logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

"Hemorrhaging Faith: When Your Sons & Daughters DON'T Prophesy"

May 19/13 Pentecost - Acts 2:1-18 (various)


As wickedness in the world encroaches, people are less likely to trust anything outside themselves, including God. Rick Hiemstra in presenting the Hemorrhaging Faith report to our denominational assembly recently observed that, for young adults, there never was a time when they thought they could trust their neighbour.

For instance, on April 23 after doing some hurried searching online on Kijiji, I'd lined up a couple of vehicles to test drive in Kitchener, with a view to replacing my now-defunct 2000 Neon. I didn't feel apprehensive about it even though I'd never met the other people before, nor did I expect they would feel apprehensive about me taking one of their vehicles to try it out. I'd bought my yard tractor / snowblower / mower combination on Kijiji very satisfactorily so it seemed a smart option.

Not two weeks later, on May 6, two strangers contacted Tim Bosma in Ancaster to take his pickup for a test drive - with deadly results. This incident is so horrific partly because it challenges our common expectations: is it even SAFE any more to use Kijiji (for example) to sell an item of sizeable value?

While at the OPP detachment last month for fingerprinting (not for any crime but for a police check, I hasten to add!), I noticed one of their pamphlets on the information rack - it was titled "Lock it or Lose it", reminding people to make sure they lock their cars in a parking lot and lock the door of their homes. Having grown up in rural Ontario, I confess this concept seems somewhat foreign. This requires a shift in mentality from what we might call the "pioneer code" - that is, if you have a stocked cabin in the wilderness, you don't lock it ON PURPOSE in case some wandering stranger needs to help him- or herself to the necessities of life. We begrudge that such an era is now, apparently and alas, no more. Why, cars are even broken into in the church parking lot during Youth Group!

For those who've watched Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine, one is reminded of his experiment checking out how many doors were unlocked in a Toronto neighbourhood (a lot of them) - quite different from the norm south of the border. As he said on departure after charting with one surprised but friendly resident, "Thanks for not shooting me!"

As one generation fades and another takes its place, there's a significant shift in attitude occurring. As Rick Hiemstra pointed out, young adults believe they are the only ones they can trust to act in their own best interest. He offered two recent movies (The Hunger Games and The Bourne Identity) as iconic, representative of this feeling: the heroes trust no one, they can't even trust the system which is out to get them or take advantage of them, and they don't know who they really are. Because young adults don't trust society, there's pushback on issues of public morality, they resent being told what they should believe; young people see public morality as "coercive".

On this Pentecost Sunday, Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to infuse and encourage believers in Jesus. The Spirit promises new order in our lives, a new yielding to Christ as Lord, acknowledgment of God as a Heavenly Father, and new kinship with other believers. That's a big change for someone who doesn't think they can trust anything outside themselves: there's a huge shift in the authority-base in your life. Why would anyone do that?


Here's a snapshot overview of how the Holy Spirit impacts the lives of those who trust in Christ. He brings NEW BIRTH and RENEWAL. Jn 3(5f) Jesus told Nicodemus, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Titus 3:5, "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit..."

The Spirit gives a sense of spiritual satisfaction and fullness. To describe this, Jesus employed a metaphor from which our church gets its name: Jn 4:14, "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Jn 7:37f, Jesus again, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.[John comments] By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive." Humans are born with a spiritual hunger, an ache for connection to something or Someone greater, we were designed for communion with God - the coming of His Spirit is like "living water" for thirsty souls.

The Holy Spirit is associated with a positive experience emotionally. Romans 14:17, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit..." Romans 5:5, "...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Then in Galatians 5(22f) Paul details the famous "fruit of the Spirit" - "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Very positive emotionally.

But it's not just a feeling; there's something going on more foundationally, changing us from the inside out, molding our character. 2Cor 3:18 "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." The Spirit's changing and sculpting you to become more like Jesus.

More than a feeling - the Spirit also imparts God's truth, His principles of holiness, to our faculty of understanding. Not just an emotional sensation, there's genuine cognitive content. 1Cor 2:12 "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." Jesus describes the Spirit in John 14(16f) as a "Counselor...the Spirit of truth." He "will teach you all things" and remind the disciples of Jesus' teachings (14:26); "when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth...he will tell you what is yet to come." (16:13)

There is a change of authority; the Holy Spirit directs our focus toward Jesus, He becomes central in our lives. We no longer try to get everything else to orbit around our self-will. Jn 15:26 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me." 16:14 "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." No more self-worship, I'm freed from trying to always exalt myself or impress others or try and make myself look good; I accept that it's Jesus who rates the glory! And that's all right, because Jesus' glory rubs off on us by association.

