According to Michael Haverluck at OneNewsNow.com, there appears to be an inverse correlation between higher education, a lowering of one’s faith, and young people abandoning what I would label a traditional church.
He quotes Allen Downey – who teaches at Olin College – as he disclosed statistics from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s (CIRP) 2016 Freshman Survey:
“Most of this growth [of non-traditional Christianity] comes at the expense of Catholicism, which dropped from 32 percent to 23 percent, and mainstream Protestant denominations including Baptists (from 17 percent to 7 percent), and Methodists (from 9 percent to 3 percent). At the same time, the number of students choosing ‘Other Christian’ increased from 5 percent to 13 percent.”
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My translation: While faith among young people in general was on a decline, those who still held strongly to faith were moving from traditional churches to non-denominational Christianity.
Does this mean that they’re moving to a less traditional non-denominational church of like faith or are they leaving the church altogether and just marking ‘Other Christian’ because they’re not sure who or what they are?
Does it really matter which one is true? If they’re leaving the traditional for the non-traditional, then there’s a reason. Likewise, if they’re leaving their faith altogether, there is also a reason.
So, what’s the reason?
Speaking as someone who moved from a staunch Baptist church to a Baptist-affiliated church that doesn’t have “Baptist” anywhere on the sign, I can sum up the reason for my move in one word: ineffectiveness. I had grown tired of all the religious hoopla and longed for something real, something deeper, something that was Bible-based and making a difference in the world. So, while my faith and my beliefs absolutely did not change, I opted to move to a church that still held my core beliefs yet had broken from what the traditional Baptist church had become.
There are a lot of traditions that I still hold dear – few of which take place inside the formal walls of the local church. In fact, what I found was that my previous church (and not a bad church at all) had transformed itself into something that looked nothing like the early church I see defined in the Bible. Traditions, programs, projects, and just about every other aspect of church life had turned inward. The programs were for “our” people. The projects benefited “our” people. The traditions spoke to “our” people. Meanwhile, there were people outside our four walls who needed us to go to them and do one thing: Care.
So while we were “doing church” to benefit ourselves, savvy young folk were leaving in droves because they saw through the veil. They saw something that we claimed to be about God and others actually being about ourselves. We gave them nothing deep to hold onto so they looked elsewhere.
The church (regardless of the denomination) that has become this self-focused has ceased to equip Christians to live uprightly in this world. It fails to reach the younger generation with something firm and tangible that they can take with them. So, when faced with worldly ideology, they quickly glom onto that ideology because they weren’t given a Christian worldview by the church they grew up in and, thus, are groping for something that they can label as truth.
This writer would urge Christians of all denominations to examine your own faith to see if you’re equipping the next generation, giving people a rock-solid faith to hang onto, and making a positive difference in the world around you. In a phrase, are you living and passing on a Christian worldview or are you simply going through traditional rituals? You know – are you living out true faith or are you practicing religion? There’s a difference.
The next generation is exiting through the back doors of our churches and never looking back. For the love of humanity, somebody close the door!
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