Below is a list of five key subjects that the Church (and parents) must address forcefully and often if we want our kids to stay in church. Four of the five areas are subjects that the Church has largely remained silent on in the last several decades. It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar. The scenario usually goes something like this; Jamie graduates from high school where humanism, atheism, secularism, and every other “ism” you can imagine has been crammed into her head for the last decade or more. But until recently, Jamie always went home to a mom and dad who worked hard to combat the onslaught of worldly concepts and temptations infiltrating her mind. But when Jamie goes to college, she faces the same battles that she fought in high school, only now they are even more intensified.
It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar.
One key element changes to Jamie’s disadvantage; she no longer goes home to the stability of her parents. Jamie has more freedom, independence, responsibility, pressure, more temptations, more opportunity for failure, and less support. Sadly, the Jamies in our churches are often not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school. Somehow, somewhere before Jamie reaches these critical years, she must develop her own intimate, personal relationship with God if she is going to withstand the cultural onslaught that young adulthood brings.
The kids in our churches are often not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school.
So what is the Churches role in all of this? I believe it is significant. In fact, it is paramount. Outside of parents, nothing can impact and shape students’ hearts like the properly functioning body of Christ. It is vitally important that the Church (especially the leadership) is aware and concerned about their young adults’ challenges. I recently heard a pastor say that every father is called to be a youth pastor. I didn’t hear nearly as many “amens” as he deserved for that statement. So often, parents place all the heavy lifting on their church to teach their children about the things of God. But that’s a reversal of what God originally intended. Parents train up children, and the Church comes alongside parents in that responsibility.
Often, parents place the heavy lifting on their church to teach their children about the things of God. But that’s a reversal of what God intended. Parents train up children, the Church comes alongside parents in that responsibility.
Backsliding is never instantaneous but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated. That’s why Scripture admonishes us to “Train up a child in the way that he should go… (Proverbs 22:6).” Nothing can replace the shaping done during an individual’s formative years (arguably adolescence and young teens). When Jamie goes to college, she will subconsciously draw from behaviors and patterns learned long ago. Therefore, for the Church to retain its young adults, it must maintain thriving child, adolescent, and pre-teen ministries. Parents, please take advantage of formative years and equip them for a lifetime of success. Spiritual development is a lifelong process that best begins at the youngest age possible.
Backsliding is never instantaneous but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated.
I’m writing this with a sense of urgency, heaviness, and humility. As the father of a teenage girl and a pre-teen boy, I know the magnitude of our job. I know how magnetic the culture can be for our kids. I know how oppressive peer pressure can be for our daughters. I know how exhausting it can be to truly train kids in the Word. It’s not a thirty-minute sermon or an hour-long Bible study with a friend; it’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day teaching lifestyle. It’s answering hard questions at midnight when we just want to sleep. It’s stopping when we’re in a hurry to take advantage of a teachable moment. It’s intentionally opening our Bibles and creating time for devotion. It’s uncomfortable conversations that we just want to avoid. It’s saying no when it would be easier to say yes, and it’s saying yes when it would be easier to say no. It’s repeating ourselves over and over again. It’s explaining something one more time for the millionth time. So, here are five things we must be talking about regularly if we want our kids to stay in church.
I know how magnetic the culture can be for our kids. I know how oppressive peer pressure can be for our daughters. I know how exhausting it can be to train kids in the Word. It’s not a thirty-minute sermon; it’s a 24 hour a day teaching lifestyle.
Science and the theory of evolution in particular. We should not be anti-science, however, we should be anti-scientific theories that have an anti-God agenda.
Morality, God’s plan for human sexuality, and the family. Hollywood, public schools, the internet, peers, and every other facet of culture talks about these issues night and day. If the Church is going to remain relevant it cannot stay silent or fearful of these subjects.
The Bible and why it can be trusted as the literal Word of God. It’s no secret that the Bible has been under attack in one way or another since its inception. They may not be burning Bible’s in the streets but liberal academia has been doing their best to undermine it for centuries. They don’t care if you read it as long as you don’t trust it for absolutes.
Popular culture, holiness, and what it means to live righteously. Of course, just because something is popular doesn’t make it evil. However, just because it’s popular doesn’t make it acceptable either. The Church must stand on the front lines of the culture wars and promote godliness in a clear, loving, well thought out way.
Relationship with Jesus. None of the above will matter without a close, experiential, relationship with Jesus. Relationship will sustain a heart even when storms rage all around.
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Ep. 28 | If We Want Our Kids to Stay In Church (Here's Five Things We Need to Be Talking to Them About) with Julia French
From the original article at ryanafrench.com called If We Want Our Kids to Stay In Church, Ryan lists five key subjects the Church (and parents) must address forcefully and often if we want our kids to stay in church. Four of the five areas are subjects that the Church has mostly remained silent on in the last several decades. It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. This episode gives tools to combat that decline. And Ryan’s daughter Julia makes a special guest appearance as well.
While contemplating this article, I conducted an extremely non-scientific, anecdotal experiment. I asked several people from various backgrounds (religious, irreligious, and a few in between) to define the word reverence as best they could without googling it or phoning a friend. As you can imagine, the answers were varied, to say the least: Some were spot on (mostly the extremely religious), others defined reverence as some type of fear (mostly the mildly religious), several people thought reverence was a title for priests or clergy (mostly the irreligious), and a handful didn’t know how to define the word reverence at all. If they were willing to play along, I also asked them to explain the terms sacred, hallowed, consecrated, holy, and inviolable (if you’re like most people, you had to google inviolable). People’s attempts to define these words sorted out pretty much the same way as it did for the word reverence; they were confused, uncertain, or outright wrong in their answers.
