Young Adults Leaving the Church: Is There Hope?

The hope within the reasons young adults leaving the church is that young adults are not departing from church altogether. They are still desiring to have a real church. Despite even some bad experiences many young adults want new churches in which they can find teaching and fellowship. They still trust in God, and they still desire to embrace Christianity.

They are not walking away from God. They are still holding out hope that the church can become what it should be or that there is out there to find a church living out what God meant church to be.

Many of these young adults are interested in pursing even the hard aspects and questions of Christianity. They want the relationships that will challenge them. They are interested in serving and pouring into a church body. But the challenge to us all (young adults, children, and adults alike), comes in the element not just of finding a church that is what it should be, but being ourselves what the church should be.

I believe that one of the best encouragement to your own Christianity is interacting with friends who genuinely live out their own Christianity.

We can each be the church to each other. In Christ, we have the ability to change someone’s experience with Christianity. And, if enough of us live out our Christianity with vocal and bold integrity, the church can and will change.

With God all things are possible! His is our hope, and in Him we will always have hope!

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Why are Young Adults Leaving the Church? Reason #4

The past couple of weeks I’ve highlighted a few of the reasons I’ve seen and heard from young adults as to why they are walking out churches’ doors. But there is one core issue that I think is paramount to young people’s dwindling attendance of church: Church is missing the reality of Christianity.

The Bible teaches the power, dependability, and results of Christianity, but within the church there are very few people who are actually living like this is a reality.

Do we believe Christianity really works? Or do most of us come to church listen to the preaching and say to ourselves, “Well, it sounds nice, but that’s just not real life.”?

Are the promises of Christianity true?
Is the power of God actually capable of changing lives?
Do people really love God? Does God truly love people?
Can we as Christians truly overcome sin in our lives?
Is there even such a thing as faithful servant leadership?
Is the Bible accurate and trustworthy for today?
Can I trust that God will provide for my needs?

Young people are constantly bombarded with marketing. In audacious signs and adds, sellers tell young people what they supposedly need, why the seller’s product is the best for this need, and where to get it at conveniently. So, in a world where creative advertising can make even the most horrific products appear as if they could change your life, is it so strange young people tend to value personal experiences and trusted sources over whoever is marketing the goods?

Church services feel more like a pastor selling an idea or product than the pastor speaking as another consumer sharing a great word-of-mouth review of Christianity. In other words, even if the pastor is preaching real Christianity, it is coming across more like memorized marketing lines than the pastor’s own life experiences with God. And, when one takes a closer look at that leadership’s Christianity, often their life indicates a lack of  success in the results they claim come with Christianity. So what then is the conclusion?

The same paradox is often found when interacting with other church goers. They have their rote Biblical responses to life’s hard questions but when pressed about the reality of how this functions in their own lives, their presentations quickly crumble. They acknowledge rather shamefacedly, “I don’t really know. God feels far away to me, too.”

So what then is the conclusion? Does Christianity really work?

There is this phrase people use to encourage others through insecurities or doubts: “Fake it ’til you make it.” Sadly, I think we have begun to respond to Christianity this way. However, where normally there is a belief you can “make it.” In Christianity, “fake it” seems to be accepted as our ongoing earthly existence, and “making it” seems to be accepted as something only to be grasped in heaven.

Basically, the church is responding to Christianity as if they don’t really believe that it works here on earth.

We believe in God. We believe in Jesus and the cross. We believe we are saved from our sins? We believe in the perfection of heaven. We believe one day we will be righteous. We believe in a lot of elements of Christianity, but when Christianity doesn’t look like in what we thought it was supposed to look like in our lives or the lives of others our faith is shaken.

Now, I’m not saying we can’t have doubts, questions, or struggles as Christians. Rather, what I’m saying is, we need to not just talk about the firm foundation of Scripture. We need to actually stand on it.
See, proclaiming a good foundation, admiring that foundation, and even marketing that foundation to others is all well and good, but no matter what materials you use to build your life, your life and Christianity won’t reflect the reality of a solid foundation without an actual strong foundation.
It is only when we actually take the step to stand upon the integrity of God’s foundation (responding to His Word as true) and build our lives (living Christianity) fully upon Him (in His truth, power, and strength) that our Christianity will reflect the unshakable reality of Christianity.

