We all know them, the kids who were raised in church. They were stars of the youth group. They maybe even sang in the praise band or led worship. And then… they graduate from High School and they leave church. What happened?
It seems to happen so often that I wanted to do some digging; To talk to these kids and get some honest answers. I work in a major college town with a large number of 20-somethings. Nearly all of them were raised in very typical evangelical churches. Nearly all of them have left the church with no intention of returning. I spend a lot of time with them and it takes very little to get them to vent, and I’m happy to listen. So, after lots of hours spent in coffee shops and after buying a few lunches, here are the most common thoughts taken from dozens of conversations. I hope some of them make you angry. Not at the message, but at the failure of our pragmatic replacement of the gospel of the cross with an Americanized gospel of glory. This isn’t a negative “beat up on the church” post. I love the church, and I want to see American evangelicalism return to the gospel of repentance and faith in christ for the forgiveness of sins; not just as something on our “what we believe” page on our website, but as the core of what we preach from our pulpits to our children, our youth, and our adults.
Read more of this article at Marc 5 Solas.com
We Threw The Guide Book Away
Are we ignoring the obvious question: What is the “Message” that everyone keeps referring to? Doesn’t the message also include consequence of sin, rather than just grace?
This article is a call to the church to return to it’s role of preaching the gospel of faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
Most people leave church, because God isn’t established in their every day lives.
Do you really think you can get the depth of your relationship with God by going to church on Sunday? I know for myself, the only way I can stay on fire is to read the word every morning.
What is the average Christian doing for their own walk at home? IF you depend on your walk with God on your pastors shoulders, you are in DANGER my friends, and will find yourself leaving Christ too in a couple years!
Do they read the word once a day, how about 1 time before they go to church? How about pray? Do they ever pray with their wives or husbands? How many teens have a prayer partner even on the phone?
If not, chances are, they will only get God for about 2 hours on Sunday. Meanwhile, the average person watches 4 hours of tv a day, and listens to Lady Gaga. The fact is if a parent hasn’t established God in their routines at a young age, they WILL wonder why their teen has no interest in God when they are 16. Who are their best friends? Not Christian, there is another problem. If they aren’t praying as a family at home, then chances are they will never learn to pray, or even get into a routine to pray daily….
ON THE OTHER HAND…….the reason why people leave church is they are hungry to get into the word. They are so sooooooo sick of eating junk food for supper! The first century believers met in their homes, where they discussed the word. People are wanting to discuss the scriptures, they are wanting to pray for an extended period of time. How long does most churches pray for? About 3 minutes! And the churches wonder why no body joins the prayer teams, (because they haven’t ever felt comfortable to pray, because they never have exercised praying.)….
People don’t know the word, they are WANTING to learn the word, dive into the word and discuss what it means in a round table discussion. THEY ARE wanting! When you sit and listen to a presentation, without diving into it, on a personal level, it gets boring quite quick, and you tune out! You never learn by someone telling you the answers, you learn by doing homework, you learn by researching it yourself and coming prepared with an answer. There is a big difference coming to church not expecting to ever give an answer, than going to a fellowship having to know the topic that is going to be discussed.
Huge numbers of people are leaving the church and getting together in fellowships for one on one relationships, and leaving the dead churches behind. We are told in the end days that many believers will (Revelation 14:12) keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Yeshua. We are seeing huge amounts of Christians get rid of the pagan holidays such as Christmas, and Easter, and grab a hold of Feast of Tabernackles, Trumpets, and so forth.
On the one hand many Christians will go more towards the ways of the world, and the other will rise up under the lukewarm and compromised church. MANY people are leaving and going back to an organic Christianity that looks like the 1st century. One that is personal, and the bible, pray and fellowship, coupled with personal evangelism is what they are going after.
To investigate this further , I would suggest this book. Pagan Christianity ~ By Frank Viola and George Barna
Comments That Really Stuck Out In The Article
“10 Reasons Why People Are Leaving The Church” Seen at Marc 5 Solas.com:
* Ryan- Our eyes opened up. When we realized that the majority of so called “Christ Like” individuals acted no different than the average modern day man. Whats the point?
*Momma P- Dear Mr. Feeny, I’m sorry your parents made you go to a church that never let you know the “true” Gospel and introduced you to authentic Christians and Christianity. If they had…..you would still be attending because it would be relevant and exciting and you would WANT to go. Unfortunately, there are very few churches today that actually fit this criteria, I am one of the former church goers that is still looking for one of these churches….I wish you all the best and hope that you can find a place to “soar” and find the true gospel of Christ being practiced and preached.
