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Now we all know that a lot of these Christians are Christians in name only. For instance, the number of people affiliated with a Christian church in the UK is only 47.8% so that’s substantially lower already. But still a vast majority of the people in the US and the UK calls themselves a Christian, they want to be associated with Christianity.
That’s not the case in my home country of The Netherlands where only 43.4% of the people calls themselves a Christian. If you take into account that not all of them are ‘real’ Christians either, you realize how bleak the reality is.
This is the reality of youth workers in The Netherlands (or Holland as it’s also called). Sadly, Holland has been a frontrunner in the postmodern trend of saying goodbye to the church and to Christianity in general. Young people are leaving the church in staggering numbers and the only denominations that seem to be able to hold on to their youth in some way are the evangelicals and Baptist churches.
Why I am telling you this? Because this is the future for the US and the UK if we can’t turn the tide.
I love my country. Holland has been a refuge for centuries for persecuted people from all over the world. We took in Jews who had to flee from Antwerp, Protestants who were persecuted, French Huguenots, and who ever else came knocking on our door. We’re the country that prided itself on its acceptance and tolerance. We were born to seek compromise, there are currently 10 political parties represented in our parliament for instance. We even gave making decisions in consensus a fancy name: polder model.
But all that compromising and tolerance has only made us more susceptible to postmodernism. Tolerance has become a religion almost, with an obligation to respect anyone else’s opinion and viewpoint. There’s a fear for radicalism, for fundamentalism, fed by experiences with Muslim fundamentalism.
So churches compromise, tone down their message, become more culturally acceptable. And thus lose their way. Not all of them, but too many churches sell out to postmodernism and become nothing more than a place where people can feel good for a while.
This is the future for the US and the UK if we can’t turn the tide.
We have got to turn that tide. We can turn that tide. Not by our own power, but by the power of an Almighty God who is capable of doing anything we ask and way more than that.
So how do we turn that tide? Here are some of my thoughts:
Prayer has to come first, last and in between. Passionate prayer for our young people is of crucial importance. Get your volunteers, your leaders, your church to pray for our youth.
Take a stand
Compromising is not the answer, as a matter of fact it’s the first step of a long slide downhill. You have got to take a stand. Postmodernism may lead young people to leave the church, but they’re still interested in God and religion. They are just looking for something that’s real, that’s passionate, radical. They are looking for something worth dying for. And we have just such a message, if only we had the courage to stand up and say it. Jesus is the only way to God, there is no other way. Show them a faith were dying for and I’m convinced they will follow in larger numbers than we’d ever dreamed were possible.
I’m convinced discipling is key. It’s not enough to just teach, or share the gospel. We need to invest time and energy in young people and make them true followers of Jesus. It’s the one thing that will make their faith real and deep, instead of a superficial thing that will disappear when life gets tough.
Seek and serve
The reality in Holland is that friendship evangelism alone isn’t enough anymore. Most churches have so few young people, that you can’t count on them to bring friends. Plus it’s hard for young people to invite friends to church, because the church in general really has a bad rep and no one wants to go there. I saw that reality too late to be honest. It’s hard to switch from something you’ve believed in because it doesn’t work anymore.
We need to find youth where they are, by serving them. We need to show them we care first, before we can share any kind of message with them. We need to find out where God is already at work and then join Him.
God loves young people way more than we ever could. You can be sure He’s already at work in their hearts, preparing them for encountering us. But we need to be available for that encounter.
What are you doing in your youth ministry to help turn the tide?