Josh McDowell has spoken on hundreds of college campuses, and millions of readers have appreciated his books, including More Than a Carpenter and Evidence That Demands a Verdict. So when a group from our church had the chance to eat supper with him recently before one of his speaking engagements, we welcomed the opportunity.
I asked Josh, “How have questions about faith changed over the years?” He responded, “People used to ask, ‘How do I know it’s true?’ Now they ask, ‘What gives you the right to say it?’” In his view, our culture has moved from defining truth intellectually (what we think) to defining it emotionally (how we feel), and now it’s increasingly common to define truth as behavior (how we act) so that however individuals choose to live, that is their “truth.”
McDowell observes, “Because of the Internet, youth culture is pretty much the same now in every nation. Students all over the world listen to the same music, watch the same movies, talk and dress much the same way. They’re strongly influenced by American values.” I thought, With that kind of influence, what an unprecedented opportunity for young believers to impact the world for Christ!However, if we don’t believe, model, and pass along a well-informed and biblically grounded faith in Jesus, future generations (not only in America, but all over the world) will pay a stiff price.
Later someone asked Josh, “What advice would you give today’s high school or college student?” Without hesitation, he answered, “Stop looking at pornography.” His website (www.Josh.org) lists disturbing data gathered by the Barna Research Group. For example:
- Today, twice as many young adults ages 25-30 first viewed pornography before puberty than did the previous generation.
- Teens and young adults have a cavalier attitude toward porn. Ninety percent of teens and 96 percent of young adults say they talk about porn with their friends in a neutral, accepting, or encouraging way. Only one in 20 young adults and one in 10 teens say their friends consider viewing pornography a bad thing. They consider not recycling more immoral than viewing pornography.
- “Sexting” is increasingly common. Sixty-six percent of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image and 41 percent have sent one.
What do these troubling statistics say about the church and the way we interact with the next generation? We can’t go back to a simpler time; nor should we resign from our task as disciple-makers. The apostle Paul didn’t focus on the past; he stayed busy “straining toward what is ahead” and pressing “on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:13, 14). Psalm 78:4 presents a noble goal: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” I hope the upcoming generation won’t merely equal the spiritual achievements of past generations, but surpass them. I pray that the next generation will “not be like their ancestors—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him” (v. 8)—but will be more fruitful and faithful than believers were in the past.
Parents, grandparents, youth ministers, and student leaders, we can’t give up on the next generation. By pressing on and passing on the faith, we help to shape what’s ahead.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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