Church, Living for Jesus, Uncategorized

Where Are All the Kids Going?

I recently read a great article at the Christian Post relating the findings of a survey studying how many young people we’re losing from our churches, and the possible reasons behind it.  I have to say, I agree mostly with what is being said, but I think they only skim across some of the most important issues.  Things that a survey may not be able to find.  As one of the rare 20-somethings in church (although I’m only 20-something for one more year 🙁 ) I think I have a pretty decent understanding of where my generation has fallen away, because I’ve seen my friends among the fallen.

The fact is, we are bleeding.  Most mainstream denominations have shown a decrease in membership over the last decade, or so.  It’s a problem across evangelical Christianity.  With the exception of Non-Denominational Pentecostal / Charismatic churches, who seem to show slight growth, the body of Christ is growing older and older.  A few problems we can see evident from the survey:

According to ARG’s survey, 95 percent of 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. Only 55 percent went to church during high school. And by college, only 11 percent were still attending church.

We’ll discount the 5% of children not attending church regularly, for now, because we must also assume that their parents don’t attend church regularly, and since 10 year olds can’t drive . . . well, enough said.  Only 55% of teens attend church regularly during high school?  Problem #1 is evident: the parents have failed, and failed miserably, in raising their children to serve God.  In my upbringing, I wasn’t allowed to not attend church.  When I started looking for a part-time job at 16, I wasn’t allowed to get a job that interfered with church.  My parents, following a Biblical principle, trained me to put God and church first, and that God would bless and honor that sacrifice, and when I was older, I did not depart from that.  If the Bible is always true, and we must assume that it is, we have that promise from God.  Simply “giving up” on your kids’ souls and allowing them to stay at home and not attend church as teens (still children) is tantamount to burning the scriptures in front of them.  We reinforce a wordly and sinful mindset: “If salvation was as necessary, God as good, Heaven as sweet, and Hell as real as the Bible says it is, then why would Mom and Dad just let me stay at home?  It must be just some good moral teachings, and not real.”  Who wouldn’t think that if raised up that way?  We make them take baths, brush their teeth, study, get good grades, don’t eat too much junk food, etc etc. . . all great lessons that are necessary for life and health and wellbeing, but we shy away from making them attend church?  We’ve started the problem there.

The article rightly goes into poor teaching in Sunday School, and the concept of teaching Bible “Stories” . . . a term I’ve always had a problem with.  Sunday School is a great place to teach the foundations of faith, apologetics, why we believe what we believe.  But instead it focuses on the seeker sensitive trends of relationships, emotional issues, morality, and “stories from the Bible.”

All of these are great pieces of the puzzle, the the parental lack of concern for their children’s souls is the largest piece, but I think the article misses the largest over-arching problem – our kids have never had an EXPERIENCE with God.  It’s my experiences with God that I turn to when I go through seasons of doubt, trial, and even disbelief.  There are tons of theories questioning everything about the Bible – if I’m going through a bad situation in life, and feel discouraged, there are plenty of people telling me that I can turn from God, because he may not even be there anyway.  But it’s the experiences I had, and many of the most important ones were as a teenager, that keep me in the body of Christ.  I was blessed enough to attend a church that moved its youth group from a fun / game -centered experience to a place for teens to encounter God, and have Him work in their lives.  But the trend is the opposite.  I see youth “ministries” with X-Boxes, Playstations, sports, games, and FUN FUN FUN, but very little Jesus.  They don’t want to “turn kids off,” and want to give them a “positive” place to come and have fun and fellowship.  Fun and fellowship is great, but should be a secondary concern.  Will youth groups shrink if the focus shifts from super fun awesome times to Jesus?  Sure.  But if 50 kids leave, and 1 child comes to Jesus as a result, I think it’s worth it.

I feel that Youth Pastors’ success is judged on the size of their youth groups, many times, instead of things like how many kids get saved, or how many kids are involved in ministry.  That’s such a tragic mistake.  And I’ve met tons of youth pastors who have the spiritual depth and Biblical knowledge of a Lebanese child who has only heard the name of Jesus as a by-word in conversation.  They’re focused on nurting emotions, at best, and on just playing games, and being a kid for the next 10 years, at worst.  They are far from spiritual role models who exude holiness and righteousness as a lifestyle to look up.  Quick question:  Have any of you met a youth pastor (or pastor for that matter) who can come close to being able to say, as Paul did, “Follow me as I follow Christ?”  Me either.

