Endangered Species: American Evangelical Youth
How this may be that last Bible believing generation in America
Turn on CNN, Fox News and other major cable outlets and one struggles to identify a single day where religion, particularly evangelicalism, does not appear in the context of politics, morality and upcoming elections. The average viewer could, via the constant inclusion of spiritual verbiage within the American lexicon, assume that evangelicalism and America represent a juxtaposition secured for the 21st century. However, current trends depict a very distinct outcome.
In fact, according to statistics shared by Ron Luce, President of Teen Mania, and author of Battle Cry: Revolution, individuals born in the late 1980’s will most likely be the most biblically illiterate and non-Christian generation in history. “Reality dictates that 4% of the next generation of adults will be bible believing Christians”, declared Luce. “In essence we have 5 Years, since the majority of conversions occur before the age of 20, to reach 71 million young people or this will become a post Christian America in the mold of Post modern Europe”, added the national youth leader.
For instance, although spirituality and mysticism continue to thrive in the MySpace Generation demographic, evangelicalism continues to falter in engaging and attracting America’s youth. “There exists a relational disconnect between Senior Pastors and the young”, explained Luce. Ron adheres to a Next Generation Oriented Church strategy as a viable solution to the crisis. “Listen, what we need to understand is that there exists a language barrier with this generation that continues to insist on religious nomenclatures such as Do you have a personal relationship with Christ when in reality our kids better understand Are you a follower of Jesus”, added Luce.
On the other hand, however egregious the prospect exists for the next Generation of non-ethnic Americans to embrace a bible-believing ethos, ethnic young people may very well salvage the heritage. Warren Beemer, Youth Pastor at Cornerstone Church, in San Antonio, Texas, serves Pastor John Hagee by leading a thriving youth ministry deliberately multi-ethnic and intentionally prophetic. “Ethnic young people demand authenticity, relationship, unity and the supernatural”, declared Beemer.
Warren insists that the next generation cannot experience revival and a modern Jesus movement without a dynamic of miracles, prophetic relevance and purpose filled affinity. “This generation does not want to hear about religion or spiritual-lite messaging, they demand to experience the Power of God”, insisted Beemer.
In particular, immigrant and ethnic youth groups represent the fastest growing constituency in the American Christian next generation demographic. The question arises, why do ethnic youth groups thrive while non-ethnic struggle for relevancy? “Latino, Black and Asian young people arrive with a story of struggle, survivability and faith”, shared Efrain Pineda, National Next Generation Task Force Director for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “As a result, necessities facilitate an environment for hope, faith and God”, added Pineda.
While Ron Luce believes that engaging 100,000 congregations to double their youth groups via the means of discipleship, offers the best solution to the crisis, other Christian leaders see Pentecostalism, multi-ethnicity and trans generational support mechanisms as the strategy to prevent the 4% outcome. Pineda insists that a generation, which embraces the experiential thread most prominent in the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream of evangelicalism, will continue to grow for the sake of succession and passing the baton to the next. “The fastest growing youth groups and the most passionate on high school and college campuses believe that miracles exists for today and that multi-ethnicity that reflects the Kingdom of God resonates in a demographic that repudiates class warfare and racism”, explained the young pastor.
Moreover, all three aforementioned youth leaders subscribe around the nexus of trans-generational support mechanisms. Simply stated, today’s adults must actively influence the next generation with relationships, relevant language and authentic demonstration of Christ filled living all the meanwhile, as Ron Luce demanded, and “Senior Pastors make it hard for young people in their communities to go to hell”.
Correspondingly what America needs is a bridal generation to arise, a generation preparing the way for the bridegroom. As a result, generations that will run and not grow weary, see visions and overcome the evil one will most likely lead evangelicalism in the 21st Century. Throughout the biblical narrative, the young, as illustrated in Acts 5 removed the dead items from the temple. Once again, our Nation calls for a generation that will reconcile the races, defend the faith of our fathers, advance a platform of righteousness and justice and finally, remove the dead items from the temple we call American Christianity.
At the end of the day, the term evangelical may disappear from the thesaurus of religious acumen, but what matters most is that the next generation proudly demonstrates to the world that in America, hope and faith still thrive by the lives of the young who call themselves “Followers of Christ”.
Sam Rodriguez is an award winning writer who also serves as President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference which is the National Hispanic Association of Evangelicals serving approximately 15 million Hispanic believers in issues of leadership, fellowship, networking, partnerships and public policy.