Why are churches losing their young people?

Findings from a Southern Baptist-sponsored study of young adults leaving the church:

70 percent of 18-year-olds who attended church regularly in high school quit by age 23: they don’t like it. And by age 30, 34 percent still have not rebounded. That means one in four young Protestants has left the church.

On their laundry list of reasons: they wanted a break (27%), church is too judgmental (26%), they moved away to college (25%), busy with work (23%).

On the positive side, the 30 percent who kept attending church cited solid spiritual reasons, including: “it’s vital to my relationship with God” (65%) and church “helps guide my everyday decisions” (58%).

So churches lose three-fourths of their young people. About half of those eventually come back. But one-fourth never do.

Some of this can be explained in terms of the natural separation that happens when young adults break with their families on the road to starting families of their own. Church is something they did with their parents, so, in their separation from their parents, church gets dropped. Once they become parents themselves, church becomes a part of their lives again.

And yet, separating from the church is dangerous, since in this interim young people often fall into serious sin, which, as the Bible teaches, if not dealt with and forgiven, can harden the heart and become a pretext for unbelief.

There are other factors: The more legalistic the church–that is, the more the church seems all about strict external rules and harsh monitoring of behavior, rather than internalizing the law through the Gospel– the more eager the young person is to get out of there. Also thoughtful young people often find their churches so unthoughtful that they readily consider all of Christianity to be childish. Then there are the widely ineffective Youth Groups that, in trying to address the lack of interest, often make it worse.

This is an enormously important issue for churches to address, so let’s use this blog to get at some answers: Did YOU break away from church? Why? What brought you back? What could the church have done to keep you and to minister to you through that crucial period of your life? Or, why did you stay? What was your church doing right?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Bror Erickson

    I can’t say I ever left the church. I’m not sure why I stayed. But the one thing ican say the church did right was to preach the gospel in its purity, and administer the sacraments according to Christ’s institution. Later in life when circumstances forced a hiatus from my home church, I still attended chapel.
    That was an eye opening experience for me. I remember getting up with friends to hike a mountain side to a small little chapel in the Italian alps for Easter Sunrise service, only to learn that it really did not matter if Christ rose from the dead or not, as long as he lives in your heart. Empty platitudes like that got me wondering why I was going to church at all. For the first time in my life I met people who had gone to church their whole lives, some even went to seminary, and had never heard the Gospel. This was as true for the fundamentalists as it was for the liberals, who both focused on morality in one form or another. I could definately see how that would drive one away from the church. It drove me to seminary.
    Though I always found confirmation to be a bore, I am now grateful for it. The church does well to teach its distinctive doctrines. I never found much great about Youth group, more parents trying to choose your friends. It did introduce me to skiing though.

  • Bror Erickson

    I can’t say I ever left the church. I’m not sure why I stayed. But the one thing ican say the church did right was to preach the gospel in its purity, and administer the sacraments according to Christ’s institution. Later in life when circumstances forced a hiatus from my home church, I still attended chapel.
    That was an eye opening experience for me. I remember getting up with friends to hike a mountain side to a small little chapel in the Italian alps for Easter Sunrise service, only to learn that it really did not matter if Christ rose from the dead or not, as long as he lives in your heart. Empty platitudes like that got me wondering why I was going to church at all. For the first time in my life I met people who had gone to church their whole lives, some even went to seminary, and had never heard the Gospel. This was as true for the fundamentalists as it was for the liberals, who both focused on morality in one form or another. I could definately see how that would drive one away from the church. It drove me to seminary.
    Though I always found confirmation to be a bore, I am now grateful for it. The church does well to teach its distinctive doctrines. I never found much great about Youth group, more parents trying to choose your friends. It did introduce me to skiing though.

  • http://heresyhunter.blogspot.com Bob Hunter

    I left in my teens, although I never stopped believing the Gospel message. The reason for leaving? I could say because it became boring, which it was, but the real reason is sin. I suppose some church program or watered-down Osteen approach could have kept me there, but since the reason for staying would have been wrong, I doubt it would have done any good. I came back when I was in my thirties when I came to the end of my rope and had nowhere else to turn to but to Christ.

  • http://heresyhunter.blogspot.com Bob Hunter

    I left in my teens, although I never stopped believing the Gospel message. The reason for leaving? I could say because it became boring, which it was, but the real reason is sin. I suppose some church program or watered-down Osteen approach could have kept me there, but since the reason for staying would have been wrong, I doubt it would have done any good. I came back when I was in my thirties when I came to the end of my rope and had nowhere else to turn to but to Christ.

  • Joe

    I left in my college years. I think the reason I left was a lack of catecheses. I really did not think I needed to be in church. I figured it all out and did not need any preacher to tell me anything. I used to hold up my Bible and smugly ask, “Since I can read this book why do I need a pastor to tell me anything? I have it all right here.” Of course, I wasn’t in the habit of reading my Bible and my Bible could not administer the sacraments.

    After my wife and I married we were invited to a LCMS church by a friend. I was raised ELCA and my wife went to an Assembly of God run high school. We liked the Church and the purity of the gospel and have been in the LCMS ever since.

  • Joe

    I left in my college years. I think the reason I left was a lack of catecheses. I really did not think I needed to be in church. I figured it all out and did not need any preacher to tell me anything. I used to hold up my Bible and smugly ask, “Since I can read this book why do I need a pastor to tell me anything? I have it all right here.” Of course, I wasn’t in the habit of reading my Bible and my Bible could not administer the sacraments.

    After my wife and I married we were invited to a LCMS church by a friend. I was raised ELCA and my wife went to an Assembly of God run high school. We liked the Church and the purity of the gospel and have been in the LCMS ever since.

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank

    I left when I was in my early teens. What was being preached in my LCA home church was not Christ so I looked at church as just a social club. The pastor was more interested in talking about pop culture so as to connect and be relevant than to talking about sin and the reason we might actually need Jesus to deal with that sin problem. Church as an experiential event was in the mix as well.
    The sermon that made the most impact on me was the one about how the Bible must be true because Hollywood just made Raiders of the Lost Ark. The reasoning was that if it was in the movies, then the fact of the Ark was proven. Eventually I declared myself an atheist and made the case that all religions must be treated equally.
    What brought me back was utter despair. After years of looking inward for a sense of purpose, and with what I thought were overwhelming problems, I prayed in a lonely motel room for guidance from the God whom I denied for so many years.
    When I asked the missus if I could attend church with her, I was a “bit” of an enthusiast. It took me a while to figure it all out. But what my current congregation did right was welcoming me in while being VERY patient with me, helping me to understand my need for a savior separate of any experiential event driven by my feelings.