THE YOUNG & THE IRRELIGIOUS!
Pollsters, social scientists, and statisticians are super interested in putting us all into nice little categories. In reality, humans are far more complex and less monolithic than we have been led to believe. However, it’s increasingly clear from stats that the elderly are much likelier than younger generations to be religious.
Rest assured, many young adults are extremely religious, but there is an ever-widening gap between the spiritual and the irreligious. Meaning, the “in-betweeners” are disappearing. People are either becoming more religious than ever or joining the growing number of atheists. So, the question is why? Why is this gap ever-widening, and what can be done about it? From the secular perspective, nirvana can be reached by eradicating pesky religious notions. It’s a naive and ludicrous idea.
There is an ever-widening gap between the spiritual and the irreligious. Meaning, the “in-betweeners” are disappearing. People are either becoming more religious than ever or joining the growing number of atheists.
Douglas Rushkoff is a widely acclaimed media theorist, writer, and university professor. His name might not be familiar to you, but you’ve used phrases he coined. Terms like “viral media” and “social currency” originated with Rushkoff. Some of his thoughts on socialization and technology are fascinating. His theories have silently impacted your life in more ways than one. Rushkoff is one of many vogue atheists who laid the groundwork for secularizing modern young minds. Here’s a famous and particularly nauseating quote from Rushkoff:
“It’s also hard for people to contend with the difficult possibility that we are simply overadvanced fungi and bacteria hurtling through a galaxy in cold, meaningless space. But just because our existence may have arisen unintentionally and without purpose doesn’t preclude meaning or purpose from emerging as a result of our interaction and collaboration. Meaning may not be a precondition for humanity as much as a by-product of it.”
THE MEANINGLESS FALLOUT!
It’s almost painful to read Rushkoff, and countless others like him, trying to deal with the conundrum of meaninglessness that secularism produces. All the pandering platitudes and pointless philosophizing in the world can’t reconcile the awful emptiness that godlessness produces. Rushkoff’s quote reeks of desperation. It’s as if he’s trying to force the square peg of meaning into the circular slot of secularism. To his credit, at least he’s attempting to face the nothingness of secularism. He’s honest enough to admit that his worldview relegates us all to overadvanced fungi and bacteria hurtling through a galaxy in cold, meaningless space. His feeble attempt to insert meaning and purpose into this worldview falls flat on its face. Any intellectually honest person knows that if this trendy shift away from belief in God continues, there will be a catastrophic fallout in the collective human psyche.
All the pandering platitudes and pointless philosophizing in the world can’t reconcile the awful emptiness that godlessness produces.
I suspect that much of the world’s woes are precursors to this fallout. Many societal problems are directly linked to the psychological and spiritual disruption that occurs when humans start thinking of themselves as animals. Higher evolved perhaps, but animals, nonetheless. Even worse, what if large swaths of humanity adopt Rushkoff’s view and seriously think of humanity as being little more than bacteria? At least most people like animals, but no one likes or cares for fungi. Certainly, dangerous ideas have real-life consequences.
Many societal problems are directly linked to the psychological and spiritual disruption that occurs when humans start thinking of themselves as animals. Higher evolved perhaps, but animals, nonetheless.
The repercussions of a perceived godless universe are already being felt in big and small ways. I believe the growing suicide rates indicate how a perceived world without eternal purpose affects people mentally. The staggering statistics on mass depression and substance abuse also highlight the failures of secularism. Secular thinkers are perplexed by the dilemma of a wildly advanced civilization filled with unhappy citizens. Our world has more wealth, health, comfort, entertainment, and prosperity than any other generation in civilization’s history. Yet, we are plagued with dissatisfaction, disappointment, and disenfranchisement. Predictably, while society encourages and celebrates freedom from religion, the warm fuzzy feelings quickly fade into a haze of melancholia.
Secular thinkers are perplexed by the dilemma of a wildly advanced civilization filled with unhappy citizens.
Our world has more wealth, health, comfort, entertainment, and prosperity than any other generation in civilization’s history. Yet, we are plagued with dissatisfaction, disappointment, and disenfranchisement.
Take racism, for example, an issue that is currently spotlighted in our nation. Many agnostic millennials are waking up to the shortcomings of their worldview. For instance, without a God, there is no such thing as tangible intrinsic human rights or freedoms. If we weren’t created equally by God and we’re just overadvanced fungi, what makes racism wrong? What makes anything wrong? Why would euthanasia be wrong? Why would suicide be wrong? Why would hatred, bigotry, dislike, or injustice be wrong? The very word injustice implies an intrinsic human right, but humanity doesn’t have inherent rights without God. Without God, the world is just an animalistic fight for survival where only the fittest survive.
Without a God, there is no such thing as tangible intrinsic human rights or freedoms. If we weren’t created equally by God and we’re just overadvanced fungi, what makes racism wrong? What makes anything wrong?
The very word injustice implies an intrinsic human right, but humanity doesn’t have inherent rights without God. Without God, the world is just an animalistic fight for survival where only the fittest survive.
Without God, we’re all just little specks looking for some silly bits of meaning in a vast ocean of nothingness. Try as they might, godless philosophers and thought leaders can’t change that reality because it’s the logical dead end to a series of agonizingly long and twisted veins of faulty philosophies.
Without God, we’re all just little specks looking for meaning in a vast ocean of nothingness. Godless philosophers can’t change that reality because it’s the logical dead end to a series of agonizingly long and twisted veins of philosophy.
