why are young people leaving church?

Another interesting CT article asks this question.

The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church

More than in previous generations, 20- and 30- somethings are abandoning the faith. Why?

I am not sure the article succeeds in answering the question, but it comes close in these two paragraphs.

Again, the reasons for departing in each case were unique, but I realized that most leavers had been exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculated them against authentic faith. When sociologist Christian Smith and his fellow researchers examined the spiritual lives of American teenagers, they found most teens practicing a religion best called "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism," which casts God as a distant Creator who blesses people who are "good, nice, and fair." Its central goal is to help believers "be happy and feel good about oneself."

Where did teenagers learn this faith? Unfortunately, it’s one taught, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, at every age level in many churches. It’s in the air that many churchgoers breathe, from seeker-friendly worship services to low-commitment small groups. When this nave [sic] and coldly utilitarian view of God crashes on the hard rocks of reality, we shouldn’t be surprised to see people of any age walk away.

Sometimes those who are discontent with fundamentalism will point to young people abandoning the faith just as this article describes and will blame the departure on fundamentalism. The article shows how this can’t possibly be true. The phenomenon of ‘leavers’ is at least as prevalent in non-fundamentalist as fundamentalist churches.

Fundamentalism isn’t the issue, I am convinced. But the problem of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" isn’t exclusively a problem of seeker sensitive new age quasi-evangelical churches. It is a problem in materialistic fundamentalist churches as well.

The problem is that these ‘leavers’ have never been converted in the first place. The gospel didn’t reach them for some reason – ineffective churches or simply hardened hearts or both. Certainly such young people need to be seriously challenged by the true gospel before they ever contemplate leaving.

The article concludes with this paragraph:

One place to begin is by rethinking how we minister to those from youth to old age. There’s nothing wrong with pizza and video games, nor with seeker-sensitive services, nor with low-commitment small groups that introduce people to the Christian faith. But these cannot replace serious programs of discipleship and catechism. The temptation to wander from the faith is not a new one. The apostle Paul exhorted the church at Ephesus to strive to mature every believer, so that "we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph. 4:14, ESV).

Of course, I wouldn’t say "there is nothing wrong with seeker-sensitive services, etc." But I have long thought we need to get serious about discipleship and call our people out of their mad love affair with the things of the world. We need people who are ready to ‘go everywhere preaching the Word’ and to ‘turn the world upside down’. We need serious, practical Christianity. We need revival.

And may it start in my own life! God keep me from ever implicitly living some kind of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism". May Christ live in me.

don_sig2

[Again, no endorsement of the position and philosophy of Christianity Today. I link to it as a source of information and points of view.]

Comments

  1. d4v34x says:

    You’re missing a golden opportunity here, Don, to point out that Calvinists wouldn’t even be asking the question, they’d just shrug these folks off as “uncalled”.

    ;^)

    • I must be slipping…

      Actually, though, I am not an anti-Calvinist, just a non-Calvinist. The thought didn’t occur to me.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. “But I have long thought we need to get serious about discipleship and call our people out of their mad love affair with the things of the world. We need people who are ready to ‘go everywhere preaching the Word’ and to ‘turn the world upside down’. We need serious, practical Christianity. We need revival.

    And may it start in my own life! God keep me from ever implicitly living some kind of “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. May Christ live in me.”

    I couldn’t agree more.
    Amen!!!!!