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank

    I left when I was in my early teens. What was being preached in my LCA home church was not Christ so I looked at church as just a social club. The pastor was more interested in talking about pop culture so as to connect and be relevant than to talking about sin and the reason we might actually need Jesus to deal with that sin problem. Church as an experiential event was in the mix as well.
    The sermon that made the most impact on me was the one about how the Bible must be true because Hollywood just made Raiders of the Lost Ark. The reasoning was that if it was in the movies, then the fact of the Ark was proven. Eventually I declared myself an atheist and made the case that all religions must be treated equally.
    What brought me back was utter despair. After years of looking inward for a sense of purpose, and with what I thought were overwhelming problems, I prayed in a lonely motel room for guidance from the God whom I denied for so many years.
    When I asked the missus if I could attend church with her, I was a “bit” of an enthusiast. It took me a while to figure it all out. But what my current congregation did right was welcoming me in while being VERY patient with me, helping me to understand my need for a savior separate of any experiential event driven by my feelings.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Never left–if anything, my blessing was to leave unbelief in older years to understand what a blessing the church is, even when she is quite imperfect.

    I can understand why some faithful do leave, though, and a key reason is a failure to integrate the Gospel with all facets of life.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Never left–if anything, my blessing was to leave unbelief in older years to understand what a blessing the church is, even when she is quite imperfect.

    I can understand why some faithful do leave, though, and a key reason is a failure to integrate the Gospel with all facets of life.

  • http://blog.faith-filled.com/ Stephenie

    I never left, but I think I know why. In confirmation class, I think I was one of the only kids who not only had head knowledge, but heart knowledge. The faith that was dormant in some of my peers was more active in me. It wasn’t about graduating from church as some see confirmation. It was about becoming a more mature member of God’s kingdom. The kids in my class didn’t seem to see the point.

    When I got to high school and started attending youth group meetings, I got connected with other kids who valued church. It was so refreshing and strengthening for me – to pray and do Bible study with others who had a growing, maturing faith. They shared their faith with me, and it made a huge difference.

    I don’t think that other peers necessarily have to be present, but somebody has to tell kids why their faith is important. Witness to them. Tell them how you use it in everyday decisions and situations.

    As a parent, I use teachable moments all the time. I talk to my children and my students about my faith in a personal way, in addition to catechetical instruction.

    I don’t think they’ll view us as hypocrits, if we take them through the process of sin, confession, and repentance.

    They may see this personal Savior, this Friend and Redeemer who daily saves us from our sinful selves. The Holy Spirit can work through us to strengthen others’ faith.

  • http://blog.faith-filled.com/ Stephenie

    I never left, but I think I know why. In confirmation class, I think I was one of the only kids who not only had head knowledge, but heart knowledge. The faith that was dormant in some of my peers was more active in me. It wasn’t about graduating from church as some see confirmation. It was about becoming a more mature member of God’s kingdom. The kids in my class didn’t seem to see the point.

    When I got to high school and started attending youth group meetings, I got connected with other kids who valued church. It was so refreshing and strengthening for me – to pray and do Bible study with others who had a growing, maturing faith. They shared their faith with me, and it made a huge difference.

    I don’t think that other peers necessarily have to be present, but somebody has to tell kids why their faith is important. Witness to them. Tell them how you use it in everyday decisions and situations.

    As a parent, I use teachable moments all the time. I talk to my children and my students about my faith in a personal way, in addition to catechetical instruction.

    I don’t think they’ll view us as hypocrits, if we take them through the process of sin, confession, and repentance.

    They may see this personal Savior, this Friend and Redeemer who daily saves us from our sinful selves. The Holy Spirit can work through us to strengthen others’ faith.

  • http://castingoutnines.wordpress.com Robert Talbert

    I could give a very long and rather bitter answer to all those questions, as I had a highly negative church experience growing up. But I’ll keep it short:

    I broke away from the church almost the moment I started college. I think I can boil it down to a short list of reasons. First, growing up, my church experience was all about sensationalism, revivalistic experience, and superficial/cultural Christianity. Second, the level of backbiting and infighting among the people in our church, and especially among pastors of different churches, was so great you just wouldn’t believe it.

    Thirdly, and finally, when I arrived at my university for undergrad, I joined up with the campus student union for my denomination. And I was consciously ignored by all the students in that organization while other students were accepted. Talk about emotionally devastating. On top of this, I took some courses in college which challenged my beliefs, and since my church only cared about personal experience and social status, I had no intellectual basis for what I believed, and the whole hollow structure fell into itself.

    What made me come back was finding a church — in this case a PCA presbyterian church with a strong Reformed leaning, although these days I am going to a Lutheran church — which held to the truth, didn’t insult my intelligence, actually challenged me to use (and reform) my intelligence, and didn’t try to force me into a particular mold. I found out that the Gospel actually allowed me to be free to be myself, while at the same time changing those parts that needed changing.

    My church growing up could have held on to me if it would have been more authentic, less socially oriented, and above all not treated me like some idiot kid who never thought about anything. Sadly the “youth groups” I see today are the exact antipodes of each of these three things.

  • http://castingoutnines.wordpress.com Robert Talbert

    I could give a very long and rather bitter answer to all those questions, as I had a highly negative church experience growing up. But I’ll keep it short:

    I broke away from the church almost the moment I started college. I think I can boil it down to a short list of reasons. First, growing up, my church experience was all about sensationalism, revivalistic experience, and superficial/cultural Christianity. Second, the level of backbiting and infighting among the people in our church, and especially among pastors of different churches, was so great you just wouldn’t believe it.

    Thirdly, and finally, when I arrived at my university for undergrad, I joined up with the campus student union for my denomination. And I was consciously ignored by all the students in that organization while other students were accepted. Talk about emotionally devastating. On top of this, I took some courses in college which challenged my beliefs, and since my church only cared about personal experience and social status, I had no intellectual basis for what I believed, and the whole hollow structure fell into itself.

    What made me come back was finding a church — in this case a PCA presbyterian church with a strong Reformed leaning, although these days I am going to a Lutheran church — which held to the truth, didn’t insult my intelligence, actually challenged me to use (and reform) my intelligence, and didn’t try to force me into a particular mold. I found out that the Gospel actually allowed me to be free to be myself, while at the same time changing those parts that needed changing.

    My church growing up could have held on to me if it would have been more authentic, less socially oriented, and above all not treated me like some idiot kid who never thought about anything. Sadly the “youth groups” I see today are the exact antipodes of each of these three things.

  • fw

    I knew my whole life that I was different. I discovered a label for what was different about me when I grew up. That name label was “homosexual.” I was quite certain that I could not be saved and be one of those and so I had to stop attending church even though I was completely non sexual. I grew up attending a wels grade school and parochial highschool. this different thing because my deepest secret. I dated alot of girls. I became the resident “lady killer”. I could have had my pick of any of the girls in my highschool. I became active in sports. I always liked to be a cowboy like my dad and 4 generations before me so being in the rodeo came naturally. I became an expert car mechanic. it would be really hard to see how I fit any of the stereotypes… never felt any temptation really sexually. just alot of maturbation. an awful lot! and fantasized about being with a male form but not sexually if you can understand that, since i really didnt have a clue what that was all about really even well into my 20s. Girls loved me because i was fun and they sensed that i was not trying to get into their pants.I loved them back! I was a perfect gentleman, and they could talk to me about anything and i would actually listen, and somehow understood them better than any other boy they met. At the same time I had many deep male friendships with my pastors, father, cousins… I read people like Dr Dobson to look for understanding on how to fix myself but none of the patterns they suggested as reasons for my differentness seemed to fit me. And I didn´t really know anyone else in my situation. So I did not have many points of reference. I was quite certain that understanding , either from the Bible or from the Dr Dobson types would lead to something that would somehow “fix” me.

