Church Leadership Fails Christian Youth
In 2005, while living in the UK, I spent a day in London with other para-church ministry leaders (he was with OM UK at the time) reviewing a study commissioned by Campus Crusade for Christ. The study repeated similar work done seven years earlier. Over a thousand young people aged 11-17 were polled to gauge their Christian awareness and understanding. The most stunning finding concerned their understanding of salvation. The numbers believing they would go to heaven by accepting Jesus Christ as their saviour had dipped sharply over just seven years from 66% to only 28%. Confusion also surrounded their understanding of Christianity. For example:
- Only 58% believed Jesus rose from the dead.
- 35% believed all religions led to God.
- Only 45% believed the Bible was accurate in all its teachings and only 33% believed judgement by God followed death.
- Less than 40% said they looked to the Bible for moral guidance.
In 2010 Peter Brieley, the respected Christian researcher in the UK told attendees at the Pentecost Festival that by 2020 the numbers going to Church is projected to drop from 3.5 million (in 2010) to 2.3 million. He said the drop in attendance is due to less evangelism. “The loss of young people is especially serious. In the 2020s, many churchgoers will die out,” he warned. With 59 per cent of all churches in England having no members between the ages of 15 and 19 Brieley said it was becoming as important for the church to keep young people already in the church as it was to reach new young people outside the Church. While 60 per cent of British people are not in the church, that figure rises to around 80% among the under-15s and around 75% per cent among 15 to 29-year-olds (reported in Christian Today, May 2010).
American pollster George Barna has reported only 15% of those who attend churches in the USA rank their faith as their top priority. Less than half (41%) of over 6,000 adults surveyed in 2001 believed that the Bible was trustworthy. Fifty-seven percent of Baptists believed works plays a part in salvation and 47% believe Jesus was not sinless. Little wonder that Barna has discovered (2006) that of the 38% of Americans who called themselves evangelical only 8% actually fitted the doctrinal criteria. These alarming statistics all point to a Church in the West that has veered off the narrow road. The most poignant figures to come out of the USA relate to the haemorrhaging of young people from the Church. According to Dr Noble of Summit Ministries a massive 80% of young southern Baptists leave that denomination, with some returning in later life. Across all denominations the figure is believed to be around 65%. Young people, raised in the Church, who go to university, also leave the Church in droves and many never return.
These statistics point to a manifest and inter-generational failure of Church leadership that has left the churches full of effete Christians, with a poor understanding of doctrine, history and effective Christian evangelistic engagement and apologetics. Why remain in a Church that stands for very little and is happy to compromise on doctrine to fit into the secular world. When the Church is so much like the world youth see little reason to stay in it. There is no strong conviction that Christians have a higher calling on their lives and only a poorly conceived understanding of a larger Christian cause in a post Christian Western world. The failure of leadership and the flagrant disregard for correct doctrine is killing the Church by robbing it of its next generation.