We are living in a culture with a growing distaste for traditional Christianity. Those who claim the name of Jesus are often mentally hashtagged by non-Christians (especially younger ones) as #Homophobic, #OutOfTouch and #NarrowMinded.
According to the ground-breaking (and now somewhat classic) book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, 40% of those between the ages of 16-29 consider themselves outsiders to the Christian faith. That's up from 27%!
The rejection of the historic Christian faith among young people is skyrocketing. If the current trajectory continues, this nation will continue to morph into, not only a non-Christian nation (which some would say it already is), but possibly an anti-Christian nation.
For a country that was birthed in a quest for religious freedom and whose free-wheeling independent Christian leaders pioneered the launching of hundreds of thousands of churches across the world this statistic is a reality punch to our spiritual solar plexus. How can we "save" this nation if we are losing our young people at such a rapid rate?
The short answer is that we can't. Our best moral, cultural and political reformation efforts are bandaids on brain tumors. Our only hope is the brand of spiritual transformation which comes from the gospel. This narrows the churches options to the elemental essentials of intercession, compassion and the gospelization of our communities.
Evangelism is the touchpoint where stereotypes can be transformed or reinforced. So, if we learn to evangelistically engage this culture in a loving, wise and compelling way, the power of the gospel can do it's wonders in ways we've never imagined.
This is why I love Romans 1:16 so much. It simply states, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." From this short verse, three realities emerge to encourage us in this increasingly anti-Christian culture:
1. The gospel is shockingly powerful.
"It is the power of God...."
The Greek word for "power" in this verse is "dunamis." It means explosive. It is where we get our English word for dynamite. The gospel explodes in the hearts of those who believe it's message. It shatters sin and scatters it farther than the east is from the west.
When we share the Good News we are pulling the pin on the gospel grenade. And, because it has inherent power, there will be results.
We must believe that this message is more relevant now than ever. It's more relevant than politics. It's more effective than the culture wars. It's more powerful than anything else when it comes to really changing the nature of things. Why? Because only the gospel can heal what sin has broken! Only the Good News of Jesus can counteract the bad news in the deepest part of our souls.
Just a few days ago, Bill Perry, Chief of Staff for InterFACE Ministries, told me, "Guilt makes you feel bad for what you've done and shame makes you feel bad for who you are. The Gospel is the answer to both."
In a culture that is longing for healing, wholeness and purpose the gospel is the only genuine solution. When we share this explosive message with humility, charity and clarity it is shockingly powerful.
2. The gospel is shockingly simple.
"...for the salvation of everyone who believes..."
The gospel's power cloaks itself in a veil of simplicity. It sounds too good to be true but instead it's too good AND it's true!
We believe it (the gospel) and we receive it (salvation.) That's it. There are no pre-conditions. There is no small print.
Now some would say that this is "easy believism" (as opposed to what "hard believism"?) But in a way there's nothing "easy" about it. We are trusting someone we've never met (Jesus) to take us to a place we've never been (heaven) based on an event we never saw (his crucifixion) and proven by a miracle we never witnessed (the resurrection!)
It's so easy a child could do it. It's so "hard" a religious person could choke on it!
When we present the gospel clearly and offer the gift of salvation to all who simply believe in Jesus we will be bringing a breath of fresh air to the performance driven culture most of our young people live in today. Once they breathe God's grace in they'll get their friends to do the same.
3. The gospel is shockingly inclusive.
"...first to the Jew, then to the Gentile."
The gospel was offered first to the Jews and then opened up to the Gentiles. This may not seem like that big of a deal to us today but it should. 2,000 years ago, the relationship between Jew and Gentile was a hate-fest. The Jews viewed themselves as God's chosen people and the Gentiles as "dogs." And Gentiles, generally speaking, hated Jews. They viewed them as the weird monotheistic group of religious people who thought they were a cut above everyone else.
But the gospel obliterated this dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14) and made them one in Christ! And it's not just Jew and Gentile who can be united in Jesus. According to Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
From racial tensions to economic injustices to issues of gender, the gospel can bring unity on the deepest level. The gospel brings transformaton out of deformation, unity out of division and wholeness out of brokenness.
In light of Romans 1:16, what is our role? It's simply to be shockingly bold. Let's declare with the Apostle Paul "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" and then demonstrate it by living bold Gospel advancing, disciple multiplying, God honoring lives.
It's all about the shock and awe of the gospel. The shock of the gospel is in it's power, simplicity and inclusivity. The awe of the gospel is when that message is shared with our lives and lips in front of a watching world.