If your teenager or young adult is drifting or has actually walked away from the Lord and you need help, you don't know what to do or how to do it. Stay with me. Today help is on the way.
Welcome to this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. We are a discipleship driven ministry on a mission to encourage Christians everywhere to live like Christians. And we're in the middle of our newest series, Not Beyond Reach, taught by our guest speaker, Aaron Pierce.
He leads a global missions organization called Stiger. They're in over 100 cities worldwide, reaching this next generation of young people for Christ. And today Aaron's going to begin to unpack a process they use to engage this lost and confused youth culture and how we can put these steps into action as well.
With that, here's Aaron with his talk, Building Trust and Friendships. The first session we talked about understanding the post-Christian shift that we've experienced in this culture. The idea that we used to live in a Christian nation in which most people identified as a Christian, and now we live in a post-Christian nation. The fastest growing religious group in America is the religiously unaffiliated, and it is not just affiliation, it's attitude as well. So people's attitude has gone from predominantly positive view of the church to apathetic, if not outright hostile.
I had a meeting yesterday with some people, and I have this story pretty much all the time. They're adult kids, walked away from the Lord, and they just don't know what to do about it. And it's probably the thing that's prayed for at churches across America more than anything else. And so the challenge is how do we reach people that are in that apathetic to hostile side of the spectrum, and how do we engage them in recognizing that there's a number of key realities. One is that people have become increasingly suspicious of institutional religion and are far less likely to walk into a church. The second being that secular people do not have the same assumptions about truth and morality and the nature and existence of God and the Bible as previous generations.
And then the third key reality being, despite all of that, secular people are still open to spirituality. And today we're going to be talking about the second topic, which is how to become friends, how to develop authentic friendships with non-religious people. And then the three other sessions are going to be how to start a spiritual conversation, which is distinct from a gospel conversation, we'll talk about that. How to introduce Jesus and the message of the cross and to start a discipleship relationship. And then the last one is navigating politics, social justice, sexuality, and other fun topics, which are challenges that we face in our culture. So today it's all about how to build relationships and friendships with secular non-religious people.
I want to start with a story. So this is a girl called Lucy. She was a singer and actress in that world.
And as you can imagine, it's a pretty crazy world in terms of lifestyle and morality. She actually lived what was called a polyamor lifestyle. So what that meant is that she had multiple sexual relationships with different people at the same time, all open, different genders.
It didn't matter. And the justification for it was that she had so much love to give. That was kind of like the argument for that lifestyle. And the reality of it is that she was actually really feeling empty and lonely. She had lost her mom to cancer. She was struggling.
She was frustrated. And she wasn't able to really connect with people. And she was living in this pretty tough environment when she met a girl called Maria who befriended her and began to connect with her and to talk to her about the struggles that she was dealing with. And then shared that she was a follower of Jesus and began to pray with her and to really empathize with what she was going through. And eventually, this girl Maria invited her to come to a Bible study at her home where she heard the gospel and she got invited into a community. She didn't begin to follow Jesus right away, but she got embraced in this community and she began to develop friendships. She began to really connect with these people. And eventually, she made a decision to follow Jesus. And through that whole community, she even was eventually baptized.
And that's Maria that was at her baptism in a river. Really cool story. And here's the thing. This girl Lucy perfectly illustrates what so many people are going through today. So a Harvard study last year showed that 61% of young adults feel serious loneliness. 61% feel serious loneliness.
This was last year. And there's a bunch of reasons why loneliness has become an epidemic, which is so common. So there's a number of reasons. First is just basically the concept of cheap sex. We have rejected the biblical sexual ethic where sex is supposed to be between a man and woman in the context of marriage.
That has been rejected. And basically, sex is nothing more than a physical act that is about personal pleasure. So long as you're not harming others and it's governed by the sense of mutual consent, you can do whatever you want. And so that's the sexual ethic of the day. And it's also led to kind of cultural changes where we're delaying marriage, we're delaying kids. And what's so ironic about that is we actually desire intimacy. We desire connection, but we're pushing away the design where we're supposed to find that most meaningfully in our human existence is in the context of a family.
And so that's being delayed and pushed away. And then, of course, you've got just pornography and hookup culture, which is a pervasive culture of our day. You've got crazy things like dating apps where people are connecting with strangers and with very little personal connection. But they're connecting sexually, and it's leading to all sorts of brokenness and loneliness because of this concept of cheap sex.