    When I was a small child my Lutheran pastor said that “God loves you in Jesus especially when you are bad, because that is when you need his love the most.” I never lost all hope in that, but was in deep dispair and hoping that God would somehow fix me. At the same time i was convinced that my sin was the very worst of all sins. and i was at the same time comforted by the general absolution delivered at the beginning of each service. I felt somehow that I could hold God to those words. after all he knew what what in my heart and the whole truth about me and still allowed me to receive those words. That too would later help me have the courage to return to church.

    I tried for years. Often young people most sincere and serious about religion are those with some deep secret. they are trying to bargain with God. “if only I learn enough about God´s word (this is what the Lutheran works righteousness looks like: pure doctrine will fix you…) , or spend more time in church, or learn all the doctrines, or maybe think about becoming a pastor, or…… ” Alot of pastors are sort of taken aback and regard those youth as too religious. there is a reason.

    Most young christians who discover that they are gay never have had a sexual encounter, they are not “white knuckling” their way against sexual temptation, they are simply sort of asexual, yet they simply know that they have this thing inside of them that their pastors routinely describe as looking like the sodom and gomorrah story or romans chapter one, and even though they can´t see this in themselves, they still accept it as being true about themselves for to do otherwise would to be rejecting the truth of the Bible. It looks like hell. Imagine the cognitive dissonance and deep sorrow these casual references create. and “those people” are casually and definitively referred to as being clearly outside of the church and hopeless. not suitable in any way as missionary targets… “reprobate, abominations.” We believe the truth about ourselves exactly in those terms. why would we not? we are taught that to deny this as truth is to deny the truth of God´s Word. Imagine applying those words to your most intimate person from your earliest recollection, as to your being. quite independent of any thought word or deed. This is about who you are. Just how would the church be interested in missionizing the crowds described in sodom and Gomorrah and romans 1 after all….

    Those youth like me quietly stop attending church and work then to find someway to reconcile what they know about themselves, commit suicide, reject religion altogether, turn to drugs and alcohol.

    For me the pain of being without Jesus became unbearable, and i very reluctantly returned to church much like the apostles who said “Lord where else can we go, you alone have the word of life.” I knew that I need to be honest with my pastor. what was the point of going to church and still living in the darkness of untruth. and i was absolutely certain that i would not be allowed to commune, and would need to merely sit in a back pew and slinker out at the end of the service. I was resigned to do that for the rest of my life.

    As I moved about and had to find another church, I met one lutheran pastor who told me that I had not properly repented or not repented enough upon hearing my confession. He was right! I stopped going to church again for a few months after him.

    My last pastor was one who introduced me to the practice of private confession and absolution. He heard it all. He told me that i was right to confess that I had not repented enough or the right way. He then forgave me for that lack of repentence. He came to know more about the cringingly intimate details of my life than any one, and did not reject me for not being successful in cleaning up the chaos that was called my life. He just told me to keep coming back and confessing ALL my sins and hearing that ALL my sins were forgiven. It was hard to believe that I could confess the same sins over and over and still be forgiven through the mouth of a pastor. My life got better for a brief moment and I looked to that and became over secure. My life then got alot worse. for a long while. My church stayed with me through all that. In hindsight, I can see that things really stayed about the same, but they seems so bad because what had not felt like sin before started to weigh on my conscience…

    Now how would a “Higher Things” conference or a youth group deal with these youth? And if they truly are 3-10% of the population at large, there is a good chance that they are a large component of those youth who leave. We can argue the percentage, but what if it is even only 0.5%? that is still a lot of souls!

    If pastors or someone like Dr Vieth raise questions to try to understand, they are attacked as being somehow “pro-homosexuality”. Most pastors find it easier to just not deal with this issue therefore. It is simply easier to allow youth to be in hiding and quietly drop out and pretend that there are none of them in church.

    And what would these youth tell their pastors anyhow? It is not like they are sexually sinning in thought word OR deed, but they are gay.

    Please pause reading for a moment and think about this part long and hard. at least to recognize that just maybe there is something you do not know about this subject.

    So what advice would a pastor give them? Reparative therapy? To repair what exactly? Is this even in a pastor´s provenance? What advice would you give parents of an 8 year old with this going on? The picture of homosexuality is not the one of wierd gay in your face oversexed militants in a parade somewhere. If gayness is an iceburg, that is just the visible tip that you see.

    Here is a link to another story of someone who grows up as Christian and gay. Note that there is no ONE experience that can describe every human being. I can relate to a lot of what this writer has written but not all… But this man´s story is a very common one.

    http://www.bridges-across.org/ba/lee_justin.htm

    I hope that some here can see why i feel an enormous burden and desire to equip my beloved Lutheran church to care for the souls of these people.

  • fw

    I knew my whole life that I was different. I discovered a label for what was different about me when I grew up. That name label was “homosexual.” I was quite certain that I could not be saved and be one of those and so I had to stop attending church even though I was completely non sexual. I grew up attending a wels grade school and parochial highschool. this different thing because my deepest secret. I dated alot of girls. I became the resident “lady killer”. I could have had my pick of any of the girls in my highschool. I became active in sports. I always liked to be a cowboy like my dad and 4 generations before me so being in the rodeo came naturally. I became an expert car mechanic. it would be really hard to see how I fit any of the stereotypes… never felt any temptation really sexually. just alot of maturbation. an awful lot! and fantasized about being with a male form but not sexually if you can understand that, since i really didnt have a clue what that was all about really even well into my 20s. Girls loved me because i was fun and they sensed that i was not trying to get into their pants.I loved them back! I was a perfect gentleman, and they could talk to me about anything and i would actually listen, and somehow understood them better than any other boy they met. At the same time I had many deep male friendships with my pastors, father, cousins… I read people like Dr Dobson to look for understanding on how to fix myself but none of the patterns they suggested as reasons for my differentness seemed to fit me. And I didn´t really know anyone else in my situation. So I did not have many points of reference. I was quite certain that understanding , either from the Bible or from the Dr Dobson types would lead to something that would somehow “fix” me.

    When I was a small child my Lutheran pastor said that “God loves you in Jesus especially when you are bad, because that is when you need his love the most.” I never lost all hope in that, but was in deep dispair and hoping that God would somehow fix me. At the same time i was convinced that my sin was the very worst of all sins. and i was at the same time comforted by the general absolution delivered at the beginning of each service. I felt somehow that I could hold God to those words. after all he knew what what in my heart and the whole truth about me and still allowed me to receive those words. That too would later help me have the courage to return to church.

