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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, January 14, 2011

Youts in Revolt

A friend of mine passed along an article providing a garment rending analysis as to why teenagers and college aged kids leave church:

Why Teens, Young Adults are Leaving American Churches

After explaining how within the last decade more and more young adults are leaving churches, and listing some books that explore the reasons why this is happening, the author provides her own list of reasons:



1) Churched kids and teens spend six of seven days each week hearing other people say how judgmental Christianity is, and that the Bible should be taboo.

2) Churches use outdated methods of Sunday School, rotating the same Bible stories year-in and year-out without relating the morals to daily living. When kids want to know why someone like Gabrielle Giffords was shot, they don't need another lesson on Noah's Ark.

3) Teens can only eat so much pizza at church social events before they see through this thinly veiled attempt at keeping them occupied and out of trouble.

4) Those surveyed say there aren't enough good reasons given for holding Bible beliefs other than "the preacher says so..." or "your parents say so."

5) Sometimes kids are routinely kept out of "grown-up church." From infancy to four years old, they're in nursery. Then they get "children's church" with a short Bible lesson, crafts and refreshments. For teens, a separate youth service geared to "their" music. By eighteen, they've never been expected to sit through a whole Sunday service. It's culture shock.

6) Young people can see that the Church in general hasn't yet been able to conquer racial reconciliation, domestic abuse and the rampant church divorce rate...sometimes in their own families.

7) Older generations won't blend a moderate amount of contemporary music with traditional hymns, to show young people that newer ideas are respected.

8) Or, the Church feels pressured to impress their younger members with new technological avenues. So they discard all the old hymns that were written out of peoples' struggles with life, pride and suffering. Thus, the newer generations don't hear about how God can help them through hard times.

9) Parents are expecting the church to teach what may fall within their own responsibility.

10) But then, young parents raised in the last twenty years have themselves grown up under the new pop psychology of never receiving or deserving any discipline or criticism. They've seen church become irrelevant. Now, as parents, they're hesitant to make (or even ask) their kids to go to church or develop a backbone in faith.

11) Lastly, everyone's too busy for church. There are too many other attractions in life.

A few thoughts of my own:

- Though it may be true that more young adults are leaving churches these days than in previous generations, young adults leaving churches really isn't a "new" phenomenon. I was a regular youth group attender, both in high school and college, during the 80s. My family was members of a typical, small town church with strong evangelical, fundamental leaning. I imagine probably 20 percent of the people who attended those groups with me are still actively involved in a local church somewhere. The other 80 percent don't have any significant church involvement, and probably for some of the reasons this author outlines in her article.

- Now that is not to say these individuals are outright hateful toward church, like some internet atheist crank. They even may be politically conservative and watch Hallmark television movies; They just don't attend church regularly. If they do attend church, it is primarily for their kids' involvement or it is just a squeaky-clean, social club atmosphere they enjoy. Their faith as a Christian isn't real, so there isn't a genuine display of that faith in their personal lives.

- From what I can see, a major reason many young adults leave church is that churches don't have anything substantial to offer, especially in the area of solid biblical teaching. I fault the leadership for the most part, because they have reduced church services to two basic approaches that appear different on the surface, but in actuality are quite similar in the shallow handling of Scripture:

On one hand is the old-fashioned style where a preacher delivers an evangelistic sermon for thirty minutes. Of course, there is nothing wrong with evangelistic sermons, but every Sunday morning and evening? Additionally, there is no consistency with teaching the Bible. One morning he is in Judges 10, during the evening, Matthew 26. The next week in the morning it is Colossians 2, the evening, John 9. Basically three points and a poem are given (or he does what many preachers do these days: plagiarize a message from the internet), the preacher gives an invitation to the church members, the pianist plays a couple of stanzas from Just as I am, and we go home. A steady diet of this mediocrity every week, every month, and every year, will drive anyone away from church, let alone disillusioned youths.