An important function of the Holy Spirit is to convict and correct us, often in co-operation with our internal conscience. Jn 16:8ff "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment..." Paul notes in Romans 9(1), "I speak the truth in Christ-- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit..." Studies like Hemorrhaging Faith present an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to convict us of where the church may be getting off-track; "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev 2:29) We may resist having our warts pointed out, but it's very necessary to be corrected.

But it doesn't end in shame. The Holy Spirit gives believers new POWER to overcome their weaknesses. Jesus told the disciples in Lk 24(49), "I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." And in Acts 1(8), "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses..."

The Spirit gives us power to SPEAK: Acts 4:31 "After they prayed...they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." Acts 2:4 at Pentecost "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" - they were "declaring the wonders of God" (2:11).

Besides speaking, the Spirit also gives us power to BEHAVE, as in new power over (to control) the body's misdeeds. Romans 8:2 "the law [or, rule] of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law [or, domination / tyranny] of sin and death." 8:6 "The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." 8:9 We are controlled by the Spirit (NOT the flesh / sinful nature) if the Spirit of God lives in us. And in 8:13 Paul urges his readers, "by the Spirit put to death the misdeeds of the body." Are we moment-by-moment letting the Spirit have sway in our actions? Are you letting Him be in control? Do others see a congruence, a consistency, between what you say you believe and your actions? Do they see Jesus lived-out in you?

More than in just a moral sense, the Holy Spirit empowers us to SERVE. 1Corinthians 12:7-11 "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.[Then follows a long list of various gifts: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, etc.] All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." Have you identified your particular "spiritual gift"? Use one of the inventories to discover how God's geared you! (See website)

On a relational level, the Holy Spirit aligns or connects us to Jesus as Lord and God as our Heavenly Father. 1Cor 12:3 "...no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit." It's the Spirit that breaks Satan's blinders, the shutters of unbelief from our eyes, and enables us to behold and exclaim at Jesus' pre-eminence over every created thing. And this newfound faith helps us appreciate we have become God's children in a way that unbelievers are not, we are no longer alienated from grace. Romans 8:15ff "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship [or daughterhood, but including inheritance rights]. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.Now if we are children, then we are heirs-- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ..." Paul also writes about this new "papa-ness" to the Galatians (4:6), "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."" The Spirit provides tangible connectedness, relatedness, oneness with Almighty God spiritually-speaking.

Finally, in the most fundamental sense, the Holy Spirit is our HELPER. That's how some translations render the Greek word "Paraclete" Jesus uses (instead of 'Counselor'): very simply, a paraclete is "one called alongside to help". So Paul can say in Php 1:19, "for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance." Or in Romans 8:26, "the Spirit helps us in our weakness.We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." It's as if He comes and "groans" alongside you in the effort of prayer. The Holy Spirit is our HELPER.

So many benefits of having the Holy Spirit (I've just summarized some of the main ones) - how does one receive the Holy Spirit? Just ASK! Jesus said in Luke 11(13), "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Ask with repentance, sincerity, and faith, trusting God to keep His promise. As Peter preached that great invitation on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:38 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."


In his pivotal sermon at Pentecost, the apostle Peter quoted the prophecy by Joel that foretold: "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." (Ac 2:17) But what if our sons and daughters are NOT prophesying? Recent studies have shown young people are leaving the church. What are we doing wrong? Are we failing to display the Spirit genuinely so as a result the next generation gets "turned off" church?

In June 2011, the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada commissioned a survey that queried over 2,000 young Canadian adults. The results were published in a document called Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying, and Returning to Church. They note the definition of "hemorrhaging" as "abnormal, copious loss of a valuable substance." The study presents a wake-up call to the Canadian church: the Holy Spirit may be convicting us of guilt in our own hypocrisy - we speak Christianese but don't act. Young people pick up on this hokey-ness (where there should be holiness) and choose not to associate with faith-fakers.

At the beginning of this sermon, we remarked that young people don't feel they can trust their neighbour; if there's anybody they can trust to act in their best interests, it's got to be THEMSELVES. Hypocrites obviously can't be trusted. Young people crave AUTHENTICITY: the authors note, "we could say that young adults want to belong to a church community that is kind, friendly or welcoming, but the truth is, if congregations engage in these practices but they are done for the sake of show, instead of authentically, they do more harm than good.Young adults call this hypocrisy...For many young adults, to be authentic means to be real or genuine - true to one's self.To be authentic means that one is not hypocritical or fake - one's character is consistent at all times.Young adults are in search of a church composed (mostly!) of members that are honest and sincere." [SLIDE 23]

Respondent Anna said, "I guess one of the things I really struggle with is how people can have a firm belief in God but they have a belief they follow but they can treat people so horribly at the same time when there's people out there that might not necessarily believe in God but they follow more true to his teaching and are more of a reflection upon Jesus and his character."