    I tried for years. Often young people most sincere and serious about religion are those with some deep secret. they are trying to bargain with God. “if only I learn enough about God´s word (this is what the Lutheran works righteousness looks like: pure doctrine will fix you…) , or spend more time in church, or learn all the doctrines, or maybe think about becoming a pastor, or…… ” Alot of pastors are sort of taken aback and regard those youth as too religious. there is a reason.

    Most young christians who discover that they are gay never have had a sexual encounter, they are not “white knuckling” their way against sexual temptation, they are simply sort of asexual, yet they simply know that they have this thing inside of them that their pastors routinely describe as looking like the sodom and gomorrah story or romans chapter one, and even though they can´t see this in themselves, they still accept it as being true about themselves for to do otherwise would to be rejecting the truth of the Bible. It looks like hell. Imagine the cognitive dissonance and deep sorrow these casual references create. and “those people” are casually and definitively referred to as being clearly outside of the church and hopeless. not suitable in any way as missionary targets… “reprobate, abominations.” We believe the truth about ourselves exactly in those terms. why would we not? we are taught that to deny this as truth is to deny the truth of God´s Word. Imagine applying those words to your most intimate person from your earliest recollection, as to your being. quite independent of any thought word or deed. This is about who you are. Just how would the church be interested in missionizing the crowds described in sodom and Gomorrah and romans 1 after all….

    Those youth like me quietly stop attending church and work then to find someway to reconcile what they know about themselves, commit suicide, reject religion altogether, turn to drugs and alcohol.

    For me the pain of being without Jesus became unbearable, and i very reluctantly returned to church much like the apostles who said “Lord where else can we go, you alone have the word of life.” I knew that I need to be honest with my pastor. what was the point of going to church and still living in the darkness of untruth. and i was absolutely certain that i would not be allowed to commune, and would need to merely sit in a back pew and slinker out at the end of the service. I was resigned to do that for the rest of my life.

    As I moved about and had to find another church, I met one lutheran pastor who told me that I had not properly repented or not repented enough upon hearing my confession. He was right! I stopped going to church again for a few months after him.

    My last pastor was one who introduced me to the practice of private confession and absolution. He heard it all. He told me that i was right to confess that I had not repented enough or the right way. He then forgave me for that lack of repentence. He came to know more about the cringingly intimate details of my life than any one, and did not reject me for not being successful in cleaning up the chaos that was called my life. He just told me to keep coming back and confessing ALL my sins and hearing that ALL my sins were forgiven. It was hard to believe that I could confess the same sins over and over and still be forgiven through the mouth of a pastor. My life got better for a brief moment and I looked to that and became over secure. My life then got alot worse. for a long while. My church stayed with me through all that. In hindsight, I can see that things really stayed about the same, but they seems so bad because what had not felt like sin before started to weigh on my conscience…

    Now how would a “Higher Things” conference or a youth group deal with these youth? And if they truly are 3-10% of the population at large, there is a good chance that they are a large component of those youth who leave. We can argue the percentage, but what if it is even only 0.5%? that is still a lot of souls!

    If pastors or someone like Dr Vieth raise questions to try to understand, they are attacked as being somehow “pro-homosexuality”. Most pastors find it easier to just not deal with this issue therefore. It is simply easier to allow youth to be in hiding and quietly drop out and pretend that there are none of them in church.

    And what would these youth tell their pastors anyhow? It is not like they are sexually sinning in thought word OR deed, but they are gay.

    Please pause reading for a moment and think about this part long and hard. at least to recognize that just maybe there is something you do not know about this subject.

    So what advice would a pastor give them? Reparative therapy? To repair what exactly? Is this even in a pastor´s provenance? What advice would you give parents of an 8 year old with this going on? The picture of homosexuality is not the one of wierd gay in your face oversexed militants in a parade somewhere. If gayness is an iceburg, that is just the visible tip that you see.

    Here is a link to another story of someone who grows up as Christian and gay. Note that there is no ONE experience that can describe every human being. I can relate to a lot of what this writer has written but not all… But this man´s story is a very common one.

    http://www.bridges-across.org/ba/lee_justin.htm

    I hope that some here can see why i feel an enormous burden and desire to equip my beloved Lutheran church to care for the souls of these people.

  • fw

    Hey Teresa K:

    sorry for the long post.

  • fw

    Hey Teresa K:

    sorry for the long post.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    FW, I am glad to have teased out of you your “testimony.” What you say is very important and, in an odd way, inspiring as an example of the active, pursuing grace of God in Christ. Also of what pastoral care and confession and absolution can accomplish. Now, the Cranach community just wants to know WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN BRAZIL?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    FW, I am glad to have teased out of you your “testimony.” What you say is very important and, in an odd way, inspiring as an example of the active, pursuing grace of God in Christ. Also of what pastoral care and confession and absolution can accomplish. Now, the Cranach community just wants to know WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN BRAZIL?

  • Pingback: Why are churches losing their young people? » Pursuing Holiness

  • Pingback: Why are churches losing their young people? » Pursuing Holiness

  • http://diary-of-a-wanna-be-supermom.blogspot.com/ Cate

    Honestly I think most of it has to do with what churches teach its members. Only speaking from my own experience in an Assemblies of God Church, I felt like it was all dumbed down into a showy experience that focused so much on how one felt that I started to doubt my own faith because I didn’t feel like waving my hands around and mumbling “amen” throughout the sermon (er… I mean “message”).

    Bible studies, too, focused more on feelings and everyday life rather than teaching us what the bible says, who God inspired to write it, why historical evidence backs that up, etc., etc.

  • http://diary-of-a-wanna-be-supermom.blogspot.com/ Cate

    Honestly I think most of it has to do with what churches teach its members. Only speaking from my own experience in an Assemblies of God Church, I felt like it was all dumbed down into a showy experience that focused so much on how one felt that I started to doubt my own faith because I didn’t feel like waving my hands around and mumbling “amen” throughout the sermon (er… I mean “message”).

    Bible studies, too, focused more on feelings and everyday life rather than teaching us what the bible says, who God inspired to write it, why historical evidence backs that up, etc., etc.

  • allen

    I quit going to church for a few years after high school on account of being a lazy bum.

  • allen

    I quit going to church for a few years after high school on account of being a lazy bum.

  • fw

    #10 Veith

    I was very happily living in Los Angeles and had a very very special Lutheran church and pastor there that i miss more than you can imagine. I had friends like family there. I had a good consulting job, nice convertible and cozy place to live in. I was priviledged to do some amazing volunteer work and learn what it feels like to truly love a perfect stranger by getting absolutely nothing in return (except maybe alot of complaints about bad service ;) ) but experiencing the pleasure of someones life or self esteem improve, or not! >>>> to help someone die in THE Peace after an entire life of turbulence and destructive behavior and self loathing. And I was stuck. At age 51 I didn´t feel like I was growing. I was not holding on to what I had with what my pastor calls the dead hand of faith. I was reeeeeaaally comfortable.

