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Beliefs of Younger Jesus Followers

A recent study by Barna research revealed some generational differences between younger Americans and older generations with regards to universalism and pluralism. The following points outline some of these differences.

1. Universal Truth. Americans 18-39 years of age were more likely to believe in universal truth than older generations. That is, young people embrace the idea that there are numerous paths to being saved, regardless of the religion one practices.

2. Eschatology. Younger Americans were more likely than older adults to believe that a good person will go to heaven. This belief was partially based on an uncertainty about what happens to someone after death.

3. Evangelism. Younger Americans were also less enthusiastic than older people about sharing their religious beliefs with others. David Kinnaman, president of Barna, said, “[Young people] are less certain what they believe and crossing the divide to communicate with their peers on this issue is a big jump.”

Observations

What does all of this mean, and how can we change these perceptions?

First of all, we need to instill biblical teaching. Individuals and churches need to teach about the reality of heaven and hell. But this needs to be tempered with teaching about the grace of Jesus—it is his blood that saves us—not leading a good life. We also need to teach that the Great Commission is not the Great Suggestion. Sharing our faith is at the center of the Christian mission. Finally, we need to encourage younger people to build relationships with others—regardless of their religious beliefs. Evangelism is based on building authentic relationships with others. We can begin this process by modeling friendships with people of diverse backgrounds and faiths.

What else can older generations teach younger people about following Jesus?

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