Okay, I know the answer to that question. I want to allay your concerns about my faith, my sanity and my theology in this first paragraph; and so my answer to that question is an emphatic, unequivocal, resounding, categorical “No!”
Satan is not stronger, more powerful, more potent than God, because God, our Creator, our Sustainer and our Redeemer through Jesus Christ is all powerful – omnipotent, in fact. This just seems to be a time when the devil is getting the upper hand on many fronts.
The culture is in chaos. Our politics have become nihilistic. Our education is humanistic. Our entertainment is hedonistic. Our philosophy is fatalistic. Our society is materialistic.
And for half a century most mainline denominations in America have been in a precipitous decline. Our own Southern Baptist Convention has an alarming loss of over one million members in the last ten years.
The most startling statistic is that in 2017 Georgia Baptist immersed 19,576 new believers. That represented a 17.43 percent decline over the previous year. (Incidentally, there were 245 fewer churches that turned in a statistical report in 2017, but their records may not have resulted in a dramatic change in the final report).
According to the statistical history of our state convention, we have not baptized so few people in my lifetime, and that is a long, long time. In fact, according to the statistics at my disposal we have not baptized so few people since the 1930s.
We are losing the battle for souls.
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board is committed to providing resources, personnel, or whatever is needed to turn the tide. But the devil is well-entrenched in our society and unleashing his full arsenal against the cause of Christ because he knows he is on a short leash. His time is limited. His doom is sealed.
There are two kinds of games in playing marbles: one is for fun and one is for keeps. In the game for fun no one loses his marbles. In the game for keeps, the winner gets to keep all the marbles and the loser could go home with nothing. Today it looks in the battle for souls the church is playing for fun and the devil is playing for keeps.
Our desire is to reverse the downward spiral of baptisms, not just improve our statistical trend, but to introduce lost people to the One who can forgive their sins, rescue them from the clutches of the devil, give them a full and meaningful life, and change their destiny forever.
One of our primary objectives is to help our churches impact our youth via the #ReachingNextGen initiative. This is the greatest way to ensure a bright future for our state, our nation, our youth, and our denomination.
However, the devil is aiming his greatest artillery at our youth, because he knows of their boundless energy, their enthusiasm for life, and their limitless potential.
Trace Embry, in his book Crucial Resources for Navigating the Digital Age, contends that the devil has created a culture where our kids are way too over-stimulated with rights and privileges and too under-stimulated with responsibilities and obligations.
Embry states, “Our kids have been made to grow up in areas they should still be kids, and allowed to be kids in areas they should be made to grow up. They’ve been exposed to illicit sex, illegal drugs, irreverent entertainment, and other sins and vices – to the point of acquiring unnatural appetites, habits and addictions for all of it.”
Embry pinpoints the problems by saying, (1) “In today’s youth culture, teens have been abandoned by adults in certain areas of their lives, while being pampered, coddled, and entitled in other areas. They have been allowed to make decisions based on emotion, feelings, and comfort as opposed to logic, reason, and a moral high ground.
“They’ve been allowed to do things they shouldn’t, while never been made to do things they should. They’ve understood love and discipline as being mutually exclusive – if they’ve understood them at all – and therefore rarely received the divine character benefits of either.
(2) “In general, the youth culture has been brainwashed by a 24/7 media, music, and entertainment barrage that teaches them nothing about moral purity and virtually everything about what parents don’t want them to know, believe, accept, or perpetuate themselves – everything our parents and the church once told us to avoid.
“They have been pleasured into imbecility with all the electronics and techno-toys their parents have worked so hard to provide them – to the point they have become insatiable and hedonic. They go like monkeys on a vine grabbing the next pleasure before releasing the last – leaving no margin in their lives to contemplate the deeper issues of life such as origin, meaning, morality, or destiny.
“They’ve been allowed to blame others, while being bailed out of the sufferings and consequences of their own mistakes.”
(3) Our youth are beleaguered with a postmodern worldview. Embry declares, “Our kids have no peace or rest in their souls; because they’ve been pursuing creation without regard or reverence for their Creator – unaware of St. Augustine’s prayer, ‘Lord, You have made us for Yourself; and, our hearts are restless until we find our rest in You.’ In a nutshell, they don’t know God; and they don’t feel they know anyone who truly does.
“We have a youth problem largely because we have a greater parent problem. We have a parent problem largely because we have a greater cultural problem. We have a cultural problem largely because we have a greater church problem.”
Most people come to faith in Christ before age 19. Recent statistics show that the average Georgia Baptist church baptized one teenager and three children in the course of one year.
The devil must be laughing up his sleeve because of his recent successes in capturing the hearts and minds of our youth, but we know that he is NOT all-powerful. God is omnipotent! We must seek our omnipotent God and the vision and power He is willing to give to each of us and to our churches. We could begin to turn the tide this Sunday.
Make sure that your church is implementing a strategy to reach kids, teens, and post-high school graduates. Do it now! Let’s show the world that the devil is a defeated foe. Let’s show the world that there is a Lord God in Georgia.
Don’t let the devil have his way with our youth because of our apathy. Let’s link ourselves with an omnipotent God with whom nothing is impossible.