ur American culture has had many social gaps. One is the gender gap, which is still wide in some Eastern countries, though more narrow in the United States.
Then, there is the generation gap. It has always been with us, to varying degrees. In many cases, the younger generation doesn’t want to hear what older people have to say. They would rather do their own thing—make their own mistakes.
Another gap that has been with us since the dawn of civilization is the God gap—the divide between those who trust God and those who do not. It’s still with us, and it’s growing wider. Many people just don’t want to hear what God has to say, or what His messengers, the clergy, are saying.
Child Trends, a research group in Washington, DC, printed an article in November 2011 with some alarming statistics:
Between 1970 and 2009, the percentage of all births that took place outside of marriage (the nonmarital birth ratio) increased from 11 to 41 percent. Nonmarital births to teens rose from 30 percent in 1970 to 67 percent in 1990, to 87 percent in 2009. Nonmarital births to women ages 20-24 rose from 9 percent in 1970 to 37 percent in 1990, to 62 percent in 2009 (Wildsmith, Streng, and Manlove).
As disturbing as these numbers are, it is just as disturbing that the clergy is doing practically nothing about it.
Not too many years ago, a report of such fast-growing numbers of out-of-wedlock births would have sparked multiple sermons calling for repentance and right living. It would also have ignited revival fires in churches throughout the land. As Cal Thomas of the New York Tribune said in his article, “Our Society’s ‘God Gap,’” as printed in the Fresno Bee on February 28: “Today, there’s only the sound of silence.”
Of course, the fault does not lie completely with the clergy. Fewer people
are listening to the voice of God. Fewer people are reading the Bible. Fewer are listening to ministers of the gospel. Also, we hear our political leaders quoting Scripture out of context to justify their political agenda.
The increase in nonmarital births leads to an increase in the number of children living in poverty. Another Child Trends article, “Trend Lines,” stated, “No matter what the exact percentage is, the research is very clear that children living in poverty suffer a variety of negative outcomes: poorer educational outcomes, poorer health, less positive social and emotional development, and more problem behaviors” (Dec. 14, 2011).
The silence of the clergy concerning the God gap reminds me of King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:19. When Isaiah confronted him about his proud and haughty spirit in showing his treasures to the Babylonian envoy, King Hezekiah thought, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime” (NLT). Many preachers don’t want anyone to stir up controversy during their ministry—so they are silent.
How is this God gap to be spanned? It cannot be as long as older Christians speak a spiritual language and promote a biblical belief system using words that are foreign to many young people. Many don’t understand it, and many don’t want to hear it. Many young adults were taken to church services as children but now feel they no longer have to tolerate faith or conform to a standard they did not promote. Others have grown up in a secular environment and are spiritually deaf and biblically illiterate. Biblical morality is disappearing and the God gap is growing.
What can be done about the God gap?
First, Christians need to pray earnestly for the Spirit of God to touch people where they are, and to woo them back to the old paths—the paths less traveled. As James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (NKJV). This is not just for the clergy—every Christian must pray. Prayer meetings should be called, with an emphasis on asking God to help reverse this trend.
Second, ministers need to preach God-given sermons designed to steer the younger set back to the scriptural tradition of marriage. These sermons need to stress true husband-and-wife love and commitment to each other. The biblical institution of marriage is a lifetime devotion to one spouse. This can never be accomplished as long as a “me first” attitude prevails. This attitude needs to be changed, and ministers can lead the way.
Third, we need to resurrect the concept of old-fashioned revivals in churches throughout the land. We desperately need God-ordained and Spirit-led revivals. We don’t need just a series of church services. We need true renewal, with life-changing decisions.
Fourth, we need Spirit-led teaching in our churches that will help people return to the old paths. We need lessons designed to steer people away from materialism and pleasure. We need lessons that will teach people how to live a Christian life. We need to understand that the twin gods of materialism and pleasure lead to social decay and spiritual decline.
May we—clergy and laity alike—strive to bring back godly living and help to narrow the God gap.