How many times have we heard parents say, "My kids don't want to go to church anymore, I just don't understand."
We have also heard the secular progressives who seek to redefine the biblical model of marriage and family and devalue the sanctity of life by advancing abortion available to everyone all the time, point out that "this generation rejects the Christian beliefs of the older generation because they have culturally evolved."
And they use statistics like this:
A recent Barna Study reveals that only 1 in 5 Millennials (age 30 and under) consider church to have any importance in their lives.
Another recent Pew Research survey reveals that 29% of Millennials classify themselves as "religiously unaffiliated."
It is true that both studies show there is a disconnect between this generation and church.
Barna also found that 59% of those age 30 and under who were raised in church have dropped out.
Here are some things to consider.
Millennials generally give 3 reasons for dropping out of church---considering themselves "religiously unaffiliated."
1. 35% say the church is irrelevant, it is hypocritical and the leaders too often are moral failures.
2. About the same number say they feel God is missing in church.
3. About 20% say that legitimate doubt or questioning is prohibited in church.
I'll come back to this in a moment.
If this is why about 30% of those who are 30 and under have dropped out of church, we might ask why have the rest who have not dropped out, not done so?
Those who have not dropped out and feel church is important generally say they attend church because, (1) they want to be closer to God, and (2) they want to learn more about God.
However, among those who say they want to feel closer to God, only 1 in 10 of them say that actually happens at church.
And among those who remain affiliated with a church, fewer than 1 in 10---6%---say they learned something about God or Jesus the last time they attended church.
There is a growing epidemic of loneliness in our country. You would believe that many would merely attend church for the feeling of community and creating relationships, yet only 1 in 10 say they go to church for that reason.
So the younger generation say they don't go to church because its irrelevant, hypocritical and the leaders have too many moral failures.
They also check out because "God is missing" and they can't "ask their questions openly."
So they are looking for God, and they are looking for relevance to their lives and the culture.
But they often are not finding it.
Could it be that some churches are so focused on creating cultural "relevance" and making the gospel "relevant" that they have become irrelevant?
I think they have.
I realize the complexity of this matter, but let me be candid in my thoughts. Let's look back, then look forward.
The early Christian church, as profiled in the New Testament, didn't capture the attention of the Roman Empire and its corrupt culture by being culturally "relevant."
The early Christians had no "relevance" to the culture which eventually and famously collapsed from its own internal corruption, except that they offered Truth and a dramatically different narrative.
The early Christian church leaders presented their gospel message in a striking contrast and often polarizing way. They used the cultural events of their time to illustrate, in real time, the profound personal reasons why people should accept Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior.
At Pentecost, Peter told the masses they were responsible for killing Jesus, then told them how much God loved them and who Jesus was and is.
He told them, "This man, Jesus of Nazareth, that God attested to you by miracles, wonders and signs---came for a divine purpose." Peter told them, "You have taken Him by lawless hands, have crucified Him and put Him to death."
"But," Peter told the people of his culture, "the pains of death" could not hold Him. He explained who Jesus was and said, "God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Peter was speaking Truth and relating it to real time events in the culture. He also expressed a dependence upon the Holy Spirit to speak to their hearts in ways that he, a mere man could not.
So they ignored Peter and said, "this is not relevant---I don't relate." Right?
The record shows (Acts 2 ) that the crowds were "cut to the heart" and 3000 of them accepted the message of the gospel and accepted Jesus Christ on that one day. In the following days many were added to the church.
Throughout the months and years that followed there were kings and commoners who accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And there were those who rejected Him, sometimes imprisoning or killing the messenger, but never finding the message "irrelevant."
Today there are more than 2 billion people alive on this earth who claim to be Christians---followers of Jesus Christ.
The church grew, things happened, because the gospel "is" relevant. And the messengers were passionate.
We need not strive to make the gospel "relevant," it just is.
We are too preoccupied with ourselves. Its not about us, its about them---others.
A person never feels closer to God than when they are telling His story of grace and love.
A person never learns more about God than when they are telling others about Him.
The gospel is God's message that He loves you regardless of what you have done, and through Christ, His Son, He will forgive you. His message of redemption is the "Good News."
It is the power of God unto salvation.
These early Christians did not have the resources, tools and opportunities we have today. Today we can app several translations of the Bible on our iPhone. They didn't even have the completed New Testament.
We fly around the world to focus in on church growth techniques, yet statistically many, perhaps most American Christian churches are not growing.
We often have the best tech equipment, sound systems, video and big screens on the market, the early church didn't even have a microphone.
But they were heard. And they changed the world.
If it isn't tools and technique, it must simply be the message. Could that be?
Has the church today become so obsessed with "being relevant" that there is no distinguishable difference between the culture and the church?
This generation is saying "why bother?"
They are also saying please tell me the real story. Give me the unvarnished gospel. Tell me the truth.
Peter told the masses that day that what he was offering was a promise from God and that it was "a promise to them, their children and generations to come."
God's promise to our children is the same promise Peter talked about, Paul wrote about and many of us that are beyond the demographic of 30 and under have accepted and live by.
It is the promise that was sealed and delivered by the death and resurrection of Jesus. That message is always relevant. It cannot and will not be ignored.
It will never be irrelevant. It cannot be irrelevant.
I believe our children are asking us to simply tell them the whole story.
And challenge them to a cause that is greater and bigger than they are.
Perhaps the American church of the 21st Century needs to free itself from the bondage of striving for "relevance" and "emergence" in the culture, and simply present the gospel by defining sin and its consequences and offering the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
And having delivered the message to this generation, challenge them to take that message to every house in the neighborhood, every community across this country, and to every village and city on this earth.
This generation needs a cause. This is the cause and the authorization to do it:
New International Version (NIV)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Be Vigilant. Be Diligent. Be Pro-Active. Be Prayerful. Be Bold. Be Blessed.