Like all philosophies (and sins), there’s a kind of early incubation period. During incubation, a new albeit terrible idea basks in the warmth of shiny newness. Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun, but mankind has a gullible tendency to mistake ancient sins for brand new brilliant ideas. The “new” worldview temporarily blooms into an exciting “free” way of life, unshackled by the silliness of past ideologies, morals, standards, or antiquated religious reverences.
Mankind has a gullible tendency to mistake old sins for brand new brilliant ideas. The new worldview temporarily blooms into an exciting free way of life, unshackled by past ideologies, morals, standards, or antiquated religious reverences.
For a long time, the Western Hemisphere has enjoyed the inebriations of heady Rushkoffian philosophies. Secular society has tried hard to create its own brand of morality from nothingness. The inebriation produces predictable inhibitions. They’ve been comfortably intoxicated with the exhilaration of their “new” notions, but for many, the hangover phase is kicking in. The stark realization that most secular “moralities” are poorly imitated holdovers from the Judeo-Christian worldview is unsettling. Morality always unravels without the involvement and recognition of humanity’s Divine Creator.
Morality always unravels without the involvement and recognition of humanity’s Divine Creator.
There was a time when secularists and Christians agreed that certain things were considered sacred. They treated those things with reverence. For example, most agreed human life was sacred and should be treated with reverence. Most agreed there was something sacred about the innocence of children and that children should be protected. Most agreed freedom and common decencies were sacred. The family was also considered sacred by most of society. But an alarmingly large number of secularists hold their noses in disdain at the very mention of things we used to have in common.
THE DEATH OF REVERENCE
I could fill lots of paragraphs with examples of how society is cheapening the value of human life. The abortion issue alone could fill volumes of books. Certainly, secular society gives lip service to the sanctity of life, but they are increasingly less interested in protecting the lives of those who are in disagreement with their worldview. And, of course, the slow decline of the family unit has been documented for decades. Society can’t even agree to call biological men, men and biological women, women (and supposedly Christians are the science “deniers”). It’s not even socially acceptable to teach children that a family consists of a biological mom and a biological dad who are married. So, how can we expect the family unit (the basic fundamental building block of society) to thrive?
Secular society gives lip service to the sanctity of life, but they are increasingly less interested in protecting the lives of those who are in disagreement with their worldview.
It’s not even socially acceptable to teach children that a family consists of a biological mom and a biological dad who are married. So, how can we expect the family unit (the basic fundamental building block of society) to thrive?
Furthermore, marriage is viewed more and more as antiquated. Admittedly, if marriage isn’t a sacred covenant between a man, a woman, and God, it is pretty ridiculous. Western culture’s respect for marriage’s sanctity bit the dust when gay marriage was legalized and celebrated. To be sure, it was already gasping its last breaths, but it officially died with that legal pronouncement. Culture can’t even define the family properly anymore. Ironically, even morally ambiguous counterfeit Christians got more than they bargained for after supporting the homosexual agenda. Most liberal Christians never dreamed the transgender agenda would be the next culture battle. But if life, family, and marriage aren’t sacred or definable, sexuality isn’t either. Western society had already been pushed down the slippery slope of letting go of holy things. Vast groups of carnal gullible Christians became willing conspirators in the destruction of yet another holy and sacred institution, marriage, and family.
IT ONLY GETS WORSE
Ok. I’ll admit it! I really like to say, I told you so. But this is one situation where I desperately wish my predictions had been wrong. Years ago, on this blog, I predicted that pedophilia would become socially acceptable. My prophecy was met with incredulity, mockery, and dismissiveness. I was called a fear-monger and worse. Atheists told me that children were the last sacred totem. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at that because I’m fully aware of the massive abortion rates. At that time, science was already definitively affirming anti-abortionists’ position, yet secular culture didn’t care at all. So, why would I believe children are any safer out of the womb than in the womb? I didn’t believe it then, and I really don’t believe it now!
A recent TED Talk entitled Why Our Perception of Pedophilia Has to Change is just one of many disgusting examples of how pedophilia is being normalized in culture. Pedophiles are brazenly referring to themselves as Minor Attracted Persons or MAPs. The internet is filled with MAPs going public and beginning their sexual revolution. Much of the so-called scientific research in this area is trending more favorably towards the MAPs community. One recent study (The Internalization of Social Stigma Among Minor-Attracted Persons: Implications for Treatment) reports that 5% of the world’s population might be MAPs. The overwhelming reports of child molestation coupled with the bleak knowledge that most child molestation cases go unreported lend credence to the 5% theory. With that kind of percentage, the societal push for destigmatization will only grow stronger. One day soon, there will be no social stigma for MAPs.
NETFLIX HITS A NEW LOW
As if on cue, while writing this article, Netflix announced the release of a new show called Cuties, where little girls are explicitly sexualized in bizarre and repulsive ways. Girls as young as eleven are scantily dressed and perform sexually provocative dance routines. Children’s hyper-sexualization is hardly a first for the entertainment culture, but it is one of the more unblushingly pro MAPs shows ever released to the general public. It would do us all well to remember how the gay agenda used this same kind of strategy to normalize itself in the public eye. Little by little, shows were littered with overt references and subtle instances of homosexuality. Western culture was predictably desensitized over a relatively short period of time. History is repeating itself, but now innocent children will suffer because of our godless culture (godless churches aren’t helping either, but that’s a different blog for a different day).
DON’T PANIC! PRAY!
