As I travel around the world, the biggest concern on Christians' minds today is their kids and their grandkids. Many of them have already left the Church.
Others are in the process of questioning or deconstructing their faith. Today, we're going to begin talking about how to reach this lost generation with the undeniable truth of the Gospel. Stay with us. There is hope.
We are a discipleship-driven ministry on a mission to encourage Christians everywhere to live like Christians. Today, we're continuing our new series, Not Beyond Reach, taught by our guest speaker, Aaron Pearce. But before we get going, Chip stuck around in studio to identify the concern we share with Aaron for this next generation and hint at what we'll learn in the coming programs.
Chip? Thanks so much, Dave. You know, in our last broadcast, we introduced Aaron Pearce, International Mission Director for an organization called Steiger International.
Let me encourage you. Go back and listen to that. Aaron and I go way back, and what that ministry is doing all around the world, literally reaching global youth who are so far from God. His focus is how do we effectively meet the next generation where they are? And I think this series is critical because we're losing our own kids and our own grandkids. And after what we came through with the pandemic, there's a lot of families that there's just harshness and division. And, you know, how do you talk about some of these controversial things like, you know, politics and Black Lives Matter and gender fluidity and all those kind of things?
Those things right now are just people butting heads. What you're going to learn is how to connect to your teenagers, young adults. If you're a young person and you're thinking, wow, so many of my friends are drifting and I just don't know how to talk to them, this series is for you.
In fact, I hope that you'll not only understand that we're in an unbelievable battle for the souls of the next generation, but there is hope, there are tools, and we're going to bring them to you in this series, not beyond reach. I think you're really going to enjoy Aaron's teaching. He's a young guy with a lot of enthusiasm, and more than anything else, God has his hand on Aaron in Stiger ministry, and that's why I'm sharing him with you.
Great setup, Chip. Well, let's get going. Here's Aaron to kick off this series with his message, Understanding the Secular Culture.
How do we engage secular young people in particular who would not walk into a church? I want to start by sharing a story about a girl called Sarah. Sarah was wearing this rainbow-colored resist t-shirt with an equal sign on it, and she was at a pro-choice rally.
She was there with her friends Charlie and Ann. That's not their real names. Each of them identified as gender non-binary or non-conforming fluid, and they're active in a local drag queen scene, which sounds crazy and out there, but here's the thing to understand. Those that identify as LGBTQ is exploding in growth, especially amongst younger generations. Gallup recently came out and said that 20.8% of Gen Z identified as LGBTQ in 2021. 20.8%, one in five. That's up from 10% for Millennial.
It's growing, and there's a bunch of reasons for that, and that's something we'll talk about when we get to that topic at the end. But the interesting thing about this story, the atmosphere is super intense, as you might imagine, because you've got this protest atmosphere, and of course, there's the pro-life group that's there, and angry shouts are being exchanged between these two groups. Our team, led by Felipe, was there. Of course, each of them had a pro-life view, but they were there to build redemptive relationships, and so they had a sign that would spark a conversation with people. So they walked around and just prayed and asked the Lord, hey, would you show me who to connect with?
And they found a group of people sitting down, and they brought their sign, and they began to ask them questions. And as they were doing that, they realized that behind the anger and the hostility, there was a lot of hurt and pain. Each of them, each of these three people, Sarah, Ann, and Charlie, each of them shared vulnerable, raw, and deeply personal stories of pain that they'd experienced growing up. It was amazing how open they were, and a lot of their pain related back to experiences that they had with the church.
And what's interesting is that beneath their seemingly intense moral convictions, it was clear that they were actually very confused and broken, and they were longing for deep relational connection and belonging. And so as the conversation progressed, Felipe and his team began to share, and they shared that their pain actually mattered. As a follower of Jesus, Felipe believed that the answer to our problems was not actually political, but spiritual. And he explained that God was not indifferent to our suffering. A lot of people have this view that if God does exist, he's indifferent. And he explained that God is not indifferent to our suffering, and that Jesus' death on the cross was proof of that. At the end of the conversation, they were able to pray with these three people.
They were visibly moved and eagerly exchanged contact information and have stayed in contact since then. Now here's the thing. There are millions of people like Sarah, Charlie, and Ann in the U.S. today.
There's millions of them. Over the last few decades, we have experienced a profound cultural shift. Despite all its flaws and hypocrisy, for generations, the U.S. was a Christian nation, right? As recently as 1990, 86% of Americans identified as a Christian. And of course, they weren't all committed followers of Jesus. Many of them showed up to church only on Easter and Christmas, and they lived lives that were inconsistent with their Christian beliefs. But still, they viewed Christianity positively. You know, the church was the center of social life. The Bible was a good moral guide. The president was prayed over by a pastor in every inauguration. By the way, from someone that doesn't live in the U.S., that's weird.