The other is technological changes that we've experienced with social media, video games, and now the emergence of the metaverse, which is a whole big thing as well. And so basically what you've got is the sense of filtered reality, which is that on social media, but also on these other things, we're presenting a view of ourselves, and we're seeing a view of others that is filtered. It's not real. It's projecting a view of ourselves that looks good, but it's not who I am authentically. It's not real.
So in that sense, all my connections are superficial, and they're not authentic. And so you have a lot of this filtered reality, and then you have a sense of escapism. And the idea here is that rather than face the issues or the dark thoughts that I'm facing, I can escape into the world of video games or metaverse, or I can just keep scrolling. It's like the Finding Nemo movie where it just keeps swimming.
It just keeps scrolling so I don't have to think about these big, deep, scary thoughts. I escape into the world of video games, which is how so many people are responding to the challenges and the difficulties that face. The way that God has designed it is that when we face challenges, we have a community that we connect into, and instead we move to escapism.
And then we have this sense of living someone else's story, which is a big thing that we experience. One of the things that people love to do is follow a particular social media influencer, right? And so it'll be someone on YouTube. There's a kind of the modern day Seinfeld is a girl called Emma Chamberlain, and she basically has a YouTube channel about nothing. But she's this charismatic girl that posts these videos of her just doing daily life, and people love it because they connect and they live through her story.
And so she has millions and millions of followers on YouTube and other platforms, and she's not doing anything particularly interesting, but people really connect and because they get to live someone else's story. And that is true also for the world of video games where you live a kind of a fantasy world of living some character out or in the metaverse where people are fighting their kind of identity in an avatar in some metaverse reality. And so you've got all of these things technologically and then our sexual ethics that is creating this deep sense of loneliness. And of course, God has created us to be in community. So when we're missing that sense of community, we feel this deep longing for something.
And so many people are experiencing it. So many people sense that there's something missing. And so the truth that we need to understand is that secular people are looking for deep relational connection and belonging. That is a deep desire that people have. You can bank on that truth when you're connecting with people. They desire for deep relational connection and belonging. The challenge is that we have this false idea. And the false idea is this, and this is a cultural lie that we have today, which is to love or be in relationship with someone, I have to affirm their lifestyle or their worldview.
That is a lie that our culture has put on us. And it plays out in a lot of places, plays out especially in the workplace and in schools. So for example, at my school, our kids go to public school and I was invited to be part of a inclusion and acceptance conversation with the parents that the district had mandated. And you can imagine what the topics were about. And it was a very interesting experience. And the first meeting that we had together, a group of parents were talking about various things that were going on.
And there were some pretty interesting dynamics in terms of one of the students who was a boy dressing as a girl and some other LGBTQ things that were going on. And one of the moms said in that conversation, you know what, I think it's important to understand that tolerance is not enough. We must affirm. And it so perfectly speaks to this thing that we're dealing with in our culture, which is to love or be in relationship with someone. Like tolerance is not enough. I have to affirm their lifestyle and worldview. And here's the thing that's really important to understand is that Jesus demonstrated that association and relationship with sinners, and I put that in quotes only because we're all sinners, right? But association and relationship with sinners was not synonymous with affirming their lifestyle.
Jesus demonstrated this in a really powerful way over and over and over again. Hey, Chip here. We're in the middle of this new series taught by my friend Aaron Pierce. He and I will be right back after this message to share some very specific and helpful application for you to consider. But quickly, this ministry is funded by the generosity of listeners like you. And I'd like to ask you to partner with us financially so that we at Living on the Edge can reach the next generation.
Go to livingonthedge.org. Now back to Aaron. So let's talk about this because one of the challenges of our day is tribalism, right? It's this us versus them mentality. It's this toxic trait of modern culture, basically because of social media algorithms, cable news, Internet conspiracies. It's this intense sense of us versus them, the other side. We kind of straw man argument that the other side and what they're about and how they're out to get us, right?
And to have this toxic tribalism of the day. But the thing is tribalism existed during Jesus's day as well in multiple ways. And one of the good examples of that was actually the Jews and the Samaritans. So the Samaritans were these kind of racially mixed people of Gentiles and Jew background and the Jews and Samaritans hated each other.
Like Jews would actually, there would be a direct path to go somewhere through the Samaritan area, but they would go around it just so they wouldn't be associated with these unclean people, right? And so it was in that context in John 4 that Jesus goes to Samaria and he meets the woman at the well. Which is an incredible example of Jesus defying the tribalism of his day. Where he defied it in a radical counter-cultural way because he ended up engaging, he actually initiates contact with this woman. Just the fact that she's a woman that's already breaking some boundaries.
