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Adapted from Evangelism Outside the Box

Richardson, R. (28 February 2001). 8 Urgent Questions of Today's Generation in www.LeadershipJournal.net. Adapted from Evangelism Outside the Box. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

OVERVIEW

Rick Richardson provides us with "8 Urgent Questions of Today's Generation." He says that understanding people's real concerns gives our message more credibility.

I recently served on a panel that included young Christians and pre-Christians. They were given freedom to ask questions about the credibility of Christian faith. One person (planted by me!) asked about the evidence for the resurrection. Others asked about the reliability of the Bible. They seemed politely interested in our answers. Then someone asked how we can legitimately question homosexual identity and practice. The temperature in the room went up. Clearly, people were not politely interested at this point.

Here's Rick's summary of some of the new questions we must face if we wish to connect with this post-modern generation:

  • Questions of power and motive. Even our logical answers can feel like an exercise of colonializing power. To many people, we're just another tribe, using logic to gain power. Post-modern people have redefined truth as "whatever rings true to your experience, whatever feels real to you." There's no grand story to inspire people. Any attempt to claim that one has the truth for everybody is heard as an arrogant attempt at domination and control.
  • Questions of identity. Who am I? Who will I listen to for help in developing my identity and sense of self? How can you Christians think you can tell other people who they are? Who do you think you are to invalidate my sense of self and identity and my group's definition of who we are?
  • Questions of pain and suffering. Why do I hurt? Why did my family break apart? Why is there so much hatred and violence in the world? People are crying out not so much for philosophical answers as for a way to give meaning and purpose to personal and corporate suffering.
  • Questions of character, trust and attractiveness. Why should I trust you? Look at what believers have done: racism, sexism, homophobia, the Crusades, religious wars. Intolerance and narrow hate seem to mark your institutions. Your character is no better than the character of the society you live in. I can trust you just as much as I can trust other leaders in our society-which is hardly at all.
  • Questions of love and meaning. How can you reject the homosexual lifestyle? How can you say you love people when you reject who they are, how they define their very identity? How can you question living together when people love each other? How can you be rule-oriented in your ethics when the situation has to determine what is really loving?
  • Questions of interpretation. Isn't the way you see the world completely dependent on your community and place of birth? Can't you interpret Scriptures any way you want, and haven't you? I don't care about the Bible's reliability. I am concerned about its integrity and moral value. After all, it was written by patriarchal, ethnocentric people.
  • Questions of relevance and relativism. Does your belief change lives? Does prayer really make a difference? Does your religion help you with your pain? If it works for you, why should it work for me? What does it matter what you believe as long as it works and helps you? The question of the uniqueness of Christ is not primarily philosophical as it is utilitarian. Don't all religions help people equally? If a religion works and feels real to a person, then it is true for that person. People are not looking for theological comparisons but for attractiveness and relevance.
  •  Questions of impact. Does your religion help society? Does it help me, whether I'm in your group or not? Or are you just another self-serving group?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

    • Are these some of the questions the young people you know are asking about faith and life?
    • What other questions do they have?
    • Are some still interested in the apologetic and intellectual questions about faith?

 

IMPLICATIONS

    • As important as it is to know what the questions young people are asking about life and faith, only questions asked and answered within the context of a caring relationship with these young people will give you the opportunity to share your faith with them.
    • Formal, modernist evangelism programs are not likely to succeed with today's generation, unless of course the formal programs is within the context of a caring relationship and allows for questions outside of the box!
Sharlene Swartz cCYS