Ah, the woes of Twenty-something Christianity
Imagine a religion that claimed it would provide a high-paying job, a perfect spouse, a nice car and more. Despite these promises, it would ultimately shipwreck the faith of millions as it failed to come through in the end. We've actually experienced this in the 80s through the Word of Faith movement where people were made to believe that they could positively speak there wealth into existence. This "Blab-it-n-Grab-it" version of Christianity caused vast multitudes of Baby Boomers to abandon Christianity altogether once they realized that, no matter how many times they marched around that Beamer, it was not going to be theirs. Alas, the only ones for whom this method was working were the slick-talking pulpiteers, "bless Gawd."
Then the devil set his sites on another group: the Twenty-somethings.
In the Summer of 2004, I had the distinct privilege of spending one-on-one and small-group time alone with some of the college kids from the local university of 8,000 students who were involved in Summer School. We did this in Sunday evenings at six o'clock. On several occasions, we virtually spotlighted particular individuals as the Lord allowed, not only me, but all of us, to minister in different ways to that night's "favored" student.
As a result of these relationships, when my air conditioning unit broke down at home, I spent several nights with one young man who had several vacant bedrooms while his roommates were at home for the summer (I slept like a baby!).
On another occasion, one of the young ladies, after a family dispute, walked over to my house to talk and cry and pray. Another girl joined us after a cell phone call and we prayed some more.
A young man came by late one night to discuss his pornography struggles and to receive prayer.
Other relationships were solidified and, out of that group, I have performed two weddings already.
There's much to be said for relationship.
In each instance, we were a group of God's children, breaking bread and fellowshiping together, growing in our horizontal as well as our vertical relationships. It was great fun and I sincerely believe that the concept of "BEING the Church" as opposed to merely "GOING to Church" sank in with most of them. We were definitely "churching"!
If I had to pinpoint one thing that seems to make the greatest difference in the lives of young people, it's the amount of TIME we are willing to invest in them. To the human mind, love itself may as well be spelled T-I-M-E.
OLD-TIME RELIGION VS. THE LATEST STATISTICS
Where the act of church-going among twenty-somethings is concerned, I recently became aware of a Barna Research Group survey that was quite telling. It seems that, no matter how actively involved in church a teen-aged student may have been, between the ages of 20 and 29, the statistics among this group become quite dismal.
According to the survey, these kids see no relevance in their lives for the religious activities of their parents. They want to be mentored. They want to see someone who is living the life successfully and is willing to invest the TIME to teach them how to apply this stuff to the benefit of their own lives. You see, this "me" generation can see no reason for placing their allegiance in something that, on the surface, seems to actually work AGAINST all that they believe to be important at this phase of their lives. They want to know who they'll marry, if they should complete their education, if they'll find a job...important stuff! How are they supposed to handle teachings that tell them to deny themselves and become a servant of all?
So, in seeking the path of least resistance, the majority abandon all that they once claimed was important to them spiritually. If you're in your twenties and reading this, does that describe you?
The research, conducted by Barna with 2,660 twenty-somethings, shows that Americans in their twenties are significantly less likely than any other age group to attend church services (3 out of 10 weekly), to donate to churches (3 out of 10 give anything at all), to be absolutely committed to Christianity (3 out of 10), to read the Bible (3 out of 10), or to serve as a volunteer or lay leader in churches (less than 4%).
Regarding church attendance among this group, the study revealed that it reaches rock bottom during the late 20s - when the vast majority of students have transitioned from college education to joining the workforce. Just 22% of those from age 25 to 29 attended church last week. Of the twenty-somethings who were active church-attenders in their teens (when more than half attended church each week), from high school graduation to age 25 there is a 42% drop in weekly church attendance and a 58% decline from age 18 to age 29.
That's nearly 8 MILLION twenty-somethings alive today who were active church-goers as teenagers but who will NOT be active in a church when their 30th birthday rolls around. Frightening!
IS THERE A BRIGHT SIDE?
I was always taught to accentuate the positive. Ok, I will.
At least, I'll try.
The half FULL glass tells me that a whopping 33% of all American Christian kids from age 20 to 29 are staying faithful to the faith of their fathers. One out of three.
More than 8 out of 10 (80%) said that their religious faith is very important in their life (I'm trying to remain positive here but it STILL reflects that only 1/3 attend church regularly) and nearly 6 out of 10 (57%) claimed to have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life (OK but, again, only 1/3 study the Bible - the teachings of Christ, the very One to whom they claim to be committed - regularly).
The research also showed that young adults are only slightly less likely than older adults to pray, which might reflect their appetite for personal spiritual experience.
Three-quarters of young adults in their 20s (75%) said they had prayed to God in the past week. Super! But I've personally heard from far too many kids that they're not sure if God's hearing their prayers or that He isn't revealing to them His will for their lives. I cannot help but believe that they might have found their answers in a Sunday sermon or in the pages of the Bible - if they had attended Church or read the Bible, that is, BOTH of which the survey says most are NOT doing.