But then the fact is that this is a woman who's been married five times and now is currently living with a man that is not her husband. In that day, like the fact that he would engage this woman was just beyond comprehension. And it speaks to how Jesus loved people so much that he wasn't going to be, you know, he was going to cross those cultural boundaries. So, but that didn't mean that he affirmed their lifestyle, right? That didn't mean that he accepted the way that someone lived and said, man, just do whatever you want. He challenged people to sin no more, even as he approached them with great mercy and grace.
And so that's the thing we have to understand. But what that means as well is that Jesus was, he offended the religious people of his day. And he offended them because he spent so much time with sinners. Because that's what happens when you spend time with sinners, you get accused of being one yourself. Whether you've, and so what happens is we were afraid to associate with those people lest I get, you know, lumped in with them. And like I'm agreeing with them.
And so that is one of the challenges that we have. But again, Jesus did this all the time. Luke 15 one and two said the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, this man welcomes sinners and eats with them. And eating with people in that culture was a very intimate thing to do, you know. And so Jesus was willing to be very intimate with these people, even if it offended the religious establishment. And so that's part of what we have to deal with today. So part of it is understanding the power of friendship with people that are not like us.
With people that wouldn't walk into a church. So the first idea is that friendship humanizes them. Right? It's so easy to talk about those people and the way, you know, what they do. But when you sit across from someone, it's a lot harder to hate them.
Right? When you're sitting and having coffee with them, it's a lot harder to hate them. And then friendship actually allows you to demonstrate the gospel with your life. So a lot of secular people have a lot of false assumptions about who Jesus is and what Jesus' followers are like.
And they, like us, they make these kind of misconceptions. And when you get to be with secular people and live a life, you can actually reflect the gospel in a way, through your actions, that can break down some of those walls. You know, Philippians 2, 3, and 4 is such a powerful verse because if we can live this verse out in front of secular people, it's the kind of verse that does not make sense to secular culture. It's the idea of do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself, not looking to your own interest, but each of you to the interest of others. If you live that kind of life in front of secular people, it blows them away. Right? Because that is something where you're laying down my needs, my desires for someone else's sake. The religion of this culture is secular humanism, which is the religion of self.
Right? And it's all about me and pursuing my happiness. And when you see people lay aside their happiness for the sake of others, it's radical countercultural that really opens up the opportunity to connect with people. The other thing that friendship does, it helps you to understand. So often we don't actually understand people or understand how they came to be where they are or understand why they believe what they believe.
And so because of that, we're not able to communicate the gospel effectively. So when you build friendships, you can actually get to know them and then you're able to communicate the gospel in a way that connects with them. And then beyond that, it allows you to earn the trust to actually challenge their views and speak truth.
We live in a very sensitive time in which if you challenge my views, I'm going to get offended. But when I build the relational trust and credibility, then I can actually speak into your life. So the power of friendship and engaging secular people is amazing. And also what's beautiful about this is you don't have to be super talented or a really persuasive, apologetic person. You can just be a good friend. And so it's accessible to all of us and each of us can build a friendship with the few people that God puts in our life. To me, this is encouraging because I can do this.
Anyone can do this. And we're going to talk more about what that looks like. But here's the thing.
In order for you to do this, you've got to count the cost. Because one of the addictions of our time is busyness. We are so over-scheduled. And as Christians, we're often over-scheduled doing good things like five different Bible studies and eight different church events.
All good stuff. But there is literally no room, no margin to have a relationship with a secular person. And as we all know, relationships take time.
They're costly. And so we need to make room, which means we need to have a shift in priority and lifestyle. This starts with a broken heart. Where we repent and say, God, my heart is cold. It's not right.
I'm sorry. Would you give me your broken heart? And when your heart is broken, then you're willing to sacrifice. Then you're willing to say no to whatever thing or things that you're doing in order to create space for you to have relationships with secular people in your life. And to understand that friendships, they take time and that they're cumulative and that they're exponential. Like the more you develop a relationship over time, the more it grows.
The more you can build that trust, the more you can speak into the life, the more they can see your lifestyle in action. But that takes time and it's going to take sacrifice. So we need to count the cost and intentionally build the margin in our life in order to have these kinds of relationships.
All right. Another key point has to do with the idea of holiness versus relevance. So in Steiger, we have a number of values and two of our values are holiness and relevance. And holiness and relevance is an interesting concept because they can feel like tensions or like they're actually on opposite sides of two spectrums.
Because what relevance is about is it's about being with people and being connected to people and knowing people and understanding how they see the world and to be able to communicate in an effective way. Whereas holiness is about being set apart. It's about being different and distinct.
