The Jesus Conversation: This is likely the last Christian Generation
NEWPORT BEACH, CA (ANS - November 8, 2016) -- Ten years ago, Josh McDowell and David Bellis wrote a book entitled "The Last Christian Generation". The title resonated with me, but not for the reasons they offered. They articulated the massive exit of our children from the Church and Christianity and they viewed the answer to the problem is to do a better job in teaching our children the reasons for the faith.
I couldn't disagree more with this most popular solution. Although teaching our kids better is greatly needed; it's the topic of this teaching that is faulty. Our kids don't need more and better teaching on Christianity and how to be better Church members. Our kids need to be introduced to Jesus. I want to share with you why this isn't happening right now, how difficult it is to do, and a few suggestions on how to make a personal introduction of Jesus to our kids.
Why Are Our Kids Not Meeting Jesus Today?
In a discussion with two of my grandkids, I discovered that they weren't being taught about Jesus in their many Church experiences. I was surprised to discover that Jesus is not the topic in most Sunday Schools. They are treated to the OT biographical stories of Daniel, David and Goliath, but not Jesus. Oh, Jesus is mentioned at the beginning or end of the class, but rarely is Jesus taught.
As I met with several of Children's Pastoral staff of the best mega-Churches, I found this to be true in every Church I visited. Jesus and His teachings are missing!
Shortly after this, I attended a Church service where they religiously repeated the "Apostle's Creed". This is when it hit me. We've been missing the life of Jesus for centuries in our Churches. Read it for yourself!
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the
Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day
he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the
Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of
saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life
This Creed is virtually the same as all other Christian creeds. It's a listing of the basic doctrines of the faith, beginning with the birth of Jesus and jumped to His death, resurrection, and certain return. But where is the life and teachings of Jesus? Jesus is missing!
It's no wonder our kids are also coming up missing. They are asked to relate to a religious system and set of doctrines rather than to the person of Jesus. We've left Jesus behind in the cradle (birth), on the cross (death), and in the clouds (2nd coming).
Why Is It So Difficult To Make Our Spiritual Life About Jesus?
When we first began to follow Jesus, I knew it was going to be the toughest thing we've ever attempted to do. The challenge is to practice the presence of Jesus.
A Kenyan friend and co-worker, Rachael, speaks of "experiencing" Jesus. This is precisely what most professed believers in Jesus are not doing. They experience the weekly Church service, however the norm is not to tangibly experience Jesus through the week.
My son, Tim, makes a vital observation about how we live our lives each week. He says, "There are 10,080 minutes in a week and we spend more energy and money in the production of the 80 minutes each week, but we aren't learning to practice living out Jesus in the remaining 10,000 minutes." (Check out his blog at www.10000minutes.com.) Jesus is left behind in these 10,000 minutes!
Jesus makes it clear that He is with us no matter where we go. Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...and I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20) And, through His Spirit, He actually indwells us personally. (John 14:17) Jesus reveals to us that He is with us and His living presence is inside us, YET we continually pray for Jesus to show up, to be with us, to go with us, to be close to us. Why do we do this? Because we don't practice His presence with us; we practice our lives without Jesus.
In addition to the supernatural presence of Jesus in our lives and on our behalf, Jesus makes it clear that He offers all of His disciples four supernatural, life-giving experiences. He offers these experiences to each of His followers. These are 4 things only Jesus can do that no one else can do for you.
The first of these supernatural, life-giving experiences is the experience of PEACE. Jesus was all about peace. At the last gathering of Jesus' disciples before his death, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (John 14)." And later in that gathering he said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace (John 16)." Through Jesus, peace is available to anyone who wants it. This is the kind of peace that you just can't get on your own.
The second of these supernatural, life-giving experiences is the experience of JOY. When Jesus was born, it was announced that he was to be the good news of great joy for all people (Luke 2). Then, at that special final gathering with his disciples Jesus says, "These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." (John 15). Do you get the picture that Jesus is bent on His followers experiencing joy? Through Jesus, joy is available to anyone who wants it.
The third of these supernatural, life-giving experiences is the experience of LOVE. Although peace and joy are commonly identified with Jesus, love is the theme of who Jesus is and what He taught. Jesus taught that His followers ought to learn to love God. He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Matthew 22)." This concept provides a centering effect in your life. Jesus-style love ranges from loving God, loving your neighbor, loving one another, and even to the extreme of loving your enemies.
We don't need more love; we need more lovers! This love relationship is so tight that a follower of Jesus can actually own the love of God in himself. Jesus says, "I in them and You in me, that my followers may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent me, and loved them, even as You have loved me....so that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." (John 17)
Wow! I read these teachings of Jesus and wonder what went wrong. Jesus wants all of His followers to live in unity-to be one-to love one another. Yet, for the most part, we are divided. And worse, we are proud of it!
The fourth supernatural life-giving experience is the experience of GRACE. Grace is one of the primary themes of Jesus as he touches the untouchable lepers and the unclean, as he opens the eyes of the blind, as he has compassion on the poor and the disenfranchised, as he receives those who are on the outside of the religious world, as he welcomes women and children- those normally pushed aside, and as he chooses the ordinary, uneducated to be the leaders of his movement.
Forgiveness and freedom are two of Jesus' most powerful principles in his repertoire. Paul said in Acts 13: "I want you to know two things. Through Jesus is forgiveness and through Jesus is the kind of freedom the Law of Moses couldn't provide." Through Jesus grace is available to anyone who wants it. This is the kind of grace that you just can't get on your own.
All kinds of religious systems and programs offer you lots of things, but Jesus can give you true and lasting peace, joy, love, and grace. For us to embrace these experiences for ourselves, we must learn to practice them.
Why is it that we lack these powerful life-giving experiences Jesus embodies. It's because Jesus is not fully present in our experience.
Practice, practice, practice the presence of Jesus, His peace, His joy, His love, and His grace. Jesus has left our Church buildings, because He has been left out of our daily experience. Instead of practicing the presence and power of Jesus in our lives, we are content to practice leaving Jesus behind in the cradle, on the cross, or in the clouds.
The parade of kids, discontented, bored adults, and a turned-off watching world continue to leave the Church and Christianity. Nearly 70 Churches close every day. There is only one solution. It's not a new program, planting more Churches, or a better prescription of doctrines. The solution is a person. His name is Jesus.
Photo captions: 1) Tim speaking to over 100 of the best youth leaders in the US about making it all about Jesus at Doug Field's Download Youth Ministry event. 2) Book cover. 3) Tim's son, Tim Timmons, singer-song writer and author of www.10000minutes.com/. 4) Tim & Diana meeting with their friend, Javis, who is responsible for teaching spiritual life in Jesus to 169 priests. 5) Tim Timmons and his wife, Diana.
About the writer: Tim Timmons is a teacher, mentor, author and speaker. He and his wife, Diana, have five children and 16 grandchildren, and presently live in Newport Beach, California.
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