First, there is this piece by Dr. Albert Mohler, discussing the disturbing trend among "evangelicals" to discount and attempt to discredit the inerrancy of the Bible. Read it. It used to be that a hallmark of the evangelical was the belief that God's word is true and inerrant. Pay attention, friends.
Then, there is this article that a friend on Facebook linked, which discusses the fact that we are losing the current generation of teenagers in droves because so many just do not see church and Christianity as relevant to their lives. This article, in particular, struck a nerve with me - I have a son who has just entered middle school and two more children who are following quickly behind him. The article makes some valid points, and, as my friend rightly pointed out, there are many factors leading to the exodus of our youth from church and from Christianity, but I think that the experts are missing a vital, vital, vital clue to the underlying problem. They are quick to blame 'unchurched parents', and I am sure that is huge, but that is not the biggest challenge, I believe.
I believe the biggest challenge, the biggest reason that our youth find what we offer them in our 'evangelical' churches to be largely irrelevant, goes directly to the battle Dr. Mohler is outlining in his article. I talked about the book Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer some time ago and you can see that here. That book was the result of a study commissioned by Answers in Genesis to try to get at why we seem to be losing the next generation. We all see the statistics and I don't think anyone argues that we seem to be losing them. The problem is trying to identify why. The book opened my eyes and was somewhat shocking in that what they found was that we aren't losing kids in high school or college as we thought, but we are losing them intellectually and spiritually much younger, though they may still be sitting in the pews, when they are not able to reconcile what they are hearing in the world and what they are taught at church. We err when we teach the Bible as unrelated 'stories' but are not diligent to teach the full counsel of the word, from early on. We err when we give the impression that you come to church to learn 'Bible stories' and you go to school to learn 'facts.' Even in churches that say we hold to the truth and inerrancy of scripture, where we give lip service to holding a high view of the Bible, somehow we seem to be dropping the ball in teaching it to the next generation, by and large.
The natural result of not holding that high view of scripture and teaching it well and as a whole is to eventually jettison its authority. And then you lose 'relevance.' I'm just not convinced that the problem is that youth today are bored with pizza parties and entertainment. I think it's deeper than that. I'm not saying don't offer pizza or that youth events can't be fun. I'm just saying that somehow we've got to do more and to show them that God's word is more than relevant - it is vital. Somehow we've got to reach them younger and somehow we've got to be able to articulate real, true, valid answers to the questions kids have. Sadly, by the time a lot of kids ever reach the youth group, their minds are already made up and they've already decided that the Bible is irrelevant. I don't think it's the youth group necessarily that's making them think that, I think some of them have already arrived at that conclusion before they ever get to that age. We can't tell them, "Just trust in Jesus," when they don't understand why they should. There is true truth. If we compromise on any part of it - and it really does go back to the beginning - then the foundation crumbles. We have to give them answers to evolution and science and all the other things that they are hearing in the world. And they need to be true answers, real answers. It involves knowing what we believe, and being able to give a defense of the faith. It involves being convinced that God's word is true and not compromising on this. This is one reason I am really thankful for the ministry of Answers in Genesis. They have helped me to really think out the faith and ground my suppositions on the truth of God's word and to do it thoughtfully and critically, not blindly. And it has helped me to know how to supply good, solid answers to the questions my children ask - sometimes even before they know to ask them.
My heart breaks for our generation and the generations coming behind us. My heart also breaks because I, personally, have been too self-centered and selfish and busy to get as involved in teaching as I should be. It's real easy for me to sit here at a blog and diagnose the problem, much, much harder to be part of the solution. I'm aware of that. I'm also aware that there are youth pastors and workers who struggle with and labor diligently with how to communicate the truth to kids who are so jaded and distracted by the time they ever get to the youth group doors that it's hard to win a hearing with the truth. May I wake up and first of all get on my knees and pray for wisdom, and may I get involved in the fight for the truth. I pray my children will see and know and embrace the Truth, and I pray that I will be more faithful to speak up and find where I need to be serving my Lord in proclaiming the Truth.