The latest statistics show that out of every 10 millennials, 6 will leave their church and most likely remain outside organized religion. As a minister of a small Independent, Baptist church, these statistics do not shock me, but that lack of shock does not lower my heartbreak at such a reality. We as ministers, church leaders and certainly those of you who are parents, need to ask WHY? From my time in Christian school, Christian University and several years in the ministry, here are some reasons I believe they are leaving, and in many cases, will never come back.
The Failure Of Men In The Homes
While every individual is ultimately responsible for their beliefs and actions, every Christian home is to be governed by the father. He and he alone assumes full responsibility before God for his child’s spiritual upbringing and instruction. The cold hard facts in most Christian homes is that fathers are failing miserably to execute their sacred duties of insuring their children are educated in the Scriptures and receiving spiritual guidance. They are leaving this task to the mothers or to the Church. Kids spend an average of less than one hour per week in a church receiving instruction. How can this offset the hundreds during the week spent at school and home? It cannot. As a result, the influences of the world, secular education and humanism overwhelm the minds of young people and under that vast load of pressure, they cave in. This usually happens their senior year in high school or by their sophomore year in college. The decision to physically leave the faith may not become public for a year or two after the decision to mentally leave is made, but it happens, almost like clockwork. Until the men step up and be the fathers God intended them to be, we will only see the statistics grow.
The High Number of Tares Amongst The Wheat
In connection with the previous reason, many young people go through churches from the nursery to the graduation platform never having truly been converted. They have learned to blend in and fly under the radar to get by and wait until they have the chance to make their own choices without parental consequences. It is almost too easy in most churches for people to know the lingo, do the basics and just slip through the cracks having never truly been born again. This is sometimes their intent, but many times it is to the shame of parents, leaders and churches.
The Signs of The Times
We know from the Scriptures that we are expecting a great decline in the faith before his return. Jesus made a somber statement in Luke 18 when he asked,
“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”.
We know that many will fall away and many will depart from the faith and grow increasingly in love with this present world. That was even a problem in Paul’s day, as he noted by telling of one of his laborers, Demas, who abandoned the ministry because he “loved this present world”. God can send revival at any time and place, but right now in America, people are not flocking in masses to conservative, traditional, Biblical Christianity. The ones that do flock in go to more contemporary and seeker-friendly perversions of Biblical Christianity. There will certainly come a day when God again blows the winds of Revival and we must be always ready for it when it comes. But right now, the pews are not packed, the aisles are not crowded and the altar is not full. Kids today want excitement, entertainment and they are finding it in churches that use rock music, or something very close to it. The church is not a place to entertain people. If we give into that thinking, we will never match the thrill of a rock concert or party environment. We must teach our youth that God is holy, as is His house.
The Epidemic of Modern Bible Perversions
I remember sitting in a Christian University where I was told that the Bible I had been taught from–the same used of God in every revival since 1611 by the way–had mistakes in it and only the original manuscripts had the complete, inerrant Word of God in them. This caused a deep thinker like me to really struggle with questions. Thankfully I was raised by parents who taught me the truth about inspiration and preservation–something not really believed in a lot of Christian education institutions. God said His Word would never pass away and not one jot or tittle would be lost. The introduction of modern perversions of Scripture in English, by men such as Westcott and Hort–rank apostates who denied the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, miracles, Christ’s blood atonement and Biblical Creation–only adds fuel to Satan’s fire in the hearts and minds of impressionable young people forming their world view. What do we expect when we see this happen? What outcome should we expect? Nothing less than doubt, shaking of faith and departure from the faith. I went to school with several guys who were headed for the ministry or full time service and now one is an atheist, one is openly a homosexual and one is muslim. They had the authority and purity and accuracy of the Scriptures taken from them by men with doctorates. And now these young men have no foundation for their faith. This is why I am a passionate apologist for the Scriptures, the Textus Receptus and the Traditional English Bible, the Authorized Version. It is also why I fearlessly oppose those who promote the work of two rank apostates and others like them. This is the oldest and most effective tactic of Satan that he began in the Garden of Eden: attack the inerrancy of God’s Word.
The Shallowness of The Pulpit
Sadly, it is my observation that most old-time preachers and conservative pastors spend most of their messages on salvation and not on the deep doctrines of Scripture and Christian living. When a church full of saved people hear only a salvation message, they are being done a great disservice. We are to preach the whole council of God from cover to cover. Many preachers shy away from prophecy, Revelation, hard questions and apologetics–leaving our young people to face the secular classroom unarmed and ill-equipped to deal the unrelenting attack of the secularists on God, the Faith and morality.
The Tradition of Man vs. The Commands of God
Too often, I fear, we have majored on human tradition and made concrete rules and standards out of things the Bible has not said. Allow me to give a few examples of things we have taught blind obedience to, that cannot be clearly defended by Scripture. (And I am not necessarily advocating doing these things).
“You must be in church every time the doors are open!”
