How church and family can unite to fulfill the Great Commission
Jesus gave a Great Commission to His followers: "Make disciples" (Matt. 28:19). I have little doubt that you desire to be a Great Commission Christian and that your dream is to lead a Great Commission church. We desperately want to see people repent, believe in Christ, grow in Him and engage in kingdom ministry. But how are we doing? Are we seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ advance in our communities and in our nation?
Thom Rainer's research in recent years reveals a disturbing answer. The president of LifeWay Christian Resources, Rainer surveyed Americans to determine what percentage of the population considered themselves to be Christians based on having put their faith in Christ. He found that among those born before 1946, 65 percent of the U.S. population identified themselves as Christians because of their decision to trust Christ as Lord and Savior. For those born between 1946 and 1964, the number dropped to 35 percent; for those born from 1965 to 1976, it fell still further to 15 percent. In shocking conclusion, only 4 percent of those born between 1977 and 1994 identified themselves as having put their faith and trust in Christ.
Additional studies from Christian researcher George Barna and others are equally bleak regarding the next generation's spiritual lives. But statistics don't tell the whole story.
Imagine gathering together the teenagers who have grown up in your church. If you were to look into their hearts and souls, what do you think you would find? What percentage of those young people, who have been a part of your faith community for many years, would be passionate about their love for the Lord, committed to His Word and eager to live for Him?
As I've asked youth pastors around the country to wrestle with that question, the best answer I've ever received is "50 percent." The vast majority of leaders see spiritual health only in a minority of students who have grown up in their churches. Remember, we aren't talking about the non-Christian teens visiting their youth groups on a particular night, but those who have received the benefit of years of our best Christian education.
Clearly, evangelism and discipleship are in crisis in the United States—and it's a generational crisis. Although we're doing more than ever to equip adults to share Christ with their friends at work and in their neighborhoods, we're losing the souls of millions of our own children.
How to Kill Christianity
Christians are crying out against the decline of faith and morality in our culture, yet the diagnosis for this isn't complicated: For the last 100 years, we have been losing more of our own children to the world than we have been winning adult converts to faith in Christ. We need only to look across the ocean at Europe to see the end result of this trend. These were the greatest Christian lands on earth a few hundred years ago! Now, out of 728 million people in Europe, only 2 to 4 percent know Jesus. How could this have happened? Simple. Generation after generation failed to win the souls of their children. Christianity literally died off.