    I love Portuguese, the food, the music, the culture (crazy like me!) of Brasil. I am a meticulous planner who looks so like the one who held onto the coin rather than risk investing it, risking in faith. So it took about 3 years to give myself permission to move. Brasil feels like an intoxicatingly beautiful, compliccated and extremely high maintenance betrothed and beloved.

    Here in Brasil these lovely people are the lilies of the field. They find happiness in the moment. In fact sometimes they are know to spend the rent money on beer for everyone in their joy and then….. I can help them plan and be just a little more structured (not that i would really want to change them. I love them as they are after all, and MY vision of what they need to be would probably not be what they need to be anyhow in God´s vision). And man can they do alot of things for Frank.

    THEY can help me not spin and be more like a lily, the picture Jesus hold up to me of the best me! This is what I call a perfect match of vocations.

    My aim does not need to be good to find a target that can use my help. But I have to also learn to pray and be patient to be asked to help. I am very practiced now at apologizing in portuguese. I have to earn trust and respect. and i have to be aware of the sinfulness in the motives of others and not just myself. this is a very rough environment. The doctoral level school of learning to be a wise sheep. I am defending my dissertation even as we communicate here. The lessons learned here can be useful in seeing where to serve actually. and how to serve. “Lord here is a need, please show me if it is given to ME to be the one” or to put it more simply: “deep sigh. Lord PLEASE let me stay out of your way today.” All of a sudden at age 51 I feel like I am starting at square one in social skills, but with all my faith has taught me so far at my disposal.

    Don´t try THIS without being able to go to private confession weekly and hear the particular absolution.

    It looks really really messy.

    It IS really really messy.

    At age 51 I am turned from being a CPA who knows how to fix about anything. who to call. where to go. Now he becomes a small child learning language, cultural norms, laws. Nothing is assumed or known casually. I have to pay attention. It looks like pain. Like going to the gym. I love it. Most of the time. Sometimes I am not entirely ready to show up for it.

    Think baby in the manger helpless. and yet awesomely powerful to do good by uncharacteristically doing nothing but merely listen and observe carefully in cruciform.

    If you ask someone what their life dream is here, you could immediately give them that dream by writing a check for anything from $250-1500. Consider that. usually that dream is about taking care of mom in her old age. it consumes them with desire. consider that too.

    But I won´t really help them. I will listen.

    It would be incredibly patronizing and unworthy of them to do more.

    I will work hard. Have the freedom of discipline in my life that the Holy Spirit has given me in my baptism. Breath the freedom of the Gospel when I fall flat on my ass (which is often!) make as much money and as many friends as I can doing whatever that creatively takes (think Amway here with absolutely NO profit motive. Crazy huh?) , and pull as many people along in the fun of all that as I can I think.

    Ok. The food is excellent. the weather is excellent. the music is excellent. People are really interesting and they seem to all have a compelling story that could be a book or at least a melodrama. Paganism is ALL around so being salt is easy.

    My only regret is not having a stronger Lutheran church here. but where we are weak…. so there is hope isn´t there? But that didnt keep me from inviting my vicar to a free lunch and pointing out that there was NO jesus in his previous 3 sermons (NO exageration. I am so serious) . He was not only not offended (ok, so i plied him with lots of beer before offering my single point of criticism), he has been calling me hounding me to translate more american sermons for him ever since so he can learn from them…. imagine the absurdity of that picture after hearing my um… testimony……. where are those who are supposed to be doing that orienting. it should not be me. I know that.

    Ok Dr Veith… turn about is fair play… YOU can start asking around to see what the LCMS can do to pair off Brasilian vicars with some of our men like weedon and your pastor and cwirla and mcCain, and our Bror Erickson here…. a rt plane ticket is about $1,000 and most of them would work for beer money…. the ones i have met so far that have been to the usa seem to have been deliberately steered to the ones who think that “ABLAZE” tm is the best thing since saran wrap, sliced bread, and Liquid Prell if you catch my drift here….. H-e-l-p! I am SO out of my league, even if some here on the blog are sending me care packages of greek new testament, book of concord and LSB. I don´t have a call. And I don´t get to be a jerk. so… what to do…

  • fw

    #10 Veith

    I was very happily living in Los Angeles and had a very very special Lutheran church and pastor there that i miss more than you can imagine. I had friends like family there. I had a good consulting job, nice convertible and cozy place to live in. I was priviledged to do some amazing volunteer work and learn what it feels like to truly love a perfect stranger by getting absolutely nothing in return (except maybe alot of complaints about bad service ;) ) but experiencing the pleasure of someones life or self esteem improve, or not! >>>> to help someone die in THE Peace after an entire life of turbulence and destructive behavior and self loathing. And I was stuck. At age 51 I didn´t feel like I was growing. I was not holding on to what I had with what my pastor calls the dead hand of faith. I was reeeeeaaally comfortable.

    I love Portuguese, the food, the music, the culture (crazy like me!) of Brasil. I am a meticulous planner who looks so like the one who held onto the coin rather than risk investing it, risking in faith. So it took about 3 years to give myself permission to move. Brasil feels like an intoxicatingly beautiful, compliccated and extremely high maintenance betrothed and beloved.

    Here in Brasil these lovely people are the lilies of the field. They find happiness in the moment. In fact sometimes they are know to spend the rent money on beer for everyone in their joy and then….. I can help them plan and be just a little more structured (not that i would really want to change them. I love them as they are after all, and MY vision of what they need to be would probably not be what they need to be anyhow in God´s vision). And man can they do alot of things for Frank.

    THEY can help me not spin and be more like a lily, the picture Jesus hold up to me of the best me! This is what I call a perfect match of vocations.

    My aim does not need to be good to find a target that can use my help. But I have to also learn to pray and be patient to be asked to help. I am very practiced now at apologizing in portuguese. I have to earn trust and respect. and i have to be aware of the sinfulness in the motives of others and not just myself. this is a very rough environment. The doctoral level school of learning to be a wise sheep. I am defending my dissertation even as we communicate here. The lessons learned here can be useful in seeing where to serve actually. and how to serve. “Lord here is a need, please show me if it is given to ME to be the one” or to put it more simply: “deep sigh. Lord PLEASE let me stay out of your way today.” All of a sudden at age 51 I feel like I am starting at square one in social skills, but with all my faith has taught me so far at my disposal.

    Don´t try THIS without being able to go to private confession weekly and hear the particular absolution.

    It looks really really messy.

    It IS really really messy.

    At age 51 I am turned from being a CPA who knows how to fix about anything. who to call. where to go. Now he becomes a small child learning language, cultural norms, laws. Nothing is assumed or known casually. I have to pay attention. It looks like pain. Like going to the gym. I love it. Most of the time. Sometimes I am not entirely ready to show up for it.

    Think baby in the manger helpless. and yet awesomely powerful to do good by uncharacteristically doing nothing but merely listen and observe carefully in cruciform.

