I felt a growing sense of horror as I read Cindy McGarvie’s latest book, The Next Revolution: Resisting the Cult of the Self, which lays bare the cultural shifts that have destroyed discipleship of the young and led so many young people to leave the church.
As a baby boomer, I felt guilty as Cindy traced the problem back to my generation. We grew up with, but then dismantled, the solid institutions that provided us with purpose, meaning, direction and boundaries.
“We took all those things away for our children. And we expected them to flourish, but they didn’t,” Cindy, the National Director of Youth for Christ Australia, tells Eternity.
It was me she described as she identified the phenomenon of young Christians going to university, hearing smart arguments against God and deciding what my parents taught me must be wrong. Like so many others, I went out into the world unprepared to resist the false narratives offered by the sexual revolution, women’s liberation, the psychedelic revolution, and New Age philosophies.
Young people have been indoctrinated in the culture of the self.
As a parent, I belonged to the generation under the radical sway of Marxist child psychologist Dr Spock, who introduced emotion-led, child-centred parenting, which discouraged boundaries, avoided risk and sought to protect children from the repercussions of their bad behaviour.
Thankfully, I returned to the faith of my childhood, but by then, the ideas and ideologies behind the cultural movements and revolutions that I grew up with in the 60s and 70s had infiltrated not only the mainstream but also the church. So now, even though they don’t realise it, young people have been indoctrinated in the culture of the self, which has created a growing trend of Christians “deconstructing” the faith of their youth and exiting the church.
Cindy cites a study of Australians aged 18-35 who grew up with a Christian background which found 72 per cent either no longer identified as Christian or no longer attended church frequently. Only 8 per cent had a resilient faith that firmly trusted in the authority of Jesus and Scripture.
“One of my aims was I wanted young people to see and understand where they’re being influenced and deceived,” says Cindy. “We’ve taught them to believe they’re free thinkers, but they are unaware that they are captive to the Marxist ideas they have unknowingly picked up through educational institutions and the mainstream.”
In the book, Cindy analyses the various movements that have become tied up with the self of identity politics, such as the environmental movement, the anti-war movement and the anti-capitalism movement.
“The book looks at all the many movements and their influence on our culture, and then looks at the family and the church and how the Christian family and the church has been weakened,” she says.
The family is where baby boomers have robbed the young of the solid foundations they grew up with.
“These foundations for discipleship and training have been totally destroyed,” Cindy laments.
“After thousands of years of having the Bible, God’s instruction manual, in parenting, it seems like we’ve lost the art of child-rearing I know lots of young parents who are frustrated, saying, ‘I don’t know how to control my children. I don’t know how to instruct my children.’”
Cindy believes the constant avoidance of suffering is unmooring the younger generation, especially Gen Z.
“Generally speaking, they’re rudderless; they’re living life without anything to anchor them. And that meaninglessness leads to hedonism, which is the pursuit of pleasure and happiness and the avoidance of pain, which is also very counter to the Scripture where we are told it is through suffering that we grow. We live in a world of instant gratification and reward without hard work.”
Then she points the finger: “Gen Z are a result of us baby boomers. We have taken purpose and meaning from them, made truth relative” and allowed them to be discipled by the world rather than the church.”
“I saw so many young men who were rudderless and lost, particularly in the church, from strong Christian families.” – Cindy McGarvie
Cindy served in the Australian Army as a nurse and missionary in Africa, where she home-schooled her three boys and two girls for some time.
These experiences helped shape her previous book, The Lost Boys, which examines what Cindy sees as a spiritual battle for our young men.
“I wrote The Lost Boys because I could see the struggles they were having when we returned to Australia. I saw so many young men who seemed lost in life, particularly in the church, and from strong Christian families,” she says. “And I wanted to find out what had happened since we
One of the major changes Cindy identifies was the rise of pornography which exploded further with the advent of the smartphone in 2005.
