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Has relativism so invaded the church that adults have lost the capacity to disciple their own youth? In my darkest moments, I couldn't have imagined it. But a recent episode makes me wonder.

A graduate of our Centurion program (an intensive course in biblical worldview) sponsors a voluntary Christian club at her local middle school. Forty-three students eagerly signed up for the 13-week course.

Everything went well until the students reached lesson 10, which led them through a series of choices to learn the difference between matters of taste and truth. One of the choices, "believing Islam, Buddhism, or Christianity" flashed on the screen.

Our Centurion—I'll call her Joanne—told me "the students went nuts." She was shocked when seven of the eight small-group leaders, supposedly mature Christians, balked at distinguishing Christianity as true and other religions as false.

Joanne urged them to talk to their parents or pastors, believing these authority figures would straighten them out. The next day, they came back with their answers—and they were appalling. One teen's pastor said that no one can be sure of truth, that "it's all perspective." Parents of the seven leaders agreed that their teens shouldn't say that Christianity alone is true, because that could offend others. One girl had written a paper on "Why We Shouldn't Hurt Others' Feelings by Claiming Our Way Is Right." Joanne was forced to shelve chapter 10. "They can't teach what they don't believe," she said.

If this is representative of what's going on in the church, we've got problems. We should be concerned not just about discipleship, but also about whether we are losing what sociologist Robert Bellah calls our "community of memory."

In the 1980s, Bellah ...

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Charles Colson
Charles Colson was the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, an outreach to convicts, victims of crime, and justice officers. Colson, who converted to Christianity before he was indicted on Watergate-related charges, became one of evangelicalism's most influential voices. His books included Born Again and How Now Shall We Live? A Christianity Today columnist since 1985, Colson died in 2012.
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In the Magazine

October 2007

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