Our day is a day of controversy. Our society is plagued with gender dysphoria, the loss of basic human rights, and the total misperception of personal identity. Many of these issues, along with countless others, would have been outrageous to suggest a few decades ago, and while the church largely stands united on many of these fronts, there is one issue that seems to stand out when one considers how many churches today draw up lines of disagreement, especially over the last few months. That issue deals with the role of women in ministry and consequently draws into question the historic mistreatment of women both within and without the church.
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.
Eight years ago, I tried to watch Game of Thrones: Season 1. A few episodes in, I put the DVDs back in the case and returned them. I had seen enough. Besides being disturbed by the nihilistic violence and rape, I felt the story of Westeros wasn’t going anywhere meaningful, and I was right. Over the years I have followed the show in the news and observed people’s reaction to it. It’s hard to ignore a piece of culture that has sparked so many interesting conversations between believers and non-believers alike. As our culture collectively obsesses over the airing of the final season, it’s apparent to me the story still hasn’t gone anywhere and has nowhere satisfying to go. Unless the show’s creators pull a rabbit out of a hat, I sense that millions of GoT viewers will be left with an empty feeling in the pits of their stomachs after the final episode airs. They will find themselves yearning for a deeper meaning that will never come.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” It reminds me that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, understands my struggle. As I am tempted, I can look to the throne of grace where my great High Priest sympathizes with my weakness. What a baffling and glorious truth that God in flesh can look at my struggle and can honestly say, “I know what you’re going through.”
In case you missed it, HBO just broadcasted the eighth and final season of their show, “Game of Thrones,” which is based off George R.R. Martin’s books. This show (and the books) have now become a sort of cultural phenomenon. The show was the most expensive TV show produced in 2018 and promises to have even more money poured into it in 2019. And why not put that kind of money into it if you’re HBO? Clearly, you’re giving people what they want. An astounding 3.39 million people watched the first episode of season 8. That’s up 20% from the 2.83 million who watched the season 7 premiere, and an increase of 12% over the 3.03 million who tuned in for the season 7 finale.
But it says something about the state of our Christian culture that this show continues to rise in popularity.
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