2Ti 2:19  “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’”

Gal 5:25  “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Young people are seeking genuine Christianity that works, and when the church doesn’t provide proof of this reality, what reason is there for them to stay?

Do you believe Christianity is what God says it is?
Do you believe Jesus Christ is who He said He is?
Do you believe Christianity works?

Num 23:19 – “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

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Why are Young Adults Leaving the Church? Reason #3

This week I’m going to share a third reason young people are often motivated to “leave church” and look for another place to find Christian fellowship.

Reason #3

Lack of genuine relationship in the church is a huge reason young adults leave the church. This issue isn’t just affecting young adult, but it does seem to impact them more because often times they are coming into church by themselves or feel the most alone in a church setting despite maybe having been in that church for a number of years.

Here are a few examples of what should be done vs. this lack of relationship and why it’s a big enough reason for a young person to consider leaving one church in search of another church.

H. Get to know them. There are places where a young person trying out a church for the first time finds themselves basically ignored for weeks until people are sure they are “sticking around” before the church bothers to invest in them. (In other words, a greeting at the door and a few hi’s in the hall are not enough. And, honestly, who is going to stick around if no one invests in them?).

I. Value them for them. A young person is often left on the fringes until they get involved. I’ve seen  and heard this from young adults. They aren’t really treated like part of the church until they’re doing something for the church. (I talked a little about this in last weeks post under legalism) This can, at times, though, fall more under negligence than legalism. In a way, its like people really didn’t notice the young person until they got involved, then suddenly they ask question and begin to value the young person. (But that’s not how it should work. They shouldn’t have to be “giving to the church” before they are noticed or valued.) 1Jo 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”  (Young people do not attend church for the message—they can get a good sermon online. They attend church for relationships and for fellowship. Christianity is not a path we were meant to walk alone, and yet many young people end up doing just that —even within the church.

J. Don’t patronize them. A young person who grew up in the church and has perhaps been a Christian for ten years longer than a forty-something who became a Christian two years ago, yet the forty-something is often interacted with more often, treated more equally, and given more of a voice in the church than the more spiritual mature twenty-something. (Young people long to be heard and to be a part of the body, without their age being a big deal or something held against them.)

K. Treat them like adults. A young adult attending an adult study is treated like a young person rather than like another adult. If you want them to grow up you have to value and respect the fact that they are, and have, and respond to them accordingly — not as if they are some marvel because they are not like all the other young people who are “leaving church.” (Because guess what, this sort of response makes the young person feel like “leaving” too.)

L. Help them connect. Young people are often treated like it’s their job to connect and make something of their own segregated corner of the church. Rather than older mature believers being willing to be part of this process. Often young people don’t have the money or the location to host a group (even coffee can get expensive). Yet young people crave face to face interaction and this doesn’t necessarily mean with people the same age as them. Often young people wish for mentors, particularly those young people whose parents perhaps do not live in the area or whose parents may not be Christians at all.

This lack of genuine relationships in the church isn’t just a young adult problem, though. I think this is a lot broader issue, and it has to do with the fact that many long-time church goers get so comfortable they quit looking, or don’t even think to look, around for those who are at church yet still on the outside of church.

Challenge: If you are comfortable and happy in your own church environment and have forgotten what its like to be on the outside, or have never ever been on the outside, I would encourage you to pick a random church in your community (preferably one where you don’t know people) and try it out for a Sunday. Take note of how you feel walking in those doors. Do people greet you? Do you feel comfortable? Then return to your church and make a concerted effort to notice and interact with those people who come and go on the fringes or even those right in the middle of the action but still lacking friendships.

One of the biggest differences between Christianity vs. other religions is that our Lord God desires a relationship with each of us personally, not just our dedication and not just a soldier on His side. He wants an actual relationship with us. If we fail to emulate this within the church—this love and care for everyone—we are failing to exhibit God to the world.

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Why are Young Adults Leaving the Church? Reason #2

I’m going to share this week another of the reasons I’ve heard expressed by young people for why they are dissatisfied and often times even motivated to “leave” the church. So again, defining “leaving” as not the abandonment of faith but rather a departing or rejecting of one manner of fellowship and worship in favor of or in search for a different approach to church and fellowship.

