Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges.
We’ve considered the challenge of Navigating Newfound Authority; now a second challenge:
Waging a New Bloodless Revolution:
There is a divide in the evangelical church that is roughly along generational lines, although not entirely. The Evangelical Generation that began in the 70s has dedicated an enormous amount of its time, energies and resources to fighting the cultural corrosion of two values: First, the protection of human life from conception to natural death, threatened by the normalization of abortion-on-demand and the calls for euthanasia. Second, the protection of heterosexual marriage, seen as under fire by increasingly ambitious homosexual activism. Those who have championed these protections have often done so at the exclusion of other valuable causes, and at the cost of public popularity.
The Emerging Generation and others have identified pressing issues that deserve the attention of the church and are biblical values and imperatives that cannot be left to secular interests. These include care for the poor, stopping human trafficking, protection of God’s creation or environmental stewardship; nuclear non-proliferation; the dreadful crises of the African people, including AIDS; and clean water crises around the world. These are vital (and popular) causes.
Through my work with many organizations over the years, I have been involved in nearly all of these causes, and I have seen and felt the passion of people who commit their lives to the important missions to which God has called them. The most discouraging aspect of the Church’s work in all of these areas is that its leaders rarely speak to the importance of the followers of Jesus addressing both the traditional concerns and newer concerns.
I see two major challenges for young Christian leaders in public engagement:
- Avoid the division on issues that is expected in politics. Recognize that God’s people must transcend this and cheer and support ministries that battle for unborn life and that battle against climate change. New leaders must be as bold in speaking out for more liveable conditions for those in the inner city as they are in speaking out for better conditions for those who preach the gospel in hostile nations. Leaders must share the living water as they dig for clean water. The bifurcation of Christian public engagement is wrong and harmful to the Kingdom.
- It is dangerous to get comfortable with the notion that Christian advocates taking difficult and unpopular positions on public issues should back away from these issues and find warmer and fuzzier social causes. Instead, new leaders need to remain engaged, but with greater attention to tone and posture. We don’t need to be popular, but we cannot demonstrate unchristian characteristics as we do battle. A new generation cannot abandon the revolution of values; let’s just make it a bloodless revolution; a revolution where the ends do not justify means unbecoming to the followers of the prince of peace.
To the barricades! Just don’t break anything.