* Jenny-I definitely agree with this. I hate going to church and feeling like I’m walking into something that has been artificially created to appeal to me. even many of the songs seem empty–how often are they about how we feel and how we relate to God’s goodness and about inciting an emotional reaction in us?? I love songs and hymns where the lyrics are taken from scripture, reflecting back on God rather than ourselves. After all, that’s what the church should be filling our minds with—sola scriptura, scripture alone. There really isn’t a place for me in most churches anymore, as a single 20-something who is no longer part of a youth group or college ministry, but who also hasn’t jumped directly into marriage and child-rearing (and the community that goes with it). I once tried to go to a singles ministry at a large local church, and was surprised to find that the only other attendees were all middle-aged and with a different outlook and in a much different season of life than myself. After that experience, I didn’t try again. To be honest though, I make all these excuses, and I can certainly point to places in my life where I have been disillusioned with the church, but the single strongest reason I left was laziness–pure and simple. In this world, we all have the resources we need. If I had truly pursued it, I could have found what I was looking for somewhere (if not at a church service, perhaps even at a BSF or something??) but I didn’t make it a priority, I didn’t drag my sleepy self up on sunday mornings when my parents werent there to do it for me, and I didn’t put in place a net of accountability to keep me moving forward. And yknow, once you let yourself slip, sometimes you find yourself on a steep slope going down that takes a long time to climb back up. That’s what happened to me. But thank God for his Grace that provides a way out of even the deepest holes—even if it does take 10 years.
* Michael- We leave because we learn about the art of logic and reason. We learn about being rational and that faith is really believing without reason. We leave because we learn that we were forced to be irrational as children. We learn that “God works in mysterious ways” is the answer to every question a Christian cannot cogently answer. We make a choice between rationality and irrationality and the church is losing because logic is winning.
* Marci Gracin -Dear Michael – obviously you’ve never read C.S. Lewis. Or, your particular church leaned on the “mysterious” crutch a bit too much. Dear boy, Christianity is not without it’s mysteries. But it is not without its rock solid logic as well. Great minds well steeped in logic have questioned the religion and come away believers. Case in point, Simon Greenleaf – a skeptic and an attorney. He investigated the claims of Christianity at length and came away as a believer. Take the time to read, “The Testimony of the Evangelists, Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice” published in 1846. You will swiftly abandon your position that to leave the Church is to leave an irrational worldview. Faith in Christ is logic that defies the “wisdom” of men.
* Gary- Marc, Recently your rather lengthy article was posted on my church Facebook page Ten reasons the church is losing its youth. I agree with you concerning the need for a greater emphasis within the church on the foundational truths of the gospel. I am also grieved at the thought that the church is losing 70% of its youth to the world. Where we part company is the appropriateness of laying all of the blame at the feet of the church. I am not, as a pastor, trying to wiggle out of the blame, as much as I want to express a broader understanding of the issues. I too have a great concern for our youth, but I don’t believe that fixing the church will fix the problem. We live in a very tolerant society that will not tolerate the intolerant. The “tolerance” mantra and other not-so-subtle anti-Christian messages are pumped into the minds of our children beginning as early as kindergarten which continues throughout their educational careers. Schools have access to students approximately 35 hours a week. There is an indoctrination that supersedes the cognitive awareness of our youth that helps guide their post-high school awakening intelligence.
There is more in play than just the failing omission of a challenging gospel within the church that influences our youth to choose to find community elsewhere. It is stated in the Scriptures that “teaching children” is actually not the responsibility of the church, but the parents (Deut 4:9, 6:7, 11:19). That begs the question, “What are we, as parents, teaching our children about the church?” When a parent is willing to show disrespect for authority, whether it be a police officer, boss, or a pastor, in front of their children, why would the children respect authority? If we fail to be consistent in our commitments, we teach our children that faithfulness does not matter. We are awake approximately 16 hours per day. That is 112 hours per week. If we subtract the 35 hours per week that a child is in school, then we are left with approximately 77 hours. Attitudes within the home regarding honor, authority, respect, commitments, and faithfulness will have a greater impact on a child than whatever is taught in the hour-and-a-half per week that the church gets them. Is the “hypocrisy” that always seems to make the top ten complaint list against the church truly a church issue, or is it a projection of failures within a youth’s home-life? Was it really “Deacon Bob” who disappointed the child somehow, or was it a parent that dwelt dishonestly in their business, cheated on their taxes, gossiped to the neighbors, broke a promise, was stingy, or demonstrated self-centeredness?
