The Barna Group released a report this week showing that almost half of practicing millennial Christians (age 20 to 34) think it’s wrong to share their faith with people who don’t already believe.
Surprised? Maybe not. On its own, that fact might seem rather ho-hum. It gets more interesting when you find out that the same group, in the same survey, overwhelmingly (96 percent) take the view that “Part of my faith means being a witness about Jesus.” Almost as many (94 percent) agree that “The best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus.”
In other words, half of practicing millennial Christians think it’s wrong to tell someone about the “best thing that could ever happen” to them.
Christianity’s “Embarrassing” Exclusivism
Now, that’s really confusing, on the face of it. It makes sense, though, when you put in context of a couple other thought patterns influencing millennials. First is the belief that one person’s truth is their own, and no one’s truth needs to be anyone else’s. Second is the conviction that it’s intolerant or unkind to regard your own truth as better than any other, especially moral or religious truth. All beliefs are all equally valid, or so the thinking goes.
Half of practicing millennial Christians think it’s wrong to tell someone about the “best thing that could ever happen” to them.
These two beliefs dominate today’s culture, and they zero straight in on Christian evangelism. For Christianity is the belief that there is only one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Evangelism means telling everyone there is exactly one way to God, and it’s everyone’s only way.
This belief is called Christian exclusivism. Other religions may (and certainly do) convey some truth, but where they disagree with Christianity, Christianity is right and they are wrong.
That’s about as bad is it could get, for the majority of millennials. Nothing could be more embarrassing. We may have the best truth out there, but it’s rude to say so. It would mean saying someone else’s truth is wrong.
One Answer for Both Issues: The Cross of Christ
And yet it takes just one answer to cover both those issues: the Cross of Jesus Christ. Remember, we’re talking about “practicing Christians.” The survey describes that group as those who “agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and have attended church within the past month.”
This group doesn’t reject the Cross. They think — as far as they’ve been taught clearly enough — the Cross is crucially important; that it’s the key to their forgiveness from sin, their reconciliation to God. So the Cross, for them is a very good thing.
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But for many of them — probably a large portion of the 47 percent who think sharing their faith is wrong — it’s still one truth among many competing truths. And why should we think it’s any better than the others?
The answer is simple: It’s because it has to be. In fact it has to be the only truth. Either that, or else we’d all better dump it completely. If there’s a menu of good options — a list of good ways to get right with the universe or have the best life you can have — the Cross doesn’t belong on that menu. Not unless it’s there all by itself.
You Can’t Put the Cross on a List of Options
Just think what it would mean if the Cross were Option A, while Options B, C, D, E and all the rest might work out just fine, too. That would mean that Jesus’ brutal torture, humiliation and death were just Option A, too. He didn’t really have to go through it. God the Father just let it happen, that’s all, so it could go on the menu of nice ideas the universe has for us.
I say no! The cross doesn’t belong on any list of “nice ideas.” It doesn’t fit on any menu of “good options.” It isn’t a good option, if an “option” is all it is. It’s a good way only if it’s the only way God could bring us to Himself. You can either accept the Cross as that one way, or else you’re better off dumping it completely as a needless horror. There’s no third way about it.
So everyone who thinks Christianity belongs on their “tolerant” list of “valid” beliefs needs to strike it from that list. It doesn’t belong on any list. It’s either exclusively true, or it’s not true at all.
It’s Either Right or Wrong, Nothing In Between
That means millennial Christians — all of us, really — have got to decide: Is it true, or is it false? It can’t just be “true for me,” because that puts it right back on that menu of options where it doesn’t belong.
Churches have got to teach this. Pastors need to explain it clearly. Youth leaders must get this across while kids can still hear it. Millennials need to think it through more clearly.
The Cross doesn’t belong on a menu of options. Not unless it’s there all by itself.
This isn’t just some person’s truth. It can’t be. It’s either true for all, or it isn’t true at all.
Now of course, this means we’ve got know why it’s true. That’s actually no problem, though, if you take time to do some basic homework on it. There aret reasons upon reasons upon reasons to know Christianity is true.
So Be Counter-Cultural!
Christianity has always been counter-cultural. The more secular the age, the more counter-cultural it’s bound to be. In today’s world, it’s Christianity’s exclusivism that runs most against the grain. So be it; it can be no other way.
Still — as 94 percent of practicing Christian millennials agree — “the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus.” That’s a good reason right there to buck the culture.