To understand, that's a weird thing. And Christian ethics of sexuality were broadly accepted. And these were the people that would attend evangelistic rallies made famous by Billy Graham and Louis Palau and others, right? And they would draw on favorable views of the church.
These preachers could fill stadiums and make arguments using the Bible as an authority. But times have changed, right? We now live in a post-Christian culture, and many people have walked away from the church. So according to Pew Research, the fastest growing religious group in America is the religiously unaffiliated. In 2021, this group, known as the Nuns, constituted about 29% of American adults, and that's up from about 23% in 2016 and 19% in 2011. That's a radical change happening in our culture.
And this is most pronounced among millennial and Gen Z generations, making up approximately 45% of those two generations. And so not only has affiliation with Christianity declined, but attitude has changed as well. So if you were to take a look at the church and how people view the church today, you're going to see it play out in a few ways, right?
So on one side, you have committed followers, Jesus, who strive to live their lives in alignment with the Bible on the far left side of the spectrum. Next, you have people who have a positive view of the church. They see the Bible as a moral guide, but it's often detached from a personal relationship with God. And then as we move along the spectrum, you have those who are apathetic. Here, people are not consciously rejecting God.
They just don't think about Him one way or the other, right? And then finally, we have those who have a negative or even hostile view of the church. And they see the church as a symbol of the repression and bigotry. And so unfortunately, more and more Americans are moving to the right side of the spectrum, having an apathetic view of the church. And so that's what we've seen in the last 30 years, especially amongst millennial and Gen Z generations. We've seen a shift. And the right side of the spectrum is that post-Christian shift, right?
Those on the far right side. The challenge for us in the church is that the majority of our efforts to reach people have been geared towards the nominal, right? And so what that means is that we use kind of a come and see and bring your friend style of evangelism to a church event. And those aren't necessarily bad things to do because they connect well with people on that side of the spectrum. The challenge is that it's a diminishing group. And so the challenge is that we need to go after those on the right side, and it takes an entirely different paradigm shift to do it, right? And this is not just a trend or statistic, right?
This isn't just an idea out there. This is deeply personal for many of us because these are our sons and daughters. These are our grandkids.
These are friends and people that we work with. So how can we respond to this post-Christian shift? Part of that is we need to understand the culture that we're in and continue to look at it from different ways. Another way to look at it is from a Christian's spectrum and how it progresses, okay?
So this is what's happening a lot in our culture. You start with people that have convictional Christianity. Like we said, they are following Jesus, fully aligning their lives to it. Then you have cultural Christians, people that just have a nominal view of it.
They have a positive view, but it doesn't affect their life. Then you have progressive Christians, people that still identify as a Christian but no longer hold to the authority of the Bible and begin to basically shape their faith according to how they want to see reality. And then you've got post-Christian, which is the natural shift that happens. Once someone engages in progressive Christianity, they take away the power and eventually they move to post-Christian. And then finally you have non-Christian, which is actually someone that hasn't rejected the church.
They don't even really know about it. What's interesting is more and more young people in our country today actually fit in the non-Christian category because it was their parents that rejected the church and so they essentially grew up in a non-Christian home. So when you're engaging people out in the world, you actually find that they fit in one of these categories and that the way you engage them is different.
And often what you find is the progressive and the post-Christian are the most hostile and the hardest to reach because of the baggage that they bring to the table, because of their experience that they've had with the church for whatever reason. And so we have to take a new approach because the truth is people are actually quite hungry and open, but we can't take the same approach that we did in the past. Essentially, if we're going to engage this generation, if we're going to engage this culture, we've got to become like cross-cultural missionaries in our own city to our own people.
That's the way we've got to approach engaging this culture. If I were called to be a missionary in China, I would learn the language of the place I'm going to. I would learn the culture, the history, the philosophies, the influences. I would understand the felt need of the Chinese people. And I would figure out how to contextualize the gospel in a way that they can understand. That's what I would do if I would engage in classic cross-cultural missions. And the same principle applies today if we're going to reach a post-Christian culture.
Same principle. Hey, this is Chip Ingram, and right now you're listening to a brand new series from my good friend Aaron Pearce. Before he continues, I want to remind you that this ministry is supported by listeners like you.
Would you consider partnering with us today to reach the next generation by going to livingontheedge.org? With that, let's rejoin Aaron in the teaching. So that's what we want to talk about is how do we adopt a missionary mindset when we're engaging post-Christian cultures. So first of all, in order to effectively communicate the gospel to a post-Christian culture, we need to understand three key realities. The first is that secular people have become suspicious of religious institutions and are far less likely to walk into a church. So trust and confidence in organized religion has plummeted in the last few decades. In 2021, only 37% of Americans reported confidence in religious institutions.