Yet on the other hand is the modern style where church has become like attending a stage show in Branson, MO. There are lots of bright lights, contemporary music, church services start late in the morning or a person can attend the Saturday afternoon service so as to have Sunday mornings free for family stuff like baseball. The preaching, or better, motivational messages, are meant to be "relevant" but they generally cover the same themes over and over again for a few short weeks. Subjects like marriage, finances, raising kids, relationships, and overcoming stress and worry. That is not to say those are important topics, but if the leadership wants to be "relevant" in these societal areas the speaker must devote in-depth time to them, not 22-minute sermonettes punctuated with video clips of slum children in Brazil. A person must actually teach the Bible in order to make the Bible relevant.

- Lastly, the author is a bit off target with point #2. While I certainly agree with her that lame Bible teaching extends into even the Sunday school classes with simplistic, prefabricated curriculum from whatever denomination, she misses the much larger tragedy with this approach when the infallibility and authority of God's Word is undermined. If she means kids "don't need another lesson on Noah's ark" in the sense of a flannel graph image of a floating house with giraffe heads sticking out of windows, then I couldn't agree more. But the larger reason why kids don't take the faith seriously and leave church is because they don't take the Bible seriously as a divinely inspired revelation of God's redemption on display in real history. Contrary to what our author implies, I personally think the lack of lessons defending Noah's ark as a real, historical event rather than just a myth about a zoo on a boat, has profound ramifications on how young adults will perceive the authority of Scripture.

If the Bible is reduced to being a collection of ethical ideas to which we look to explain why a woman is shot by a crazy man, this nullifies its claims upon the lives of sinners. It's just a collection of morals competing with other collections of religious morals. It is no longer a divine revelation from the only true and living God who has clearly, and without doubt, put Himself on display in real human history and demands our submission to the Gospel He has established as the only means of reconciliation.

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12 Comments:

Blogger The Squirrel said...

As you say, it isn't a new problem. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it," holds true for every generation, after all.

What the church is missing isn't flash and style, what too many churches are missing is a committemnt to solid, serious, systematic and in-depth study of God's Word.

As Paul charged Timothy, "Preach the Word..."

And I actually think the warning inherent in God's judgment on mankind in the flood of Noah's day has great application to the shooting last Saturday.

Squirrel

11:24 AM, January 14, 2011  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Apostasy.

How do we address it?

Can we address it?

Do we beat ourselves up when it occurs?

1:33 PM, January 14, 2011  
Blogger Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

I agree that what we lack especially for children and young people is systematic Bible teaching. How can we expect people to be grounded in their faith if we only teach superficial platitudes and how can we expect people to apply something if them do not understand the principles.

2:02 PM, January 14, 2011  
Blogger jstricklin said...

Fred,

I think you hit the nail on the head with the follow statement.

"But the larger reason why kids don't take the faith seriously and leave church is because they don't take the Bible seriously as a divinely inspired revelation of God's redemption on display in real history. Contrary to what our author implies, I personally think the lack of lessons defending Noah's ark as a real, historical event rather than just a myth about a zoo on a boat, has profound ramifications on how young adults will perceive the authority of Scripture."


Ken Ham and Brit Breemer have demonstrated the same thing in their book "Already Gone." This was a very helpful read.

Have a great day!

3:50 AM, January 15, 2011  
Blogger Man of the West said...

Every so often, I have asked my oldest son--a very bright young fellow, about to graduate this spring with two bachelor's, one in statistics and one in mathematics--this same question. And every time, his answer has been more or less the same: young people leave the church because the church insists on continuing to teach the children's lessons to older people. They just use bigger words.

I am sure that there is more to it, but that really does seem to be a big part of it. Continually dumbed-down teaching is both boring and insulting.

I would also suggest that the culture has actually had a negative effect for a variety of reasons. It has been a while since I looked, but last time I did, I recall hearing of studies that indicated that TV watching actually changed the way very small children's brains developed: they became nicely geared to rapidly changing scenes, but not so readily able to handle sustained concentration. Put that together with educational institutions that graduate (if they graduate) students that read, on average, at the eighth grade level, and you have a perfect recipe for students that cannot successfully read the Bible or follow an exegetical sermon.

Just my two cents.

6:28 AM, January 15, 2011  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

Fred if America's army only trained one time on Sunday for one hour it wouldn't be very powerful. As the soldiers of God the average Christian needs to train daily and fight daily. This is done by knowing the scripture, applying it, prayer, putting on the full armor of God and many other things. Most people today laugh at Christians because they must not be seeing many around who are mature.