Keeping all of this in mind, it’s little wonder secular culture doesn’t value or consider it worthwhile to protect Christians’ religious freedoms or their churches. This long trending cultural shift makes the Church more countercultural than it’s ever been in modern times. I want to quickly look at how the Church should and should not respond to the death of reverence taking place right before our eyes. Of course, it’s easy to feel panicky when the world seems to be in a moral death spiral. But rather than panic, why don’t we commit ourselves to prayer as never before? Prayer will stabilize us and make a difference in the world around us. Prayer isn’t simplistic or naive. It isn’t a lesser course of action than other pursuits. Instead, prayer is the action by which all other actions are judged. Nothing else we do could ever match the importance of praying over our world.
Prayer will stabilize us and make a difference in the world around us. Prayer isn’t simplistic or naive. It isn’t a lesser course of action than other pursuits.
In response to society’s drastic shift away from reverence, the Church should contrast itself by intensifying our respect and awe for sacred things. Our gatherings should be filled with a sense of reverence and majesty. I’m not talking about stuffy formalities; however, we must resist the external pressure to approach the things of God flippantly or casually. I’ve long contended our attire is a reflection of our sense of reverence for the house of God. We should oppose societal pressure to approach corporate worship casually in demeanor, clothing, focus, and attention. We must prioritize sacred things above the secular. For example, jobs, relaxation, and entertainment should never be prioritized over the sacred. Even family time shouldn’t be prioritized above sacred things. Family time should always be a major priority, but it should be balanced so the sacred isn’t infringed upon. When Christians consistently prioritize the secular over the sacred, it signifies the impending death of reverence in their hearts.
In response to society’s drastic shift away from reverence, the Church should contrast itself by intensifying our respect and awe for sacred things. Our gatherings should be filled with a sense of reverence and majesty.
You don’t have to go back too far in history to remember a time when American culture kept Sunday’s sacred on a national level. Even the irreligious enjoyed the benefits of work-free Sundays. Now, Christians are caught between the need to be in the workplace and the need to keep the Sabbath. But Christens must have the courage to put God first and trust Him to bless their faithfulness. This is an essential area where Christians must win the battle, or we will not stand when more significant battles move to the forefront. If we can’t prioritize God over our finances, how will we prioritize Him over our lives if needed?
BEWARE OF ALPHABET SOUP
Logical fallacies are fake or deceptive arguments that seem irrefutable but prove nothing. Fallacies often seem superficially sound, and far too often, they retain immense persuasive power even after being exposed as false. Alphabet Soup is a fairly modern fallacy where a person or group inappropriately overuses acronyms, abbreviations, form numbers, and arcane insider “shop talk” primarily to prove to people that an individual “speaks their language” and is “one of them.” Secondarily, people use Alphabet Soup to shut out, confuse, condescend, or to impress outsiders. Officially showing someone, they are on the outside looking in. For example, “It’s not uncommon for a KC-113 with ABC to be both GW and YB;” “I had a twenty-minute DX Q-so on 17with a SED-Q12 and a couple of SQ’s even though the QR-JANE was 34 over B10;” or “I hope I’ll keep on seeing my JNT on my HVL until the day I get my WW511.”
You get the picture. Alphabet Soup is a great way to misdirect someone from noticing you don’t actually know what you’re talking about. And, it’s a wonderful way to keep people at arm’s length by intimidating them into assuming you know things you don’t really know. Secularists use this pseudo-intellectual insider jargon all the time to make Christians feel feeble or out of touch. They use made-up phrases and talk about elaborate unprovable theories as if they are cold hard facts. They blather about billions of years and trillions of eons as if they know something with certainty they don’t even understand partially. It’s a condescending, intellectually dishonest way of dominating any form of real debate before it even begins.
Secularists use this pseudo-intellectual insider jargon all the time to make Christians feel feeble or out of touch. They use made-up phrases and talk about elaborate unprovable theories as if they are cold hard facts.
Secularists blather about billions of years and trillions of eons as if they know something with certainty they don’t understand partially. It’s a condescending, intellectually dishonest way of dominating a debate before it even begins.
We must not allow ourselves to be marginalized or bullied into silence. If you know Jesus, you know more than the most highly educated atheist in the world. Refuse to be overlooked because of your faith. Be vocal, confidant, and unashamed.
If you know Jesus, you know more than the most highly educated atheist in the world. Refuse to be overlooked because of your faith. Be vocal, confidant, and unashamed.
Initially, I set out to write an article about irreverent behaviors creeping into everyday Christian life and church services. You know, things like cell phones lit up throughout preaching. And, one of my biggest pet peeves; talking and joking around during altar services. Empty prayer rooms, grungy casual attire, disrespect towards ministry, disrespect towards elders, immodesty, untouched Bibles, and the list goes on. But while pondering these problems, I realized these are just spiritual manifestations of much deeper cultural problems ineluctably bleeding into the Church. Everywhere I look, irreverence seems to be the norm. The dereverencing and dismantling of traditional institutions like faith, family, honesty, and morality are eroding ordinary everyday life. The needed human perceptions of majesty, grandeur, and transcendent supernatural accouterments are sadly lacking even within sincere religious settings. We live in a post-respect, post-truth, post-logic, post-virtue secular society. That secular mindset has imperceptibly influenced unsuspecting Christians.
Everywhere I look, irreverence seems to be the norm. The dereverencing and dismantling of traditional institutions like faith, family, honesty, and morality are eroding ordinary everyday life.
How has this happened? Well, mostly through secular educational systems that work to legitimize secular evolutionary philosophies and stigmatize religious viewpoints. No longer can Christians unthinkingly hand their children over to be influenced carte blanche by secular educators from preschool to the end of college. Colleges are especially egregious in their cultural brainwashing efforts. This doesn’t mean we should become anti-education. On the contrary, we should be more educated than ever before. However, we must promote positive educational reforms and demand a seat at the table within educational systems.