That was 60% in 2001. And it's not just religious institutions that have lost trust. It's basically all institutions, right? We've lost trust in the government, in corporations.
There's just a general distrust of institutions. And certainly that has affected the church, and that affects the way that we engage culture. In fact, one of the key ways it affects is that when we're out in the world engaging culture, whether it's in an intentional outreach or just organically through our relationships, we don't actually want to be a representative of our church. We want to be a follower of Jesus. Because the fact is, if I'm a representative of my church, and we are, like this is not saying we shouldn't be engaged and committed to the local church.
It's not what that's about. What it means is that that's putting up an extra barrier when I'm communicating, because now I'm talking about institutional religion versus just following Jesus. So that's the first thing we need to understand. Second thing we need to understand is the second key reality is secular people today do not have the same assumptions as previous generations. And they don't have the same assumptions about morality, truth, authority of the Bible, existence and nature of God.
And so, for example, if I would go to the University of Minnesota and ask a random average secular university student, if I was to go up to him and say, Hey, if you were to die today and stand before God in heaven, and he were to judge your life, would he let you win? Well, I've just presupposed a whole bunch of things, right, that the average secular young person doesn't hold to be true. And so we have to recognize that secular people don't have the same assumptions from which we build.
And we're going to talk about how do we communicate effectively. And the key principle in communication is understanding people's assumptions. And so the assumptions are not the same today as they were in previous generations. Now, the third key reality that we need to understand is that despite all of this, secular people are open to spirituality.
They are. And while many people no longer hold to a biblical worldview, most are not called atheist either, right? They believe in some form of spirituality, even if it's vague and undefined.
Give you an example of this. We did a series of focus groups with secular young people. And this is one of the quotes from one of the young women that participated in the focus group in her early 20s. And when we discussed spirituality, this is one of her quotes.
It said, I'm agnostic, so I don't know. But when I personally think about my own experiences of spirituality, it's a feeling for me. Maybe it's not a being or a person, probably not. But I think that there are human experiences when you feel it, like when you hold a newborn baby. It's common experiences, and they're ordinary and really simple. But I think there's energy.
Yeah, like there's a force that lives. This is a really interesting quote to me because it perfectly illustrates that idea of being drawn to something spiritual, even as we reject kind of the religious and the institutional version of that. People in this culture are very into meditation and kind of Eastern religious ideas. And a lot of that is because it's spirituality without accountability.
You get the spirituality without the authority over me. And so that's a key thing to understand. And so all of these things, these key realities are important because if we're going to be good missionaries to our culture, we need to understand the context that we're in. And we need to understand what's shaping and influencing the culture as well.
Now, the post-Christian shift that we've experienced in our culture can be traced actually all the way back to philosophers of the Enlightenment. But it's actually exploded into mainstream culture through the global youth culture. That is really what shaped and taken it into the mainstream. And we live in a time of unprecedented connectedness, right?
Where through mass media, the Internet and all sorts of other ways, we are connected like never before. And so you have this global youth culture where young people all over the planet are influenced by similar voices. So they're playing the same video games.
They're listening to the same music. They're following the same social media influencers. And so they're connected and similar like never before. And they're similar on superficial things like fashion and music trends and things of that nature. But they're also similar on deeper things like worldview and morality and lifestyle. And so you have this global culture that is incredibly connected and it's shaping the way that young people all over the planet see the world. So let's take a look at this as an example.
All right. If you would take a look at those guys and based on how they look and where they're from, where you think they're from. These kids look like they could be at a coffee shop down the road. And the truth is they're from Beirut, Lebanon, in the heart of the Middle East.
Right. And so you have this global youth culture that that is shaping the way people view the world. So what are the what are the influences of the global youth culture?
Well, there's basically four key influences. First is entertainment industry. So music, film, theater, even sports to some degree. And the idea here is that we're not just entertaining, we're shaping a worldview.
We're presenting a way of looking at the world, a moral framework. And so you see that being pushed to the entertainment industry. And then you've got Internet stars, you know, people that are on platforms like TikTok and Instagram and YouTube that are producing content and connecting with audiences all over the world in a massive way. Right.
It's incredible the kind of influence that these people are having in the I say unfiltered because it is filtered, but there's no corporation. There's no intermediary between the creators and their audience. Right. So it's an incredible influence that we have through these Internet stars. And then you've got video games, which is massive, bigger than Hollywood, where the average 21 year old male has spent 10000 hours playing video games, which is, by the way, the same amount of time that you need to master a fine art.
Right. So it's an incredible amount of time being spent in video games. It's where we find our community, our identity, our sense of accomplishment.
And you see you have this incredible influence of video games. And then finally, you've got pornography, which is so common, so pervasive. It's not even something to be ashamed of. Right. Talk openly about pornography, where the belief that that there's no consequence to viewing pornography. And it comes to a view that, you know, sexuality is just a personal pursuit of happiness.
