It is my great desire as your pastor to have the old truth come to a living expression in a new day. What do I mean by that? “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16) God doesn’t change. Truth doesn’t change. The Faith once for all delivered to the saints, doesn’t change. (Jude 3) The product that I peddle is unchanging. It is God, His Word, His Son, His grace, His gospel. But we package the product in a different way depending on the audience. We are to speak the gospel in a relevant manner to a new generation. We are to re-package the truth for a new day.
So, what is the new generation looking for in the church? What does this generation hunger for and how can we meet that need with the Gospel? Many young people today are looking for four things in the church, excellence, authenticity, activity and community.
Excellence. They want things in the church to be done well; with insight and integrity - with excellence. All that we do in the church community is to shine. We are to give it our best thoughts and efforts, not our leftover time and energy. This hunger for excellence is a good thing for God expects it as well. When God commissioned work to be done on the tabernacle he filled Bezalel and Oholiab “with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge and with all craftsmanship to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze…” (Ex 35:31-32) “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Col 3:23 Whatever you do in the church, give it your best and give it your all.
Authenticity. People in our day need to see a correspondence between the mighty truth that we proclaim and the changed lives that we live as a result. Our lives are our witness. They can spot a fake. God makes us sons and daughters and we are to bear the family name well. Grace is to make us gracious. Truth is to make us loving. They long to see gospel confirmation dripping from every word we speak and every ounce of humble pie that we eat because we know the grace of God. We need to practice what we preach. They need to see the gospel in us as well as hear the gospel from us. Our lives are our witness.
Activity. The gospel finds us dead and makes us alive - truly alive to God, to truth, and to life! The gospel makes us active. Paul prays for the Church at Colossae, “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col 1:10) The new generation seeks truth, excellence, authenticity and the activity that genuinely and inevitably flows from embracing the gospel. We need to stand for truth and labor for justice in a fallen world. We need to do more than sit in the pews on Sunday morning. We need to stand with a sign at the abortion clinic, serve meals at the soup kitchen, comfort the hurting, and love the unlovely during the rest of the week.
Community. Where can I find a home, a place to be me, a cause to live and die for? Where can I find acceptance and real community? The secular worldview divides and destroys until there is only a single, solitary ‘you’, all alone in the dark. As families and communities atomize, people are looking for a place to call home and to be at home. They are looking for authentic community. People are hurting and aimless even thought they still bear the image of God. The church is a place to reconcile with God, to soothe our wounds and to find our home. “If they really knew me, would they still accept me?” The answer in the gospel-centered church is yes. People need to feel that truth as well as hear it.
We truly understand and embrace the gospel when we can be ourselves, our raw and unvarnished selves, in the presence of a Holy God. When we embrace gospel truth we can know ourselves at home with God and strive for excellence and authentic activity in making the church a home for others. If we will reach the rising generation for Christ, we must allow the gospel to change the darkest corners of our lives so that they will see Christ working in and through us.