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Endangered Species

Evangelical youth may be America's last Bible-believing generation.

Given the spiritual verbiage infused within the American lexicon, it's easy to assume that evangelicalism and America represent a juxtaposition secured for the 21st century. Yet statistics shared by Teen Mania President Ron Luce indicate those born in the late 1980s will likely comprise the most biblically illiterate and non-Christian generation in history. "Reality dictates that 4 percent of the next generation of adults will be Bible-believing Christians," Luce says. "In essence we have five 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 postmodern Europe."

Although spirituality and mysticism continue to thrive in the MySpace generation, evangelicalism still fails to engage. Luce points to a "relational disconnect between senior pastors and the young. ... 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?'"

However egregious the prospect of a generation of Nonethnic Americans embracing the Bible, ethnic young people may salvage the heritage. Warren Beemer, youth pastor at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, leads a thriving youth ministry that's deliberately multiethnic and intentionally prophetic. "Ethnic young people demand authenticity, relationship, unity and the supernatural," Beemer says. "This generation does not want to hear about religion or spiritual-lite messaging; they demand to experience the power of God."

Immigrant and ethnic youths represent the fastest-growing constituency among America's next generation of Christians. Yet why do ethnic youth groups thrive while nonethnic ones struggle for relevancy? "Latino, black and Asian young people arrive with a story of struggle, survivability and faith," shares Efrain Pineda, director for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference's next-generation task force. "As a result, necessities facilitate an environment for hope, faith and God."

Luce believes the best solution to the crisis is engaging 100,000 congregations to double their youth groups via discipleship. Other Christian leaders see Pentecostalism, multiethnicity and transgenerational support mechanisms as keys. Pineda says a generation embracing the experiential thread most prominent in the Pentecostal-charismatic stream will continue to grow while passing the baton to the next. "The fastest-growing youth groups and the most passionate on high school and college campuses believe that miracles exist for today," he explains. "[They also believe] that multiethnicity that reflects the kingdom of God resonates in a demographic that repudiates class warfare and racism."

Moreover, Luce, Beemer and Pineda all believe today's adults must still actively influence the next generation with relationships, relevant language and authentic Christ-filled living.

Throughout the Bible, the young removed the dead items from the temple (Acts 5). 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.

Award-winning writer Sam Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Hispanic NAE, serving 15 million Latino believers and 18,000 churches.

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