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How do we show the richness of the Gospel and reach the next generation?

A couple weeks ago we held our membership class. In this class we discuss our rich Reformed heritage, creeds, confessions, and how the gospel affects all of life. Did you catch the last part? How the gospel affects all of life...

Every pastor and church leader desires to reach the next generation with the good news of Jesus Christ. We sadly watch many of our young people leave the church never to return. Or, joining up with the “relevant” church down the road because of their rocking band, lasers, and smoke.

(Coming back to our membership class) During the class I had a chance to talk with one of the participants. Our church is a three year old church plant and does not have many people with a CRC background (virtually none other than our pastors). To my surprise this woman grew up in a CRC church and made her way through CRC supported schools.

As we continued to chat, it became clear she had left the CRC for a while to get a bigger view of the world. She always appreciated her CRC background, but it began to feel like a closed-in-bubble. Everyone thought the same way, talked the same way, and of course, looked the same way in many cases (mostly Dutch people).

Strangely, this was not her biggest hang up. As I explained our theology, creeds, and confessions something clicked for her. I tried to show the relevance and importance of a theology that grounds our lives, grounds our hearts, and is useful for life with God and service in his Kingdom.

Her greatest hang up seemed to be that no one ever took the time to explain why any of this mattered? Her church assumed all the children, teens, and even adults knew the relevance, importance, and practicalities of doctrine, theology, and how they connect to our lives.

A great danger for reaching the next generation is to assume they understand the gospel and all its implications.

As pastors desiring to reach the next generation we need to show how the gospel literally affects everything. If we simply spout out doctrine, creeds, confessions, and our Reformed roots without answering the why this matters question it does us no good. We are living in a generation that is biblically and theologically illiterate and they need help. That is our job. 

In an article, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:1-19), D.A. Carson observes the ethical directives of 1 Corinthians,

“This book... repeatedly shows how the gospel rightly works out in the massive transformation of attitudes, morals, relationships, and cultural interactions... Just as Paul found it necessary to hammer away at the outworking of the gospel in every domain of the lives of the Corinthians, so we must do the same today...”

This generation is no different from the churches Paul addressed in his New Testament letters. We all need to learn how to work out our theology for everyday life and service in the Kingdom of God. Our young people are hungry to know how these great truths and doctrines work out in their lives... don’t assume they don’t.

Tim Keller in his book Center Church (pp. 47) shows us two examples of what this might look like in our churches:

The Atonement- how could we show the implications of the atonement for all of life? The atoning work of Jesus on the cross, in our place, for our sins destroys traditional religion. Religion says: If I do good things, be a nice person, and live with integrity God promises to bless and grant us salvation.

The gospel tells us: we are not good people, we don’t keep all the rules, and we need a Savior. God does not bless us because we are good. God blesses us when we trust in the only One who has ever been perfectly good... Jesus Christ. Now, in light of receiving this gift of grace through faith live a life of joyful obedience because of what Christ has accomplished for us on our behalf.

The Resurrection- how could the physical and literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead be practical? Jesus has resurrected from the dead, but we have not... yet. Jesus has come a first time securing our future, but the kingdom is not fully realized, until his second coming when he makes all things new.

This means we evangelize the world telling the good news of the gospel and preparing them for judgment. Secondly, we do works of justice knowing this is the will of God. In the end, God will finally end all oppression and evil in the new heavens and the new earth. The resurrection gives his people hope because nothing is beyond the gracious hand of God. Jesus walked out of a tomb proving that sin, death, hell, and Satan do not have the last say.

The answer to reaching the next generation is no different than reaching the last generation... The gospel of Jesus Christ and all its life-altering implications for life, church, and Kingdom. We just need to do a better job telling them why this matters.

What are ways you are trying to show the implications of the gospel in all its beauty to the next generation? 


Your article was really pertinent, Ryan.  Well written too.  

I was recently involved in a conversation where three aspects or emphases of christian perspective often found in the crc were mentioned.  These included doctrinalism (having your beliefs right), pietism (living right before God), and transformationalism (changing the world, or Christ changing the world's institutions and relationships).   What we need to understand as Christians is how these three aspects fit together.   We need to start with good doctrine.  For example, if we say that we can earn our own way to heaven by our good works, then our living right and our transformation of education and work and the government will be in vain.  After we have our doctrine right, then we can understand the purpose of true piety, which is to repent and bring  glory to God.   In addition, as book of James says, faith without works is dead.   Doctrine needs not just to be believed, but to be lived.  The transforming of society or of institutions (Christian schools, labor associations, christian farmers federation, etc.)  is an extension of the transformation of our own selves.   We cannot sidestep our own personal morality by focussing our attention on outward institutions.   Conversely, we cannot be truly pious personally, if we ignore God's claims on all aspects of our life, which includes how we educate our children, how we do our work, and how we impliment laws in society.   All three of these aspects of our faith life are equally important in the life of each Christ follower.   Transformation of belief, leads to transformation of our life, leads to transformation of the world around us. 

Thanks for the encouragemnt. I think, finding the balalce between the different streams of Reformed faith (piety, transformational, etc.) is the key of a robut gospel centric theology. 

Amen Ryan!  I do not know you, but it is so good to know someone else is tracking along the same path!  The gospel is central to all.  It leads us to authentic humility because we recognize our fallenness as well as the incredible love of God for us in Christ making us His children.  

In answer to John, this message is what holds together those three streams.  Without continual repentance and faith we can fall into dead orthodoxy if we emphasize correct doctrine without a gospel center.  Without continual repentance and faith we can fall into old-school Protestant liberalism is we emphasize social action without a gospel center.  Furthermore, the gospel propels us outward to share the good news on equal footing with the lost (we all need repentance and faith!), which frees us from the danger of inward-focused pietism.

I thank you for such a clear article!  I found it very encouraging.

Thanks brother. These ideas have been germinating and marinating in my mind and heart for a few years, especially as we planted a church in a liberal-conservative mix of an urban city. The gospel is the answer for all!


In reply to Greg, I want to say that I completely agree with you.   Perhaps you will allow me to reword or say it different with regard to one thing.  You used the phrase "correct doctrine without a gospel center".  While I agree with the sense of what you said, I think it is essentially not possible to have correct doctrine without a gospel center.  Correct doctrine must be centered on the gospel of salvation by Christ and in Christ.  However, I think you are also hinting perhaps at the fact that it is not enough merely to believe, since the devils believe and tremble.  It is necessary to accept God's gift in faith, and rejoice in it, in trust and obedience. 

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