And so what happens is you can actually err on either side. So you can be completely quote unquote relevant to the point where you look exactly like the world and you essentially adopt the world's lifestyle and morals and theology in order to fit in and to connect. And so that's kind of one extreme end of the spectrum. The other spectrum is that we are so quote unquote holy that we isolate ourselves from the world, that we're completely disconnected, that we do everything separate. Separate Christian schools, Christian entertainment, Christian everything so that we have no impact and no influence on the world. And so the tension is how do we actually be in the world but distinct?
That's the tension that we need to have. And as followers of Jesus, we are called to go into the world and to transform it. And that means that we have to be distinct.
We don't compromise morally or theologically. But we also don't hide from the world either. You've been listening to the first part of our guest teacher Aaron Pearce's message Building Trust and Friendships from his series Not Beyond Reach. He and Chip will join us here in studio with some additional thoughts about today's program in just a minute. 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, I'm joined in studio now by Chip. And Chip, studies tell us that many committed followers of Jesus are reluctant to share the gospel with today's young people for fear of being cancelled or sounding intolerant of what they believe. What's your reaction to that? Well Dave, I'm very concerned because the Bible is really clear that people can't know and they can't respond if they don't hear. I'm concerned, yes, for the next generation, but I'm concerned about the future of our faith. We can't lose hope, but we have to pass on our faith to the next generation and those that are coming up. And what we know is like 80% of all the people that ever come to Christ, they do so before age 18. And we're always one generation away from the faith disappearing.
It's happened in other countries. I'm absolutely concerned that we need to learn how to connect with and reach the next generation. And that's why I'm so excited about the brand new book by Aaron Pierce, Not Beyond Reach, that we've had a chance to partner together on that will help moms and dads and pastors know this is a blueprint.
Here's a game plan. Here's how to reach the next generation. Here's how to not turn people off, but to connect and to listen and go on a journey that will allow you to connect the people you love, the next generation, with the Lord Jesus Christ.
You won't regret it. To order this new book by Aaron Pierce, Not Beyond Reach, go to LivingOnTheEdge.org or the Chip Ingram app. Learn what you can do to skillfully and intentionally share the truth of the Gospel in this post-Christian culture. Again, to get your copy of Not Beyond Reach, visit LivingOnTheEdge.org or the Chip Ingram app. Well, with all that said, Chip, let's get to your and Aaron's application for today. Thanks, Dave. Great message, Aaron. I really appreciated the things you shared about building a relational foundation with people that don't know Jesus. Let me ask you, what's been most helpful in befriending someone maybe of a different faith or a different political party or, you know, a really different, you know, cultural background? And then what advice would you give to a parent especially or maybe a grandparent who's lost that relational connection?
Thanks, Chip. Those are great questions. The first thing I need to do is remind myself that they too are made in the image of God and that God loves them. That in fact, these are the ones that Jesus died for and that they too have hopes and dreams and are wanting a good life and all the things that we share with people in common. And so what I ask is that God would allow me to see these people as he does, to see them through his eyes and then to remember these important truths that love does not equal affirmation. That empathy is not the same as agreeing and that I am not guilty by association. I think that's an important truth to remember. And then as a parent or grandparent whose children or child maybe has walked away from the Lord, first of all, my heart breaks for you.
And then I would say, don't give up. And as you interact with them, practically, I would say don't waver in your biblical convictions. But at the same time, don't get hung up on debating secondary or downstream issues like politics or moral behavior. Because as we will discuss later in the series, they need to meet Jesus first. And so instead, seek to be a consistent, loving presence in their life. Be patient and ready for the opportunities to speak truth whenever they come. And then I would say live a life that is fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit because more than anything else, what they need to see is the supernatural work of God in your life. They need to see that you have hope that cannot be shaken because your hope is in something outside of this world. They need to see that in your life.
That is what is attractive. And then finally, I would say pray like crazy. Ask God to bring people into their lives. Ask God to do something circumstantially in their life that would draw them to God, that would open their hearts.
Don't give up hope because their story is not over yet. Encouraging reminder, Aaron. And a practical tool we've developed to help you better engage the young people in your life is Aaron's book, Not Beyond Reach. Order it at LivingOnTheEdge.org or through the Chip Ingram app. Discover the simple process you can follow to tell others about the message of the cross and the love of Jesus in a winsome way. Get this book today at LivingOnTheEdge.org or the Chip Ingram app. We'll listen to next time as Aaron continues this new series, Not Beyond Reach. Until then, this is Dave Druey saying thanks for joining us for this Edition of Living on the Edge.
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