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What is a “Next Generation” Christian?

In attempting to define a “Next Generation” Christian, let me begin by saying culture is fluid, always changing, adapting, evolving. Look at American culture today compared to what it was like in the 1980s (the greatest decade ever), and then consider what life was like a hundred years ago. It’s bad enough when you have to drive to the grocery store at 6:00 am to get milk; can you imagine having to walk out to the barn every morning to “get” milk from your cow? And how did people ever survive the Houston heat without air conditioning—it’s hot as Hades down here during the summer! Technology has transformed the way we see and experience life.

But it’s not just technology that alters culture. Over the past hundred years the philosophical shift from a Modern to a post-Modern worldview has also had a remarkable influence on American society. Today I drank out of the same water fountain as a black man and my wife didn’t spend her day barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Ideologically, America is gradually moving towards being a pluralistic culture that values diversity and equality.

This shift from a Modern to a post-Modern worldview has had a profound impact on the values system of Next Generation Christians and how they live out their faith.

From ME to WE

Next Generation Christians are moving away from a “ME” worldview towards a “WE” worldview.

Grounded in the principles of Enlightenment philosophy, The United States was built on a foundation of rugged individualism. As Americans, above all else, we value our individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As a result of our individualistic focus, the Christian life in America has centered on ME having “a personal relationship with God” and ME “trusting Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.” As for biblical teaching, the church in America has traditionally emphasized those biblical passages that address an individual’s personal responsibility to live a good, moral life.

In contrast, Next Generation Christians have a post-Enlightenment, WE perspective; they see themselves as members of a community, as participants in a movement greater than themselves. As a result, Next Generation Christians emphasize biblical passages that address communal responsibility and in particularly, they focus on Jesus’s “radical” teachings on loving thy neighbor and see his ministry to those in need as the model for Christian living.

From ME to HE

Next Generation Christians are moving away from a “ME” worldview towards a “HE” worldview.

One significant shortcoming of individualism is the potential to focus on oneself and to approach every situation from the perspective of “what’s in this for me?” Unchecked individualism further allows people to rationalize just about any self-centered, self-serving behavior or policy. This me-first attitude is prominent in the church as well with people asking, “What does Christianity offer me?” In the end, the church in America has capitulated to individualism and largely reduced the Christian faith to answering this one self-centered question: “What do I have to do, think, or say in order to make it into heaven?” For individualistically-minded Americans, even life after death is all about me.

In contrast, Next Generation Christians are not ME-centered, but rather HE-centered—God-centered. They don’t believe in self-determination—that “I can be whatever I want to be.” They believe in God-determination—that “I can be whatever God created me to be.” With an intense passion to honor God with the life they’ve been given, Next Generation Christians don’t dwell on the question, “What’s going to happen to me if I die tonight?” Instead, they focus on the question, “What am I going to do if I wake up tomorrow?”

A Next Generation Christian

So with this cultural shift from ME to WE and from ME to HE you might be wondering, “What does it then look like to be a Next Generation Christian?”

In his book The Next Christians, Gabe Lyons puts it this way,

“The next Christians believe that Christ’s death and Resurrection were not only meant to save people from something. He wanted to save Christians to something. God longs to restore his image in them, and let them loose, freeing them to pursue his original dreams for the entire world. Here, now, today, tomorrow. They no longer feel bound to wait for heaven or spend all of their time telling people what they should believe. Instead, they are participating with God in his restoration project for the whole world.”

That, my friends, is the heartbeat of a Next Generation Christian.


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