Being on the “wrong” side of the generation gap (older side) is a completely different experience than being on the “right” side (younger side). The older I get, the more curmudgeonly I feel. At times, though, my age, knowledge, and experience underline my differences with younger generations to the point where I must affirm that my side is the right side. Barna’s recent report about the state of evangelism among practicing Christians highlights that there are times when the older generations need to hold the line against the folly of younger generations. The report reveals the staggering fact that nearly half of millennials who are practicing Christians believe that evangelism is wrong.
The study bears out that 94-97 percent of all practicing Christians believe “that the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus.” (Why that’s not a solid 100 percent is beyond me, but that’s a head-scratcher for another day.) However, despite this belief, Barna also discovered that “many Millennials are unsure about the actual practice of evangelism.”
Almost half of Millennials (47%) agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. This is compared to a little over one-quarter of Gen X (27%), and one in five Boomers (19%) and Elders (20%). (Though Gen Z teens were not included in this study, their thoroughly post-Christian posture will likely amplify this stance toward evangelism.)
To open their article, Barna correctly asserts, “Sharing one’s faith—evangelizing—is a core practice among many religions. For Christians, it’s viewed as a mandate from Jesus himself before he departed earth: commanding his disciples to ‘spread the good news.'”
The last words of Jesus Christ before he left this planet began with the command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus’ words are the definition of evangelism. For those who want to wiggle around it by claiming that Jesus didn’t mean to share the gospel by speaking it, the Apostle Paul is instructive.
Shouting down the “live the gospel, don’t speak the gospel” crowd, Paul wrote in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
In response to this article pitch, my editor, Paula Bolyard, sent me the video posted below with the accompanying commentary, “I blame Rob Bell and his ‘Bullhorn Guy’ anti-evangelism video. How many church youth groups used his nonsense ‘Nooma’ videos in place of Bible studies for two or three years?”
Could some Christians evangelize in better ways? Sure. But at least the “bullhorn guy” is obeying Jesus’ command to preach the gospel. Claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ (a Christian) and then believing that it is wrong to evangelize is a baffling contradiction of terms. Not evangelizing the lost is in direct disobedience to Jesus.