When I was in college and grad school, people would often ask what I wanted to do with my Bible degree. At the time, I would tell them, “Youth pastor.” They would normally then ask, “Interesting. So why do you think we’re losing the next generation?” It’s a common question—one that I’ve given a fair amount of thought to. It’s a personal question—I have names and faces of people who grew up in the same Christian environment I did who have taken very different paths. And it’s a critical question: Why are we losing the future of Christianity?
In all my time pondering this question, I have come up with what, in my mind, are two primary reasons we are losing the next generation. There are no doubt other factors, and I might be overstating my case, but I want to take a minute and share with you why I think I see why my friends leaving Christianity.
Christians have idols that we love to hate, at least superficially, like materialism or pride. For some reason these are the idols that are the ones that typically get the “amens” and “that’ll preach” comments when the pastor serves up a message about them. But for some reason, there are certain idols that we just love to love. Were the pastor to preach on an inordinate love of conservative politics, or the American dream, or the nuclear family I’d venture a guess that we wouldn’t hear as many “amens” during that sermon. Yet, even the good and well-intentioned things that we do as Christ-followers can become idols if we allow them become so prominent that Christ loses His preeminence in our lives.
We tend to associate the highest godliness with the lowliest service. This is perhaps why most of our discussions on Christian leadership focus on “servant leadership” and we do need this kind of leadership. We need leaders who do something. But I would suggest to you that Scripture teaches leaders lead by both doing and delegating, and it’s the latter we struggle with the most.
At one time or another, every one of us has been the recipient of bad counsel from a fellow Christian. It can be a tough thing to swallow advice tainted with inaccuracies, hurtful words, or false assumptions. We all know what our default response is to such counsel. We might get angry at their intrusiveness, be discouraged by their hurtful tone, or even be judgmental toward their judgmentalism. But is there a way to receive bad counsel in a such a way that is beneficial, not only for you, but also for your fellow Christian?
By ‘bad counsel,’ I am not referring to false teaching or heretical counsel which rejects Jesus Christ and his Word. This counsel must be utterly rejected. I’m referring to counsel delivered by a Christian brother or sister that might come across as judgmental, hypocritical, ‘legalistic,’ or insensitive. I understand that there is a time and place to lovingly confront such counsel, but how can we actually benefit from it? Here are four ways that you can make the most of a less-than-ideal counseling situation.
Elias Keach was a 17th century pastor’s kid - the son of the respected Baptist minister, Benjamin Keach. Benjamin Keach was known for introducing hymn singing in Baptist churches, writing a catechism, and preceding the pastoral ministry of Charles Spurgeon. But Elias didn’t adopt his parents’ religion. Forsaking their beliefs, he left London to go to the American Colonies in 1689. In this new environment, he became known as the son of the famous Benjamin Keach, which brought him great admiration and respect. Taking advantage of this, Elias would wear clergy outfits, posing as a man of God. Although he played the part well, his heart was far from God.
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