“When I started interviewing young men, I discovered that so many had been accessing porn on their devices since childhood. This influence together with the narratives of the world they were being fed, particularly the supposition that there is no God and you need to find your own identity and purpose, have led them away from pursuing a faith in God and into hedonistic living. And, as we are taught throughout the Bible, sexual immorality always leads to idolatry. Even our girls, who were not inclined to pornography, are now seeking it out.”
In both The Lost Boys and The Next Revolution, Cindy provides the same solution: Christian leaders, Christian parents and the church have to fortify our children and new believers through thorough discipleship.
It is time for history to repeat itself and for a new Jesus Revolution among our youth and culture.
It was during the sociopolitical upheaval of the 60s and 70s that a Jesus Revolution exploded among the lost and rebellious youth of America and spread like wildfire. Time magazine ran a cover story in 1971 describing these young Jesus people with three outstanding characteristics: “purity, selflessness and brotherly love.”
Cindy believes it is time for a new Jesus Revolution among our youth and culture.
“The heart of Youth for Christ has always been to see a young people revival, and we need one now more than ever,” she says.
“An uprising of young Christians overthrowing self and radically following Jesus in purity, selflessness and brotherly love would truly be counter-cultural.”
Cindy believes the church should offer a counter-culture to the world; otherwise, the church becomes irrelevant. “If we’re not offering an alternative way to live, a higher way, we become exactly the same as the world.”
“The church must get back to biblical living. One of the biggest problems in the early church was false teaching. It was rife throughout the New Testament times. Paul and the others were continually addressing the false teaching. And yet, somehow, we don’t think that’s an issue for us today. But individually and corporately, we have unknowingly absorbed philosophies of the world and we haven’t recognised them. And the only way we can discern false teaching or the world’s lies is through biblical understanding and thorough discipleship.”
Cindy believes the church has lost its counter-cultural stance in the quest to become seeker-friendly, which has led to a watering down of the gospel so as not to offend and turn people away.
“With the weakening of the family and the church, which are the foundational places of discipleship, we have been left with a discipleship deficit,” says
The teaching of the catechism, a rich feature of growing up in the church in the 50s and 60s, was replaced in favour of simplistic Bible stories. This has meant many mature adults now have only a kindergarten level of biblical knowledge, Cindy says, which is inadequate for training and discipling children in the faith.
Mature adults now have only a kindergarten-level of biblical knowledge, Cindy says.
“And we are frustrated because our children are not taking on the Christian faith because they’ve been discipled better by the world,” says Cindy.
Imagine the effect of learning by heart the 100-plus questions in the catechism, the first of which provides the answer some people spend a lifetime searching for: “What is the chief end of man? … To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
“Isn’t it amazing that the catechism helps us to clearly understand man’s purpose with this very first truth statement and yet meaninglessness is one of the biggest thing things that young people are grappling with?” she says.
“Young people today are not given any meaning. They’re told to find their own identity and meaning by looking within themselves. They are not given an alternative that perhaps their purpose is beyond themselves.”
Knowing from history that revival begins with prayer, Youth for Christ launched its Jesus Revolution campaign during Lent. This was a six-week prayer campaign that led to other people starting their six-week prayer cycles throughout the year. It included a weekly devotion that exposed the lies of self-worship in the light of Scripture and helps realign hearts to God’s word.
“We also believe revival must start in the hearts of each of us, so it was a real call to examine our hearts, repent and follow Jesus,” says Cindy.
The campaign also calls on believers to be active in evangelism and discipleship in their communities.
“This is something we can all do, something we’re all called to do, but sometimes it can be hard to know where to start or we can be held back by fear or other barriers. So we’ve been sharing a bunch of simple, reproducible tools for evangelism and discipleship, along with stories and other resources to help encourage and equip believers into the massive mission field we have in Australia.”
One way that young people and new converts can counter the narratives of the world is through an app created by Timothy Keller that provides a catechism for today. For more information, click here.
You can buy Cindy’s book The Next Revolution: Resisting the Cult of the Self here.
Youth for Christ is also offering a copy of The Next Revolution to everyone who donates $25 or more to their end-of-year appeal at yfc.org.au.