This week the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture reported on an annual study that publishes factoids about students entering their first year of college. According to that study most freshman have “never licked a postage stamp, always used cell phones with Wi-Fi access, improved their reading skills with the Harry Potter series, and have always watched television in high definition.”
In 1997, the year of their birth, Princess Diana died in a tragic motorcade crash, the movie Titanic won 11 Oscars, Seinfeld was the most popular TV show, and Beanie Babies were the most popular Christmas toy.
And what about the moral climate of our culture over the years since their birth?
Again, according to the Denison Forum, in 1997, there were 13.9 million illegal drug users in the U.S.; today 24.6 million Americans use illegal drugs, a 50 percent increase relative to our population. In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres was one of the first well-known celebrities to “come out” as homosexual; now same-sex marriage is the law of the land. Since 1997, the percentage of unmarried couples living together has doubled. And, the percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation has nearly doubled to 22.8 percent, representing 56 million adults, outnumbering both Catholics and mainline Protestants.
So, one could easily wonder, if these trends continue, what will our society look like 18 years from now? What will the world our kids and grandkids inherit look like, should the Lord delay His return for another two decades of time?
But it’s my concern raised in attempting to answer those questions that stokes my delight in seeing the great start we had this week to our fall Half Time programs. It all began with a terrific fellowship meal together where our kitchen crew served more than 160 for dinner. Then everyone there headed out for a strong start in classes and activities for all ages. “Mr. Brad” had the AWANA team out in force to welcome our younger crew with bounce houses, giant blow-up slides, face painting, balloon launching and more, just a good evening to kick off a year of learning Bible verses, Scripture stories and fun. Our youth team welcomed a gym load of eager guys and girls to an evening of activities, worship and biblical challenge. And two adult classes hit the ground running with interactive times of investigating and applying God’s Word.
I highlight these ministries because my core conviction is that it’s these very opportunities to get grounded and strengthened in God’s Word that will equip our local church family to shine like stars in the increasingly dark night that right now appears to be on our society’s horizon. Who will the positive change agents be? (And here I quote my new Kenyan friend, Charles Nderitu, who leads the AWANA ministries for all of East Africa.) “The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power that will make our nation strong.” Amidst all the shaping forces of education, religion, politicking and entertainment in our day, it really is that basic. It’s the grip of the gospel of Jesus Christ on a person’s life that will make them shine, that will make them strong.
Right now, we have a wonderful opportunity through our Half Time ministries to partner with families in equipping them to be the Good News influencers of the upcoming generation. And my great joy is to see that we have a strong cadre of parents and ministry leaders who are committed to deepening our roots in the life giving truths of God’s Word.
There’s no way I can predict what the next 18 years will bring our way, but with all my being, I believe the timeless truth given to us by the Scripture’s Psalmist, “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart. (Ps. 119:1,2).” These are the blessed who can make our nation strong.
Grateful to be walking among the cadre of the blessed,