Reason #2

Legalism: the pursuit of what is right in the wrong ways is a big issue young adults state as a reason they left a church in search of something different. Legalism chokes the life from fellowship and relationship. Christians are supposed to exhort, challenge, and hold one another accountable, but not control and manipulate one another. God is not about control but rather Kingship, Servanthood, and Fatherhood. Christ is a leader you want to follow and obey whereas legalism is the type of leader who demands you follow and obey.

Legalism in church settings takes on a number of different forms. Here are just a few.

E. A pressure to be serving in the church, outside the church, or both. Service is good, but not when it is an unspoken requirement. This push to serve is often accompanied by a specific definition as to what constitutes “godly service” and can be joined closely with one’s acceptance and/or value within a church community. Young people particularly get caught in this pressure point, because they are frequently considered less hindered by jobs, children, family, etc., and therefor more available for service (particularly in areas of childcare). They are also searching for a place to belong and being asked to be part of a church program often masquerades as “belonging.”

F. A subtle pressure to not attend or else a blatant rule that members of the church body cannot attend another church’s function. This manifest from the goal of protecting people from the possible indoctrination into false doctrine or beliefs. Yet rather than expressed caution and exhort people to evaluate what is said and done in these other settings in light of truth, the forbidding of cross denominational interaction takes place instead and is a version of control which spreads dislike, distrust, and disunity among churches.

G. Clothing can also be a huge area of legalism in the church. The pressure to dress up is often even more so a rub for the younger generations. Where the goal is to honor God by wearing your best clothing, this can become a pressure to wear a certain style of clothing in order to “be right before God,” and or fit in to the church community by meeting their standards. Some young people do not even own such clothes. And some young women feels uncomfortable in skirts, etc. There is also the reverse side of this where immodest or inappropriate clothing becomes a point of stumbling and needs to be addressed. This become legalism when stricter rules are put in place or public pressure is applied rather than a church member taking the time to look to and care for the heart of that specific person in order to express to them God’s heart regarding this issue.

The tricky part about this is:

Legalism often does accomplishes its goal, but it regularly fails to change the person’s hearts. Which means it can seem to be working, but the moment the force behind the legalism is removed the person goes back to their old patterns. The person’s mindset toward the issue has not been changed rather they are simply conforming to someone else’s mindset for a period.

A church that forces conformity, is a church people leave, because it’s proven to be a church uninterested in developing caring relationship and exhorting people in love to do what is right. Rather it’s a church that manipulates to meet their goals, demands change, controls behavior, and creates fear.

Challenge: How should the church be…?

John 13:34-35 “…love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1Pe 5:2-3 “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…”

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Why are Young Adults Leaving the Church? Reason #1

Last week I pointed out two different groups of young adults who are “leaving the church.” I want to share with you now some of the reasons I have heard from young adults as to why they are rejecting one manner of worship and fellowship in favor of or in search of a different style and place of worship and fellowship. They love God and genuinely desire to be in fellowship but are often stuck searching for it rather than finding it.

What are some of the reasons they leave church?

Reason #1

Hypocrisy: is a big reason young adults are leaving the church, but this issue is not just spoken of in regard to general church goers. No, this issue is particularly cited against church leadership. Christians are supposed to be people with integrity, speaking and living truth, and pursing what is right. When church leadership lies, manipulates, or lives double lives, respect and trust in leadership is destroyed but not only does this destroy leaders’ standing, people’s respect and trust in the church is also damaged.

Hypocrisy in church leadership takes on a number of different forms. Here are just a few.

A. Leadership that cares more about money than people.

B. Leadership that cares more about maintaining their own power than about standing up for what is right or standing against what is wrong (These are actually two different things).

C. Leadership that manipulates by holding stridently to one Biblical principle while meanwhile ignoring other Biblical principles (Examples: Telling women to submit to their husbands while failing to tell husbands to submit to God. Telling children to obey their parents while failing to address physically or spiritual abuse in that child’s home. Telling a father he needs to treat his family well, while failing to spend the time to provide him with love, support, and tools to do this. Etc.)

D. Leadership that says to someone, “We appreciate you. We want you as part of our body. We are glad for your help” but then undermines everything said and done by that person. Young adults are not fools. They see this, and actions speaker louder than words. When words and actions contradict this isn’t just a problem, this is a lie. I’m all for being diplomatic, but when leadership turns to lies in order to avoid confrontation or subtly communicate their disregard for someone’s actions, this is I think one of the worst kinds of hypocrisies, because it undermines at a core level three things Christ is: love, relationship, and truth.