Right. And pornography is harmless. And so this is literally rewiring our brains and distorting our view of love and sexuality and relationships. And all of these things come together to influence and shape a worldview. And they all kind of mix together.
And what's interesting is they are not constrained by geographic or political boundaries. These things transcend that. In fact, these things are shaping a worldview far more than politics, far more than loss.
There's a guy called Andrew Fletcher, an 18th century Scottish writer and politician that said, let me make the songs of a nation and I care not who makes its loss. And so what's really driving and shaping our culture today is not the legal process. It's the cultural influencers, the artists, the poets, the philosophers that are shaping the worldview. This is Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. And you've been listening to the first part of our guest teacher, Aaron Pierce's message, Understanding the Secular Culture, from his series, Not Beyond Reach.
Well, Chip will join us shortly to share some additional thoughts on what we've heard. Young people today are often unfairly stereotyped as rebellious, selfish, and overly harsh. But in these programs, Aaron's peeling back those generalities to reveal the hopeless, lost, and unloved feelings plaguing this generation. Learn why today's youth are primed to hear the saving message of the gospel and how through a step-by-step process, you can share it with them.
If you're a parent or grandparent, don't miss a second of this series. Well, Chip's with me in studio now, and Chip, we're really excited about Aaron's new book we've helped create called Not Beyond Reach. And this resource is unlike any other one we've produced because, well, it highlights a serious issue we as believers must address. Would you take just a few minutes and talk a bit more about that? Absolutely, Dave. I just have to say, I've been involved for the last five years with a church filled with millennials and Gen Zs.
I've had them in our home. We've had discussions. And I just have to tell you, I'm deeply concerned about young people. More personally, like most people listening, I'm most deeply concerned about the young people closest to me, my kids, my grandkids. And I'm meeting moms and dads here and across the country who all keep telling me the same story. My kids are drifting away from the Lord. I don't know what to do.
I don't have a plan. I don't understand where they're coming from. And what I can tell you is this brand new book by Aaron Pearce that we've worked on together will give you a map, a blueprint, a game plan to not just connect with your kids or grandkids, but to really understand them and connect them more importantly with the Lord Jesus Christ. Can't emphasize enough how important it is. Get this book, get educated, then put it into practice. Thanks, Chip. To get your hands on this brand new book, Not Beyond Reach, visit LivingOnTheEdge.org or the Chip Ingram app.
Discover the simple process you can follow to share the Gospel with those who question or outright reject Jesus. Place your order for this insightful new book, Not Beyond Reach, by going to LivingOnTheEdge.org or the Chip Ingram app. Well, with that, here again is Chip to share a few final thoughts for us to think about.
Thanks, Dave. I just want to pause and have just a couple of what I think are important comments about something that Aaron said in his message. His key point was what has shaped the youth and actually the culture globally and just they have a different lens. They see life so completely differently than maybe those of us that have a more modernist view or we believe in absolute truth or the authority that we have is Scripture.
And I think sometimes it's created such polarization that we can't even have a conversation. When I talk to friends that are my age or pastors or people that are really seeking to, man, I can't connect with my granddaughter or my grandson, I talk about your number one need is empathy. And the only way you get empathy is if you could take their glasses off of them and put them on you and see the world the way they see the world. You need to understand, like, number one, they don't see the world as this is right and this is wrong. They have been taught in academia and the culture and the music that how I feel is reality. And if I feel this way or if I feel that way, that's just as true as gravity.
It's just as true that two plus two is four. And you may not get that and you may scoff at that and you may say that's crazy and that's nuts, but can I tell you something? None of that is going to bring young people to know Jesus. Our sons, our daughters, our grandchildren. And I'm reminded of the prayer of St. Francis.
It's on my wall. I pray not so much to be understood, but as to understand, to be loved as to love. And what I have found is it really is building this relationship and listening and kind of keeping at times a straight face with real empathy and taking seriously. This is how they see life. This is how they see the world.
But you know what? They want to belong. They want to be loved. They want to be accepted. It doesn't mean you agree. It doesn't mean you affirm their views on things. But will you stick with me and Aaron and really learn how to connect with the next generation?
Great word, Chip. And a great way to get the absolute most out of Aaron's teachings is to use our message notes while you listen. They include his outline, all the scripture references, and lots of fill-ins to help you remember what you're learning. Use them personally or even with your small group. They're a quick download at livingontheedge.org under the broadcasts tab. App listeners tap fill-in notes. Well, join us next time as our guest teacher, Aaron Pierce, continues his series, Not Beyond Reach. Until then, I'm Dave Druey, thanking you for listening to this Edition of Living on the Edge.
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