While the responsibility for raising Godly children rests on parents, ultimately, I believe a major shift can happen to reverse this trend if churches would change their youth ministries to focus on giving teens an experience with God, instead of just a fun time.  Those experiences will guide them back to the faith, if they leave.  God called it the incorruptible seed, which gets planted in them.  The games, rock concert services, and worldly mentalities are just turning kids off to Jesus, if not the youth group.  Jesus said if he is exalted, he will draw all men unto him.

Problem solved.

christianity, Church, witnessing

Unprofitable Blogging

Last week I posed the challenge to witness to one person for every blog post.  I happen to know that at least 10 Christian bloggers visited my site, and chose not to respond to that challenge, choosing instead to mindlessly prattle on with their unprofitable theologies and divisive doctrinal debates.

Perhaps some non-evangelicals would dismiss it as the church leader told William Carey: “Young man, when God wants to save the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine.”

Listen… you may not like that Jesus commissioned us to go out and preach to all the world, God knows there are lots of things in the Bible I wish I could just rip right off the page and pretend like it didn’t exist (love your enemies?!), but you can’t ignore it.  Sitting at home, feeling so spiritual because the other unprofitable “servants” of God think you’re very intelligent is self-delusional.   I present you with a video, and a testimony.  God help me be as profitable in life as this man:

christianity, Online Living

Blogging for Jesus Me

My wife nonchalantly posed a serious question to me recently, as she looked at some notes for future blog posts, “You have so many good things to say…why do you sit in front of a computer and blog them, instead of going out and sharing them with people who need Jesus?”

I’m always up for some harsh self-examination, so I really pondered how I could answer this, and justify my relatively reclusive lifestyle.  I’m not reclusive because I blog, let me get that straight.  I don’t sit at home wishing I was elsewhere, but I just have to get this post written.  I blog because I find it enjoyable, and I like the web development aspect of it (I’m a geek, what can I say?).  And I just happen to be rather introverted.  But this got me thinking on how blogging fits in with God’s great commission to go out and win the world.

I believe if harnessed properly, the internet could be a tremendous tool in reaching the world with the Gospel.  I have yet to see anyone actually accomplish this, however.  Surely our blogs, much of which debate the finer points of religious doctrine, are not effective conduits for the Gospel of Salvation to reach a lost person.  On the contrary, I would submit that should a spiritually-curious non-Christian stumble into our blogosphere, they may find so many contradicting statements, arguments, and debates, that they would be turned off to the Gospel.  I’m not criticizing any one person here, as I’ve engaged in a few debates myself on the internet, for better or worse.  But do these benefit the Kingdom of God?  I don’t believe so.  At best, it seems like the proverbial “peeing contest,” and at worse is actually a divisive force in the church.

Those criticisms out of the way, I will also admit that there have been several times that I have read a blog and felt personally challenged to better my walk with God.  I have been convicted, encouraged, and enlightened on many different kinds of topics in regards to my faith, and living it out in this world.  More than once, I can probably even say that my prayer and bible study times have profited from some things I’ve read.  And many of us just write to share our thoughts, and experiences, in our Christian walk.  If we find something interesting while studying the Bible, we share it with other Christians through our blog . . . and I would even say that is very Biblical.  It’s the 21st century version of Acts 2:46.

For some people, I imagine, this online community is the only place they feel like that have that fellowship.  But is this a healthy situation for the Christian and the Kingdom of God?  I think not.  Our highest calling is to fulfill our Great Commission, to go out and win the world.  While theoretically possible, I find it highly doubtful that blogging will do that.  A Christian, full of love, caring and helping someone in need, and sharing the Gospel with them, will do that, though.  I’m not saying don’t blog, but I encourage you to keep it in its place.  Instead of debating, let’s all encourage each other to go out and win souls for Jesus!  Let’s keep sharing our experiences, encouraging each other, and growing together, but let the fruit of that be evident in our profitability for the Kingdom of God.

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this, as I don’t believe myself to be the authority on the effectiveness of blogging as a witnessing tool.  But I also want to issue a challenge to every blogger reading this post, which I intend to participiate in with you:  Witness to, or share the gospel with 1 person for each blog post you write this week.

I, personally, get very excited when I think about the great things that we can all accomplish together for the Kingdom of God.  Let’s make the Christian blogging movement responsible for souls being brought into the Kingdom of God, and not just a lot of interesting articles for other Christians.

If you’re taking the challenge, leave a comment, or trackback here with a story of how it went!