One of the single most disturbing trends in the Church today is young people who know what they believe, but cannot explain why. Such shallow faith is all too easy to walk away from.
Many historical belief systems have been prescriptively structured with a rigid formation designed to pass on foundational faith principles to the next generation. Consider Judaism’s Shema, their oft-recited confession of faith:
Hear, O Israel Shema Yisra’el
The Lord is our God Adonai Eloheinu
The Lord is one! Adonai ehad!
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-8
Contained within this manifesto is the command to faithfully teach biblical principles to the next generation. And this is still a command to parents and leaders of young people today.
But while prescribed methods worked well in the past, we are living in a post–modern world that requires the Christian Church to understand the times and re-interpret what discipleship looks like for this generation. Apologetics has traditionally concentrated on defending faith beliefs. In our current context, we need to make the shift to passionately embracing our beliefs and relating them to daily life experiences. Our methods must also leave room for doubt, disbelief, and authentic dialogue.
Discipleship in a post-modern world is going to look more like answering the question of the day. And in this technological age, the medium is the message. Or at the very least, it affects the message in profound ways.
Post-figurative kids are not passive participants. Static is gone, interactive is the new reality. Young people are growing up as co-creators and content distributors. You might think they have everything they need—but you would be wrong.
“This is the first generation of youth who doesn’t need adults to get information. However, they do need us to help them process that information.” – Tim Elmore, Generation iY
Young people today thrive on interacting with new information and want to be part of their own learning and discovery process. Techniques like the ancient Socratic Method are re-emerging to challenge young people to engage with questions as they encounter new information and navigate the thinking process until they arrive at the answer.
Children ages 1-3 are navigating spirituality in the digital space, according to a recent Bible App for Kids report.
And while mere toddlers are not yet fully equipped to wrestle with the deeper questions of who they are, where they are going, and the universality of truth—they are, on some level, grappling with fundamental understanding of truth, their reality, and beginning to question their purpose in life.
The beautiful thing is that the meta-narrative of the Bible addresses every question on every level.
“American evangelical theologian, philosopher, pastor best known for his pre-suppositional apologetics, Francis Schaeffer found himself wholly dissatisfied with Christians of his day.
He shed his faith and spent several months rereading the Bible, contemplating the most basic questions about humanity and found his answers in the unfolding of God’s revelation of himself in what he would later call “the flow of biblical history.” He recovered a delight in the truth of the biblical message and developed a confidence in Scripture, which would, in God’s providence, be of enormous help to him in the work the Lord was preparing for him.”
It is engagement with Scripture coupled with robust discussion about God, ourselves, and the world around us that cement strong and lasting faith formation. In our current context, faith must be engaged in healthy relational contexts in order for youth to understand, own, and grow in their beliefs.
When was the last time you stepped into a friendly debate about your faith? Or mentored someone else in an intentionally relational faith-based conversation?
It’s time to revive new modes of discipleship by engaging young people in these relational conversations to help them develop strong faith foundation—one that is not easy to walk away from.