A recent study suggests that negative attitudes among young non-believers continue to pervade the cultural climate of America. Even more interesting is the impact that the impressions and perceptions of non-believers is having on younger evangelicals in the Western church.

“Older generations more easily dismiss the criticism of those who are outsiders,” Kinnaman said. “But we discovered that young leaders and young Christians are more aware of and concerned about the views of outsiders, because they are more likely to interact closely with such people. Their life is more deeply affected by the negative image of Christianity. For them, what Christianity looks like from an outsider’s perspective has greater relevance, because outsiders are more likely to be schoolmates, colleagues, and friends.”

I believe this sensitivity among younger evangelicals is promising, but it also possess significant risks to the gospel. A desire to embrace the perceptions of outsiders for the sake of relevance and significance can sometimes lead to the neutering of the gospel and the dismissal of essential doctrines for the sake of unity, as we have seen in some streams of the Emerging Church. But one thing is certain: change is coming in the Western Church.

“While Christianity remains the typical experience and most common faith in America, a fundamental recalibration is occurring within the spiritual allegiance of America’s upcoming generations.”

You can read a summary of the entire study here.

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