Millennials and Christianity: Is there hope?

Church leaders in a variety of denominations have noticed it, and confirmation comes from a study that says millennials are leaving church, and the study's authors prognosticate that the millennials will not come back.

The problem is stated in a summary article in a fivethirtyeight featured blog:

Four in ten millennials now say they are religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. In fact, millennials (those between the ages of 23 and 38) are now almost as likely to say they have no religion as they are to identify as Christian. 

One reason is that millennials already get moral teaching from other areas of life. Says one who supposedly represents millions of others:

Mandie, a 32-year-old woman living in southern California and who asked that her last name not be used, grew up going to church regularly but is no longer religious. She told us she’s not convinced a religious upbringing is what she’ll choose for her one-year-old child. “My own upbringing was religious, but I’ve come to believe you can get important moral teachings outside religion,” she said. “And in some ways I think many religious organizations are not good models for those teachings.”

Apparently church services and the people in them are not good models. 

In my experience with church, this is partly true, but times are changing, and many churches are adapting. But this also poses its own problems. When the church innovates its style from regular lighting to flashing lights, to cite only one example, the church may believe it solves the problem of relevance. Admittedly, these style adjustments may help some people who don't think deeply about life and morals and doctrines. However, Mandie has a point. The church leaders who stand on the platforms and lecture often do not relate to their culture. Instead they spend their time at church staff meetings, sheltered away and answering "churchy" issues that no one care about in the large population. Pastors are not trained to handle the bigger issues, even though the people are being bombarded with them through the web. The people do contemplate the deeper issues about life and morals and doctrines, such as who is God? What does he ask of me? Where does moral law come from? Why should I be moral? Why does God seem so judgmental? 

The solution, as I see it, is to re-educate the church in new ways of interpreting of old Scripture. No, let's not sell out and claim that up is down and down is up, morally speaking. No, let's not compromise rules in Scripture that are designed to keep people safe. For instance, here is a thought experiment: What would happen to STDs if everyone on the planet were to remain virgins before marriage and remain faithful within that God-ordained living organism (marriage)? The STDs would disappear in a generation. But guess which sector of society mocks virginity and fidelity, and guess which one upholds it? Hollywood mocks the virtues and the church upholds them. The church therefore has a lot to offer, but we are not very good and presenting our values. We are too busy sneering at society instead of dialoguing with it. 

In my view, I still say there is hope. Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). But is the church cooperating with Him? That remains to be seen, but He was not afraid to confront and teach His culture. I suggest we do the same in the same Spirit He did: clarity, forthrightness and simplicity, spelling out the differences between His way and all the other ways. 

Image credit: Pixabay

James Arlandson has a new website renewal-theology.com, where he has posted What Is FellowshipDoes Land of Israel Belong to Jews Today by CovenantWhat Does the New Covenant Retain from the Old? and Why Tithing Does Not Apply to New Covenant Believers.

Church leaders in a variety of denominations have noticed it, and confirmation comes from a study that says millennials are leaving church, and the study's authors prognosticate that the millennials will not come back.

The problem is stated in a summary article in a fivethirtyeight featured blog:

Four in ten millennials now say they are religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. In fact, millennials (those between the ages of 23 and 38) are now almost as likely to say they have no religion as they are to identify as Christian. 

One reason is that millennials already get moral teaching from other areas of life. Says one who supposedly represents millions of others:

Mandie, a 32-year-old woman living in southern California and who asked that her last name not be used, grew up going to church regularly but is no longer religious. She told us she’s not convinced a religious upbringing is what she’ll choose for her one-year-old child. “My own upbringing was religious, but I’ve come to believe you can get important moral teachings outside religion,” she said. “And in some ways I think many religious organizations are not good models for those teachings.”

Apparently church services and the people in them are not good models. 

In my experience with church, this is partly true, but times are changing, and many churches are adapting. But this also poses its own problems. When the church innovates its style from regular lighting to flashing lights, to cite only one example, the church may believe it solves the problem of relevance. Admittedly, these style adjustments may help some people who don't think deeply about life and morals and doctrines. However, Mandie has a point. The church leaders who stand on the platforms and lecture often do not relate to their culture. Instead they spend their time at church staff meetings, sheltered away and answering "churchy" issues that no one care about in the large population. Pastors are not trained to handle the bigger issues, even though the people are being bombarded with them through the web. The people do contemplate the deeper issues about life and morals and doctrines, such as who is God? What does he ask of me? Where does moral law come from? Why should I be moral? Why does God seem so judgmental? 

The solution, as I see it, is to re-educate the church in new ways of interpreting of old Scripture. No, let's not sell out and claim that up is down and down is up, morally speaking. No, let's not compromise rules in Scripture that are designed to keep people safe. For instance, here is a thought experiment: What would happen to STDs if everyone on the planet were to remain virgins before marriage and remain faithful within that God-ordained living organism (marriage)? The STDs would disappear in a generation. But guess which sector of society mocks virginity and fidelity, and guess which one upholds it? Hollywood mocks the virtues and the church upholds them. The church therefore has a lot to offer, but we are not very good and presenting our values. We are too busy sneering at society instead of dialoguing with it. 

In my view, I still say there is hope. Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). But is the church cooperating with Him? That remains to be seen, but He was not afraid to confront and teach His culture. I suggest we do the same in the same Spirit He did: clarity, forthrightness and simplicity, spelling out the differences between His way and all the other ways. 

Image credit: Pixabay

James Arlandson has a new website renewal-theology.com, where he has posted What Is FellowshipDoes Land of Israel Belong to Jews Today by CovenantWhat Does the New Covenant Retain from the Old? and Why Tithing Does Not Apply to New Covenant Believers.