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FIRST-PERSON: Will their shoes be filled?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The future is just a blink away. As a member of Generation X, I must admit that the future has never seemed closer than the next year or so. It’s always been about completing something. After I finish high school….After I finish college….After I get married…. After our first child.

Now that I am married and we do have a child, the future has suddenly expanded. Now we think about our little boy’s future — his high school, his college, his family, our retirement. Twenty years no longer seems that far away. I wonder how the world will look.

The Christian community lost two men of enormous faith in recent days when God called Larry Burkett and Bill Bright home to be with Him. Each of these incredible leaders of God was given a specific vision to follow. Their ministries — Burkett’s Christian Financial Concepts (now Crown Financial Ministries) and Bright’s Campus Crusade for Christ — have potentially changed millions of lives for the better because of their willingness to sacrifice their own wants and give up everything to answer God’s call.

Christian Retailing magazine ran a recent feature highlighting “Pioneers” of the Christian retailing industry. Among the individuals included were James Dobson, Billy Graham and Chuck Swindoll, noted for their successful, foundational ministries. Each of their stories told of small beginnings undergirded by a colossal level of faith, ministries that are now impacting people all over the world for God.

These men and others like them were as familiar to me growing up as Mr. Rogers. They represent a spiritual and moral compass that has been held to without apologies or reservation. They have stood where others have not and by doing so have made a difference in the culture in which we currently live.

It’s a proverbial baton that will have to be passed sooner or later.

Swindoll, himself, in one of his recent Insights for Living radio programs, talked about the need for passing on the Christian heritage to his children and grandchildren. He stressed the importance of raising Christian leaders while they’re young.

I have to wonder though, will the leaders be there when the time comes? Is my generation and others that follow equipped to stand in a culture and society where Christianity is ever frequently viewed as intolerant and “old-fashioned?”

Barna Research recently released results of a study done on today’s teenagers and their church attendance. While the research revealed that the majority of teenagers (56 percent) say they attended church-related activities an average of two or more times per month before turning 13, less than one out of every 10 churched teenagers holds to a biblical worldview.

In the news release I found on his firm’s website, George Barna explained it this way: “The result of [a teenager’s] involvement at a church is that they can recite some religious facts, they made some friends and they had fun. That’s wonderful, but we also find that most of them have neither accepted Christ as their Savior nor altered the basis on which they make their moral and ethical decisions in life.”

Where are the leaders?

Let’s get more specific. At the risk of treading on toes, what about our Southern Baptist churches? Time after time, while on board the USS Harry S. Truman covering faith in the midst of war, I would run into sailors who would claim to be Southern Baptist but who had not been to church since leaving home. I am curious to know just how many teenagers in our Southern Baptist churches across the country could tell you anything about the fundamental beliefs we hold to such as the inerrancy of Scripture. More importantly, I would be anxious to see if they could tell you why.

My husband and I love attending our Sunday School class at church. Each week, I hear challenging questions asked which probe into the whys of what we’re studying. Not just by the teacher, but by the young 20-and-30-somethings who attend the class — who are hungry to find the truth in God’s Word and the application for their lives. They are interested in reaching others for Christ. They are interested in a closer walk with God. They are interested in one specific truth — God’s.

As we wade deeper into the pool of the 21st century, new leaders will be needed to take a stand for God’s truth. Men and women who will continue the heritage that the leaders of the 20th century hopefully have passed on.

It is up to every pastor, every Sunday School teacher and ultimately, every church body to instill in today’s youth and young couples the answers to “why.”

Without those answers, the shoes won’t be filled.
Sara Horn is a corporate communications writer with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Sara Horn