Wise as Serpents

 We saw something unusual on one of our daily walks this past week. We saw a group of neighborhood children playing a pick-up game of tag football. What a novel idea!  Normally when we walk around our neighborhood (which contains quite a number of children) we rarely see–except for two families–children out playing. Most are inside fixated on the television or their computer screen or playing Wii games or texting with their cell phone. Even at the neighborhood football game, one of the “participants” was standing on the sideline texting!  I couldn’t help thinking back to my childhood days when much of my “free time” was spent playing outside with friends–playing softball in the cow pasture, or anti-I-over, or kick the can, or riding bikes, or swimming at the lake, or playing marbles, or…   Of course, at the time we didn’t even own a television and had never heard of cell phones or smart phones or i-pods. Words like “texting” or “tweeting” weren’t part of our vocabulary or even imagination.

     I guess I was part of what became referred to as the “Baby Boomers” which was known for its hippies, draft dodgers and rock n’ roll music that challenged traditional society and openly questioned some of the values of preceding generations. Parents and church leaders searched for ways to reach this new generation which seemed to be headed a whole new direction. But, the challenge would become even greater in the years ahead.
     Today we “Baby Boomers” are beginning to retire and now “Generation X” has assumed control over government, education, business and churches. And “Generation Y” (also known as Millennials”) is quickly entering the workforce and leadership roles in society, “bringing with them technological advancements that engage and communicate in ways never imagined a decade ago” (Institute for Creation Research newsletter, Oct. 2013).  My generation was the first to grow up with television, followed by Generation X-ers with VCR’s and personal computers. Millennials have grown up with cell phones and the Internet and were the central force that created and popularized the social media phenomenon such as “Facebook,” and “Twitter.”  Smartphones have put the entire media spectrum in the palm of their hands–and has forever changed the way they live and learn and react. (Our missionary friend in Afghanistan was giving a test to some of her students to whom she was teaching English. She was a bit shocked to discover that some were looking up answers on the internet with their smartphones!). 
     Unfortunately, besides being focused on their technical know-how, the new generation of young people is also rapidly deserting our churches. Something like 80% of our high school graduates drop out of church when they go to college or take a job. Most of those who remain are drawn to non-denominational assemblies that try to be as contemporary as possible to attract attendees. Traditional Sunday school is no longer even offered in many churches, and solid expositional Bible teaching has in many cases been replaced with topical “biblical discussions” with facilitators rather than teachers. Old classic hymns, with their great theology, are seldom sung. The “way we do church” has drastically changed over the past couple decades. 
     But, one thing we must not forget is that the gospel message does not change. We may change the way we do church to meet the changing society in which we live, but we must not compromise the truths of God’s Word. The message must remain the same. Watering down the Scriptures to make them more palatable and attractive to the public is never what God intended when He told His disciples, as He sent them out to the world, saying: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd (wise) as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Mt. 10:16).  To be “wise as serpents” indicates we need to be aware of how to reach the world in which we live. Just as missionaries who go into a totally foreign culture need to know how to convey the Gospel message in that setting, we too need to know how to reach our generation for Christ.  We need to be “shrewd,” yet at the same time not compromise our own lifestyles or biblical standards (“innocent as doves.”).  We definitely need godly wisdom to know how best to communicate the message of God’s love and forgiveness to “Generation Y.”  (What happens if we get to “Generation Z”?  Then what??).  We need to actively seek ways to reach the younger generations of our world. Many churches and Christian organizations are doing just that. For example, Ron Hutchcraft Ministries has a summer Program called “On Eagles Wings,” in which Christian Native Americans who have been trained, go to reservations, usually using a basketball court as the venue, and share their testimonies of how Christ has saved them from their alcoholism, drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, and hopelessness. Hundreds of Native Americans have been coming to Christ each summer and finding hope and a new life in Christ. Ron’s son, Doug, and friend, Jon, have established a website and blog,  www.thedougandjonshow.com which has had millions of hits from young people and thousands have come to Christ.  The Institute for Creation Research has started new youth-oriented programs like “That’s a Fact” video shorts, which has already had more than 3.2 million viewers, the “Your Origins Matter” ministry, and a “Creation Science Update” mobile app.  
     It would be easy to just throw up our hands and give up as we see such drastic changes in our society, but remember Jesus’ promise: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Mt. 16:18).  I’m sure that God is not at a loss as to what to do to reach this generation, so stay in touch and in tune with Him to see how He wants you to help Him continue to build His church until He calls it home.
 
                                                                                                    Forever His,
                                                                                                            Pastor Dave  
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About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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