If there is no hope, there is no future.
In his 1992 novel The Children of Men (Made into a movie of the same name in 2006), P.D. James tells of a future where no children are born. James insists that hope depends on future generations.
"It was reasonable to struggle, to suffer, perhaps even to die, for a more just, a more compassionate society, but not in a world with no future where, all too soon, the very words' justice', 'compassion', 'society', 'struggle', 'evil', would be unheard echoes on an empty air."
We live in a moment when hope drains away, especially for younger generations (see "Death of Hope," Part 1). While a struggle is still going on, it is not very hopeful. The problems seem too big to overcome, the crushing call to be one's unique self seems impossible to live up to, and the isolation of modern society seems to only deepen with each Netflix series we binge alone.
In this hope-draining moment, the church graciously notes that it is a place of profound hope. A hope that is rooted in a sure future where the world is turned right-side-up, where there are no more tears, death, dying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Paul writes to the church in Rome,
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5 NIV11)
But noting a reality is one thing; drawing people into that reality is quite another. How do we attract people (even those in the church) into a place where hope is the atmosphere? A few ideas
Listen: Whether you agree with the person's perspective, their loss of hope is actual. Listen to their words and heart without judgment. Please take in what they are telling you as something that is critical to them.
Take fears seriously: Some may seem unfounded or something we don't understand. Take the person's fears seriously by seeking to understand them and learning more about their fear: read a few articles, watch documentaries, etc.
Recognize this impacts people inside and outside the church: The reality is that younger generations, both inside and outside the church, live without hope. We need to understand why the culture's hopelessness is overcoming the church's message of hope.
Take Responsibility: Where you can influence the things causing hopelessness, do so. Show how the Christian faith speaks of hope and lives that hope out — in word and deed. Recognize that many non-Christian groups are battling hopelessness and seeking to create a better future; when possible, work with them.
Learn: What are the places people are looking for hope? Like the song of years ago says, "Looking for love in all the wrong places," today, many people look for hope in all the wrong places. What are those wrong places, and how does the hope of the gospel speak hope into those places? (We'll look at this more in coming posts based on the book Strange Rites.)
If there is no future, there is no hope.
How do you infuse hope into this world?
This post provided by Church Leadership Center, Larry Doornbos, President
Church Leadership Center provides Leadership Education, Cohorts, Church Consultation, and ways for congregations to connect with their communities. Check out our developing website.