Monday, August 5, 2013

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church

Like other saints in the faith that is in Christ Jesus I am drawn to hear someone’s thoughts and observations on the reasons young people leave the church. The concern is legitimate. It merits attention. It demands a response as much from the body of believers as from the leadership. This distinction between the body of believers and the leadership is akin to siblings and parents. An awareness and confidence is vital for the body of believers towards those siblings in Christ who leave the body. Whether the parental leadership has an informed response to the departure of those children is a separate matter.

some perceptions for which they leave the church

Often, and much like the Rachel Evans article reflects, the messenger of this news informs the church of those particular reasons which cause youth to leave the church. Of course, often it is to be noted that these saints head for fellowships such as the Catholic church or others for what is lauded as “high” church. Evans’ itemized message list to eager churches and leaders includes:

I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

It’s an impressive list, if only in the sense that although it is an itemized and substantive item list, in which Evans cites some of the reasons for which youth leave the church. There seems to be  a hope-filled tendency to speak effusively and suggestively of those who leave the church as though they have, 1) an understanding of these problems, and 2) a response to this list of problems in/of the church _ even if the beneficiary of their hope is another fellowship. There’s no need to cast condemnation on those saints anymore than to lavish praise on them for their departure, but this does bring to mind the response of the disciples towards Jesus as we shall see in a moment.

The truth is that often the same lack of understanding and past immaturity in those saints who choose to leave  is merely transplanted elsewhere. This, too, is reflected in Evans’ admission,

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

Initially, it may seem  “so unpretentious.”  It’s just the need and desire for something, if not “cool,” then, new and refreshing. There’s no need to speculate, in that flash spirituality meter of today, as to what Jesus would do, how Jesus would be perceived and how and where Jesus would fall in such a list as the above.

Jesus in reality and as he was perceived

Jesus was perceived as engaging in soft peddling politics. He admonished Israel to render unto Caesar the taxes due to Rome. Israel was to render unto God was due to God. Jesus was political, but not in the manner Israel would have preferred.

Jesus was not political enough for Peter’s liking when he would not stand up to the Roman soldiers and admonished Peter to stop and to put away his sword.

There was no mistaking who were the exclusive twelve Jesus called to himself. He had simultaneously excluded rabbis, scholars, women, and other educated individuals while including working class and scorned tax collectors.

Jesus was perceived as not being old-fashioned enough. He didn’t instruct his disciples to keep the ceremonial hand-washing traditions of the Jews. It was bad enough that he associated with sinners, but even worse that he should talk with women of questionable morality and another one caught in the act of adultery.

He remained unconcerned and would not engage himself in the dispute between brothers over their inheritance.

Lastly, his blunt (hostile?) message to the Sadducees holds no less true for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Jesus said to the Sadducees  that they were “mistaken not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” and that they were “badly mistaken” concerning the man and woman who are given in marriage as, he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5  and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall join to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’”

Essentially, Jesus would be no less than someone young adults would separate from and cease to follow, today. This, too, was a reality Jesus knew quite well when some disciples ceased to follow him any longer and turned away from him.

Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?”
But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?  Then what if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?   It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life.   But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him.  He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is given to him by my Father.”
It also provided the opportunity for Jesus to confront his disciples as to whether they too would turn away and cease to follow after him. Was Jesus being hostile towards the disciples by outwardly exposing their discomfort?

At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.  Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?


Whether young or old saints in Christ decide to discontinue further fellowship with the body of believers with whom they have praised and worshiped the Father is their decision to make. There’s no need to cast condemnation on them. However, there is also no reason to assume that such a decision is one of maturity or confidence and that, in fact, it often reflects neither as being true of the individual. Again, that’s not a disgrace, but it is to be expected leadership and would-be messengers reporting on this problem would show more wisdom than the confidence which those saints often lack in their faith and walk in the Lord. Jesus was no more hostile towards the Sadducees than the church is to be hostile towards ANYBODY and ALL to whom she ministers. Perceptions, and even some instances of reality in the body of Christ, do not constitute a condemnation or rejection of the saints. These DO represent an opportune teachable moment which is to be filled by those who are in the Spirit with the understanding it is not going to be done by the immature or those lacking in confidence.