Beyond that, Christians have allowed secular media to dominate their time and captivate their thinking for far too long. When the elders abstained from television and movies before television and movies were really all that bad, they had spiritual foresight. In the name of freedom and progress, many Christians engage in grotesquely sacrilegious and immoral viewing regularly. I know pointing out television is antiquated. Television is quickly becoming a thing of the past. But the ever-expanding web of the internet is far more dangerous than television could ever be. Not to mention the sticky world of social media and it’s mostly unknown negative impacts on the human psyche. It would be incredibly naive and foolish for the Church to ignore the vast powers of all media sources to influence, infiltrate, desensitize, destabilize, demoralize, and stigmatize the holy things of God.
Christians have allowed secular media to dominate their time and captivate their thinking for far too long.
It would be incredibly naive and foolish for the Church to ignore the vast powers of all media sources to influence, infiltrate, desensitize, destabilize, demoralize, and stigmatize the holy things of God.
But the Church is shaking itself loose of past naivety. We are learning to recognize what reverence looks like when it is dying. It isn’t too late for the Church. The only hope for the world is a sanctified Church calling them to repentance and a supernatural Holy Ghost encounter with God.
“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7).”
The only hope for the world is a sanctified Church calling them to repentance and a supernatural Holy Ghost encounter with God.
Everyone seems to be consumed with the question of why Millennials are leaving churches. Just google “why are millennials leaving the church,” and you’ll have a month’s worth of reading material. Millennials are writing “open letters” to the Church like doctors write prescriptions. America has shifted its focus from the Baby Boomer generation to the Millennial generation. The reasons are many, Millennials by most estimations, have surpassed the Baby Boomers in number. They are taking over the workforce and shaping culture in countless ways, both good and bad.
Full disclosure, at thirty-three, I am technically a millennial. For those who have remained blissfully unaware, the consensus seems to be that Millennials are comprised of those born from 1982 – 2012 (although there is some debate). So, I squeaked into what is often called “the worst generation.” Good for me! Having said that, I should note that Millennials are not monolithic. We simply cannot be lumped into one big pile. I think that’s one of the most interesting and underreported aspects of my generation. We are radically different from person to person. This can be attributed to the massive amounts of data and information accessible to us from our youth via the rise of the internet, social media, education, and other media sources. In fact, we have so much data we’re drowning in it. This is not a new issue regarding the hysteria surrounding the so-called mass exodus of Millennials from churches. Every generation has had a falling away (check out this article written in 1993 regarding the Baby Boomer generation). I’m a fifth-generation Oneness Pentecostal Christian, and every generation in my family has mourned the departure of large portions of their generation from the Church.
So why all the frenzy? One, there are more people polling, studying, analyzing, and collecting data about Christianity than in days gone by. Second, the rise of blogs (like this one), social media, and the internet in general spreads the word beyond the stuffy conversations of church board meetings. Third, my generation doesn’t leave quietly. We make a big deal over it. We whine and write and vlog and yada-yada-yada about it. The result is that this feels like a brand-new problem when it’s really just an old problem with a new label. As this study points out, young adults commonly leave churches for a season only to return later in life. Jesus parabolically described this very thing in the story of the Prodigal Son. Marriage, the birth of a child, a life crisis, or the realization that secularism is full of emptiness often draws people back to their childhood faith. My grandparents used to call this phenomenon “sowing wild oats.” I still have no idea what that means.
Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying this isn’t a problem. It is. It’s just not a new problem. Beyond that, I think overreactions and knee-jerk responses to the perceived death of Christianity are ridiculous, unnecessary, and unhelpful. I would even argue that overreacting has contributed to the problem. Recently, an article caught my attention on Facebook called 12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church. I’ve read countless articles like it, but this one gives a clear window into the heart of the issue. I want to address several things the author mentions head-on (from one millennial to another, so to speak). It’s probably the narcissistic millennial part of me, but I think being at the upper end of the age spectrum gives me a unique insight into the issue at hand. In other words, I see both sides of the coin; sometimes, I think like a typical millennial, and other times millennial thinking makes me want to hang my head in shame. Regardless, bridges must be built between the generations, but they must be adequately built on foundations of truth and honesty, not hypocrisy and cheap compromise.
Back to the 12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church, the first complaint on the list is Nobody’s Listening to Us (don’t worry, I won’t take the time to address all 12). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this also is not a new problem. Every generation has felt undervalued, unappreciated, and unheard. We are in the throes of a generational clash. Every younger generation has thought they could do it better, run it better, make it better, etc. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re wrong. Growing pains are tough, and feeling marginalized is tougher. Generational clashes are as old as time. We’ve all heard the platitudes about kids who thought dad didn’t know anything about anything until they had kids of their own. This is the natural order of life, but it must be addressed and discussed.
While it is true that Millennials don’t know everything, many of us are sincere (although we are often sincerely wrong). Approaching sincere Millennials with flawed assumptions about our character and name-calling will alienate us further. Opening communication channels is imperative if you want us to feel connected to the future and health of the Church. On the flip side, we Millennials must learn that listening is just as essential as being heard. The generations ahead of us endured tons of obstacles to get where they are. When we insult their dignity, they automatically (and understandably) question our motives, which brings me to my biggest problem with my generation—lack of respect. I know, I know. Respect must be earned, but a vast majority of Millennials struggle to respect any traditional authority structures. Mountains of research have been compiled on this very subject. Like most Millennials, I’ve seen many “heroes” fall both secular and religious. This has produced a general mistrust towards leaders of all kinds, which is reason number 7 (Distrust & Misallocation of Resources) in the article we’re discussing.
