Note: This post is excerpted from the book The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture and the Church by Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
When faced with unprecedented and overwhelming challenges, fear can paralyze even the most courageous and convictional. The challenges facing the coming generations are perilous, and many of the factors feeding this generational frenzy seem insurmountable. How can Christians and churches reverse the effects of social media? How can Christians show coming generations the glory of family and recapture the spectacular gift of children? How can churches convince sexualized teenagers that God’s design for sex is the pathway for true flourishing? How can anyone stop the floods of secularism and liberalism converging in on America’s coming generations?
Only the power of the cross and cross-shaped living will stem the tide and dissipate this gathering storm. Christian parents must center their lives on the glory of the gospel and the good news it secures. Lives centered around the cross cast a brilliant light in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. Faithfulness to God, to his Word, and conviction in the midst of rampant capitulation will provide this generational crisis an alternative path.
Specifically, the church of Jesus Christ must apply the gospel power in at least three ways in order to engage the storm gathering over the coming generations. First, Christian parents must view church as the highest and utmost priority for their family’s weekly schedule. We have surrendered Sunday school and youth ministry in many of our churches. I am the product of being involved in the local church many hours a week as a young boy and teenager. My frame of reality was largely set by my parents’ design—and it was church whenever the church offered an opportunity, and there were many opportunities: Sunday school, youth choir, Royal Ambassadors (for boys) and Acteens (for girls). There were weekly youth fellowships and youth meetings and regular retreats. There were wonderful and faithful adult volunteers, as well as a faithful youth minister.
Christian Smith and his research associates found that one of the distinguishing marks of young people who continue in their church participation as adults was that they had developed a warm and trusting relationship with an adult in the church (even just one) other than their own parents.
How many young people in middle school, high school, or college have that experience today? For many children growing up with Christian parents, the priority of the family is told otherwise. Many Christian parents have bought into the larger culture’s portrait of the good childhood, complete with incessant sports activities, violin and ballet lessons, and activities perceived to boost a child’s eventual college admissions application. When it comes to church activities with children and teenagers, the scariest words might well be “traveling team.” Priorities become clear, both on the part of the church and of parents. Parents can hardly claim shock when their kids grow up and leave what they have never really known. At that point, the opportunity is lost. Exposure to God’s people and a gospel-saturated community is essential for the nurturing of children in this secularized age.
Second, Christian parents need to be serious about the effects of technology, screen time, and social media. These commodities can be used for glorious purposes or can destroy. Unrestricted access to technological devices has indeed become an issue of faithful Christian parenting. The ease of access to pornography, specious ideologies, and harmful worldviews can cause enormous harm on a malleable young mind.
Finally, Christian parents must endeavor to fill their homes with the fragrance of the gospel—family worship, family devotions, scripture memory, and quality family time will do more to promote the health of the next generation than we can imagine. Inserting spiritually vibrant moments into the family life of a home is essential for the health of impressionable young minds. A myriad of resources is available to equip parents to catechize their children in the truths of God and his Word. How can any Christian parent expect their child to come to know Christ and live a life connected to the people of God if the gospel is never heard or spoken in the home?
In the end, the main point is that every successive generation of young Christians is likely to face even stronger headwinds. The obvious truth is that a church that loses its own young people has no future.
Used by permission. [email protected] 2020 by Fedilitas Corporation, R. Albert Mohler Jr. LLC. From pages 140-142 of The Gathering Storm published by Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary He is the author of several books and he hosts two programs: “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers. He is married to Mary, and they have two children, Katie and Christopher. In 2015 Dr. and Mrs. Mohler welcomed their first grandchild, Benjamin and in 2018 their second grandchild, Henry, both born to Katie and her husband Riley.