Helping Young Adults Withstand Cultural Challenges - Radical

Helping Young Adults Withstand Cultural Challenges

“They held up.” This was the refrain repeated, in some fashion, by all the major news outlets after Hurricane Ida recently made its way through Louisiana and the Gulf. 

The phrase “they held up” pertained to the new levee system put in place after Hurricane Katrina ravished New Orleans some ten years earlier. Had you visited people in that city prior to Hurricane Ida, they would have told you about Katrina. Their houses and their memories still show the indelible scars of that event. The flood waters of Katrina were devastating.

Young Adults Withstand Cultural Challenges

What made the difference this time, even though Ida recorded stronger wind speeds than Katrina, is that the city was prepared. The levees held up. But another storm will come. 

Christianity has also weathered its fair share of cultural hurricanes and tropical theological storms over the last two thousand years. In fact, it could be argued that Christians today face similar persecutions as they did during the infancy of the early church. And yet, a new storm is here. And one of the things that makes this hurricane different is that secular culture is not after some old guy like me. Rather, it is after the youth and young adults, and it’s not bashful about its claims or its agenda.

A Troubling Trend

We’ve been observing this trend for some time. And the effects are beyond alarming. In 2013, Larry Alex Taunton published an article titled “Listening to Young Atheists” detailing the fallout of cultural winds breaking through.[1]Taunton interviewed hundreds of college students after noting a growing trend in young adults claiming to be atheists. Curious over what led them to their atheism, he did a survey to see if he could locate the reason why. Themes began to emerge from his interviews, and one of those themes was particularly telling. 

Taunton was under the assumption that these young adults “converted” to their atheism in college, perhaps after being challenged in a philosophy class. However, that wasn’t the case. The students who were surveyed revealed that they had formulated their atheistic worldview between the ages of 14-17, with most doing so during their junior year of high school. 

So, why that particular age range? The students noted that they were given vague answers and messages within the church to their serious questions. So, they turned to the internet, which helped lead them into their atheism. 

There are several lessons to be learned from Taunton’s article; however, what stands out is that these young adults, raised in church, gave way to the cultural storms, having only been protected by the levee of nominal Christianity. That’s the danger of not giving young adults a firm biblical foundation. 

We can only wonder: what if these young adults had been given a solid levee of biblical truth? 

And as we ask this question, it should compel us to ask another, namely, what unique challenges do young adults face today in light of the category-five hurricane all around us? Consider one of those challenges, as well as the Lord’s means of withstanding it.

Is It Really Okay to Be Lost?

At the start of a recent Facebook Group commercial, a young adult girl types, “Feeling lost … help.” Within the span of this thirty-second commercial came the various responses to the girl’s plea. One person responded, “Do what moves you.” Another advised her to “put yourself out there.” 

It was the last response in the commercial, the anchor-leg of secularism, that delivered the punchline. The scene cuts to a young man with butterfly tattoos around his eyes and digital butterflies fluttering about his room as he gives the final piece of advice for the girl to follow: “It’s okay to be lost.” 

Now the girl is free. But wait. Is this true? 

Commercials are about selling things, and no doubt what is sold here is to join Facebook Groups. And yet, something else is being sold: it’s okay to be lost. You don’t need to have a purpose in life. So, what’s the potential consequence to such an idea? 

The commercial would have young adults believe that this advice will lead to freedom of expression. Contrast this idea to reality, where suicide rates among young adults may be one of the worst consequences. According to the CDC, suicide rates from ages 10 to 24 increased by 60% from 2007 to 2018.[2] Tragically, many of these young people likely felt “lost” or without purpose in life. 

The Church as a Levee

Up to this point, all I’ve given is bad news. So where’s the good? If it’s not okay to be lost, then what hope is there for young adults? And where can they go to withstand this and other storms blowing in from the culture? Fortunately, in the New Testament, Jesus confronts our lostness with a mission. He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and young adults need to hear this. 

Jesus has also given the means by which young adults, who are targets of this culture, can withstand the storm: the local church. The local church is the levee of all levees. Remember Jesus’ words to Peter following his confession of Jesus as the Christ: . . . on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). The church will stand because it is ultimately built upon Christ and his Word.

This is why young adults (like all followers of Christ) should find a local body of repenting sinners who take the Scriptures seriously and who have a robust, biblical view of God. Why? Because Jesus promised that even the gates of hell will not overpower his church. The Sovereign King is saying that nothing is getting over or through this “levee.” 

So, when the hurricane of culture comes, and it is here, Christian young adults will be able to stand until the final day. On that day, they will confess, “It held up.” And the Lord will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).  

[1] Taunton, John Alex. “Listening to Young Atheists.” The Atlantic, June 3, 2013.


Chris Sutterfield

Chris Sutterfield holds advanced degrees in creative writing, teaching, and theology. He is a member of University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and he serves as an instructor at a private Christian high school in Springdale, Arkansas, where for the last twenty years he has taught college composition classes, literature courses, and apologetics.


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs are receiving the least support. You can help change that!