A Generation of Carnivores

“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” I Corithians 3:2

“A decade ago teens were coming to church youth group to play, coming for the entertainment, coming for the pizza. They’re not even coming for the pizza anymore. They say, ‘We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today.’ ” Thom Rainer in USA Today

A few years ago I spoke at a state evangelism conference in another state. A pastor spoke to me during a break. “You are a professor with a PhD, right?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“And you speak to teenagers a lot?” He queried, with a puzzled look on his face.

“Indeed. I love speaking to youth, college students and young adults.”

Then he asked the question that perplexed him. “Do you have to dumb down your sermons when you speak to youth?” He obviously expected me to say yes.

Sometimes I answer without thinking. “No sir, I only have to dumb down my sermons when I preach in churches on Sunday mornings.”

Oops. Did I mean to say that? After thinking for a moment, I actually did. Sunday morning offers a great opportunity to teach the Word. But it is also the most likely to find people who are simply religious and going through the motions. But when I speak to young adults I have found that not only can I get right up in their faces with the truth, I must do so to reach them.

This generation wants meat. They are tired of silly events that have a little Scripture thrown in, or events where junk food is served up large and the Bible doesn’t make the menu. Look across America and you will see large, growing, mutliple service/multiple site churches teeming with young adults. I have preached in some of these and visited others. These churches have pastors who teach the Bible verse by verse, sometimes an hour or more weekly. But they do more: they understand both the science of preaching the text well AND the art of presenting it in a palatable manner.

After all, a tough steak may have protein but it does not digest so well.

At my church, Richland Creek Community Church, we had almost 300 show up Wednesday night at our TwoFour Collegiate/Young Pros worship time. Two years ago we began with a handful. We are not next to a major university. We do have a lot of SEBTS students, but we also have young professionals as well as students from a variety of community colleges and major universities (we had students from NC State and UNC there). We had a time of passionate worship and a great, bibilcal message by college pastor Jared Via.

There is a younger generation of believers who are tired of “do the minimum” Christianity. They want it straight, they want it real, and they want it now. If you teach the Bible, and if young adults you teach sense you genuiely love them and love Jesus, you can get right in their grills. In fact, you must. If however they perceive you as a smart aleck, or you stereotype them to the extreme, you will lose them. And you will never have a chance with unchurched young adults.

We have the largest number of young adults in America in our history. Telling them to follow Jesus because they are supposed to will not reach them. Show them how a movement of God has changed your life and you just might.

But don’t throw them a Krispy Kreme version of truth. Give them a big, fat prime rib of gospel truth, and watch them grow.

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  1 Comment

  1. Mike Leake   •  

    Dr. Reid,

    I am by no means anything close to an expert but I have found what you are saying to be true. I was able to preach for about 45 minutes on Wednesday nights to our teenagers. And it was–as best to my ability–the “big, fat prime rib of gospel truth”. And we saw many students take off and really grow. Teens really do go to the level we set for them.

    But I found whenever I would preach to the adults on Sunday morning I would have to shorten it or face disappointed listeners. I was always confused by this, so thanks for your article that throws some light on it. This is not to disparage older adults–but simply to say that I’m excited about the younger generation that is hungry for steak.

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