Thursday, January 30, 2014

Church, We Have an Emergency

Today, I read a post from We are that Family: One of the Best Things We Can Do for Our Kids in this Culture War. I shared her post to my Facebook page with a quote from the article:
“There’s all this crazy research on why so many kids are leaving the church once they can (every 6 in 10). Why? Some are leaving because it’s the first time they have the freedom to do so. But I think most leave because they don’t know Jesus. They have heard about him their whole lives. They have the t-shirt. But it’s not that personal. I don’t know if there’s a right way to go about it. But I do know it’s not about rules, it’s about relationship.” 
I don’t have kids yet, but this article really hit home for me. I grew up in a Christian family and have attended church since the day I was born. I went to a Christian school from the time I was three to the time I graduated high school. Attending a Christian school meant that we had to attend a Bible class every day of every school year, all of the curriculum was based on Christianity, we had a chapel service every Thursday morning, and we had a very strict code of conduct. You would expect to see lots of great Christian kids graduating from this institution, seeing as how we practically breathed God every day of our education, but the reality is quite different. Out of my graduated class of 33, I can probably count on one hand how many of us are actively pursuing Christ.
The problem is, most of the class would probably say that they still believed in God if you asked them, but if you look at their current life choices you would see something quite different.
One of my classmates is hooked on drugs. Many of them are hooked on alcohol. Some are living with their boyfriends/girlfriends. It’s like when my class entered the college scene they also entered a reality show called “Christian Kids Gone Wild” or something. And the same holds true for the classes that graduated before us and the classes that have graduated after us.
But why?
Yes, you might be able to contribute some of this to their home life. After all, the parents are the most influential in the lives of children. But still, when you are taught day in and day out about God, why are so many abandoning their faith as soon as they walk out of the door?
I think that last sentence answered the question…’s because we were taught about God, but not necessarily taught how to foster a relationship with God. There is a big difference between knowing about God’s existence and the historical aspects behind His Word, and the pursuit of His heart.
Now, please don’t think I’m blaming my high school for all of this, because the same statistics hold true for kids who enter college and leave their church youth group. We see the majority of these kids leaving the church entirely just as soon as they head off to college. We might see them again once they have kids of their own, but for the next few years they are “living large” and “partying it up” and “doing what they want to do because no one can tell them how to live their lives.”
This epidemic isn’t just within Christian schools, it’s a disease within the Church as a whole, and it needs to stop. The truth is, if this continues we are going to wind up missing an entire generation of young people. If our youth are graduating high school and leaving the church, never to be seen again, then what about when they have kids? I shudder to think of the answer.
So what’s the answer? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. This post is more of a “get you thinking” post rather than a “here is the problem and I have the answer” post. But I can tell you that as parents, we have got to start exemplifying a relationship with Christ. And as a Church, as have also got to start exemplifying a relationship with Christ.
We can’t just teach our young people about God, we have to show them God. We have to show them that we are faithful with our tithes. We need to demonstrate prayer time. They need to see us reading our Bibles. They need to see us trusting God when money is tight. They need to see us serving God in our church and in our communities. They need to see us truly worshipping Him, and not just during church services on Sunday morning.
Will this completely heal the disease? No, it won’t. Because at the end of the day our children have to make the choice to follow Christ, and we live in a culture that is extremely hostile towards our faith. But like I said earlier, parents are the most influential in the lives of their children. So if we genuinely pursue Christ and they see that, then we know we have done all that we can do to train them up in the ways of God. We are giving them every opportunity and every example of what Christianity should look like, rather than just giving them a list of do’s and don’ts and expecting them to follow that when they enter the (hostile) college community.
I don’t know what pursuing Christ will look like for your family. Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what I think it should look like. Every family will do things differently, and that’s fine. One family might start a daily devotional at the table after dinner. Another family might make it a point to pray with each of their children when they tuck them in at night. Another family might volunteer at a homeless shelter once a month. The point is not necessarily what you do; it’s just that you do something on a regular basis to demonstrate a relationship with Christ.
And for the record, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are. If they are still living under your roof, you can still make some changes. And even if your kids have already moved out and started college, you can always keep them in prayer and ask that God speak into their lives and that they would be sensitive to His calling.
Again, this post isn’t really a “here is the problem and I have the answer” post. Shoot, I don’t even have kids of my own yet, so you might be sitting there thinking “who does this girl think she is telling me how to raise my children???” This was not meant to be a post where I bash parents everywhere and try to heap shame and guilt on your heads.
But, we have a serious problem in the Church today. And recognizing that problem and thinking about how to correct it is the first step towards recovery.
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  ~2 Chronicles 7:14

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