The second biggest reason young people leave the church

By Jack Wilkie

Among the tens of thousands of people who have left the faith as they’ve gone through their high school and college years over the past few generations there are probably tens of thousands of reasons why they left. Each person might have dozens of different events, questions, doubts, or desires that led them in a different direction. But at the heart of it all, when you listen to those who have left when they talk about why they moved on from the church, two clear reasons can be seen at the foundation of each person’s departure. In this article we’ll look at the second biggest reason, and next week’s article will focus on the #1 reason they leave the church.

They don’t think like Christians

It seems so obvious, and yet it keeps on happening. We all know that it can be hard to be a Christian sometimes and that sometimes the only thing that keeps a person steady is the knowledge that Christianity is true, and that no matter how we feel about serving God in a given moment we have to persevere because it’s the right thing to do. Unfortunately, those who have left the church don’t have that mindset. In fact, research shows that there are plenty of people who are still members of churches who don’t think like Christians, either.

In 2009 the Barna Group surveyed the worldviews of Americans. In the study they gave a very broad definition of the Christian worldview based on six principles: that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. What they found was that only 19% of those “born agains” agreed with all six statements compared with 9% of the American public. Most shocking, however, is the fact that less than .5% of people between the age of 18-23 held to those six biblical beliefs.

The younger generations have almost completely rejected the Bible’s teachings, and their Christian peers are often right there with them in disowning God’s words. One study showed that religious progressives easily outnumber religious conservatives among Millennials. Younger Christians are more likely to be accepting of popular sins like homosexuality. More of them are accepting of evolution than their predecessors. They leave because they simply don’t think like Christians. God’s word isn’t a lamp unto their feet nor a light unto their path.

If you’re a parent, think about your own children for a second. Or, if you’re a church leader, think of the young people in your church. Can they answer why they believe in the Bible? Can they explain why the Bible is against fornication, pornography, homosexuality, transgenderism, and any of today’s other popular sins? Can they “give an answer for the hope that is within them?” If you’re not sure, just ask them. Help them see the world through God’s eyes and start building that biblical worldview before the world does everything in its power to turn them from it. There are a lot of hard questions out there that are going to be thrown at them from every angle. If they haven’t already been trained to think like Christians when those questions hit them, it might be too late.

What young people need as much as anything is a solid foundation in the truth. They need apologetics. They need to know how to defend their faith against the world’s attacks. Sometimes we get so stuck in teaching against the biggest threats of the past that we miss the bigger, more current heresies challenging the youth and our fellow Christians. Parents, ministers, Bible class teachers – encourage questions, and be ready to answer them. Yes, even the difficult, uncomfortable ones. We can’t afford to keep on losing young people because they haven’t been trained to think like Christians.


Keep an eye out for next week’s article on “The biggest reason young people leave the church.”

Jack Wilkie presents “The Lost Generation” seminar on keeping the young faithful around the country for Focus Press. To have him speak at your congregation you can contact him at jack@focuspress.org. 

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