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The Last Christian Generation
Michael J. McManus


Are we witnessing what Josh McDowell calls "The Last Christian Generation," in his new book by that title? Only one-third of teenagers who are part of the church say it will be part of their lives in the future.

According to pollster George Barna, 63 percent do not believe Jesus is the Son of God. Three-fifths believe all faiths teach equally valid truths. A stunning 51 percent do not believe Jesus rose from the dead, and two-thirds don't believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit are real.

The consequences of this lack of faith are shocking. Christian youth are just as likely as non-Christian youth to have lied to a parent (93 percent each). Three-quarters of both have cheated on a test and two-thirds have physically hurt someone.

Barna's research reports that 98 percent of professed born-again young people "do believe in Christ, but they do not reflect Christlike attitudes or actions."

Important words mean different things to this generation, than to adults:

Tolerance to Christian adults means accepting others without agreeing with or sharing their beliefs or lifestyle choices. Tolerance to teens means accepting each person's beliefs, values and lifestyles, believing that all truth claims have equal validity.

Truth is an absolute standard of right and wrong to adults, while truth is "whatever is right for you" to teens. Certain things are morally right or wrong as determined by Scripture to adults while teens argue "We have no right to judge another person's behavior."

Freedom to mature Christians means one is free to do what you ought to do, while freedom to teens means being able to do anything you want to do.

No wonder Josh McDowell believes we are witnessing the "last Christian generation." Probably no one in the world has met more teens, having personally spoken to ten million young people in 84 countries on more than 700 college campuses. He has written more than 100 books, such as "New Evidence that Demands a Verdict" and "More Than a Carpenter."

How could 70 percent of churched teenagers believe there is no absolute moral truth?

This attitude appeals to our kids' "desire to respect others' choices and to refrain from judging other people's decisions," writes McDowell. "They see truth in the area of religion and morality as a personal and private matter, and they surmise that no one should be allowed to impose his or her own ideas of what is right or wrong on another."

St. Paul wroted the job of the church is to help the next generation to grow "in knowledge about God's Son, until (they) become mature, until (they) measure up to Christ, who is the standard. Then (they) will no longer be like little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of teachings that change like the wind" (Ephesians 4:14 GWT).

Therefore, it is time to face some hard facts.

First, the church has failed. Second, we as parents have failed.

Why?

Teenagers are actually more active than adults in church, in youth groups and events. Kids come to youth groups for fun and fellowship but call the spiritual devotionals given by youth leaders "boring."

Youth leaders tend to think that the problem is that the media's values promote sexual promiscuity and the attitude that all people's perspectives are equally valid.

However, the truth is more hopeful yet more painful. How would the typical churched teen answer this question: "Who or what is molding and shaping your attitudes and actions?" Fully 78 percent say "It's my parents" reports Barna. They have three times the influence of youth leaders.

Clearly, however, parents are failing to communicate their professed values. Why?

Teenagers are only mirroring adult attitudes, 96 percent of whom do not reflect the attitudes or actions of Jesus. We are not living the faith we profess.

McDowell's solution is radical. Stop handing kids over to youth leaders who are focused on events and programs. Create for kids learning in small groups like that attended by 61 percent of evangelical adults during the week, in which people help each other to live out Christlike characteristics: worship, humility, a willingness to admit fault, prayer for each other's struggles.

Even more radical, parents should help youngsters by joining similar youth study groups. "Believe it or not, our kids actually need to see us fail and seek forgiveness. They need to see us humble ourselves and realize that we, too, are in the process of 'becoming more and more in every way like Christ," McDowell asserts.