9:46 PM, January 15, 2011  
Blogger Kim said...

Thanks for this, Fred. It's a very timely post, in that this year in our youth group, we are seeing a much greater level of apathy among our church kids. Lots to thing about.

3:29 AM, January 16, 2011  
Blogger donsands said...

"A person must actually teach the Bible in order to make the Bible relevant."

I love sharing with my grandsons the Word. And they love to listen. I love them, and want them to know Christ, and His doctrine; from Genesis to Malachi and from Matthew to Revelation.


The Bible is the truth; God's Word. It is eternally true. Younger people in the Church need to hear this taught by leaders in the Church who speak with humility and authority and heartfelt love and worship for their Lord. Then we may see a stronger and more vibrant youth in the Body of Christ growing in His grace and knowledge.

Good post btw.

7:38 PM, January 16, 2011  
Blogger Lynda O said...

Very good point, that the real issue is understanding the Bible as "divinely inspired revelation of God's redemption on display in real history." Your description of the first common style of preaching, though, included a feature that was successfully done by Spurgeon: "Additionally, there is no consistency with teaching the Bible. One morning he is in Judges 10, during the evening, Matthew 26. The next week in the morning it is Colossians 2, the evening, John 9." Just this weekend I read one Spurgeon sermon in which he even defended his preaching style, on the basis that it was working against the Holy Spirit and the need of the particular time to plan out in advance what sermon to preach three months from now. As with everything else concerning Spurgeon, of course, we can only say that Spurgeon was an exception. I recall Phil Johnson making such a comment, too, as to what he sometimes told young preachers: you're not Spurgeon. Perhaps this now "old-fashioned style" came about from Spurgeon's example? Yet the expository, sequential verse by verse method does a better overall job of preaching the full counsel of God, as otherwise many passages in scripture would never even be dealt with.

8:19 AM, January 17, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Yes. Spurgeon was... well, Spurgeon. He certainly was unique and no one should specifically imitate him. Certainly MLJ and MacArthur are unique, too. But overall, I think their approach to preaching is the better model to develop. Even if a preacher isn't expositional, he should at least be grounded in the text (Spurgeon certainly was) which means to say a preacher takes into consideration all of the nuances a verse-by-verse expositor utilizes.

8:48 AM, January 17, 2011  
Blogger Shazza89101 said...

Hey Fred,

I agree with the comment from "Man In the West" about TV, " TV watching actually changed the way very small children's brains developed: they became nicely geared to rapidly changing scenes, but not so readily able to handle sustained concentration." However, these are all symptoms of the problem.

I believe it starts and ends with the parents of the children. I think that if parents are being transparent and honest with their children and being godly examples of Christ to their kids...and would confess their wrong doing when it happens. Kids would not see so much hypocrisy, which would translate into what they are being taught at chruch.

Also, parents need to be able to articulate why/what they believe in Christ therein, teaching there children why they need a savior. This is of course provided that parents are going to a sound godly church themselves.

Having raised a daughter by myself, I know for a fact that when I confess my sin to my daughter, she see's that her mom is a sinner and must turn to Christ for forgiveness. Which translates into her needing to do the same. Not that she must confess to me but that she must confess to the Lord. Being transparent about your need and your lack is key. Praise the Lord now my daughter is solid in her faith not because of me but in spite of me lol!!!! PS she watches very little TV too by the way. We truly must lead by examples in all area's or we make ourselves liars to our children. Therein, nullifying the gospel and shaming our Lord's work on the cross.

5:21 PM, January 18, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and disagree with you all. Youth dont't leave because of cheesy flannelgraphs, simple sermons, or lack of contemporary music. The reason youth leave churches is because being a Christian requires that one die to self and live for Christ. It's not easy to accept that one cannot sleep around, get drunk, and live a hedonistic lifestyle if one is going to follow Christ. That is why the path is narrow and that is why people in general don't stay in church. In fact, I'd argue that sermonettes keep people in church longer than they would ordinarily because it takes longer for them to realize the sacrifices that must be made and therefore, delays their true decision.

11:27 AM, January 24, 2011  

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