A gospel message of condemnation and guilt will not work anymore. It still worked when I was young, but society was much more controlled by the religious establishment back then. My parents were really worried about doing the right thing. “What will people think?” was a powerful social motivator. There was huge societal pressure on people to comply with the accepted social standards. Because most humans couldn’t comply, most carried considerable guilt, so a message that guilt could be lifted was good news.
The sixties generation threw off social constraints. Later generations were freed to do their own thing. In this new world where no one has the right to tell other people what to do, social control was undermined. The consequence of this shift is that a message of condemnation no longer resounds with the current generations. An evangelist attempting to re-create that guilt makes people feel like they are trying to reestablish the social control that has be shaken off (especially if they go hard for salvation by law for the big four social sins).
Modern people do not feel guilty in the way that my parent’s generation did. That does not mean that everything in their lives is fine. The opposite is true. Most modern people know that their lives are a mess.
They don’t feel guilty about the mess, because much of the mess is the result of bad things that other people did to them. They realize that they have made many mistakes, but believe that most were unavoidable given the pressure that they were under. When they look back, they can’t see how they could have done things differently, given their circumstances.
So putting all the blame on them for the mess, by telling them that they are guilty of sin just does not resonate. On the other hand, explaining that they live in a spiritual world (most already know that) and that the spiritual powers of evil have messed them around will make sense to them. A gospel that Jesus defeated the spiritual powers of evil and sent the Holy Spirit to rescue us will resonate, but only if the church can demonstrate that it is true.
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