I was recently at a meeting where information was given about the Supreme Court’s hearing regarding California’s proposition 8 and The Defense of Marriage Act. One of the presenters was challenged by a same-sex advocate with this question, “Christian marriages break up almost as frequently as their secular counterparts, while gay partners tend to have relationships that last. Why don’t you give us a chance at marriage and see if we could do better than 50%?” The fact that his statement was true is an embarrassing reality. Christians seem to have just as many problems with their relationships as those who do not know Christ. Could it be that the lack of a secure home-life where proper modeling is not taking place be of greater significance than the fact that the church is having too many pizza parties?
Could the church do better? Certainly! One of the problems, however, is that youths, themselves, are not even aware of the battle for their souls that the enemy is raging against them. Early and continued antichristian indoctrination, the lack of a Biblical approach to honor, respect, commitments, and faithfulness, and the breakdown of the nuclear family play a key role in the dissatisfaction that youth express with the church. Yet, these are areas over which the church has comparatively little opportunity in which to make an impact. Then there is the responsibility of the individual himself. Where did the youth truly engage? Were they serious about the Lord? Where are they now? Is the church a convenient scapegoat? Let’s just say that I am skeptical about your conclusions because I question the reliability of your polling data and the lack of a comprehensive approach. It is easy and fairly safe to throw these thoughts out into the blogosphere, but it is a different story when one is trying to make an eternal difference through actual relationship in the lives of real people. I don’t believe that it is appropriate that one should try to affix the blame for the loss of our youth solely on the doorstep of the church. Respectfully, Gary
* Dan Waggoner – I have worked with young people since attending Moody Bible in 1964. Young people are savvy and we need to take them in a serious vein. I am with Youth Ministry International and not too long ago we had a meeting in Slovakia with over 70 pastors. One of the first questions we ask them is “what does your church do to attract and keep young people involved?” The majority said they did NOTHING AT ALL and stuck with the traditional methods of songs and worship service. We told them they must change their METHODS but never change the MESSAGE as times change and we need to adapt or die. Young people have tons of talent and ideas and we fail to allow them to TAKE OVER A SERVICE or at least be heard. Jeremiah said ” But I am but a child” and the Lord declared that HE would give Jer the words and wisdom if he allowed him too? The church in America is boring to the average teen but there are a few seeing that they need to incorporate different methods in order to attract and keep the younger generation involved. I am never for watering down the TRUTH ever but there are many different ways in which we can creatively present the Living Gospel and show the vigor and vitality and the amazing LOVE and JOY in Christ.
* Nightingale -The “relevant” church never starts out changing the message, but it gets changed in the end. Times have changed? Adapt or die? Really? Wasn’t it Solomon who said there is nothing new under the sun? We are still the same selfish, stiff-necked people described in the Bible: same people, different toys. Let children take over a service? I don’t think so. Let them earn a place in church leadership though study and work. If a kid wants to be a doctor, but we don’t just throw him in a medical clinic. He works hard in medical school, and earns that right. American youth are, for the most part, pampered, undisciplined, and lazy. And that I have seen with my own eyes in the public school system, and even in some Christian schools.
I’ve also been to the “big box” churches, and they are failing. One huge church I attended for 5 years hired a new pastor, who told the faithful that studies show the odds of people over the age of 18 accepting the Lord were slim to none. Therefore our church was going to focus on the youth, and they don’t like hymns or organs, so out with that and in with praise bands. His parting shot was: “And if you don’t like it, you can leave.” The church was gone within 2 years. And this was a church that had 3 services on Sunday, with 1000 people per service.
The basic tactic of these new and improved churches is to “sell” the Gospel. Well, concepts like self-denial or suffering are a hard-sell, but they are the reality of the Christian walk, and life on Earth. No wonder people get disillusioned when they struggle with death, disease, and despair, but are told that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.’