Since we Millennials love to point out hypocrisy, I’ll shine a little light on one of my generation’s hypocritical conundrums. Many of my peers may be shedding the “chains” of Christianity and parental dominance, but they are trading them for a secular dogma that they pursue with religious fervor. Their preachers call themselves professors, their bishops are politicians, and science is their Bible. They even have an apocalyptic End Times theology called global warming. Taxes are nothing more than tithes in the megachurch of government, and morality is not sexual, but it is social. Here’s the problem, politics and science and social justice warriors have far more scandals, greed, misappropriation of funds, antipathy, complacency, inconsistencies, and widespread fraud than all the churches in all the world could ever dream of having. For example, here’s a list of solutions that the author has given to help churches overcome the distrust Millennials have towards financial stewardship within churches:
I think all those things are great ideas, and many churches do that stuff and much more. But as Millennials become increasingly politically active, why are we not voicing the same concerns towards the almighty federal government? Where is the outrage over the waste and fraud within beloved government social programs? Millennials supposedly value consistency above all, and when the Church fails the test, we’re out, right? Why then aren’t we imposing these same concerns in the realm of politics?
Moving on, reason number 3 on the list of why Millennials are over church:Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority. This one irks me a bit even though I think I know where he’s coming from. Honestly, it seems like every megachurch in America is more concerned with sending water to Africa than actually preaching the Gospel (no need for hate mail, I’m all for sending water to Africa). The social gospel movement dominates western Christianity. Helping the poor is essential, vital, necessary, and Christ-like. But nothing could be more compassionate, life-changing, and elevating than the Gospel. That’s why the Great Commission is Gospel-centric, not welfare-oriented. But therein lies the actual problem my fellow millennial is addressing. To some degree, I’m jumping to conclusions here, but it’s pretty safe to assume, based on his description, that the author attends a typical semi-mega church. Meaning that the Gospel is so watered down and shallow it’s just a shell of the authentic truth of the Bible. Performance has replaced praise, and relevance has replaced righteousness. And these are the kinds of churches that Millennials are fleeing, like a religious Titanic.
Churches like this rail against the culture (see point 4), but they are saturated with the culture. They preach sermons based on movies and incorporate secular music into their services. Millennials spot the hypocrisy a mile away. They see churches filled with a form of godliness yet denying the power of it (2 Timothy 3:5). It’s a point I’ve previously made here; many heterosexual Millennials supported gay marriage because they watched churches wink at adultery, divorce, and various other sexual sins while bellowing against the gay lifestyle. Let me be clear, all those things are biblically unacceptable, but many American churches lost the moral high ground a long time ago in the name of relevance. These churches thought they were making the Gospel more palatable, but they really just perverted it. So, churches that are like the culture have no room to rail against the culture. It’s like the proverbial pot who called the kettle black, or to use one of Jesus’ analogies; it’s like the guy with a beam in his eye pointing out a speck in the other guy’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). And we’ve circled right back around to hypocrisy; we millennials hate hypocrisy even if we don’t always recognize it in ourselves.
Reason number 7 (We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At) is probably the best example of how I see both sides of the coin. I agree with the statement on the surface, but once he starts elaborating, he loses me. I do see an absence of one on one mentorship in the average church. Jesus said to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). His whole ministry was a combination of public preaching and private teaching. Millennials are desperate for godly mentors, especially with the overwhelming absence of mothers and fathers due to divorce, careers, and addiction. But I fear that the minimization of preaching and the weird comfort level that Millennials have with virtual pastors is a product of weak pulpits. Meaning, the average commercially relevant Christian church is preaching watered down sermons thinking that’s what it takes to connect. When in reality, they are disconnected from the anointing and the biblical authority they desperately need.
Here’s a point to ponder for holiness pastors such as myself; Millennials are not afraid of biblical righteousness if it is correct, sincere, consistent, and kind. That may rock your boat a little, but it’s true. Millennials are not afraid to be counter-cultural if presented to them truthfully, sincerely, convincingly, and directly. This leads nicely to reason number 9 on the list of why Millennials are over church; We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is). It’s the most important point in the entire article, and it is 100% accurate. For too long now, churches have remained alarmingly silent on the big issues. Hollywood, social engineers, politicians, and liberal professors don’t have any qualms about facing the big controversial issues head-on. So why should the Church? Churches need to talk about jobs, money, careers, sex, marriage, dating, addiction, social issues, and more. As he said, I understand all these topics can’t and shouldn’t be discussed in the main sanctuary. However, opportunities need to be provided to face the controversial issues head-on.
There is some good news regarding the scary millennial statistics and the general decline of American Christianity for my fellow Pentecostals. While mainline, denominational churches are dying, Pentecostals are experiencing growth (check out this fascinating article Why Do These Pentecostals Keep Growing? by Ed Stetzer). While Pentecostals may have declining ranks of Millennials, statistics strongly indicate that we have much better retention than mainline denominational churches. Why? Because we have what the apostles had, the power of the Holy Spirit. We have not allowed liberal theologians to create contempt and mistrust for the Bible. While imperfect, we are distinct and separated from the world. Is carnality creeping into many of our churches? Yes! And that will be the death of those churches because Millennials hate hypocrisy. So, if you want to impress Millennials, “…be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58)”.
