I wrote earlier this week about the need of passing the baton of the Gospel to the next generation. As we all know, this is easier said than done. Young Evangelicals today are a diverse bunch. I am amazed what God is doing through my own generation. These younger Christians seem to have a great value for theology, the Bible, community, discipleship, social justice, and mission. This is incredibly encouraging as we watch this younger generation of Christian millenials arrive on the scene of the local church. However there is one big problem, they are not going to the churches that need them. I've noticed that younger evangelicals tend to prefer churches that are already doing those thigns they are passionate about. They want churches where there deep community, discipleship, and mission. As a result the churches that are healthy and do these thigns well tend to keep growing and growing. To keep up with the growth in these churches and to spread the Gospel, there has been a renewed emphasis on church planting. This is a wonderful thing and should continue to be done. Young evangelicals flock to these growing churches and to these new church plants.
I've seen this around my seminary. A seminary is a concentration of thousands of young and passionate evangelicals. Yet at my seminary there are about four or five "seminary churches" they all tend to go too. Imagine the influence and reach these younger evangelicals could have if they spread out into hundreds of churches rather than cloistering together in a few? The great problem is that there are thousands of churches that are forgotten. Churches that are unhealthy and need revitalization. Yet for many it is soil to difficult to plow and nobody sees any potential for a ripe harvest.
In some ways many have wrote off older established churches that are platued or declining. Many think we should not even bother attempting to revitalize these churches, we should just let them die. Out with the old and in with the new. As a result these platued or declining churches are left desolate. They are wanting to reach the younger generation but they don't have any young people to show them how. These older churches need the health and vitality that comes from passing the baton to the next generation.
I have spent most of my life in platued or dying churches. As I have conversations with many of the members there, I see that they really do have a heart to reach young people. The problem is they just don't know how.
If you are a younger evangelical looking for a church, let me challenge you. Don't forget the unhealthy churches. They need you. Sure it might not match your preferences and it will be far more difficult than you can imagine, but they need you. The Lord needs you to go into these churches. Go to the hard places. Go to the difficult churches. Go to the unhealthy churches. These platued local churches could be a powerful force for the advancement of the Gospel. The potential is brimming and the resources are vast, yet so many younger Christians just write these churches off as irrelevant.
If this next generation of Christians ignore these platued and declining churches within twenty to thirthy years there will be empty, closed up churches scattered all across the country.
So do not forget these churches. Pray for them. Serve them. Love them. And yes, even join them. It might be far more difficult than joining the cool trendy church plant that all your friends are going to, but Jesus doesn't always call us to where it is most comfortable.