I can't really blame Christian kids for getting turned-off regarding church. After some of the horror stories I've heard of and experienced in Church, it's really no surprise. The average church-kid is exposed to enough division, dissension, gossip, back-biting, church splits, divorce, infidelity, tolerance of sin (and some really BAD teaching to boot) - enough to drop an elephant.
Today's Christian kid is ridiculously ill-prepared for fighting this spiritual warfare on planet Earth because they're being taught by an army of seminarians whose majority, statistically, don't even acknowledge the existence of a literal devil and seriously doubt the inerrancy of Holy Writ.
David Kinnaman, Vice President of the Barna Research Group, and the director of this study, pointed out that twenty-somethings are one of the first age groups to widely embrace the postmodern philosophy. "Since the postmodern viewpoint emphasizes that an individualís experience and personal insight are the prime sources of determining whatís important in life," Kinnaman said, "the decline in Bible usage is another sign that many twenty-somethings are trying to make sense of life without traditional sources of Christian input."
Who has time to spend with these kids? Nobody HAS time. But we MUST make time. Why these twenty-somethings? I'll use Communism to make my point: Where that ideology was concerned, its proponents would teach the philosophy to the young people, give them a gun and send them out to do their bidding. The Communists understood the untapped radicalism that naturally exists in the heart of a kid and they "capitalized" on it. No pun intended. How dare we consider that our kids would want anything to do with our Romanesque, theatre-style, spectator religion?
The cults, too, are preying upn this dissatisfied age group.
PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR MINISTRY
Want a radical idea for ministry to these young folks? Stop ministering to teen-aged kids and start teaching them HOW to minister (from puppeteering to stomp dancing to delivering bags of food to poor neighborhoods, the youngest of children can play a part in ministry). It's a new view on Church that might just stay with them as they mature. It really is better to give than receive.
Stop meeting in "the building" and start meeting in a coffee shop or deli after hours (I've had both these experiences and both were great - Read Acts 16 and see how Paul handled church-planting). They'll love the concept of "BEING" rather than simply "GOING" to church.
Stop meeting Sunday morning and start meeting on the night that works best for the majority ("Sunday at Six" is what we called our weekly service). For four years I held a Wednesday night Bible study at a coffee shop.
Call off service and go eat pizza together or clean-up trash in the neighborhood (then get together and spiritualize the incident). The break in routine will do everyone a lot of good.
Pile in a van and conduct a "drive-by blessing," praying for those in other cars as the Spirit leads. You might be amazed at what He shows you! Again, we can be the church 24/7, not just on when we enter the building.
Grab the guitars and worship God in the park. Light a fire as the sun goes down. Talk and pray together as the stars come out. Bring bug spray and blankets.
Bottom line? What we're doing now - and calling "Church" in the good ol' USA - simply isn't working.
It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. What we Americans refer to as 'church' is crazy. The statistics back me up on that account. And we wonder why these kids are leaving the faith first chance they get.
THE CURE FOR WHAT AILS US.
You know what the problem is, don't you? The problem is that these young people aren't being discipled properly, mainly because WE haven't been either. They are being taught that the Church is a building rather than the Body of Christ across the planet (despite what some ministers preach, their actions betray them). They aren't being trained in the Doctrine of Christ but, rather, in the traditions and dogmas of men and of demons.
They're being taught that Christianity is nothing more than just another religion. It's NOT a religion at all - it's a lifestyle; a lifestyle that's IMPOSSIBLE to live without the infilling of God's precious Holy Spirit.
They're too often being taught that HE - the Holy Spirit - is NOt a person with character traits who actually DOES things - but that He is an "it"; a mere "force. Without living, moving and having our being IN HIM, we have just enough power to attend church services and perhaps bend our arms at the elbow in worship but not much more.
What these young people need is the POWER to overcome that which comes against them. In my travels, I've found that even the devil-worshiper only wants power and that Satan is all too willing to reveal that power, just as he was willing to give it to Jesus in their 40-day wilderness encounter.
These young lions of today want the power to share their faith with supernatural boldness.
They want the power to heal the sick, cast out demons, even speak in new tongues and have spiritual dreams and visions. They want the power to prophecy and move powerfully in the gifts of the spirit, sharing a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom, or sharing a word of encouragement with one who is weary in due season...and turning their life completely around! Instead, they're being told to sit in a pew and listen and...well, act like the rest of us.
We're so good at making man in our own image, aren't we?
Folks, far too many of us want more of Jesus than we're enjoying in our all-too-dead Christian lives but we're afraid to step out of our traditions and ask Him for fear of being ostracized by dead denominationalists. Go ahead! Get ostracized! Knock over those scared cows (that's where the best cuts of meat are found). I can attest that there's an incredibly glorious way to live out our faith 24/7 beyond the four walls of our manmade church buildings and the institution we refer to as "Christianity."
If you want something you don't have you must do what you're not currently doing. Now, get out there and pour your life and love of Christ into someone in their 20's. Show them the Jesus you've come to know and love. Do this and you'll BOTH be blessed beyond measure.
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