Finally, Millennials are ultra-social conscious. We want to see poverty, disease, and anguish eradicated. We may be more sensitive than our predecessors in petulant ways, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t earnest. That’s great news for true Bible-believing Apostolics because we know that the Gospel can genuinely change lives. The Holy Ghost can lift a drug addict out of crippling addiction, restore marriages, heal sickness, and turn a liar honest. What could be better for broken communities than hundreds of thousands of Spirit-transformed people? Apostolic revival is the most outstanding social program of all time. The Acts 2:38 message can still turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).
It’s not unusual for politicians to let us down. In fact, I have come to expect the worst. When a politician actually does the right thing I am pleasantly surprised. I’m very rarely surprised. When governor Nathan Deal vetoed Georgia’s (my home state) religious liberty bill (HB 757) it was not a great shock to my system. It did, however, catch many of my fellow Georgians and the rest of the country off guard.
Governor Deal has, for the most part, been friendly to the faith community. The bill itself was fairly straightforward, basically protecting religious institutions from having to perform same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, the LGBT community portrayed the bill as hateful and discriminatory. It was not.
Just because you are opposed to same-sex marriage does not mean that you hate homosexuals. You can be strongly opposed to an action and not hate the person. For example, I oppose alcoholism but I don’t hate alcoholics. I also reserve the right to keep my church campus alcohol free. I reserve the right to keep weddings performed at my church campus free of alcohol. That stance does not make me (or anyone else) hateful.
Truthfully, the bill itself is not what concerns me, but the pattern of persecution that its denial represents is of great concern. In the days leading up to the veto, Georgia was browbeaten into submission. National media outlets launched threats like a bully on a school playground. The NFL threatened to remove Georgia from any possibility of hosting a Super Bowl. The Atlanta area, which has become the Hollywood of the south, was threatened by industry heavyweights like Disney and AMC with dire repercussions if the bill was signed into law. We will never know whether or not they would have made good on those threats. It’s highly unlikely that they would have thrown Georgia’s massive tax subsidies out the window. It was a political game of chicken and Deal lost.
It’s these kinds of nationally recognized situations that put the building anti-Christian venom fully on display for all to see. Honestly, HB 757 would also have protected the religious liberties of Muslims, but it was framed as a Christian hate bill. Can you even fathom the NFL, Disney, or AMC giving the slightest opposition to a bill that gave religious protection to the Muslim faith? It would never happen. Everyone from the president on down would be lecturing us about the need for tolerance towards the great religion of peace. And yet, when bombs go off in Europe, not one person wonders if it was a Christian extremist behind the violence (Check out this article by Matt Walsh entitled It’s Time To Stop Pretending All Religions Are Equal).
Why so much animosity towards Christians and so much tolerance towards Muslims? Why do the leftist, secularist, socialistic, and aristocratic stand in solidarity with a religion fraught with hatred and violence, while simultaneously opposing a religion of love and peace? Let’s break it down into a smaller question? What does much of the Hollywood elite have in common with ISIS? It’s not a shared love of bombs or beheadings. It’s not a mutual stance against homosexuality; Hollywood has singlehandedly popularized the LGBT lifestyle. It’s not the systematic abuse of woman; to its credit, even morally bankrupt Hollywood deplores the abuse of women. It’s certainly not a shared belief in modesty; just about any movie ever made makes that abundantly clear. I think the answer is relatively simple; the only common ground between Hollywood and Islam is their mutual hatred of Christianity. This makes them strange and unlikely bedfellows.
And yet, Christians aren’t faultless either. Many of the same evangelicals that boycotted Starbucks over a coffee cup watch every vile thing that Hollywood spews out. We make the stars rich and the industry execs richer. Hypocritical to say the least. But we’re not alone in our hypocrisy; Hollywood makes billions on movies filled with gun violence and then leads the charge against the second amendment. Outspoken stars like Liam Neeson walk around with armed body guards while arrogantly preaching that the rest of the world has no right to defend itself. Yes, there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around.
So giant popular industries like the NFL, Disney, and AMC can hold religious liberty hostage with only the threat of taking their business and money elsewhere. This is dire news for the future of freedom. What would happen if Christians took their money elsewhere in protest? Why make stars of people who despise us? Why make the people who not only oppose us but loath us rich? But we won’t. We’ll take the beating until it’s too late, and then we’ll blame politicians, or the Devil, or some other boogieman. Call me crazy, but this is only the beginning of very dark days for people of the Christian faith. The world already turns a blind eye to the genocide of our brothers and sisters around the world. America remains the last bastion of freedom, but it will not remain so if we don’t stand up for truth and freedom right now. Just because governor Deal lost his courage doesn’t mean that we can’t find ours.
Let me give a few disclaimers in the hopes of blocking some of the hate mail at the pass. I fully realize that there are millions of perfectly peaceful Muslims. However, so-called “radical Muslims” have not perverted a peaceful religion. The Islamic faith is inherently violent, nihilistic, and theocratic. This is why peaceful Muslims are hated by Islamic fundamentalists. Islam is not just a religion it is a government. One of the great differences between Islam and Christianity is the mode of conversion. The Koran teaches conversion by any means necessary; the Bible teaches an evangelistic method of love. The Bible rejects the concept of forced conversion or servitude, the Koran does not. The Bible teaches followers of Christ to be at peace with unbelievers, the Koran does not. I highly recommend the book Killing Christians by Tom Doyle for further reading on the subject. I am also aware that not everyone in Hollywood hates Christianity. When referencing Hollywood I am referring to the entertainment industry as a whole, not just the physical location in California. It should not be shocking to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention that the majority of the entertainment industry has been increasingly hostile to Christianity and traditional American values almost from its inception. For those who need more proof, I recommend the classic book by Michael Medved called Hollywood vs. America. Finally, I realize that not all Christians (including this one) willingly ingest everything that the entertainment industry produces. Sadly, statistics tell us that the majority, however, do. To make matters worse, more than half of Christian men admit to watching pornography (and those are just the ones who admit it).
