14 July, 2024

Forming the Faith of the Next Generation: The Urgency of Shaping Worldview

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by | 1 July, 2024 | 1 comment

By John S. Dickerson 

It hasn’t been 80 years since the Holocaust.  

And yet, today at Harvard University, Jewish students cower under anti-Semitism from pro-Hamas classmates and professors. On a campus funded by World War II veterans and Jewish entrepreneurs, yarmulkes are hidden in backpacks. Jewish heritage clubs meet in hiding.  

How did we get here? 

Harvard is a tragic example of mission drift. Founded by Puritan pastors to train ministers to preach “Truth for Christ and the Church,” the anti-Bible and anti-Jewish ideologies at Harvard today are entirely opposite of its founders’ intentions. 

It wasn’t always this way. For about 200 years Harvard remained true to its founding charter. Then, like Yale, Princeton, and other Christian institutions, Harvard began a gradual drift from Scripture. Over generations, that drift graduated from apathy about Christian ideals to antagonism against Jesus and the Bible. 

What does this have to do with the Restoration Movement?  

As the Restoration Movement marks 200 years, we steward a network of ministries that has not drifted from Christ or the Scriptures. We should pause to acknowledge that this is not the norm.  

And as we look to the future, we do well to humbly acknowledge that very few church movements remain vibrant, thriving, and biblical beyond 200 years.  

How can we ensure that our churches and ministries do better . . . and do not drift from Christ, do not wander from Scripture, and do not lose their zeal to fulfill the Great Commission? 

I believe the spiritual and intellectual training of our young people is the most important thing we can do today to ensure the future vitality of our churches and movement. 

If we do not raise today’s students and young adults to view the Bible as the standard for all they do and believe, then today’s successes could be eclipsed by tomorrow’s catastrophic failures.  

If we—as ministers, churches, and a movement—fail to raise our next generation to view Christ above culture and his Word above the values of this age, then we will have failed, regardless of the size of our attendance, facilities, or finances. 

Stated more positively, if we do succeed in raising up the next generation to love Christ and to hold to his Word, then we will enter God’s presence having fulfilled the Great Commission 

At the church I serve, Connection Pointe Christian Church, we are dedicating much time, money, and energy into training up our teens and students with our pioneering Youth Worldview Initiative.  

Two Connection Pointe staff members wrote about our initiative in the last issue of Christian Standard. They described how, with God’s help, we aim to raise up a generation of vibrant young Christians who are intellectually rooted in their beliefs, who find their identity in Christ alone, and who launch out into their generation playing offense for the kingdom. 

The response to that article has been encouraging. It is our prayer at Connection Pointe that we will be able to freely share our learnings, our tools, and even our failures with you, so that you can better raise the next generation in your ministry. 

My hope in penning these words is that you will join me in praying that our collective sons and daughters across the Restoration Movement will outdo us in their faithfulness. I also pray that you will be stirred to allocate resources toward providing a strong foundation for the young people in your ministry. 

Defining True Success Across Generations 

My grandpa used to say, “You will know if I was successful—not by how my kids walk with the Lord, but by how their kids walk with the Lord.” 

That’s an intimidating quote, especially now that I’m a 42-year-old dad to three school-aged kids of my own. Another old saying goes something like this: “How terrible it is to see our own free will and sin nature running around on two little legs.” 

Praying that God captures our own hearts—and those of our kids—can seem an impossible task in and of itself. Indeed, I consider it a miracle any time a young person raised in a Christian home chooses Christ for themselves.  

I am a pastor’s kid who wandered intellectually from God’s truth for a season. I doubted God’s existence, and I questioned the relevance of the Bible to our modern world. But God dragged me back, perhaps in response to prayers from my grandparents and parents. 

While my grandpa’s quote is not Scripture, it does embody some of the paradoxical values Christ teaches. We find these values in the forgotten groundwork surrounding two of Jesus’ well-known commands to us. 

The first is the Great Commission, which we often shorten to: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . .” (Matthew 28:19). 

But Jesus’ Commission didn’t end there. It continued: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  

“Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” is just as much the Great Commission as “baptizing them.” 

The Youth Worldview Initiative is our attempt to recover this indispensable piece of the Great Commission—as it relates to our students. If we lead a person to salvation and baptism, but we fail to teach them how to obey Jesus’ commands in the culture they find themselves in, then we haven’t really completed the Great Commission. 

In this time when mainstream media, academia, social media, and celebrities mock Christian ideals, we must teach our young people to give a defense for their faith—first to themselves and then to those in their generation. Otherwise, if their very faith is stripped from them, how will they “obey everything” Jesus commanded? 

I believe the local church must reclaim personal responsibility for discipling the young people in our flocks. This is at the heart of our calling as the body of Christ. And I cannot imagine a higher priority. 

My book, The Great Evangelical Recession, outlines six sociological trends that portend the decline of the church in America. The most disturbing of those trends is the pattern of young American Christians quitting the faith between their 18th and 29th birthdays.  

Multiple researchers have found that about two out of three children raised in evangelical Christian homes abandon the faith by age 29. That startling statistic—validated by many tragic anecdotes—is something God has never let me forget. Our hope at Connection Pointe is to “end the trend of two-in-three drifting from the faith.” 

Our efforts are in their infancy. And, while we are seeing anecdotal successes within our congregation, we really are just getting started in this important work. In the next five years we will know clearly if our concerted efforts and investments are bearing the fruit for which we pray.  

Our congregation’s calling to this task can be summarized in whispers that I often hear in times of prayer or reflection, such as: “Good for you that there are thousands today, but what about the church in 20 years?” and “John, are you really raising up the next generation to live for me in the difficulties they will face?”  

