Sadly, “What did I do wrong?” is a frequently asked question of Christian parents with adult and teenage children. Why? Because more and more young adults are rejecting their parent’s faith than ever before. Don’t believe me? In its 2002 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, here’s what the Southern Baptist Council’s “On Family Life Report” said: “Study Findings: 88% of the children in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18.” In the Jossey-Bass publication, “The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church” they found: “90% of youth active in high school church programs drop out of church by the time they are sophomores in college.” These are just two of dozens of studies conducted over the recent years that have outlined a real tragedy in today’s church. Here are the facts: we have done a very poor job of connecting our kids to Jesus in a way that prepares them for the onslaught they will face in our secular and carnal world.
Now there are a number of reasons young people identify for leaving their faith. These include, a lack of fulfillment in the church, other things taking priority, and never personally owning their faith in the first place. But the fact remains that the majority leave the church because of intellectual doubt and skepticism, including “troubling, unanswered questions about their faith.” While the church may do a great job providing Biblical teaching, a safe social group, and fun experiences; it appears we have failed to evidentiarily prove Christianity, disprove a secular worldview, and genuinely connect children to Jesus.
Maybe the complete and total forsaking of the development of the inner-life, or the widespread adoption of materialistic lifestyles, or simple carnality is to blame; but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say most of us don’t “live lives that demand an explanation,” like Jeff Vanderstilt says. Nor do we “become bodies wholly filled and flooded with God Himself,” – Eph 3:19b (AMP). I remember one pastor preaching, “Jesus did not come and die on the cross so we could all become good and decent middle class American Christians. He died so we could be used by Him to save the world and turn it upside down.”
Did you know that the divorce rate among Christian families is no different than the non-believing? But get this! Families who pray together, read the Bible together, and sing worship together have a 1% divorce rate. You want to know what I think? I think families who do that have an intentionality to them. I think families who do that don’t live compartmentalized Christian lives. They don’t do “dresser drawer faith,” where every different part of their lives get folded nice and neatly in their perspective bins. They live lives flooded and steeped in Christ, because that’s how they want to live.
Well, here is what is inarguable. We are doing something wrong. As one friend once told me, “It seems to me we’ve been doing a lot of zigging. Maybe it is time to zag?” Maybe it’s time to zag all right! Maybe we need to do what Albert Finney suggested. When he was asked about bringing revival to other places he said, “Go home and get a piece of chalk. Go into your prayer closet and draw a circle on the ground, and don’t get up until revival has broken out there.” Now, in our times, it’s nearly impossible for someone to do that. We need to go to work to pay our bills. Seriously. But I hope we get the point.
Or maybe we need to do what JP Moreland says, maybe we need to form the “the habit of being focused on God constantly throughout the day?” Maybe we need to start “living lives preoccupied with Christ; directed constantly toward Him in prayer and meditation?” Or as Lawrence puts it, maybe we need to “resolve to make the love of GOD the end of all our actions.” Or “Seek Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts… and continually act purely for the love of GOD; to have done all that is in us to love Him.”
Hmm… I think Christians in the past used to call that normative Christianity. And, in my opinion, that’s the only solution to the church’s massive youth exodus. The adults need to zag and become a people “wholly filled and flooded with GOD Himself.” You may disagree with me. But, then let’s give The LORD the last word. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” -2Chron 7:14 (NIV). Yeah. That sounds right.