Churches reflecting and echoing cultural norms more than Biblical reality are losing members.
When the younger generation is looking for hope, where do they turn? Why are some younger adults rejecting hope and community that comes from the assembling of hearts seeking strength in faith?
According to a December 2019 analysis by the American Enterprise Institute’s Daniel Cox, four in 10 Millennials (individuals 23 to 38 years of age) cite that they are religiously unaffiliated. Writing around Pew Research data that point to the fact that this age group is a product of parents who raised their children without the influence or connection to religion or faith, Cox declares, “Millennials are leaving religion and not coming back.”
AEI’s own data show that 17% of Millennials surveyed acknowledged the absence of a faith-based belief system in their upbringing. Contrast that to only 5% of Baby Boomers — aged 55 to 75 years old — who reported a lack of a religious influence in their nurtured years. Further, just one in three Millennials noted attendance in a weekly religious service during their childhood compared to half of Baby Boomers.
Over the last 10 years, according to Pew, there has been a 12% decline in adults who identify as Christians with individuals who label themselves as having no particular beliefs at 26% and the aggregate of Christians down to 65%.
That Law of the Harvest is more than theory — seeds sown do bring forth a crop. Parents erroneously believing their hands-off manner permitted their offspring to find their own way and even pursue some “enlightened” value system honoring the Secular Trinity of Me, Myself, and I were instead sewing seeds that today demand an intellectual approach to faith rather than, well, simple faith to a simple Gospel of grace and the forgiveness of sin.
Inarguably, every single person has a belief system based on exposure to information or through experience. We all believe in something and adhere to some set of mores. It’s just a matter of the object of that belief system whether it’s the monotheistic God of the Judeo-Christian faith, or some other framework that drives a personal definition of morality.
And, that personal definition of morality is growing more relevant in not only the generational divide of faith but is literally dividing the flocks of the faithful and churches.
Look no further than the separation just announced in the Methodist denomination. The split is based on whether Holy Scripture is to be honored in sanctioning marriage as holy matrimony between one man and one woman — treated as a covenant modeled after Christ and His Bride the Church — or whether same-sex marriage is permitted. It’s a manifestation of cultural approvals transcending Biblical Truth. Some personally view same-sex marriage as without consequence and others say what God says, which is that sexual sin — of all sorts — is still sin, but still covered by grace when confessed.
The current split in the religion that was originally founded to reform the Church of England from within by John Wesley is, ironically, taking the similar path faced during the original days of Reformers in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Wesley’s teachings based on the “methodical” devotion and study applied to one’s life that all should have access to God’s salvation through love fell within the Protestant Reformation that declared that the Bible be the standard of teaching and worship.
Today, many Methodists have sacrificed the standard of Truth on the altar of personal whim.
So, in addition to parents without a commitment to faith raising children of the same philosophy, the cultural influences on the definition of right versus wrong have eclipsed the Gospel. But churches themselves have some responsibility in the loss of membership.
If teachings in the church say, “You’re ok, I’m ok, we’re all ok” and “We’ve got grace, so let’s just live as we so desire,” it is no different than the opinions shared at the neighborhood bar, nonprofit, or secular organization. Why would young adults need a community of faith when they’ll hear the same advice and opinions and get the same acceptance at their favorite watering hole among friends who will commiserate and honor the time-tested truth that misery loves company?
In a series on the decline of religion in America, The Washington Times wrote of doctoral candidate Rev. Stephen Koeth at Columbia University teaching one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s sermons, which included references to the road to Jericho and the Good Samaritan. Not only did the class have no knowledge of the dangerous setting of the famous parable of ministry, but they didn’t have any understanding of the basis of the parable itself — the Good Samaritan — whose actions transcended cultural and economic constructs.
Do you think this same group could articulate details about climate change or the need for “safe spaces” from harmful speech?
Again, those churches reflecting and echoing cultural norms and teaching a social-justice agenda rather than Truth from the Bible are not remarkable, inspirational, or courageous. But churches that do boldly teach the hope of Christ in each of us through the forgiveness of sin are indeed the beacons of light daring to say the same thing that God Himself says about our past, our present, and our future.
So where will Americans of all ages find their hope? The brilliant and fearless Paul sums it all up in Galatians 6:8, “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”