    If you ask someone what their life dream is here, you could immediately give them that dream by writing a check for anything from $250-1500. Consider that. usually that dream is about taking care of mom in her old age. it consumes them with desire. consider that too.

    But I won´t really help them. I will listen.

    It would be incredibly patronizing and unworthy of them to do more.

    I will work hard. Have the freedom of discipline in my life that the Holy Spirit has given me in my baptism. Breath the freedom of the Gospel when I fall flat on my ass (which is often!) make as much money and as many friends as I can doing whatever that creatively takes (think Amway here with absolutely NO profit motive. Crazy huh?) , and pull as many people along in the fun of all that as I can I think.

    Ok. The food is excellent. the weather is excellent. the music is excellent. People are really interesting and they seem to all have a compelling story that could be a book or at least a melodrama. Paganism is ALL around so being salt is easy.

    My only regret is not having a stronger Lutheran church here. but where we are weak…. so there is hope isn´t there? But that didnt keep me from inviting my vicar to a free lunch and pointing out that there was NO jesus in his previous 3 sermons (NO exageration. I am so serious) . He was not only not offended (ok, so i plied him with lots of beer before offering my single point of criticism), he has been calling me hounding me to translate more american sermons for him ever since so he can learn from them…. imagine the absurdity of that picture after hearing my um… testimony……. where are those who are supposed to be doing that orienting. it should not be me. I know that.

    Ok Dr Veith… turn about is fair play… YOU can start asking around to see what the LCMS can do to pair off Brasilian vicars with some of our men like weedon and your pastor and cwirla and mcCain, and our Bror Erickson here…. a rt plane ticket is about $1,000 and most of them would work for beer money…. the ones i have met so far that have been to the usa seem to have been deliberately steered to the ones who think that “ABLAZE” tm is the best thing since saran wrap, sliced bread, and Liquid Prell if you catch my drift here….. H-e-l-p! I am SO out of my league, even if some here on the blog are sending me care packages of greek new testament, book of concord and LSB. I don´t have a call. And I don´t get to be a jerk. so… what to do…

  • fw

    Shout out to my gal and blog pal TeresaK!

    again my apology for the last looooong post. I consider it true to thread just because Dr Vieth asked me. But yeah. way too long… what to do…

  • fw

    Shout out to my gal and blog pal TeresaK!

    again my apology for the last looooong post. I consider it true to thread just because Dr Vieth asked me. But yeah. way too long… what to do…

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thanks for that, FW. As I get a chance, I’ll clamor for confessional help for Brasil. The LCMS is in fellowship with the Lutheran church there, so maybe there will be some possibilities.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thanks for that, FW. As I get a chance, I’ll clamor for confessional help for Brasil. The LCMS is in fellowship with the Lutheran church there, so maybe there will be some possibilities.

  • http://blog.gpiper.org ghp

    “Dropped out”, as it were, upon going away to college (although I did make it over to WMU & chapel a few times to hear Paul Maier…). Dropped back in to LCMS congregations after graduating & getting married, due in large part to the strong catechetical foundation that I got K-12 in LCMS schools (thanks, Mom & Dad!!), which caused me to seek out liturgical, orthodox lutheranism, even as we lived in the methobapticostal Southern “Bible Belt”.

  • http://blog.gpiper.org ghp

    “Dropped out”, as it were, upon going away to college (although I did make it over to WMU & chapel a few times to hear Paul Maier…). Dropped back in to LCMS congregations after graduating & getting married, due in large part to the strong catechetical foundation that I got K-12 in LCMS schools (thanks, Mom & Dad!!), which caused me to seek out liturgical, orthodox lutheranism, even as we lived in the methobapticostal Southern “Bible Belt”.

  • fw

    #16 vieth

    Bless you!

  • fw

    #16 vieth

    Bless you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17639370291865261582 Cindy

    I never left. I suspect it had as much to do with good parenting as it did with the church. I was one of those kids who always did what I was supposed to do, and with a lifelong pattern of going to church every Sunday engrained in me, it would have been an inconceivable act of rebellion against my family to stop going to church. But certainly it helped that I always had a solid church home that taught God’s word truthfully. My churches didn’t give me a reason to be tempted to leave.

    I’m a lifelong WELS Lutheran. I attended WELS schools from 4th grade through high school and then went to Concordia University – Wisconsin for college. I attended the LCMS Sunday services on campus during those years. After college, I moved far away from home to Austin, where I was in a position to choose my own church (or no church) for the first time in my life. And there it was that I found the best WELS church and pastor that I’ve ever seen. This church welcomed me and my boyfriend/fiancé/husband, who was new to Lutheranism.

    This church incorporated young adults into the life of the congregation. There was no reason for us to feel that we didn’t belong there or didn’t need church. People of all generations worshiped together, served together, fellowshipped together. People of all ages were strongly urged to be in the word together, and the Bible classes were well attended. The church had a winning combination of Texas friendliness and great respect for the Word of God. With the focus on God’s love for us, love for people flowed naturally out of the congregation. Sadly, I’m not in Texas anymore.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17639370291865261582 Cindy

    I never left. I suspect it had as much to do with good parenting as it did with the church. I was one of those kids who always did what I was supposed to do, and with a lifelong pattern of going to church every Sunday engrained in me, it would have been an inconceivable act of rebellion against my family to stop going to church. But certainly it helped that I always had a solid church home that taught God’s word truthfully. My churches didn’t give me a reason to be tempted to leave.

    I’m a lifelong WELS Lutheran. I attended WELS schools from 4th grade through high school and then went to Concordia University – Wisconsin for college. I attended the LCMS Sunday services on campus during those years. After college, I moved far away from home to Austin, where I was in a position to choose my own church (or no church) for the first time in my life. And there it was that I found the best WELS church and pastor that I’ve ever seen. This church welcomed me and my boyfriend/fiancé/husband, who was new to Lutheranism.

    This church incorporated young adults into the life of the congregation. There was no reason for us to feel that we didn’t belong there or didn’t need church. People of all generations worshiped together, served together, fellowshipped together. People of all ages were strongly urged to be in the word together, and the Bible classes were well attended. The church had a winning combination of Texas friendliness and great respect for the Word of God. With the focus on God’s love for us, love for people flowed naturally out of the congregation. Sadly, I’m not in Texas anymore.

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  • deb chandler

    I would like to stick my two cents in as a member of a southern baptist church and the nearly ex-homeschooling mom a 22yo a 19yo and a 15yo I see the problem being the youth group from 6th to 12th grade they are the center of the church universe and entertained constantly and rarely ( read never) given anything meaningful to do. Their mission trip are a chance for the whole church to feel good about how great a job they have done with the youth and many of the youth use these trips as another extra curricular thing for a college application.
    however once the child leaves high school the church begins to ignore them and as they are used to being entertained albeit clothed in spiritual ambiance it becomes point less to go.

