unable to. They are not moved by such images and cannot be. Today's generation is not going to be drawn to the church and its salvation message by the story of Calvary; they don't even know what Calvary is.
The image of a Jesus whose back is ripped to shred (as depicted in Mel Gibson 's movie "The Passion of the Christ") might appear brutal, and the "Christ" might well be viewed as a sympathetic character who certainly did not deserve the treatment he got, but the notion that they caused it to happen to him, and that he was dying there because of their sins is not readily absorbed by this generation of young people who are highly educated, and are aware that people must no be accused of committing, or of being held accountable for crimes committed thousands of years before they were born, and which took place in a country where neither they nor their parents have ever been.
This will never be understood by the church because sociological changes are not mentioned in the Bible. As far as the church is concerned, it is a non-issue, but in reality it is not. Sociological change is just as real as child birth, but Just as a bloodied Christ does not register in the consciousness of this generation as being of any meaningful significance to them, in a similar manner, sociological change cannot register in the thinking of today's Evangelicals who will forever be baffled by the number of young people who attend church but remain annoyingly "uncommitted"; church, for this generation of youths, is no more than a socialization institution where they go to meet their friends and satisfy their parent. The Evangelical Churches will choke on the idea that this generation of young people simply cannot see things through lenses that are more than two thousand years old.