The New Challenge (and Spiritual Climate)
There’s a new challenge among reaching Canadian young adults for the gospel today. I want to share with you what I think that challenge is and how we can effectively engage it.
First, let’s consider where young adults are today in their faith habits. The narrative we’ve heard for the last decade was that young people are leaving the church in droves. Although that isn’t completely false in our day, it doesn’t accurately describe today’s young adults. In fact, what we’re seeing is quite surprising.
A recent article looking at an Angus Reid poll records that roughly 20% of young people in Canada are public about their faith (whether it’s Christianity, Sikhism, etc.). The report continues to show that 30% are more private in their beliefs, with another 30% skeptical – leaving 20% confident in their atheism.
This is quite telling in terms of the general beliefs of young adults today in Canada. We’re seeing about 50% of young people who are either publicly or privately holding a faith, with another 30% who are skeptical. That’s 80% who aren’t opposed to the supernatural.
Now, that rough percentage is definitely encouraging, but there’s so much more to consider (because everyone is so different!). I can, however, mention another piece of the puzzle that alludes to today’s new challenge.
A recent guest we had on indoubt was Christian apologist Abdu Murray. In his new book, Saving Truth, he enlightens us with the fact that today’s culture deems confusion as a virtue and clarity as a sin. In other words, being unsure, uncertain and confused about God, faith, Jesus, religion, identity, etc., is looked on as a good and even mature thing. But as soon as you mention that you’re sure, certain, and clear on any one or more of those aspects, you’re seen as close-minded and irresponsible.
So, the (very) general climate of Canadian young adults today is that the vast majority are at least open to a spiritual reality but cautious of anything that claims certainty. And therein lies the new challenge.
3 Ways to Reach Your (20-something) Friends with the Gospel
How do we reach young adults with the gospel in that arena?
Here are 3 ways (and feel free to add more!):
1. Don’t just talk it, live it.
Yes, talking about the historical facts of the Bible are important. Yes, explaining the logic of the gospel is important. And yes, giving lip service to God on Sunday is important. However, if our talking, explaining, and lip service never transforms our lives, then it’s meaningless! Young adults want to see truth that seriously changes people. So, read the letter of James and go live your faith.
2. Reject the “it’s impossible” mindset.
It’s tempting to think reaching young adults in this challenging spiritual climate is an impossible task, but it isn’t. Spiritual conversations are still taking place and people are still being saved. Like the housing market that’s set by the buyers, evangelism today is (in one sense) set by the believers. If more believers rejected the “impossibility” mindset, then we’d see more spiritual conversations and more salvations! For clarity’s sake, I will point out that I fully believe in the Holy Spirit’s full and complete action in saving a soul. Yet often times he does this through us.
3. Unashamedly emphasize biblical truth and biblical mystery, awe, and wonder.
Here’s what a skeptical young adult needs to know: Though God, through his special revelation (the Bible) and general revelation (nature, history, etc.), has clearly and definitely given us all we need to know about him, us, our world, and salvation, he hasn’t given us a knowledge of everything. Young adults want to hear pastors say, “I don’t know,” and I believe, if they are faithful to the Bible, that they should. You see, there is mystery in the certainty. We shouldn’t be afraid of that. In fact, young adults want mystery! They want awe! They want wonder! So, let’s give it to them.
There is a lot of work to be done, and it’s not just the job of a few. Reaching Canadian young adults with the gospel is the work of grandmothers, uncles, friends, bus drivers, cashiers, nephews, children, photographers, filmmakers, the unemployed, and farmers.
So, in light of this new challenge, will you live your faith? Will you reject the “it’s impossible” mindset? And will you share the mysteries in the certainties?
I hope so. Trust God for your strength, and remember, the Holy Spirit does the saving.