  • deb chandler

    I would like to stick my two cents in as a member of a southern baptist church and the nearly ex-homeschooling mom a 22yo a 19yo and a 15yo I see the problem being the youth group from 6th to 12th grade they are the center of the church universe and entertained constantly and rarely ( read never) given anything meaningful to do. Their mission trip are a chance for the whole church to feel good about how great a job they have done with the youth and many of the youth use these trips as another extra curricular thing for a college application.
    however once the child leaves high school the church begins to ignore them and as they are used to being entertained albeit clothed in spiritual ambiance it becomes point less to go.

  • Van

    I never left the church. However, I have been active in many….batpized Episcopalian, then attended non-denom, then Evangelical Presbyterian, then “re-baptized” as a Baptist in college, then another non-denom and finally and wonderfully, Lutheran.

    The question “why are churches losing their young people” seems simple to me. Maybe simple because I’m not worrying about how to keep, them as I’ll explain.

    Seems young people (and I think it’s not a question of “young people” as it is people in general) leave the church because that’s what they want to do. Even if they say it’s because they were disenchanted or let down by the church it all boils down to wanting to be there or not.

    If you truly WANT to be “in church” then you will either remain at your church or keep looking until you find one you like or can at least stand.

    I believe those that are truly in THE Church, part of THE Body of Christ, THE Bride of Christ or those that are being called to THE Body will either BE in church or remain in constant search of a church home.

    If one belongs to Christ then this will be a desire or goal that can’t be quenched because it will be the Spirit who is drawing them and holding on to them. God’s work, not their own.

    I personally believe if the Church quit worrying about HOW to keep people in church and invested their treasures (time, talents, etc) in proclaiming the Gospel then this question would seem less significant.

    It’s like being a parent. I could worry about what I don’t do or what I should do or what I haven’t done and this would make me CRAZY because of my insufficiency and my inability to perform and get the “results” I desire for my children.

    But instead, I focus on what Christ has done, what He promises and I BELIEVE. I take it minute by minute, obeying as I go along rather than worrying about the past and future. I concentrate on Christ’s provisions and trust that He will do what He intends to do in my children’s lives. I live out the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel to my children and trust Christ with them.

    How is it any different in the church? Live out the Gospel and proclaim Christ and trust Him to do as He so wishes!!

    Let me put out a disclaimer. I am a 41 year old female. I DO NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. This is just my evaluation for the past 30 years of my own active, spirit-drawn involvement in church.

  • Van

    I never left the church. However, I have been active in many….batpized Episcopalian, then attended non-denom, then Evangelical Presbyterian, then “re-baptized” as a Baptist in college, then another non-denom and finally and wonderfully, Lutheran.

    The question “why are churches losing their young people” seems simple to me. Maybe simple because I’m not worrying about how to keep, them as I’ll explain.

    Seems young people (and I think it’s not a question of “young people” as it is people in general) leave the church because that’s what they want to do. Even if they say it’s because they were disenchanted or let down by the church it all boils down to wanting to be there or not.

    If you truly WANT to be “in church” then you will either remain at your church or keep looking until you find one you like or can at least stand.

    I believe those that are truly in THE Church, part of THE Body of Christ, THE Bride of Christ or those that are being called to THE Body will either BE in church or remain in constant search of a church home.

    If one belongs to Christ then this will be a desire or goal that can’t be quenched because it will be the Spirit who is drawing them and holding on to them. God’s work, not their own.

    I personally believe if the Church quit worrying about HOW to keep people in church and invested their treasures (time, talents, etc) in proclaiming the Gospel then this question would seem less significant.

    It’s like being a parent. I could worry about what I don’t do or what I should do or what I haven’t done and this would make me CRAZY because of my insufficiency and my inability to perform and get the “results” I desire for my children.

    But instead, I focus on what Christ has done, what He promises and I BELIEVE. I take it minute by minute, obeying as I go along rather than worrying about the past and future. I concentrate on Christ’s provisions and trust that He will do what He intends to do in my children’s lives. I live out the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel to my children and trust Christ with them.

    How is it any different in the church? Live out the Gospel and proclaim Christ and trust Him to do as He so wishes!!

    Let me put out a disclaimer. I am a 41 year old female. I DO NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. This is just my evaluation for the past 30 years of my own active, spirit-drawn involvement in church.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    But that’s profound, Van. Thanks.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    But that’s profound, Van. Thanks.

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  • S Bauer

    I never left. Or did I?

    But I’m not proud of that fact, if I did stay, because somewhere along the line I had become the Older Brother. I was always physically present in my Father’s house but my heart was not for a long time.

    I had been given a strong foundation. I was baptized at the very beginning of my life. My mother, a LCMS PK, knows the distinction between Law and Gospel and is devout in practicing it. She read a chapter of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation every night to me and my siblings. I ate it up. I memorized Scripture and the Catechism. By Junior High I was correcting my Sunday School teachers in their presentation of the biblical story. I enjoyed Catechism classes but it was pretty much of the “cookie cutter” type of catechesis. By Confirmation I had developed quite an impressive head knowledge of the Christian faith. So the church, in the incarnations of family and congregation, had done a lot of what it’s supposed to do.

    And then, somewhere on the way into High School and beyond, it all went dead. At least, to be honest, it seemed dead most of the time.

    To outside observers, I was the “good” Christian kid. I managed to hide my transgressions fairly well. There were the sexual sins and other compulsive behaviors. But most of all, I suppose, there was pride. I have always had this strong tendency to think of myself more highly than others; that I had gifts and that made me “better”. Even though I squandered many opportunities to develop and use these gifts to their potential. And, like the Older Brother, this attitude developed into the idea that since I had stayed “at home”, my prodigal “Younger Brother” was no concern of mine. There was little repentance; my devotional life evaporated. I was probably worse than a Pharisee in that I did not only oppose God in my heart but I didn’t even care whether I was serving Him or not.

    And I even didn’t have the courage or integrity of my “Younger Brother” to come clean about what I really was. Most of the time the only thing that kept me on the “straight and narrow” was Fear.

    I cannot tell whether I completely lost my faith or not during this time. I might well have – to be sure I certainly was teetering on the edge. Simply going to church every Sunday didn’t mean I was still part of the church in the strict sense.

    Then the Lord enrolled me in the school of tentatio. The disconnect between outward show and inward rebellion became more and more of a burden. Luther said “Despair makes a monk.” Sometimes it makes pastors, too. It was not just despair that moved me toward the seminary but I have to admit it was part of why I went. I started to learn some real theology – the kind of theology that many lay Christians learn without having to get anywhere near a seminary. I learned how much I didn’t know. After all these years I still amazed at how little sinks in.

    I came back. I still struggle against the pride and lovelessness and introversion that has embedded itself within my nature. In God’s hands that which makes me a poor pastor makes me a better pastor.