Look at the drop-off between the ages of child and youth, then between youth and young adult [SLIDES 2, 3]. "1 in 3 Canadian young adults who attended church weekly or more as a child still do so today.1 in 2 continue to identify with the Christian tradition they were raised in." (Attendance - Evangelical: 78% as child / 48% as young adult)

Researchers split respondents into 4 groups in view of how they answered 15 questions. "Engagers" still participated in organized religion. "Fence Sitters" still had a religious affiliation, but over 1/4 didn't identify with a particular organized religion. "Wanderers" and "Rejecters" have unhitched from the traditions in which they were raised; Wanderers drift from church while Rejecters have had some kind of scarring experience that forced them out. [SLIDE 9: 36% Fence Sitters, ~1M Canadians]

What are some significant differences between Engagers (those who remain involved in church) and the others? Typically they have experienced God's love personally, and believe God answers prayer [SLIDE 13]. They would agree with the statement, "I have experienced emotional healing through help received from a church." [SLIDE 14] Whereas Fence Sitters, Wanderers, and Rejecters would say, "Attending church would be hypocritical for me" (remember the importance of being "authentic") [SLIDE 22]. Engagers would disagree that "right and wrong are a matter of personal opinion"; the other 3 clusters would protest that "church lifestyle demands are unrealistic" [SLIDE 21].

The research suggests parents' spiritual disciplines play an important role in influencing the next generation. Parents were ranked in 3 groups (high to low) based on whether they practised 3 spiritual disciplines: reading their Bible regularly, praying regularly (outside of table grace), and attending church regularly [SLIDES 32-33]: note over half fell in the "moderate" category. Note as well the startling correlation between Bible study and prayer of the offspring and whether or not the parents read their Bible and prayed regularly [SLIDE 34]. Likewise, there is a startling corresponding drop-off in church attendance [SLIDE 35] (from 76% to 11%). Do you see the trend? The kids are highly influenced by the depth of devotion of the parents. Is it "for real"? And if the parents' attendance declined significantly or ceased while the child was at home, that had a significant correlation as well [SLIDE 36].

What about the church's community involvement - were they like salt hidden inside a saltshaker, or were they out practising their faith in the public sphere? [SLIDE 27] Engagers did not feel their church was "out of touch" like the others did. Engagers (those still participating as young adults) felt church leadership was able to answer their toughest questions [SLIDE 29]. They also said the church gave them opportunities to be involved in leadership, while Wanderers agreed with the statement "church is a place where my talents go unappreciated" [SLIDE 30].

The research also suggested that summer camps and mission trips play a significant role in helping youth and young adults explore their faith. Engagers were far more likely to have gone to a Christian summer camp [SLIDE 15] and to have had their faith come alive at summer camp [SLIDE 16]. They were also far more likely to have gone on a mission trip [SLIDE 17] and to have had their faith come alive during a mission trip [SLIDE 18] than non-Engagers.

After church last Sunday, Church Council approved another Elmira Poultry fundraiser to help send one or two native children to camp in conjunction with Robert & Janice Graham's ministry. Camps are good! Also in July we have some 17 youth going on a 1-week SERVE mission trip to Peterborough. Mission trips are good! They give young people a chance to act on their faith for an extended period of time, to see that trusting Jesus can be integrated well with everyday life.

In summary: what are some things the researchers recommend we can do? [SLIDE 41] Equip parents to disciple their children; manage transitions (when the child leaves home or there is a family break-up); move with them ("more willing to engage in an authentic dialogue about faith and life issues, a dialogue that in many ways will require us in church leadership to understand a mindset quite different from our own"); have them serve and lead; set up mentorships; pastor their community (maybe that's partly why I was at an Arena Board meeting Thursday night!); Christian camping; mission trips; teach experientially (though we don't quite have the technical capacity here yet for you to text in your questions for Q&A after the sermon); and, address the sin-authenticity disconnect (decrease the gap between life and lip).

May the Holy Spirit grant us power so to SPEAK and to ACT in a way that commends our Saviour Jesus, and an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, to the next generation! Let's pray. (For summary of the Hemorrhaging Faith report, see here or here; order here, $15)