I write this with a heavy heart. It is for a generation that does not want trite answers, neatly packaged in clever and amusing presentations. It is for those that have heard the 'camp' talks, and even been to Sunday School. It is for a generation that faces multiple forms of opposition to the gospel and desperately needs not just solid bible teaching but comprehensive bible teaching, not repeated cliches but a proclamation of the whole counsel of God. My concern is that I am not sure that my generation really 'gets' the issues at stake. Are we failing our young people? Are we really teaching our students? Or to put it another way what does it mean to disciple the next generation?
I was recently with a group of christian students who were asking for help to deal with the trans- gender issue. Their questions were coming not from an academic curiosity but directly from a need to work out these things in their relationships with peers who consider themselves transgendered. It is no good for them to muddle this issue with the gay issue; it is no good for them to vaguely say - " I think it is wrong". They know the issue is complex and they are looking for wisdom but the only voices they can find are not coming from conservative evangelicals but from documentaries such as Louis Theroux's 'Transgendered Kids'
. (I am pleased that Ed Shaw from livingout.org
informed me that there will be a book out this summer on the issue. His really helpful book The Plausibility Problem
is also a much needed resource on human sexuality).
To hold on to the truth of the gospel as a young person in our society is a very different experience today than mine was. I was teased at school for being the 'nun' but generally it was along the lines of being thought of as 'a goody two-shoes' (what an out-dated phrase!) but now if you promote the biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality you are at best deluded and at worst a bigot. The gospel message is deeply offensive to our culture - elements of the bible's teaching lay us open to accusations of being sexist, misogynistic, racist, and homophobic.
The message of the bible is none of these things - it is life-giving, beautiful, and awe inspiring,the very words of God but if you are an untaught young Christian it will be very tempting to give up on it unless older Christians show you that God's word is so much more. Sadly some have only been taught a few platitudes: Jesus loves you, God thinks you are wonderful, Jesus died for you, let Jesus into your heart, Jesus gives you life to the full. Man-centred gospel presentations will not cut it! But neither will telling young Christians a list of moral codes to live by. Both produce self-centred, me-focused, emotional, sentimental immature Christians, rather than radical disciples who are prepared to go the way of the cross.
We must teach the gospel well. We must show how God has been working from the creation of the world to bring everything to completion in His Son.The book of Genesis matters! The book of Revelation matters! Everything in between matters! We have a responsibility to teach it all. I have taken to using D.A.Carson's book 'The God who is there'
as a book to read with non Christians - it is long but if we want people to follow Christ we can't take short cuts - it matters. If we want to grow disciples they need to really love Jesus, to know the God they are following and that the cost is worth it - and there will be a cost.
I urge you Church leaders please consider this - are you helping your flock to maturity? Are you laying foundations that will help them stand firm. Recently I heard someone say up front in a church - " I think the bible says that gay marriage is wrong but I've no idea why - it does seem a bit arbitrary" (this was in an evangelical church which is among the top 100 largest Anglican churches in the country). The heartbreaking truth is that this man is not alone - many Christians feel this way and they are equally muddled on women's issues, sexuality and gender among other things - for them the bible seems a bit fussy, irrelevant, and out of date. The solution to this is not to teach it less but to it teach more. The good news is that there are young people out there asking "please teach us!". Their warning to me was "please teach us on this before it's too late!" Think about it - I think they have a point.