Why Ninety-Nine Out Of Ten Millennials Leave The Church
by Michael C. Sherrard
As the scintillating Richard G. Howe says, “three out of two people are bad at fractions.” Fewer, I imagine, are good at statistics. Statistics are useful and powerful in telling a story but are often misleading. In fact, statistics can be used to tell any story you want depending on how the questions are asked and the findings presented. And so goes it with the mass exodus of young adults leaving the church. We want to know why. Polls then are taken, findings are presented, and the blogopshere runs wild with them. Thus we find our social media filled with articles telling us the five reasons millennials have forsaken God. And this is fine. Do not misunderstand my point here. I only want to add one thought to this discussion, and it is this. People never give you the real reason they leave church.
When people leave the church, the reasons they offer either make themselves look good or the church look bad. Sometimes this is accomplished in the same reason. No one, though, ever offers their affair with fantasy football and their Sunday morning sport shows as a reason. No one ever tells you how they were not invited to a baby shower and let bitterness harbor in their heart for two years as they slowly removed themselves from the fellowship. And no one ever offers their lifestyle of sinful indulgence as the reason for abandoning the bride of Christ.
Excuse my boldness, but I think the leading factor in why millennials are leaving the church is sexual sin. This will never show up on a poll. I will be glad to find myself wrong about this. But I hear all too often the same story from youth ministers. The norm for youth groups across the country is to have all of their upperclassmen actively engaged in sex, or pornography, or both. It is rare, youth ministers tell me, to find a male high school student that has not had sex or been exposed to pornography. And it is nearly as rare to find a female upperclassmen that is still a virgin or abstaining from “not all the way” sexual activity. The message youth ministers want parents to hear is that they need to assume that their sons and daughters are playing with sex because they all are. In a culture that praises the self and is drowning in sexual sin, it is easy to see why millennials have lost the wonder of God and grown tired of His church.
Intellect is not driving teenagers out of the church. Their hearts are abandoning God long before their minds. It is right to equip teenagers with the reasons for Christian faith. But there is something that ought come before the cosmological argument. The greatest lesson the church needs in apologetics is holiness. Seeking to dispel blind faith is a waste of time if we are going to turn a blind eye to sin.
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