“Christianity is always one generation from extinction.” I heard that statement somewhere during my educational odyssey. Until recently, I merely took it as a pessimist sounding a doomsday warning.
I recently stood in front of a monument at Northfield Mount Hermon that commemorated the birth of the Student Volunteer Movement. In the summer of 1886, 251 students gathered at Mount Hermon for a four-week student conference. D. L. Moody presided over the gathering and the students heard ministers and seminary professors preach and teach. By the end of the summer, 100 students had committed themselves to the cause of world evangelization.
As our group stood in front of the monument, we discussed the Haystack Prayer Meeting that took place a few miles south in Willamstown, MA, in August 1806. Five students from Williams College took shelter under a haystack during a thunderstorm. While there, they prayed about world missions. Many scholars look back at that prayer meeting as the seminal event in the development of Protestant world missions.
A few miles further south in Northampton, MA, Jonathan Edwards led The Great Awakening in 1731. A few more miles to the south in Enfield, CT, you find the place where Edwards preached his most famous sermon, “Sinners in the hand of angry God.”
New England, specifically Massachusetts, was the location of some of the greatest events in evangelical history in North America. And yet today, we are within a short drive of five of the ten cities on the list of the least Bible minded cities.
As I contemplated this trend, I was reminded of Judges 2:7–10.
7 And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. 9 And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
Read through the book of Joshua and you quickly realize miracles were a part of his life. The generation after him knew the stories. But the third generation did not know God or the stories. The knowledge of God disappeared within two generations of a great Christian leader.
The task of every generation must be to passionately declare the greatness of God and the free gift of salvation. If we breathe a sigh of relief and start to coast, if we are content that our families are saved, but we stop telling others about Jesus, then yes, Christianity could become extinct. It happened in the book of Judges. It happened in New England. It’s time to reverse the trend.