Next Monday, we’ll look at Reason #2 young adults are leaving the church.

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Why are Young Adults Leaving the Church?

In the Christian community, there seems to be this ongoing question/concern over young adults “leaving the church.”

Over the last several years I have observed this issue being expressed and encountered its reality from the perspectives of young adults (some observing this “exodus,” others participating in it, etc.) and from the perspective of older Christians (some simply noting this issue, others diagnosing it, etc.).

One of the major problems, I think, with this discussion is our failure to ask: What do we mean by “leaving the church”?

What I have observed over the last two years is, “Yes, young adults are leaving the church.” But, actually, there are at least two (probably more, but at least two) decisively different groups of young adults who are “leaving churches.”

One of the elements that makes these two groups so decidedly different is how they would define “leaving the church.” In fact, the definition of “leaving church” for these two young adult groups is exactly opposite each other. Both groups leave, but what “leaving” means to them is a black versus white difference.

Many church-goers are trying to discuss this issue by first asking the question “Why are young people leaving the church?” Don’t get me wrong, this is a great question, which desperately needs to be asked and answered, but before a person can get anywhere with this question they first need to define what is meant by the words in this question.

For instance…
What do we mean by “church”?
What do we mean by “leaving”?

From my observation, I think, the way these words alone are defined can and do radically change the way Christian perceive and address this issue.

Why? Well, let’s take a look at just two possible definitions for each of these words.

What if “church” is being defined as “the building where we worship God”?
What if “church” is being defined as “the greater body of Christ throughout our community, country, and the world”?

What if our definition of “leaving” is “rejecting one manner of worship and fellowship in favor of or in search of a different style and place of worship and fellowship”?
What if our definition of “leaving” is “abandoning faith in God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ”?

Two very different groups of young adults, right?

Both groups are in fact “leaving.” Both groups are removing themselves from a “church.” And both group represent a concern. But, both groups are very different from each other and should be addressed in very different ways.

Yet, if we just ask the question: “Why are young adults leaving the church?”
The answer from both groups might be exactly the same: “Dissatisfaction.”

Challenge: Where to start with this issue: Don’t assume. Ask for definitions!

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Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?

Often we wonder why God allows bad things in our life or the lives of people we know and love. Its difficult at times to accept that a loving God would allow so many hard, traumatic, and sometimes even deadly things to take place when He could have prevented them.

So…what if God did not allow bad things to happen?

God is the Giver of Life and Love, but let’s pause and consider for a moment how these gifts came into our lives. The greatest expression of His love came about by Him allowing a bunch of bad things to happen. Think about if for a second.

He allowed a group of power hungry soldiers to seize and beat His Son.
He allowed a spineless leader to release a murder instead of innocent Jesus.
He allowed an angry, foolish crowd to demand the Romans “Crucify Him!”
He allowed His Son to not just suffer but also to die.

Today, we call this an incredible story of Love. But, at the time, when all that bad stuff was happening, it would have been easy for us to ask, “God where are You?” “Why aren’t You stopping this?” “Why are You allowing this bad stuff to happen?” “Why would you let Your Son suffer this way?
In a strange way, Jesus answered this in the gospels, crying out on the cross, saying, “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” (Mat 27:46) Now, I know this sounds like Jesus asking this exact question but actually He’s giving an answer to this question, and here’s why. I didn’t know this for a long time (you might already) but these exact words are actually the beginning to one of David’s psalms.

Psalm 22:1-31 “…My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?…But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and You delivered them…. All those who see Me ridicule Me;…they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!’ Be not far from Me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help….I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me….You have brought Me to the dust of death….They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…. Save Me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me….For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard….All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’s, and He rules over the nations….They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this.”

John 19:30 “…[Jesus] said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”

This psalm says, “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard.” Psalm 22:24

Jesus trusted the Father and understood that the bad was being allowed in order to accomplish the most incredible gift and the most loving thing He has done for us. He gave His life so that we might not have to pay for our sin with our lives.

So…if God had not allowed bad things to happen…? What would have happened? What would not have happened?

Challenge: Trust that God has a reason for the bad He is allowing.

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