Listening to the Unchurched Young Adults

Young adults certainly are more interested in Christianity than many think.

Spiritual interest is high among the younger generation. Although being spiritual does not always equate with being religious, only 18 percent said they were neither spiritual nor religious.

A majority of those surveyed (81 percent) of younger unchurched adults believe that God, or a higher supreme being, exists. Research also shows, that the theological beliefs of unchurched people in their 20’s are closer to historical Christianity than the beliefs of the older generations.

Young adults certainly are more interested in Christianity than many think. Almost 90 percent of the unchurched in their 20s would be willing to listen if someone wanted to tell them about Christianity. Three out of five would be willing to study the Bible if a friend asked them.

The date showed that they younger unchurched see Christianity as relevant and viable, but more about organized religion than loving God and people. They believe the Church is full of hypocrites and is unnecessary for spiritual development.

However, much of what they are looking for can be found in God and His Church. Our churches should be embodying authentic community, a life of depth, a responsibility to serve others and the desire to connect with other generations. The research reveals these are the very things that the younger unchurched deemed important.

The younger unchurches don’t need us to re-create our message to accomodate their needs. Rather, what they are often seeking is what we need to be doing for the Church to actually be the Church.

As I read over the findings of the research done by LifeWay Research (www.LifeWayResearch.com) I could not agree more. In my many conversations with young people ages 16 to 26 I have found a great deal of interest in both spiritual issues as well as in God Himself. And, I have found a trremendous openness to my ideas and beliefs and to what the Bible is actually saying. This in spite of the fact that many of this age group do not have even a Christian reference point from which to begin – having been brought up without ever going to Church or owning (or reading) a Bible.

Let’s take time to sit with this age group and interact. You will find them on high school and college campuses, in Tim Horton’s or other all-night coffee shops and restaurants… and you will find young men and women who will give you a fair hearing and who will ask you the tough questions as they seek for well thought out biblical responses to their many life-issues and questions.

A Rollercoaster Ride

I have been back from Ukraine now for a week. Jet lag (almost over it), an overwhelming amount of laundry (still working on it), piles of mail (ignoring them), many follow-up notes to go through and work that needs to be done (slowly working through the list) and many family times – one-on-one with my daughters, a family picnic, an evening out. Added to this the legal paperwork to get into Russia as my next trip is only 25 days away. All this with a Sunday and thus two woship services and 565 Km to drive, two radio shows to write, record and produce, and numerous appointments get added to the mix for excitment.

Overwhelming if you think of it all at the same time. Fairly easy to handle if you focus on the Lord and take one thing and one day (would you believe one hour) at a time. That is what Jesus taught us to do. And, we must also rely on Him and not lean upon our own understanding.

That was the first five days … here is where the emotional rollercoaster ride comes in. On Sunday we dedicated and prophesied over 4 young children (under the age of 2). Something that brings great joy to the heart of older men and women like my wife and I. Yesterday and today we did some hospital visits and one was to a young person (age 30) who has struggled with tumors for years and was losing the battle being in much pain and living with little hope. We have known her since she was a baby and we feel the pain and the parents and family members (and our own personal pain over the situation). Then we prepared for a water baptism service for five young teens who have made a serious commitment to walk with Jesus and stand tall as Christians in their own generation. Again, an amazing thing to be a part of. I spent time with a young man who has begun, once again, to attend our church after not attending church for over a year and he is now serious about moving forward with God and building relationships with other believers (a dynamic and emotionally moving time together as God touched and knitted hearts together).

In the midst of of all these varied emotions and the exciting preparation for tonight (and a ride to another city to join with another church for a joint outdoors baptism) and the down time after an appointment where I saw the hand of God touch a young man’s heart with love – we received a phone call that the young lady had died around noon today.

Tonight we baptized some of the young kids – two were missing as it was their aunt who had died earlier today. These same two young people only a few years ago had lost their mother whose body was not found for almost a year and who was brutally murdered by yet someone unknown. Now another death of someone close (sadness).

During the outdoors baptism I had opportunity to build a relational bridge with a young man who I have known “at a distance” for a number of years and even hired him to do some work on the grounds and gardens around the house (he has his own yard work company). I have had it on my heart to come to know him better as I like the young man and would like to see him spend eternity in Heaven with us and with his loved ones (his mom died suddenly last year). Tonight the relational door opened just a bit and I believe God will allow me to share the good news with him in the coming weeks as he works here on the yards around the house (hope).

Next week I meet with a pastor in one city who just several weeks ago shut his church down and is walking away from “his baby” which over the last nine years has not grown like he thought it should and would. Next week as well I drive to another city in a neighboring province (district, state) to meet with a pastor/apostle to discuss a church that he has been temporarily pastoring for the last year and which is now seeking someone to replace him in a very active, alive, and healthy local church of several hundred people who are hungry for all the Lord has for them (challenge-excitement).

