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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.
The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.
Let that sink in.
There’s no easy way to say this: The American evangelical church has lost, is losing and will almost certainly continue to lose OUR YOUTH.
For all the talk of “our greatest resource,” “our treasure,” and the multi-million dollar Dave and Buster’s/Starbucks knockoffs we build and fill with black walls and wailing rock bands…the church has failed them.
The Top 10 Reasons We’re Losing Our Youth:
10. The church is “relevant.”
You didn’t misread that, I didn’t say irrelevant, I said RELEVANT.
We’ve taken a historic, 2,000-year-old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize to.
As the quote says, “When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.”
I’m not ranting about “worldliness” as some pietistic bogeyman, I’m talking about the fact that we yawn at a five-minute biblical text, but almost trip over ourselves fawning over a minor celebrity or athlete who makes any vague reference to being a Christian.
We’re like a fawning wanna-be just hoping the world will think we’re cool too, you know, just like you guys!
Our kids meet the real world and our “look, we’re cool like you” posing is mocked. In our effort to be “like them” we’ve become less of who we actually are. The middle-aged pastor trying to look like his 20-something audience isn’t relevant, and the minute you aim to be “authentic,” you’re no longer authentic!