I recently had the privilege of sharing from God’s Word with the saints of Mt. Salem-Wyaconda Baptist Association at their annual meeting. The theme of their event focused on young people leaving the church and what to do about it. It was certainly a timely topic.
A recent Barna Research survey asserts that about 75 percent of youth leave the church after high school. Experts point to a number of reasons. They also offer some remedies.
The church has failed to equip Christian students to resist anti-Christian influences, whether it be through their college professors, the media or their friends. No doubt our colleges, which have become havens of secularism, are filled with professors who do not believe in God. Research shows that a college professor is five times more likely to identify themselves as atheists than the general public. A recent article in the Free Republic said more than half of all college professors view evangelical Christian students (like Southern Baptists) unfavorably. Pitzer College, one of seven Claremont Colleges in Southern California, just announced it would begin offering a major in secularism, the nation’s first college to do so. New books, written by the so-called “new atheists” like Christopher Hitchens and evolutionist Richard Dawkins, are flying off the shelves. Their ideas are embedded in our society and inundate the social media landscape.
As a result, many young people have come to see the church as irrelevant. Others are trapped by the allure of worldliness and materialism. Others have just come to doubt Christianity.
All this is occurring amidst the demise of the American family. Once a staple in American households, families gathering at the evening dinner table are obsolete. There was a time the dinner table was the one opportunity for family members to gather and discuss matters. With families having to work harder to make ends meet and pay their ever-increasing taxes, little time exists for nurturing the things of God. Too often, as parents, we fail to do our God-given duty by not living out Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Impress (God’s commandments) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road … .”
But the church must also accept responsibility. It has largely failed to teach our children a Christian worldview. The church “promotes the idea of the church as a full-service entertainment and activity center, where you take children away from their parents and just put them in a different peer culture,” says R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “Now it’s a church peer culture. What happens when they grow out of that? Kids are spending a very small amount of time in church activities and many of those activities have very little theological, biblical, or spiritual content. As a result, we have a generation of young people who believe that there is a God, but they don’t have any particular god in mind.” Less than one percent of adults in America have a biblical worldview. Can you imagine what it is for their children?
Apologist Frank Turek is right in pointing out that too many American churches emphasize emotion and ignore the biblical commands to develop the mind (1 Pet. 3:15, 2 Cor. 10:5). In short, we do a terrific job with skits, rock-like bands and videos, but we do a horrible job in teaching them logic, truth and a Christian worldview. God wants us to love Him with all of our hearts, souls and minds (Matt. 22:37).
In an interview with Answers in Genesis, Mohler offered the following suggestions for how churches can do a better job of teaching our young people so that they remain strong in the faith:
Expository preaching and teach them to think biblically. The pulpit must lead. Robust biblical preaching from the Word of God that explains how the people of God should think and live faithfully.
Personal accountability. The local church must be Gospel people who hold each other accountable for being holy and faithful to Christ.
Provide answers to current issues. When they are asked, “Why aren’t you having sex with your girlfriend?”, we must be able to give them the intellectual knowledge and confidence to provide a faithful answer.
Emphasize how the Gospel is unfolding through history. “The Christian truth claim, the Gospel, is a master narrative, a true story about life, about God’s purpose to bring honor and glory to Himself. Teach the Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation. You cannot understand the Gospel without the fact that God is the Creator and He is Lord of all,” Mohler says.
Can we reverse the course our children are headed? With prayer and faithfulness to God we absolutely can. We must.
DON HINKLE / editor