One of the sad realities that we see in the Evangelical church are the number of young people who leave their faith after becoming adults. I have read statistics that as many as three-fourths will at some point in their adult years quit attending church and stop actively pursuing a walk with Christ. Some of those will eventually return when they get married and have kids of their own who they want to have the same solid upbringing that they had as children. PTL for those who return! But many more will not return and eventually live comfortable, secular lives that adopt the values of the culture. Why is this and what can be done about it?
One clear and obvious reason this happens is that some young people are never truly born again. Years ago I ministered to a young father raised in the church who was going to prison for a crime he committed. When I asked him about his conversion experience he said he made a decision at a youth rally but that he was just following the crowd and it really never meant anything to him. I challenged him to turn to Christ for real which he did. He became a model prisoner and upon release has been following Christ ever since. Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed instructs us that three of the four responses to the seed of God’s Word are superficial responses that do not last and bear fruit, Mark 4:14-20. Certainly some of the attrition that we see is because of superficial responses to the gospel. We can’t determine what occurs in anyone’s heart. That must ultimately be between them and the Lord. Some people will believe for a time and then fall away. However, one thing we can do is not push superficial responses to the gospel making it an easy formula for entering heaven rather than wholehearted trust in the Savior arising from a real sense of need.
Another reason for the attrition may well be a tendency on the part of churches in recent years to entertain our young people rather than train them. The church is always tempted to adopt the ways of the surrounding culture and the current American scene is more into entertainment than ever before. There are more entertaining options today that become substitutes for the more demanding way of discipleship that Jesus called us to follow. If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free, John 8:31-32. Notice the priority here of really knowing the truth and holding to it in order to be set free. That takes a lifetime of intentional training. It is very easy for us as parents to settle for a superficial understanding of the Christian life on the part of our kids and not prioritize the more serious training that will equip them with deep convictions about Christ and His Word, (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where the emphasis is on thorough equipping).
Perhaps a story from my own experience will help. As a boy I participated in Pop Warner football for five years. Practice was held every night after school. On Wednesday nights I was not allowed to practice because my parents wanted me in our Boys Brigade program at church which was very similar to Awana. I was the only boy in the entire East Muskegon Football Club that never practiced on Wednesday night. I didn’t always like it but my parents held firm. Today I look back and realize the training I experienced in Boys Brigade and the foundation it gave me helped change my life. Football was fun and exciting, but it had zero spiritual impact. My true heroes today are my Brigade leaders. As I grew older I participated in other training opportunities that deepened my faith and drew me closer to Christ. I had fun like every teen and played sports and was in the band, but discipleship training made the difference. It is Christ’s method, Matthew 28:19-20.
Yours, trying to remain in the Way of Christ, Pastor Brian (:-}).