Right now you and I are being given a once-in-a-lifetime Gospel opportunity. The current trajectory is set: if we don’t start doing things differently right now, another 42 million young people will walk away from the American church before 2050.
They won’t just be leaving the institutional church, they’ll be walking away from Jesus and joining the cultural ranks of the nones. It’s hard to get our minds around those numbers but think of it this way, there are fewer than 40 million people in the entire nation of Iraq, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. We’re not talking here about non-believers immigrating from around the world, we’re talking about non-believers being raised in the churches of America right now.
But do not despair! God has deployed His people, empowered by His Spirit, with all the spiritual resources necessary for accomplishing His will! That makes this our great opportunity to participate in the greatest evangelistic and discipleship revival in history.
If we can return to rates of retention and evangelism of even a generation ago, the number lost can be reduced by half. And while that means 20 million will be lost, 22 million young Americans will be won to Christ! Really won to Christ – actively engaged as His disciples, reconciled to God and living out the calling of the ministry of reconciliation in the world. Imagine 22 million young people walking with Christ instead of away from Him. 22 million is the entire population of Australia or Denmark, Sweden and Finland combined.
We’re not talking about crossing oceans, we’re talking about reaching the generation of young people in our own homes and currently in the churches of America. Imagine 22 million young people deployed in every sector of the culture as agents of grace and ambassadors of the Kingdom of heaven. How might every other challenge we’re facing be impacted if we could change the current trajectory of retention and evangelism?
That’s the question being asked (and answered) at The Great Opportunity. The Great Opportunity is a distillation of the facts, a forecast of the future and a strategic approach to changing that future by beginning now to do things differently across six fronts:
1. Starting more churches: We must triple the rate of church planting in America.
2. Mission for youth: We must innovate and transform the way we disciple the next generation.
3. Reaching new audiences: We must leverage new media to engage online with the Gospel.
4. Caring for the poor: We must radically care for the poor and in doing so, point to Jesus’ radical love.
5. Building long-term witness: We must invest long-term in the mind of the church to engage the questions of our day.
The final front is at the heart of it all. The sixth front is the internal heart change required in each of us and all of us in order for the great opportunity to be realized.
In mid-May, Barna research released a sobering report that reveals why we’re on the trajectory we’re on in terms of retention and evangelism in America. An increasing percentage of American Christians view sharing their faith as optional.
As long as we see the retention of our children as part of the household of faith in Christ, as long as we see reaching and teaching them the faith as the job and responsibility of anyone other than us, and as long as we see evangelism as optional to the Christian life, we will continue to see generations of Americans turn away from Christ and His Church.
If we want to see them turn to Him, we have to turn toward them with His grace and truth. We have to take on the responsibility of sharing the faith with the next generation. How do we do that? I’m so glad you asked! Welcome to the Great Opportunity.
Listen to my recent conversation on Connecting Faith with Josh Crossman, CEO of Pinetops Foundation, whose research and strategy are behind The Great Opportunity.Josh Crossman on the great opportunity