The recent controversial Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage has given rise to jubilation among many. This is my generation’s version of a sexual revolution, which leaves many of us wondering how many sexual revolutions must we have before we realize that promiscuity does not bring happiness (check out this article)? And, what will the next sexual revolution bring? Speculation abounds, but if history is any indication it will be the very things that we say are impossible right now.
Any Christian whose head wasn’t firmly planted in the sand knew this day was coming. Cultural winds have been blowing this direction for decades. Gay pride celebrations, which included spitting on a priest, mock crucifixions, and severely underage boys dancing provocatively in the streets went into hyper drive. Rainbow signs and #lovewins filled the Twitterverse. This was expected, even understandable, but shocking to many was the amount of people who self-identify as Christians who enthusiastically joined in the celebration.
We expect the world to be the world, but we are most hurt when the Church ceases to be the Church. Many felt betrayed by their own allies. Sadly, this development should not have taken us by surprise. Here is a list of reasons why many Christians now happily support same-sex marriage.
Christians have ingested decades of movies and television shows with gay agendas until the lifestyle became normalized and they grew desensitized (or at the very least indifferent) to the sin. The same is true for divorce, premarital sex, infidelity, and now the disturbing rise of Fifty Shades of Gray style violence.
For decades, American churches have weakened on their stances against heterosexual immorality, embraced casual divorce, and haplessly lamented the decline of the traditional family unit. Millennials easily spotted the hypocrisy of winking at one sin and not the other.
Many Christians have bought into the deception that says in order to truly love someone you must agree with, affirm, and fully embrace everything they do. Disagreement has been portrayed as synonymous with hatred, which is absolutely not true.
For some, they are simply following the path of least resistance. It’s always easier to go with the flow. They fear retaliation. They fear marginalization. They fear losing status. They fear appearing hateful. The spirit of fear has gripped entire churches and communities.
For the most part, our public schools and state-sponsored universities have become intolerably anti-Christian. In many cases they have morphed into propaganda pulpits where professors preach instead of teach, they indoctrinate rather than educate, and they enforce a hypocritical brand of intolerant tolerance that bullies those who don’t agree into submission. This has shaped the vulnerable minds of young Christians for several decades.
This rabid indoctrination has convinced many that it is ethically wrong (ironic I know) to mix faith with morality, faith with politics, faith with government, faith with education, faith with family, faith with well… anything. Historians are busy revising the history books to eliminate all traces of our nation’s Christian heritage and biblical underpinnings. Separation of church and state was intended to protect the church and the state not to sanction the suppression of the church by the state.
Strangely, gay activists hijacked the civil rights movement, successfully comparing themselves to the plight of African Americans. Christians have not and are not advocating for the harm or oppression of homosexuals or anyone else for that matter. Neither are we conniving to withhold freedoms from the homosexual community. Regardless, gay activists portrayed those who opposed the radical redefinition of marriage as something akin to racists. Many Christians confused the issue and believed that by defending traditional marriage they were betraying human rights. Now they are left with the stark reality that all definitions, traditions, and institutions are up for redefinition including things like parenthood. Who’s to say who or what a parent actually is or isn’t? Just because you gave birth doesn’t make it your child does it? Sound crazy? Yes. But all definitions and institutions are up for grabs in a mixed-up society like this.
Christians forgot that marriage is a sacred vow before God not a piece of paper from the state. Marriage is for all intents and purposes a religious institution. Thus, the understandable offense that this ruling has caused for millions of Christians here in the US (not to mention other religious persuasions). Marriage is a type of Christ and His relationship to the Church. If the Supreme Court outlawed heterosexual marriages tomorrow it would not change a person’s marital status before God. People don’t get married for the supposed tax breaks or because they desperately needed a faceless bureaucracies stamp of approval. The marriage commitment rises and falls on the hallowed covenant between a husband, a wife, and God. Interestingly, polls suggest that an overwhelming majority of homosexuals don’t even believe in the institution of marriage, and certainly not lifetime monogamy; further underscoring the reality that this ruling has never been about civil rights but destroying yet another traditional institution.
Christians also lost sight of the fact that holy matrimony was not designed by God solely for pleasure or to produce happiness, although it can and does. It was crafted to be the ideal environment to produce and care for children. This raises yet another moral dilemma for Christians waving the rainbow flag; is God’s plan for parents to consist of a loving mother and father best or not? Now children will be caught in the crosshairs of the struggle and they will be the ones (as they always do when morality is abandoned) who pay the price.
In spite of the fact that Scripture repeatedly warns us that our feelings cannot be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19; Luke 6:45; Proverbs 28:26) many Christians adhere to feelings-based theologies rather than Bible-based theologies. Never has this been more apparent than now. The pro-gay arguments from the average Christian revisionists conveniently ignore clear biblical instruction choosing rather, to elevate their own feelings above God’s commands. For the more theologically inclined revisionists, they are forced to destroy the authenticity, veracity, accuracy, and inerrancy of their own textbook (the Bible) to fit their beliefs. Of course, this is not a new problem; liberal scholars have been shaping the Bible to fit their beliefs rather than shaping their beliefs to fit the Bible for nearly two thousand years.
As we settle into a new normal it is important to remember that we Christians who remain committed to biblical imperatives must be firm, not shrill, strong not harsh, hopeful not hateful, stationary not reactionary, graceful, not distasteful, and full of godly love. We must prepare for the refugees who will emerge battered and broken from this sexual revolution.