* Ryan – I think part of the problem is that churches have become so focused on reaching the lost who happen to come in the doors of the church and hardly pay attention to the spiritual needs of the believers. The church gathering is supposed to be for the building up of the church in spiritual maturity, learning and applying the Scriptures, etc. (Eph. 4:15-16). Then the body is to disperse into the world to reach the lost… yet most churches try to attract the lost to the church building, and the believers end up bored and don’t grow much because the sermons are aimed at “seekers” and “doubters,” or at least, new believers. I’m speaking in generalities, every church is different. The other main problem is that churches are centered around a preacher, worship bands, programs, etc. when they should be focused on things like group interaction involving study, discussion, teaching, prayer, praise, discipline, etc. The church is supposed to be a family with participants, not a show with spectators.
* Countlessnine -“The “relevant” church never starts out changing the message, but it gets changed in the end.” Be careful with absolutes because this statement is not accurate for all churches. The inherent problem is that people are fallible. The only safeguard against this is to constantly remind oneself to stay true to the real message of the gospel. Simply because most people fail to keep the message in tact does not mean that a different method was at fault for the change in method but the people’s heart. The Israelites are a good example of this. Does God really care that He is worshiped in a temple, church, field, or mountain? No, because if the heart is misplaced it doesn’t matter how or what method is used.
The Solomon reference does not mean that cultures and times don’t change but rather that anything new comes with the same age old enticements which I believe are described in 1 John 2:16 as “…the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…” . We need to remember that Paul shared the gospel using the people’s own culture in Acts 17:16-34 on Mars Hill and how Paul said he would “become all things to all people” in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Isn’t he being seeker sensitive? Changing the method? Aren’t we supposed to find ways to see where people are in their life and find ways to bring the gospel message to them in ways they can understand? You don’t have to change the actual message, just use ideas and concepts they can relate to like Paul did in Athens. This is honestly no different than what many translation teams use to translate the Bible into other languages but we have no problem with that. I think we get hung up on so many churches that do drift to a new gospel that we swing the exact opposite way and say, “since all new methods I have seen have changed the gospel then all different methods must be bad.” How I approach sharing the gospel to a Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic, and so on are going to vary based on whatever objections or questions the individual has. I’m not changing the fact that Jesus is the only way to obtain salvation (John 14:6) but trying to find out how to convey that same truth about God to that specific individual. If you do not deal with underlying hangups a Muslim has about Christ not really being crucified then are you really presenting the message well? Also, we are ignoring the obvious question: What is the “Message” that everyone keeps referring to? I know we all don’t share the gospel the same way and I have heard and seen several different ways that keep the message, itself, in tact while changing the way it was delivered (video, audio, blog, etc). Can we honestly say our method of sharing the gospel or worshiping God hasn’t changed in 2,000 years? Let’s be reasonable. I believe it all comes down to where our emphasis lies. If our intent is to reach as many people with the gospel as we can then we might incorporate more methods to that end. However, if we put more emphasis on the methods rather than the gospel itself then we are going astray. I hope this makes sense.
Second, I don’t think people are saying to have children take over the service and do whatever they want. I think the real point is that many churches don’t allow youth to serve in any capacity simply because they are young and inexperienced. We are implying to youth that they are incapable and unable to serve in the church instead of allowing them to come along side and show them how to serve. We talk about “earning a place” but give them no opportunity to do so. I think we have high expectations for leadership, do not disciple and teach the youth to become leaders, then question why people are not ready to lead. The biggest quality I can emphasize in any spiritual leader is to teach others how to become leaders in their own life and be active in serving God. We need to be careful not to over qualify the ability to serve in church. Being extreme in either direction has terrible consequences.
* Kwuam – Although I agree with you on most points GOD DOES love ua and DOES have a wonderful plan fo rour lives. It says it all over the Bible. See we have to have a BALANCED view of how we approach the handing down of the sacred gospel. YOu need to understand that a “We’re older and know so much more than you” approach to youth is NOT going to get them the gospel. They need a balanced approach that both touches their intellect, challenges them, and touches their feelings as well. Remember youre talking about teenagers. NOT full blown adults. I was in youth group all my teen years and stayed in church and saved all the way up till the present. Ive been a part of the small “cozy” churches and Ive been a part of the “Big Box” churches as well. BOTH can be deadly to a growing spirit. But BOTH have wonderful potential to help grow Gods people. BALANCE people BALANCE. Jesus show tremendous balance in how he approached people. He didnt cooky cut his approach although the message remained rock solid. He talked to Peter differently than he talked to John…he approached the rich young ruler differently than he approached Nichodemus…
* Joyce Henderson -AMEN to you, Nightingale! Today’s kids are looking for rules, regulations and exactly what they can and cannot do. I think that’s called “boundaries”. And you are correct in we have pampered these kids into being lazy, self centered, dependent with PARENTS as the enablers.
