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What Differentiates the Fallen from the Faithful?

What you’re about to read might engender a slight headache and an uneasy feeling of despair.  But if “facts are our friends,” then we need to welcome them and learn from them, even if we don’t like them.

David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock have written a groundbreaking book on five practices of young adults who possess resilient faith in our chaotic culture.  Their research through the Barna Group indicates that among today’s 18- to 29-year-olds who grew up in the Church, 22% no longer identify as Christian, 30% identify as Christian but no longer attend church, 38% believe and attend infrequently, which leaves 10% who are actively engaged in a personal relationship with Jesus and are strongly rooted in the church (Faith for Exiles, 32-33). 

The good news is that this percentage of young Christians whose faith is robust and vibrant represents just under four million people.  The bad news is that, according to this study, 90% of young adults raised in the church either no longer believe in Jesus and have nothing to do with the church, or they believe in Jesus but still have nothing, or almost nothing, to do with the church.

One of the key practices that differentiate the fallen from the faithful is the development of meaningful relationships within the church.  In other words, young adults who were mentored, discipled, and loved by others from the Body of Christ developed a resilient faith.  Those who merely attended services didn’t. 

When surveyed, only 5% of those raised in church but who claim no faith today indicated that the church was a place where they felt they belonged.  Of those raised in the church who now display a resilient faith in Jesus, 88% said the church is a place where they feel they belong.

The application couldn’t be more obvious.  If we don’t want to see our churches snuffed out in the next ten to twenty years, we need to build meaningful relationships with the next generation.  And this isn’t just a parenting issue.  This is an “all-in.”  We all need to engage in creating environments where children and students know they are loved, welcomed, and encouraged to use their gifts as fully functioning participants in the Body of Christ.

Don’t isolate yourself from the next generation.  When you see parents and children in the hallways of your local church, greet them.  Smile.  Ask them how they’re doing.  Get to know their names.  Volunteer.  Pray.

You never know.  You may be helping the next generation and their parents discover that Church is not just a formality of religious education.  You may be helping raise up the next generation of resilient disciples who will change the world. 

“Jesus said, `Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’” (Matthew 19:14, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Finding the Seeds of Gratitude

I find it fairly easy to give thanks when things go my way. I find it extremely difficult to do the same when my life careens into chaos.

This past week, one of our long-time, faithful members and former staff members, Jackie Long, was in a horrendous automobile accident, and even as I write this, her life hangs in the balance.

When I would see Jackie gracing us with her life-giving, joyful presence in the hallways, classrooms, and lobby at the church I serve, giving thanks was the most natural of all expressions.

When I think of her lying in a coma in ICU, giving thanks is not at the top of my to-do list.

But maybe it should be.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV). All circumstances? Cancer? Abuse? Addiction? Car accidents? Death?

Here’s the key, at least as I understand it: “Give thanks IN” not “Give thanks FOR.” Yes, I’ve heard people say, “I give thanks FOR my cancer, because it woke me up to the reality of my temporal life and my need to get right with God and family.” There may be times when even our wounds evoke a gracious heart.

But if we fail to find the seeds of gratitude FOR the broken soil of our circumstances, we can at least find those seeds of gratitude IN them.

How so?

First off, we give thanks, because we know evil does not have the final word. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:8). He had the last word on the cross of redemption when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and He will have the last word at the consummation of the age, “It is done!” (Revelation 21:6). For Jackie, and all who have experienced the wretched anguish of this world, one day we will all see “death swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). We give thanks IN whatever circumstances we face FOR God is bigger than our circumstances.

Second, we give thanks, because we have a Savior who is not withdrawn but who has entered into our world of tragedy and trauma. God is not an absentee landlord who is cold and indifferent to the plight of our lives. He chose to step out of the comfort of heaven into the chaos of earth through His Son, Jesus Christ. He is a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), and we are not alone. We give thanks IN whatever circumstances we face FOR God walks with us in our circumstances.

This Thanksgiving, may you and yours be filled with God’s peace through Jesus Christ by His Spirit, knowing that “He will quiet you with His love” (Zephaniah 3:17). And to Jackie Long and all who may need these words this Thanksgiving season, Requiesce in pace.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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