I’ve written before on why young people are leaving the church. In trying to further assess the problem, the “causes” and “cures” below are what I gleaned as I listened to interviews between Sean McDowell (Christian case maker) and Jon (of the band Hawk Nelson). Jon had announced that he was sorta stepping away from Christianity. I heard clues throughout regarding what caused Jon’s crumbling foundation. And those things match what I hear/see in the general population.
An increased tendency to think the Bible is unreliable; that there’s no way to really know truth; some of the Bible is probably myth/fiction; the Bible has been edited/tampered with.
CURE: Though the downplaying of Scripture can be noisy/aggressive, evidence for the reliability of the Bible is overwhelming. Consider Josh McDowell’s classic Evidence That Demands a Verdict or J. Warner (Jim) Wallace’s material at Cold-Case Christianity. It’s especially compelling when research has come through former atheists like Josh and Jim.
Culture’s wrong-but-loud portrayal of the church/Christians. Christians billed as haters, exclusive … Christianity as “just a bunch of rules.” This makes Christians not want to be associated. [Sidebar: Another layer here is that we ourselves can subconsciously be wanting to disobey some of the Lord’s commands. We don’t see what the big deal is. In that case, dark mischief is happy to help by planting doubts. And if we read writers/blog posts that lead us further that way …]
CURE: Do the math. For example, when someone says “The church promotes racism,” insist on numbers. How many Christians are there in the world? How many “promote racism”? Of course, even one is bad, but don’t allow sweeping statements. That’s not legit, stand-up-in-court-type evidence. In researching such things, showcase some of the bazillion examples of sacrificial, loving Christians who work for the Lord in spite of danger, financial loss, and health issues. (If you can’t think of any, you need to get out more! Sorry.)
Christians don’t know the answers to the perennial questions that skeptics ask. (Like, “Why does God allow suffering?”)
CURE: Easy. Study those! No one knows everything, of course. But there’s helpful (and simple) info in the book 77 FAQs About God and the Bible (by Josh and Sean McDowell). Also good starter info via Got Questions. Scholars like Dr. Jack Cottrell tackle difficult topics. Besides his shorter articles there, click on the “Books By Jack” tab to get to academic-but-understandable books that go deeper.
There’s a push to want to FEEL something spiritual (and we have a false idea of what that might mean).
CURE: Teach the difference between objective truth and subjective feelings. Showcase Bible-times believers and modern Christians who lived/live with adventure, danger, and sense of purpose as they stood/stand strong to obey God and walk his path. What feelings accompany all that? Go thou and do likewise!
Clever marketing declares that all religions teach the same basics. But we’re seeing only the on-the-surface points and very sanitized versions of the world religions, along with a redefinition of certain terms. Jon in the interview mentioned reading Richard Rohr, Carl Jung, world religion stuff. It’s fine to read other views—we need to know in order to compare. But false teaching can sound plausible if we haven’t studied beneath the surface and haven’t equally dug in to Bible truth.
CURE: Learn the foundation points of the world religions, cults, occult. Learn how they contradict Christianity and, therefore, can’t mix. (See this “Worldviews” document.) It’s either/or. We also need to better understand foundational Christian theology, per the Bible. Dr. Jack Cottrell’s book The Faith Once for All digs in, systematically, to vital topics like the nature of God, deity of Jesus, angels and demons … and with tons of Scripture references on every page.
Friends, are those cures showing up in your dinnertime conversations and in the teen/college classes at your church?
I applaud Jon for his honesty and vulnerability in speaking publicly with Sean. And I applaud Sean’s sincere concern, kind attitude, and scholarship. May his tribe increase! If you’re interested in hearing those actual interviews, here’s the first. And here’s the follow-up interview.