AMEN to this entire writing!!!!!!! I am so sick of going to church and finding pastors that don’t want to offend anyone. (cough, cough) I went to a Fundamental Independent Baptist Church just last Sunday…..there were a group of young kids that stood and recited scripture they had learned. That was awesome. They sang a song. That was awesome. Some of us said a hearty AMEN and clapped for them. Then the pastor’s son did an offratory on the piano that was awesome, he’s a 16 year old kid that’s an espiring pianist. Some of us said AMEN and clapped. The pastor stepped in the pulpit and point blank announced he wanted NO MORE CLAPPING during service. Really? I gathered my things and left with NO INTENT OF RETURNING.
I am soooooo sick of “holier than thou” so called Christian that wouldn’t know God had impressed on them to “do” something than if He would be standing in front of them verbally instructing. I am 62 years old, have played piano for services since I was 11, etc., etc., etc. and REFUSE to go to these “love everybody, do as you please” churches.
And to find someone that “knows” how to lead another to the Lord???? Really????? Does anyone know what the Roman’s Road is anymore????? Nope! We’re too busy scheduling parties and games………UGH, I’m sick of “churches” and pastors in jeans and t-skirts! You read that right…… SKIRTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Please noitfy me if you plan on starting a church anywhere in the Jefferson City area…….I’d like to attend!!!!!!!!
* Adam Richardson – I am thankful for this blog and the good discussion it is bringing up. I preach for a congregation that does believe and practice that our organizational structure and the worship assembly should operate as close to the manner it was in the first century. We sing a cappella, we take communion every Sunday, we baptize immediately for the forgiveness of sins instead of waiting for a special group ceremony, etc. Paul did seem to indicate that his inspired instructions to the churches at that time were applicable to all churches, and if worship is an activity primarily devoted to pleasing God I can’t find much argument for changing it to suite my own personal taste or style. As this blog suggests, the many changes that churches have gone through to make worship more appealing wind up dumbing down the concept of coming to God on his terms instead of creating a church that pleases me. Young people can and will find things in the world that please them more than any church can- so long as their concept of being pleased is based on a selfish mentality. Maturity in the faith brings about a change of heart that helps us understand we can dedicate ourselves to God and thus see the world and our place in it through totally different lenses, and I am pleased when I am seeking and doing God’s will. I’m afraid that as long as our church model is the “Americanized” version spoken of in the blog, it will be impossible to launch from that platform to a message of self-denial. There have been several comments here about the method changing the message, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. IF our approach is to create something the ‘audience’ LIKES we cannot turn 180 degrees and preach self-denial. So I feel compelled to continue taking a stand for ancient worship practices, as they foster the attitude of coming to God on his terms rather than mine… I’m curious about how others who do not worship in this fashion feel about these points??
*Lauri Drosendahl -“We have access to a much higher morality through humanism.” The purpose of true Christianity is NOT learning how to be a moral person. That is the difference between what people THINK Christianity is and what it REALLY is. Christianity is about CHRIST. Not His moral character, but about Him and what HE does. Not about what we may or may not do. Christ was born, lived, suffered and died and indeed rose again to earn heaven FOR YOU. No matter how moral you are or try to be, you will never be able to win / earn eternal life in heaven. Jesus was able as HE was perfect. Then He gave His inheritance to you. THAT is what Christianity is all about. Forgiveness. Your sin keeps you out, HIS payment of that debt gets you in. It is not cheap..it was bought and paid for by suffering, blood and death..as sin requires.
Also, “science will get humanity much closer to peace.” The peace true Christianity offers is NOT peace between people..though that may and should happen. It is about the Peace that Christ brings between people and God. Jesus heals that divide between a holy God and his unholy children. There is no other way than perfection to be with the Father as His Law requires. We can’t accomplish perfection. He knew this..from the beginning and sent His Son to do the job on your behalf. His Son gave the gift He earned – to YOU -. Peace between God and man.
And by the way? Science cannot rid the world of selfishness and hate..which is the reason we do not have world peace and never will . Sad, but true. Not to say we should not do our best to think of others before ourselves, just know that the natural state of mankind is self-centeredness.