Being in church is a wonderful and beneficial thing whenever that happens. But to tell someone they must be there every Sunday School, Sunday AM, Sunday PM, Wednesday Prayer Meeting and any other time something is happening or they are a sinner….where can that be substantiated in the Scriptures? The PM service was designed in recent decades for working people to be able to attend an evening service they missed in the AM. Where in the New Testament does it say that a church prayer meeting is limited to Wednesday night, or at the Church building? Please do not mistake me as one discouraging people from going to church! I am there every time the doors are open, but I am also a minister and serve full-time doing so. But to blast someone who cannot make a service and hold them to such a man-made standard as if it were God’s law…that is sin! Maybe that person had a serious obligation or needed to spend time with family or had a personal issue they were dealing with that kept them from attending every single event on the calendar month. That is between them, the Holy Spirit and God. Who am I to pass such harsh judgment?
“Any woman who divorces her husband is an adulteress!”
This to me is one of the most tragic and sickening things I have ever encountered in the church that bears Christ’s name. So many times we have seen women who were being abused, cheated on or abandoned and yet the church told them they had no way out or they would be branded an adulteress. That is not what God or Jesus taught. The Old and New Testaments teach that a woman who is abandoned, being abused or whose spouse is unfaithful is free to divorce and remarry and be innocent of any wrong doing. (Please see my doctrinal statement on this site for references). This is grievously cruel to be in positions of help and guidance and cruelly force a woman to endure such heartbreak and even physical abuse. Jesus stood up for women, Paul stood up for women and God stands up for women. No woman should ever be mistreated or harmed and expected to remain married to and with such an animal. What kind of God would expect that? Not the One I read of and pray to. When young people witness such injustice in the name of Christianity, why should they hear anything else we have to say?
“Christians do not eat where alcohol is served!”
I whole-heartedly respect anyone’s personal convictions and would never suggest they violate their conscience. But when someone takes a statement like this and forces it on others as if it were Scripture, I ask them only to be consistent and refrain from purchasing food from grocery stores or gas from gas stations.
“Christians do not use Facebook or other social media!”
I would love to have seen Paul and Peter if the internet were available. I have a very hard time believing they would not have been live streaming the Gospel to everyone possible. Again, convictions respected, but please be consistent and stay off YouTube, Gmail and the entire internet as well. This is just silly folks.
“You must be a church member to be baptized or take communion!”
That is interesting. Because the Bible I read says that all one must do is believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized and do in remembrance of Him. This sounds much like the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and bars sinners from the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Christian men should be clean-shaven!”
I have been scolded before for having a beard. Thankfully I took it in good humor and was mature enough in the LORD to not get offended or upset. I was saddened however and explained that the God of the Bible instructed his holy people Israel, that is the men, not to round off the corners of their beards, but to have full manly beards. Being clean-shaven in Israel was a disgrace and disobedience. I remarked, “Well, I was rather under the impression from my Bible reading that the LORD rather likes my beard”.
“You must tithe to be a member of this church!”
This issue is further addressed in my article posted here: https://vitw2018.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/tithing-and-tithing-disclosure/
Since when do we force people to pay for the blessed benefit of belonging to the body of Christ? If you are saved, you are part of the church. And if membership in a local church is dependent on your mandatory giving, you need to find another church. God wants your heart and your cheerful giving–of time, money, resources, priorities, etc.–not just a ten percent tax.
“Courtship is the only model for pursuing marriage!”
The Bible is full of premarital counseling and dating advice: Mainly, stay pure, flee youthful lusts and love each other as Christ loves the church. Trying to argue for dating, courtship, arranged marriage, or anything else will be impossible. Of course Samson had a prearranged courtship. He told his parents: “I want her, get her for me”. That did not end well. Or Jacob had such an arrangement, and his father in law worked him for 14 years and still tried to rip him off. Whatever suits you I suppose.
“Christians do not go to movies!”
Now, please know that in all honesty, I do not attend movies for several reasons. Mainly, I don’t like crowds, gun free zones or sitting in the dark with random strangers. But this issue is one where we can easily become very hypocritical. We can blast someone for going to a public showing of a movie, yet sit in our homes and watch in total secrecy anything we so desire from Amazon or Netflix. If we were honest, which one has the greatest potential for sinful behavior? The Scriptures say we must guard our hearts and minds and view that which is moral, righteous and edifying. That is a much higher and stricter standard than “you cannot go to a movie”.
Some of these examples were funny and silly, some were not. The point I make is this: When young people observe a system of man-made rules being elevated to Scripture, only one day to realize they are not on the same level, what reaction do we honestly expect them to take? Why would they not question many things about church and Christianity? We must endeavor to teach the Scriptures faithfully in a way that develops convictions based on personal witness with the Holy Spirit. If we hold human teachings and traditions and give them more weight than the Scriptures, we are no better than the Pharisees who “shut up the Kingdom of Heaven”. I am not proposing we lower our Biblical standards or convictions. Just make sure they are Biblical, and not man-made.