Thursday, June 3, 2010

Is the Sky Falling?

The link above discusses the decline in church attendance among 18-29 year olds. The article uses two words that while I understand the meaning in the context, I find both troubling. The Title is “72% of Millennials more Spiritual than Religious.” Again, the point is most of the 18-29 year old group are not atheists, but they do not attend an organized worship service. The problem I have with the title is this - the word “spiritual” to some degree, is a category anyone can fall into. I mean one can worship “Mother Earth”, “Buddha” or “Elvis” and consider themselves spiritual. “Religious” certainly doesn’t equal genuine faith either… in fact, the group that Christ had the most conflict with while on Earth were the religious rulers. I appreciate Dr. Thom Rainer of Life Way speaking to this issue, and this one quote from the article deals with the essence of the problem:
Among the 65% who call themselves Christian, "many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only," Rainer says. "Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith."
The issue you have with the 18-29 year old generation is really no different than the issue you have with their parents or their grandparents - it just plays itself out differently. You are dealing with people, especially in the American church, that are not genuinely converted - but in this new “Millennial Generation” it is not as esteemed socially, nor is it as beneficial to be part of a church as in previous generations. So, many of them are of the same faith (or lack of faith) their parents taught them… only they don’t have to use a day of their week going through the motions of organized religion. What Dr. Rainer is saying in a very nice way is this: the 65% who wear a title are in large part, unconverted. Just read what they say about themselves: (1) They don’t worship (2) They don’t read the Word of God (3) They don’t pray (4) Many are unsure Christ is the only way to Heaven. Okay pray tell, does this describe an unconverted person? There is no hunger for the fellowship with God, no love for the people of God - and if all I had to go on was 1st John, I would realize that these are signs that I do not belong to the Kingdom of God.
Rather than dissect this article, let me just agree with the spirit of the quote in the article that says:
Collin Hansen, 29, author of Young, Restless, Reformed, about a thriving minority of traditionalist Christians, agrees. "I'm not going to say these numbers aren't true and aren't grim, but they also drive people like me to build new, passionately Christian dynamic churches," says Hansen, who is studying for the ministry. He sees many in his generation veering to "moralistic therapeutic deism — 'God wants you to be happy and do good things.' ... I would not call that Christianity, however."
A few weeks ago I spent 3 days at a conference with several of our staff members… along with about 7000 men who made me look like I was a Senior Adult at 37. The median age would probably be late 20’s to early 30’s. While there were several denominations present, the truth was that they have a correct understanding of the Gospel. I was excited to see this because so many churches in recent history have missed the basics: they have bought into a “decisionism” salvation - where if one prayed a prayer, filled out a card they were declared “saved.” Some of those that have understood the gospel have misunderstood biblical ecclesiology (doctrine of the church)… they have allowed the unregenerate to disgrace the name of Christ, harm the testimony of real believers and yet the church never intervenes. The result? We see it in so many churches today - compromising, doctrinally weak congregations. My belief is that in the coming years, it will be easier for my boys (Caleb 11, Joshua 10) to find a growing thriving biblical church than it is at the present time. I am not wringing my hands worried about the church: God has, and will always have a remnant. The church is the only thing that He has promised that He will build. Will there be some churches that close their doors? Sure, there has been in the past and will be in the future. Some of those may have been a victim of population decline in their particular area, others may need to close their doors as it may benefit the Kingdom if they quit claiming to be something they are not.
I am so thankful for what I see at Trinity - a group 18-29 year olds who are not afraid of truth, not afraid of hard doctrines. We are watching young couples having babies left and right and teaching their little ones biblical truth. I believe the issue is not people leaving churches, but churches making a decision to teach doctrine, hold to truth and let God build the body.

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