In John 8:31-32, Jesus described how his truth will set people free, but he prefaced it with a conditional if-then statement. 

 “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, emphasis mine). 

At a time when suicide, self-harm, and paralyzing anxiety are overtaking American teens, how we need to see Christ setting the young people free. But the promised freedom for Christ’s disciples results only when they “hold to” Jesus’ teaching.  

“Hold to” implies that if we do not intentionally cling to Christ’s truth, then in this fallen world, we will slowly lose our grip. We will drift. We can see the trajectory of the culture around us. Terrible storms are on the horizon. 

Our young people will face cultural opposition and even persecution, so we must, all the more, teach them to “hold to” Jesus’ teachings. 

In 2012, a Gallup poll found the percentage of Americans who identified as LGBTQ was 3.5 percent, or roughly 4-in-100 people. Now, just 12 years later, some 30 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 26 identify as LGBTQ. That is 30-in-100, or roughly 1-in-3.  

This aggressive growth of the LGBTQ community is just one trait of the post-Christian secularism overtaking American culture. Others include the assumption that Bible-believing Christians are bigoted and that Christianity is dangerous for society. Only God knows the future, but it would not be unexpected for biblical churches to someday lose their nonprofit status or for ministers to no longer have the right to decline performing same-sex weddings. 

If we hope for the churches and ministries that bear our fingerprints to “hold to” Jesus’ teachings in 20 years, 40 years, and beyond, then we must prioritize this command of Jesus with our young people. We must teach them the nuances of “holding to” the teachings of a Christ who is both full of grace and of truth. 

As leaders who actually lead, we must prepare our people today for the challenges of tomorrow. We must raise up young men and women who “hold to” Jesus’ teachings with such resolve that their obedient faith makes our future ministries places of continued supernatural activity, where Christ is the Head and where his Word guides souls into the freedom that only his Spirit can facilitate. 

In short, Connection Pointe’s concerted efforts at Youth Worldview are little more than us returning to the simplicity of running God’s play, God’s way. 

Our aim is to equip our middle and high school students to understand Jesus’ teachings as they relate to sexual morality, cultural change, scriptural authority, the intellectual validity of Christianity, the common objections that their college professors and classmates will pose to Christianity, and so forth. 

We aim to train our young, from kindergarten to 12th grade, in a curriculum of deeper intellectual, emotional, and identity truths from Scripture and Christian history.  

Upon high school graduation, we desire to journey with every graduate from age 18 to age 29, doing all we can to slow the exodus out of Christianity. For that crucial decade, we aim to pair every young adult with godly peers, and also with an older Christian “career mentor,” who can counsel them in their vocation as well as their character. 

Simultaneously, we will be measuring how much we are succeeding or failing in our mission to end the drift of young people away from the faith. 

Our prayer is that God captures the minds and hearts of a generation. We are praying that God raises up future lawmakers, college professors, business owners, homemakers, pastors, missionaries, and disciples from among the young people in our church . . . men and women who will “hold to” Jesus’ teachings in every industry and facet of modern life. 

We are striving and praying toward the end goal that today’s kids and students at Connection Pointe will become tomorrow’s Christ-centered leaders across Central Indiana. 

I pray that, in my lifetime, I will get to see our church graduating 2,000 high school seniors from this program every year. Imagine young men and women who journeyed through our in-depth Youth Worldview training from kindergarten to 12th grade, and who go off to their college or trade as deeply rooted believers, knowing their identity in Christ, viewing the Bible as their truth, and living on mission in a world that is not their home. 

We also pray that we will be able to give away our resources to you. Specifically, we are praying for churches in every major metro area across North America to utilize and improve on our Youth Worldview Initiative.  

The Great News 

Christ promised that he will build his church “and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). 

That’s a promise for every generation, for every century, for every continent and culture. 

We can trust that God has a plan for the Restoration Movement and for the American church—a plan far bigger than our lifetimes. 

As I get to meet and observe teens and young adults in the church today, I am deeply encouraged. The young American believers who are “all-in” are truly “ALL-IN.” They’re living countercultural lifestyles for Christ, and they’re already paying a cost to follow Christ.  

At a time when we see Satan advancing in academia, media, and so many halls of power, I am deeply encouraged that God is raising up a generation of leaders, designed by him from eternity past to lead the church forward in their generation. 

Their faith is uncomfortable, and it is thriving. Now let’s resource them with the training, encouragement, freedom, and opportunities they will need to shine like lights in the darkness.  

John S. Dickerson serves as lead pastor and visionary for Connection Pointe Christian Church in Indiana (ConnectionPointe.org). Discover his books and writings at JohnSDickerson.com. 

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If you enjoyed this essay, you might enjoy the following from the same author. 

• Find “Biblical Manifestos” to keep your ministry true to Christ during rapid cultural change in the book Hope of Nations (Zondervan) by John S. Dickerson. 

• Learn the trajectory of decline in the American church and six things you can do to reverse it in the book The Great Evangelical Recession (Baker Books) by John S. Dickerson. 

• Learn more about the biblical Christian foundations of Harvard and every other Top 10 university and hospital, in the book Jesus Skeptic (Baker Books) by John S. Dickerson. 

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Stay Connected with CPCC’s Worldview Initiative 

Get updates on the Connection Pointe Youth Worldview Initiative by joining the email list at worldview.cp.church

1 Comment

  1. Gary Black

    Cultivating Youth Worldview is a timely, innovative, and much needed strategy to raise up our children and students to hold to our most holy faith. Thanks the Kohn and Connection Point for initiating this approach and for your willingness to share these resources with other churches. I pray many will take advantage of this opportunity and follow your lead!

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