Religion researcher George Barna reports that the upcoming generation of "born again" teenagers have a declining interest in sharing their faith with unbelievers. "The most striking change was the fact that teenagers today seem much less inclined to have spiritual conversations about their faith in Christ with non-believers," he says. They still participate in church activities, and claim to read their Bibles much the same as 12 years ago, but when asked specifically if they have explained their faith to an unbeliever, the percentage declined from 63 percent to 45 percent.
Barna says that youth leaders may miss this subtle change since they still show up at gatherings at much the same rate. He faults changes in the cultural attitude: "It is increasingly unpopular to make bold assertions about faith or be too aggressively evangelistic." Social networking has had a significant influence on teen spirituality and relationships. "Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook," says David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group.
"In several ways, teenagers are much less inclined toward spirituality than were teens a dozen years ago," says Barna. As stated above, they seemed to be ashamed of the gospel, reluctant to discuss it with others. Comparison of denominations also shows differences. Among the Protestants, mainline churches come in behind the more evangelical and Pentecostal groups. In fact, actual participation in church activities seems to have increased in the time period in the more fundamental churches. Yet the same pattern of decline in personal evangelism showed among this group, also.
Chick Publications has noticed a similar pattern. It is a serious concern not only for the future of our ministry, but for the church as a whole. We are attempting to bridge that gap with Facebook and Twitter pages and digital tracts that can be shared on cell phones and computer web pages. While interest in these is growing, the convenience of the printed tract is still more appreciated. For sheer ability to saturate a community with the gospel, the tracts are unequalled.
One example is Abundant Life Church in Putnamville, Indiana. Pastor Jerry Campbell had a vision for the tracts and shared it with a retired computer technician, Dale Detro. They put up small Free-Take-One displays in a couple of dozen local stores and restocked them every week. In the last five years, they have seeded over half a million tracts into their community. Now, whenever someone is handed a tract in the community, they often say: "Oh, I`ve seen that one, do you have a different one?"
Since our time here is short, we must make every effort to pass on the essentials to the next generation. As the cultural pressure increases against witnessing and soul winning, we need to help the next generation understand the importance of the great commission and how to best carry it out.
The teens (and older) that you know may be deceived by the modern teaching that tracts don`t work; that witnessing is best done by building relationships. It is true that this method works very well, but you can only reach a few per year.
If, in a busy day, you take a few seconds to hand someone a tract, you will bring him to a decision, either reject its message or try to learn more. If the Holy Spirit is drawing that person, He will water that seed some way and eventually God will get the increase. It only takes a few minutes to seed a hundred tracts into a crowd. Some will "fall by the wayside," but some will "fall on good ground" and bring forth a harvest for the kingdom.