There is a faith crisis happening in America. Half of Americans who have left their church say they no longer believe in God. And 25 percent of the nation now has no affiliation with any religion.
These stats from a recent survey from Pew Research demonstrate a growing trend. More and more kids are walking away from church when they grow up and many are giving up on God completely. Seventy-eight percent of nones (those who associate with no religion) were raised as a member of a religious group before walking away from it in adulthood.
Why is this happening? Let’s dive into four big reasons and think about how we can reverse this trend.
REASON #1 – A SHALLOW FAITH FOUNDATION
Almost half of kids who grew up to walk away from their faith indicate a lack of belief. To begin with, many of them never had a true conversion experience because no one took the time to explain to them what it really means to follow Jesus. We talked about this in a recent post.
The church also hasn’t made it a priority to teach kids why we believe what we believe. This includes grappling with the hard questions like, “Why does God allow suffering?” and “Would a good God really send people to hell?” and “Why do we believe in creation?” and other questions like this.
This leaves kids facing the hard questions with no biblical answers. And then secular humanism fills the void with the wrong answers. With no foundation, kids are pulled in. Many state they walked away from their faith when they learned about evolution or weren’t presented with any scientific or specific evidence for a creator. Here’s how one college student put it: “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.”
If we are going to reverse this trend, the church must help kids have a thorough understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. No more large group, quick, repeat after me, salvation prayers. We must take the time to help kids have a clear understanding of the Gospel and the commitment they are making. I talk more about this here.
Secondly, the church must teach kids why we believe what we believe. Simply put…we must teach them apologetics and help them grapple through the hard questions. Instead of waiting for them to face the hard questions in a college classroom where they will get the wrong answers, we must bring the hard questions now and help them discover the right answers.
REASON #2 – DISILLUSIONMENT WITH THE CHURCH
Twenty percent of kids who walk away say it is because they are disillusioned with the church. They say the church has become focused on power, politics and money. They see organized religious groups as more divisive than uniting.
Dead churches produce dead fruit. Churches that have an inward focus, churches that are more concerned about arguing about the color of the carpet than reaching the lost around them, churches that are bent on preserving the past rather than reaching the next generation, produce kids who want nothing to do with it. And can you blame them?
If the church wants to see the next generation on fire for God, then the church must give the next generation something worth giving their lives to. Churches that are passionate about the Gospel will produce kids who are passionate about the Gospel. The church must catch on fire with the Holy Spirit if it’s going to keep the next generation. The church must be united behind the vision of reaching the world for Christ. That unity is birthed in love…a love that kids won’t walk away from.
REASON #3 – WRONG PRIORITIES OF PARENTS
A significant percentage of kids who walked away said it was because they are too busy. In other words, church is not a priority for them. When something is important, you make time for it.
Where and when did their priorities get out of order? For many of them, it was modeled for them by their parents. Church was something you did if there was nothing else on the calendar. It was ranked on the list behind sports, leisure and entertainment. Traveling sports teams took priority and caused many of them to miss church for months at a time. “Faithfully” attending church looked like once a month and if you were really dedicated, twice a month.
And during the week there was no time for Bible study and prayer. A hectic schedule left no time for this. It was rush to this practice and go to this party and be at this game and watch this TV show. Little to no faith was taught or modeled at the greatest point of influence…the home.
We must make influencing and equipping parents our top priority. If we are going to influence the next generation and reverse the trend, then we must influence the biggest influencers…the parents. I talk more about this here.
REASON #4 – PROLIFERATION OF POSTMODERNISM
Many who have walked away say it’s due to the church’s stand on absolute truth. Absolute truth is in direct conflict with the postmodern culture in which they are growing up Postmodernism says there is no absolute truth. What is right for you is right and what is right for me is right. Its mantra is tolerance, inclusiveness and approval of all lifestyles and beliefs…even those that are in direct opposition to the Word of God. Take a stand for biblical truth and you are labeled narrow-minded…intolerant…a bigot.
The church hasn’t helped. In many cases we’ve spoken the truth…but we forgot to speak the truth in love. We’ve become more known for what we are against than for what we are for.
The church cannot change what God’s Word says about truth…but we can change the attitude with which we proclaim it. We must learn to more effectively balance acceptance and approval. While we cannot approve of sin, we can accept people where they are and love them to Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to clean people up…not ours.
Yes, postmodernism will continue to try to dim the light of truth. But what an unparalleled opportunity we have to light up the darkness with the truth of God’s Word. And it is the love of God that enables people to see the truth shining in the darkness. As we light up the night, the next generation will be drawn to it.