And so goes the days and weeks of anyone who is in the ministry. It is, at times, a rollercoaster ride of emotions, of ups and downs, of weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. It can be emotionally challenging and even emotionally draining. It can make one tired at times. But, in all of this we need to simply trust the Lord and believe that “all things work together for good” and move forward in the hope that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead offers to us as we live our daily lives and interact with others – believers and non-believers – encountering the love of God in each and every situation.

I thank God every day for the honor of ministering in His Name and having been in full-time ministry now for 40 years. I look forward with great excitment and anticipation to the next 30 years… as I rearrange an out-of-town trip scheduled for next Tuesday to be here to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ at a funeral for a 30 year old. Always the greatest honor a minister of the gospel has – to present Jesus and His offer of salvation to the people who do not know Him.

The Next Small Step God Is About to Take in His Church

I believe that we are about to see a major shift going on in what we know as the Church world. This will be a direct response to changes in the spirit realm. This will all be a part of the “great falling away” and the “end-times harvest”.

In the mainline denominations I believe that we will soon see a “remnant” coming out of these fortresses of unbelief who desire more of God and want to move with God in these last days. They will not form new churches as has happened in the past but will join others in apostolic-prophetic churches where the apostles doctrine and the gifts of the holy Spirit are honored and received.    Read more

The Church As it is and As it Should Be (Part Three)

When one looks today at the Church of Jesus Christ and examines its life and structure what you observe actually has little resemblance to the early in the book of Acts. I believe today’s Church falls far short of Church what is set out for us in the New Testament as normative to the Church of Jesus Christ.

So I would like to continue to set out some of the differences that, in my mind, become obvious when you lovingly look at the Church as it is today and as it should be.

Read more

A Reverse Flow

Had lunch some time back with a professor from a local Bible College and as we shared it came to light that someone we both know – a former pastor and leader in the evangelical Church – has converted to Roman Catholicism. This seems to be a bit of a trend as born again believers seek for more and apparently are finding it in the older denominations and traditions.

This concerns me; deeply concerns me. The Bible states “can two walk together except that they agree”. This means that when a born again, Spirit-baptized believer joins the ranks of a mainline denomination that they are stating that they believe in the teachings and practices of that particular group of believers.

So joining the Roman Catholics means they accept the teachings of that particular denomination. And, this concerns me. Deeply concerns me. This particular pastor who joined the Roman Catholics is stating, by his joining, that he believers in such questionable teachings and practices as apostolic succession, the various non-biblical teachings on Mary the Queen of Heaven, praying to dead saints, the practice of plenary indulgences … yes, they still believe in the practice of indulgences. “The good news is we’re not selling them anymore.” Tom Reese, a Jesuit priest and former editor of the Roman Catholic magazine America, on the return of plenary indulgences to the Catholic Church.

To remain in the various branches of the Orthodox Church raises the same concerns in my mind and heart. Added to these theological and biblical concerns would be the practices and actions against the born again believers in some of the eastern European countries in which I work. Even during this most recent trip to Ukraine I heard, as I fellowshipped with local pastors, numerous horror stories of persecution they have suffered from the hands of the Orthodox religious structure which have tremendous influence in society and the political structures that exist today.

And maybe that is the bottom line – the fact that they are joining a religion and a religious structure. I simply find it hard to grasp that a born again believer would want to embrace these tradtional denominational practices and believes … joining a religion with all of its structure and practices that are unbiblical or, at best, belong in the Old Testament and the Law and not in the New Testament Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a born again believer stating that Jesus is not enough – that we need Jesus plus icons, Jesus plus the Pope, Jesus plus the non-blicalcal but traditional teachings and practices of the Church…

Now, I understand I took the opposite journey. I went from the priesthood of a major worldwide denomination with its emphasis on apostolic succession and many non-biblical practices and beliefs leaving it behind in favour of a relationship with the Lord and the freedom to walk in correct biblical teachings and practices and in fellowship with others who also share the faith. So, I do have some insights into the journey and what exists on both ends of the spectrum. I am also aware that many might be offended by what I have written and accuse me of writing out of woundedness from my own past (which is not true). But, it has been heavy on my heart now for several years as this trend became noticable in the evangelical Church and then when I heard of someone I actually know making this same journey it renewed my concern and has led to three months of intense prayer since I heard the news. So, I am not writing in haste or as a knee-jerk reaction to the news.

Call me simple – but I honestly believe a born again believer should not connect themselves to (or remain in) a religious structure that teaches and practices non-biblical doctrines. A born again believer should not walk with those that do not believe as we believe … whether they are secular atheists, agnostics, Muslims, cultists or belong to respected worldwide religious structures. Two cannot walk together unless they agree and I simply cannot agree with what these groups believe and teach. I can remain friendly and behave lovingly towards them – the same as I do with all who do not see the death and resurrection of Jesus as all that is necessary for salvation and who either ignore this basic truth or add to it. But I cannot share fellowship with those who walk in such beliefs and practices.