Growing up in the 60s and 70s, mine is the generation that created the need for the term “generation gap.” We were neat, keen, righteous. They were hopeless. We understood the times, they were mired in the past. I thought I’d always be part of the cool group, the in-crowd. I got older anyway. So I need some help here.
A recent article by Laura Sessions Stepp on CNN’s website reported on a new book by the president of the Barna Group, David Kinnaman. She writes,
[In] You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith,” [Kinnaman] says that 18- to 29-year-olds have fallen down a “black hole” of church attendance. There is a 43% drop in Christian church attendance between the teen and early adult years, he says.
I’m not surprised. These young dropouts value the sense of community their churches provide but are tired of being told how they should live their lives. They don’t appreciate being condemned for living with a partner, straight or gay, outside of marriage or opting for abortion to terminate an unplanned pregnancy.
Further down the page, she adds:
Seven in 10 millennials say sex between an unmarried man and woman is morally acceptable. (According to Kinnaman, young Christians are as sexually active as non-Christians.)
I know society’s views on extra-marital sexuality have changed. I guess I never expected self-described Christians to follow the crowd. Aren’t we called to be different?
In thinking this over, it seems that there are three possible reasons for this statistic.
- Millennial Christians interpret Scripture differently.
- Millennial Christians don’t believe the Bible is the word of God.
- Millennial Christians don’t care what God says.
The first option, that we’re dealing with differing interpretations, concerns me the least. While I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, I don’t have much confidence that my reading of God’s word is always right. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be surprised when I finally get to meet the Author face to face. Good arguments have been presented on both sides of many controversial topics.
The second possibility worries me far more. If we don’t believe God wrote the Bible, we have no foundation for our other beliefs. Yet, while the term “evangelical” implies a belief in the Bible as God’s word, not all who call themselves Christian are evangelical.
I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that the majority of millennials fall under number three. They believe in God. They believe the Bible expresses the will of God. But they don’t give a hoot. As the three-year-old I was babysitting told me (while attempting to use his mother’s sewing machine)—“Don’t tell me ‘no’!”
Stepp cites an interview with a 24-year-old woman as a typical example:
She enrolled in college thinking of herself as a conservative and not wanting to have sex until she was married. Her views changed when she met her boyfriend.
It’s easy to hold a conviction when nothing has come along to challenge it. Seems this woman faced God’s test—Will you still obey Me when it costs you something?—and failed.
Maybe I’m just out of touch with current issues, obsolete, over the hill, holding on to prudish standards that no longer apply. So tell me… is there a fourth reason I’m missing? Or is the majority of this generation more in love with the world than they are with God?
“There is a 43% drop in Christian church attendance between the teen and early adult years”.
And that decline increases as people grow older.
I doubt that all this is because people are young and horny, but because church attendance has virtually nothing to do with walking with God. It seems to me that most church meetings differ little from PTA meetings.
I wonder why anybody bothers to attend.
John, I’ve actually given that a lot of thought… why we go to church. And while we can certainly walk with God on our own, we are called to be part of a body of believers. I blogged my conclusion-to-date at http://blogs.icta.net/mom/2011/08/why-do-you-go-to-church/#more-3773 and http://blogs.icta.net/mom/2011/08/love-body/. I’d be very interested in your feedback.