Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Where Have All The Children Gone?"

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Most are saying President Obama's State of the Union speech last night did not live up to how it had been promoted. It was less threatening than promised by his people. It seemed to me to be more about style than substance.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Republican response was great. It was transparent, kind and inspiring. Washingtonians and Republicans alike should be proud.

This is a link to her response and the Tea Party response from Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Rand Paul.

Joseph Kenschbaum wrote the haunting and weird lyrics. Many have since used them as illustration for everything from the drop in fertility rates, to the passing of time, to the changing culture, to crime that has driven the children from playing on the street corner.

He wrote, "The creeking silence of age echos through the streets...all of the children once running around, have evacuated...or maybe they've just disappeared...where have all the children gone...maybe its just a dream...we hope they're hiding, but we know this is really happening...where have all the children gone?"


PC Pickney told the Southern Baptist Convention on September 18, 2001, "Oh, God, we are losing our children."

That was over 12 years ago and statistics still show "we are losing our children."

They are not hiding, they are simply walking away from many evangelical, biblical beliefs while sometimes continuing to attend church.

The religious left declares, "The Religious Right Is Dead" while others refer to our era as "Post Modern," Post Christian," or simply "Post Evangelical."

There is an identity crises, it's not a dream. Young evangelicals are continuing to attend their churches in many cases, while walking away from biblical values as they relate to abortion, the redefinition of marriage and biblical teaching regarding sexual behavior, to name a few.

But don't write the eulogy just yet. We've been here before. There is an answer, but it may not be what you think.

I don't personally believe this is a "Post" anything era. Here's why.

TC Pickney told the Southern Baptists that 70% of their kids were walking away from the beliefs of the church within the first 2 years of college, and that was over 12 years ago.

The Southern Baptists are the largest denominational block of evangelicals in America. Pickney believed the secularization of education was at the core of the problem.

No question it is a major problem. Public education is at war with Christianity and the family.

But there are more and greater issues at play. It isn't just a far left progressive President or politicians. Nor is it only education and the entertainment industry, although all these are a factor.

Chelsen Vicari with the Institute on Religion and Democracy says, "Out of fear of being falsely dubbed 'intolerant' or 'uncompassionate' many young Christians are buying into the theological falsehoods from popular liberal Evangelical writers and preachers. However their 'feel good' theology sidesteps all biblical principles that are exclusive or constricting."

She says, "In order to market their distorted version of Christianity to the masses, liberal Christian elites stress the importance of salvation from poverty, inequality, and oppression rather than forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ."

This has removed this group of young evangelicals from speaking to the culture with any conviction. It has also caused them to hesitate in sharing the gospel, lest they be accused of proselytizing.

The core of the problem is not primarily in the culture. It is in the church.

We have, in our attempt to "grow the church"---and I'm a strong advocate of church growth, focused more on "How to" sermons then "Why" sermons. And "What" sermons.

Protecting marriage and protecting the unborn child does not happen due to good politics. Good politics follow proper biblical beliefs among pro-active Christians and conservatives.

Social Justice is not the answer. It is an expression that comes from the answer. The war on poverty is not the answer. It can only be effective if it flows from the answer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whose convictions against the Nazi actions and beliefs cost him his life, called the kind of Christianity too many evangelical churches have adopted "cheap grace."

In his book, "The Cost of Discipleship" he wrote, "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession."

The Washington Post reported the March for Life last week in DC as predominantly Catholic youth. To be sure there were many evangelical youth, but the Catholic youth showed up. And were visible.

Vicari says it amplified how evangelical and Catholic kids can work together without compromising their distinctive beliefs.

Prior to the Great Awakening of the 1730s, Americans---particularly youth, had become complacent and apathetic about the biblical faith that had been the guiding light for their parents and grandparents.

That spiritual awakening led to the successful launch of the United States of America. The American Revolution. And the expansion of the Christian church in this country and around the world.

Although many are suggesting we are "Post Modern," "Post Christian," or "Post Evangelical," that suggestion is either wishful thinking or simply uninformed.

Gallup's editor in chief Frank Newport says in his book, "God Is Alive and well: The Future of Religion in America," "Right now we don't see any signs of unusual increase in non-Christian religions. Christianity will prevail in the US. America will remain very much a Christian nation in the decades ahead."

Rather than a declaration of "Post" this or that, we need a spiritual renewal.

Truth is not evolving, God is not evolving, His principles and values are not evolving.

If the attention will be turned toward God---who He is and what He wants, rather than how I feel and what I want, things will change dramatically and quickly.

I remember the 1960s. Many were predicting it was over for the American culture. Things were bad. It was indeed a generation without restraint. And without a moral compass. Drugs and "free sex" defined the day.

I was a youth pastor in the late 60s and early 70s. I cannot describe it, but can attest to the fact than when spiritual renewal began, it swept the nation. And it happened among the youth.

I was in the church in Hollywood at that time. Hundreds of thousands of youth marched in the streets of Hollywood and LA "for Jesus." The march didn't create the renewal, it was the outflow of the renewal.

I've seen individual lives changed just as dramatically and quickly.

It can happen in our times. God has not changed.

This generation must be taught the "whole gospel." Not only told of the grace and forgiveness of God, but taught the disciplines of God and His Word. And informed as to what God calls sin, how He has empowered us to live an overcoming life and how He forgives us for that sin when it occurs in our lives.

This brings wisdom and a Biblical World View. And the motivation to change one's world and share the gospel---the Good News with anybody who will listen.

Better days are just ahead. God has not changed, nor will He change.

Be Informed. Be Renewed. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.