Chuck Colson and Hope for the Next Generation

In January, Russell Moore wrote a provocative column entitled, “The Next Billy Graham Might Be Drunk Right Now.” It was a terrific column pushing back against some of the handwringing among evangelicals about the lack of good leadership for the future. His premise was simple: God may be in the process of raising a leader who is currently lost and enslaved to sin.

I thought of Moore’s column as I contemplated the death of Chuck Colson. Here was a man who was not originally on a trajectory to a be a spiritual leader in his generation. He was a political animal. He was lost in his sins. Like Paul, he was not a friend of Christians. And yet God did a work in his life and transformed him into someone whose ministry led millions of the incarcerated to Christ.

I imagine sometime in the 1970’s, evangelical leaders wrang their hands at the state of the culture, at the burgeoning crime problem and the filling up of America’s prisons. I’m guessing there were books written, conferences held, articles and journals written about the problem. And yet, God did His own work in allowing the horrible circumstances of Watergate, the brokeness of one political hatchet man to bring out a story so incredible in Chuck Colson’s life that it can only be explained by the grace and power of God.

This is why a continual, morose, cynical introspection on the future of the Church is really pointless. Because the future of the Church is not in our hands, but in God’s hands. Yes, we should examine the methods and practices and ideologies of our institutions. We should work hard to raise up the next generation of Christian leaders in our homes and schools and churches. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that tomorrow’s great Christian voice has to come from our carefully drawn plans. Because I suspect, somewhere out there, perhaps drunk, perhaps high, perhaps gay, perhaps abusive is a soul God is about to radically save. God is still in the business of meeting the lost on their road to Damascus. And He’s not in Heaven wringing His hands about the next generation.