Here’s an episode of the Cold Case Christianity podcast that I really liked. This is one you definitely do not want to miss. I wanted to summarize the first topic of three that he covers, because it’s something that’s been coming up a lot lately. Topics 2 and 3 are worth listening to, as well.
You can grab the MP3 file here.
Topic #1: Why are young people leaving church?
- problem: not convinced Christianity is true
- problem: apparent conflict with science
- problem: unanswered questions
- problem: difficulties inside the church
- problem: the church’s (correct) position on same-sex marriage
Jim’s claim: if people do not think that the Bible is accurate and divinely inspired, then they are going to be tempted to pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe
Jim reads a blog post from a young lady who attends church, and here are her top problems with the church:
- you can’t ask questions
- you can’t voice your doubts
- you can’t explain your struggles
- you can’t confess your sins
- you can’t confide your fears
And she wants the leadership to be real and open about these things as well.
Wallace says that there here are two main problems that teens run into at college:
- intellectual skepticism
- selfish desires, especially in sexual areas
It’s aggravated by the hostile university setting (skeptical professors), and a culture of drinking and sex.
The university culture is offering you a worldview that makes your selfish desires more permissible and normal. Unless people have a compelling reason not to reject that, they won’t reject it. It’s the path of least resistance to conform to the expectations of your peers and professors. Our aim should be to provide young people with evidence before they face the skepticism in college.
Another major problem facing young people is the Christian position on homosexuality and gay marriage. Christian teachings on sexuality in general are viewed with suspicion, and these things are not discussed or debated in the church. One way to respond to this is to defend the reliability of Scripture. (Note: I think another way to respond is to give secular reasons for what the Bible teaches, and to help young people link their decisions about sexuality with their larger life plan).
Topic 2 was about objective vs cultural moral standards, and topic 3 was about whether different denominations differ in essentials or in peripheral issues.
My thoughts on topic #1
This week I’ve been spending time with a younger Christian discussing apologetics with her and we have had some different life experiences and she sometimes asks me to explain what happened. So I’ve been telling about some of the problems I had trying to map what the Bible says onto real life. I’m not going to post them here, but there were definitely problems dealing with my parents, my peers in school, my co-workers and church people. I kept trying to do good things, like trying to talk about my faith at work, and sometimes, very unexpected things happened to me. So telling about these struggles does convey the sort of seriousness that I think is lacking in the church environment.
So my point here is this. If you are dealing with young people, it might be a good idea to not gloss over these problems and keep everything at the surface level. Talk to them about what a Christian life should look like and the struggles you had trying to live it out. Talk to them about their plans, and how different decisions are going to affect those plans. Talk to them about their grades. Talk to them about their future profession. Talk to them about apologetics. Talk to them about politics and economics, so they know how to vote for their futures. Basically, they should have the idea that you are interested in whether Christianity is true or not, and that you are interested in them make some sort of plan to serve God and making the decisions they need to get there. You should tell young people your plan and how you are funding it and working on it, in order to prod them to make their own plan.
So if the problem is perceived lack of authenticity, then the solution is to talk to young people like grown ups and give them insight. This is my plan to serve God. This is my plan for my marriage. This is why I think Christianity is true. This is what I want my kids to end up like. This is what I want my wife to do. This is how I intend to fund all this. These are the laws/public policies that help/hurt my plan. These are the problems and struggles I’ve had implementing my plan. Here is an area where my sinfulness is really messing up my plan. When I talk to other Christians, we talk about these issues relevant to my plan.
It’s this kind of frank talk about what you are trying to do (and what role self-control plays in your plans) that helps young people to get serious about their beliefs. Don’t reduce the whole religion to rituals and feelings – it’s a mistake.