The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church

Monday, April 4, 2011 2 comments
Wow... so I've been busy. The months are literally flying by (maybe it really is true that, the older you get, the more time flies? really can't believe I just said that). I haven't even had much time to sit in front of the computer for the last couple of weeks. My life is just the way I like it - busy, but not overwhelmingly so. Nothing eventful happening or in the near future. Unless you count yard sale season... The weather is starting to warm up, at least, I think. It's been a little weird. I'm excited to get back into shape. Alright, well, that's not the point. My point is - I am finally starting to feel settled. In married life. In our neighborhood. Hoping to feel more settled at church. (getting there, I guess) And, feeling more settled in Cross Current. A couple weeks ago we had a leadership retreat to Deep Creek Lake and that was really great! It seems that everywhere I turn lately there is an article about teens and college-age young people (is there a better way to say that?) and their lack of faith and/or there rejection of Christianity. It bothers me and yet, I know it's true. A good majority of my friends and family don't go to church - and most aren't really Christians. I've come across a lot of people at work (well, at Chick-fil-A, Panera, The Limited, & various babysitting jobs) who proclaim they are Christians, but let's face it, they most likely aren't. "Being a Christian" is used very very loosely. However, most of the people I have come across in those areas (and friendships) feel they don't even have a use for God and/or believe that the church is filled with hypocrites. Side note: I agree with that last statement. Of course, I do know that many are sincere and I don't think that is an excuse for leaving the church completely or turning your back on God. I know that many of the teens that attend Cross Current aren't Christians and don't attend a church. The state of this generation saddens me. I came across an article in Christianity Today entitled "The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church." The article mainly references adults around my age (25, in case you're curious) and I found it to be rather startling. "The percentage of Americans claiming 'no religion' almost doubled in 2 decades... 22% of 18-to-29 year olds claimed 'no religion', up from 11%... Imagine a group photo of all the students who come to your church (or live within your community of believers) in a typical year. Take a big fat marker and cross out three out of every four faces. That's the probable toll of spiritual disengagement as students navigate through their faith during the next 2 decades... The problem today isn't those who are unchristian, but that so many are ex-Christian. Strictly speaking, they are not an unreached people group. They are our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and friends." These statistics really hit home to me - as I said, many of my friends wouldn't say they are Christians anymore (and, thus, would fall into the above groups). It's discouraging, because these were people that I once saw as strong Christians (or, hoped they would be). Now, many have gone the complete opposite way that my life has turned out. My heart grieves for them - literally to the point of losing sleep. It's discouraging. "The Christian life is hard to sustain in the face of so many temptations." Many of those who leave the church don't think there is only one way to Truth, while others believe Christianity isn't intellectual enough. Others have been hurt terribly by those who call themselves Christians and or adopt a different religion. "Many de-conversions were precipitated by what happened inside rather than outside the church... most leavers had been exposed to a superficial form of Christianity... It's in the air that many churchgoers breathe, from seeker-friendly worship services to low-commitment small groups." It's scary to me. I want so badly for my friends and the teens at Cross Current to know and love and desire to serve God. I long for them to have a true hunger and a true relationship with God - to not just call themselves a Christian because they know all the answers. And, for the most part, they do know the answers. The answers have been drilled into them so much that they can slide by without any adult questioning their real and honest beliefs. I want for Cross Current to be that place where they can deepen their faith (and, yes, question what they've been told) and where their faith is real. Not just to get by at school or with their parents. It's hard to make it that place when we (Shawn & I) don't have a real role, besides making sure no one is sneaking outside or getting hurt, etc. "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..." Something has to change. It is discouraging when you serve in a youth group and see so many kids not caring a thing about God. Yes, I know there will always be ones who are there just to have fun, but that shouldn't be the majority. I also know that there are many at Cross Current that do have a solid relationship with God. And, I can only hope and pray that they will not leave their faith. Maybe my discouragement comes with the territory. Maybe it's normal. Maybe God is trying to push me more. I don't know... Besides being discouraged with Cross Current, I am discouraged and filled with sorrow for my friends. I know they are respectful of my beliefs. I know each of them at least hears what I say (even though they usually don't truly take it to heart). I know they know what I believe. Prayer is all that I have left. I feel like I have done and said all I can and I will continue to do and say all I can to urge them to pursue Christ. But, I can't force them and I can't change their hearts. When I came across the article, the statistics alarmed me greatly. But, I can't say I am surprised. I have seen and talked to many of these people in my own life. And, I keep wondering - what more can I do? What more does God want me to do? How can I keep these teenagers in Cross Current and my own friends from abandoning Christ? How can I reach them? What am I not doing? What is God doing? What might He do in the future? I have to believe He is doing something. I know He will do something and I know He will be glorified. This waiting is just hard...


  • Jenna @ Copy Cat Corner said...

    Thanks for the follow. I have a small baby so reading always takes a backseat but I hope tonight that I can come back and read more of your blog, the first couple sentences that she allowed me to read were great!

  • Janet said...

    Oh friend, I SO feel you!

    I found you randomly blog hopping, and I hope you don't mind me saying a few things on my heart.

    Alot of the time, it's the church burning these people that cause them to walk away from the church. Our world was just turned upside down and we were hurt terribly by our senior pastor(my Husband was the youth pastor)...we would have NEVER expected this from him, and it reflected an awful heart condition. If we weren't firmly grounded in Christ, we probably would have walked away from the church entirely. But as it stands, we're now going to a church that we are 100% with doctrinally and are just coming SO thirsty to drink from HIS fountain, if that makes sense.

    I DO keep looking back to see why on EARTH God would allow this to happen to us when we gave up everything to serve Him, but I have to TRUST in Him that this was His will for us, that He loves us and is going to grow us in this process.

    I often look back and say the things you said; I was SO concerned about our students, their fickleness and complacency. I would get really upset and feel like we wasted our time moving here, sacrificing our time with our children, etc. But then I was convicted by the fact that it's not UP to me; I do what I'm called to do, and He's glorified by that. PERIOD.

    1 Cor. 3:7 says So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

    I have faith that these students will "get it" one day...but until that day, I need to trust that God WAS glorified when I obeyed; and then I remind myself that He's GOD...He's totally got this :)

    Sorry for the novel! Just wanted to share a fraction of my thoughts and experience with this :)

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