Whenever I start to get discouraged about the future of the church, I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry on what would turn out to be his last visit to Southern Seminary before his death.
Several of us were lamenting the miserable shape of the church, about so much doctrinal vacuity, vapid preaching, non-existent discipleship.
We asked Dr. Henry if he saw any hope in the coming generation of evangelicals.
And I will never forget his reply.
“Why, you speak as though Christianity were genetic,” he said. “Of course, there is hope for the next generation of evangelicals. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans.”
“Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great Apostle to the Gentiles?” he asked us. “Who knew that God would raise up a C.S. Lewis, a Charles Colson? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors for the faith.”
Of course, the same principle applied to Henry himself. Who knew that God would raise up a newspaperman from a nominally Lutheran family to defend the Scriptures for generations of conservative evangelicals?
The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin fish bumper decal.
The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now.
The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now.
The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now.
The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.