    What brought me back? The grace of God. The prayers of those for me even though they didn’t know what was really going on within me. The Means of Grace in the worship service even though I wasn’t taking them very seriously for most of my week. I didn’t like going to Holy Communion for a while because I knew I couldn’t hide behind the facade I had put up everywhere else in my life. My Catechism training did at least that much. But when I did go, there was at least the spark of repentance?, the desire for repentance? Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief. A bruised reed He will not break, nor put out a smoldering wick. That experience of my youth has made me a better pastor, too.

    What could the church have done differently? The church of my youth could have practiced private Confession and Absolution. There could have been less “playing at church” and more “being the church”. Where do testimonies like those of this string belong in the church? If not in the liturgy (which I can understand), then where? It seems to me this kind of openness as to who we really are and how poor and weak we are in living up to our calling is what is really lacking. But maybe I have already answered my own question. Maybe this is the whole reason for private Confession and Absolution.

  • S Bauer

    I never left. Or did I?

    But I’m not proud of that fact, if I did stay, because somewhere along the line I had become the Older Brother. I was always physically present in my Father’s house but my heart was not for a long time.

    I had been given a strong foundation. I was baptized at the very beginning of my life. My mother, a LCMS PK, knows the distinction between Law and Gospel and is devout in practicing it. She read a chapter of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation every night to me and my siblings. I ate it up. I memorized Scripture and the Catechism. By Junior High I was correcting my Sunday School teachers in their presentation of the biblical story. I enjoyed Catechism classes but it was pretty much of the “cookie cutter” type of catechesis. By Confirmation I had developed quite an impressive head knowledge of the Christian faith. So the church, in the incarnations of family and congregation, had done a lot of what it’s supposed to do.

    And then, somewhere on the way into High School and beyond, it all went dead. At least, to be honest, it seemed dead most of the time.

    To outside observers, I was the “good” Christian kid. I managed to hide my transgressions fairly well. There were the sexual sins and other compulsive behaviors. But most of all, I suppose, there was pride. I have always had this strong tendency to think of myself more highly than others; that I had gifts and that made me “better”. Even though I squandered many opportunities to develop and use these gifts to their potential. And, like the Older Brother, this attitude developed into the idea that since I had stayed “at home”, my prodigal “Younger Brother” was no concern of mine. There was little repentance; my devotional life evaporated. I was probably worse than a Pharisee in that I did not only oppose God in my heart but I didn’t even care whether I was serving Him or not.

    And I even didn’t have the courage or integrity of my “Younger Brother” to come clean about what I really was. Most of the time the only thing that kept me on the “straight and narrow” was Fear.

    I cannot tell whether I completely lost my faith or not during this time. I might well have – to be sure I certainly was teetering on the edge. Simply going to church every Sunday didn’t mean I was still part of the church in the strict sense.

    Then the Lord enrolled me in the school of tentatio. The disconnect between outward show and inward rebellion became more and more of a burden. Luther said “Despair makes a monk.” Sometimes it makes pastors, too. It was not just despair that moved me toward the seminary but I have to admit it was part of why I went. I started to learn some real theology – the kind of theology that many lay Christians learn without having to get anywhere near a seminary. I learned how much I didn’t know. After all these years I still amazed at how little sinks in.

    I came back. I still struggle against the pride and lovelessness and introversion that has embedded itself within my nature. In God’s hands that which makes me a poor pastor makes me a better pastor.

    What brought me back? The grace of God. The prayers of those for me even though they didn’t know what was really going on within me. The Means of Grace in the worship service even though I wasn’t taking them very seriously for most of my week. I didn’t like going to Holy Communion for a while because I knew I couldn’t hide behind the facade I had put up everywhere else in my life. My Catechism training did at least that much. But when I did go, there was at least the spark of repentance?, the desire for repentance? Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief. A bruised reed He will not break, nor put out a smoldering wick. That experience of my youth has made me a better pastor, too.

    What could the church have done differently? The church of my youth could have practiced private Confession and Absolution. There could have been less “playing at church” and more “being the church”. Where do testimonies like those of this string belong in the church? If not in the liturgy (which I can understand), then where? It seems to me this kind of openness as to who we really are and how poor and weak we are in living up to our calling is what is really lacking. But maybe I have already answered my own question. Maybe this is the whole reason for private Confession and Absolution.

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    I left the church because I wasn’t saved. I was never really in the Church, and I didn’t belong there. When the Lord saved me, I became part of his Church, and so returned to church.

    I don’t think it’s at all surprising that so many leave the church. Sunday School and Confirmation do not equal regeneration by the Holy Spirit. I think they can, in fact be hindrances to the reception of the Gospel.

    Before I offend the “this is most certainly true” crowd too much, let me say that I think catechisms are wonderful things when used properly. I encourage their use. What I mean is that they can be used to create good Lutherans (or Presbyterians, etc.) as though that was the goal. Which it often is.

    How many of the catechised are confirmed knowing the Catechism better than Genesis, the Gospels, Romans, James? All of them? Maybe not, but I’d bet almost all.

    As long as the goal is to keep kids in the church, they will grow up and leave. When the goal is to give them the Gospel, then we will keep them in the church. Certainly not all of them, but a great deal more.

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    I left the church because I wasn’t saved. I was never really in the Church, and I didn’t belong there. When the Lord saved me, I became part of his Church, and so returned to church.

    I don’t think it’s at all surprising that so many leave the church. Sunday School and Confirmation do not equal regeneration by the Holy Spirit. I think they can, in fact be hindrances to the reception of the Gospel.

    Before I offend the “this is most certainly true” crowd too much, let me say that I think catechisms are wonderful things when used properly. I encourage their use. What I mean is that they can be used to create good Lutherans (or Presbyterians, etc.) as though that was the goal. Which it often is.

    How many of the catechised are confirmed knowing the Catechism better than Genesis, the Gospels, Romans, James? All of them? Maybe not, but I’d bet almost all.

    As long as the goal is to keep kids in the church, they will grow up and leave. When the goal is to give them the Gospel, then we will keep them in the church. Certainly not all of them, but a great deal more.

  • fw

    #10 Vieth

    It gets stranger….

    That order for Private Confession and Absolution in the new LC-MS service book….

    The wording for that had it´s direct genesis in a parish pastor of a small church in california and a gay parishioner who came to him, having written a new brief memorizable order of Holy Absolution as Director of Outreach in his church.

    This brief form, based on that of Dr Luther, was then adapted over their 13 years of practice at putting the flesh around Dr Luther´s simple formula for private confession….

    That pastor later was appointed to the Synod´s commission that developed our new hymnal.

    It feels strange to know that I had a direct hand in molding a part of the LSB. I wonder what people would think if they knew that this form was originally authored and then practiced by a homosexual with his pastor.

  • fw

    #10 Vieth

    It gets stranger….

    That order for Private Confession and Absolution in the new LC-MS service book….

    The wording for that had it´s direct genesis in a parish pastor of a small church in california and a gay parishioner who came to him, having written a new brief memorizable order of Holy Absolution as Director of Outreach in his church.

    This brief form, based on that of Dr Luther, was then adapted over their 13 years of practice at putting the flesh around Dr Luther´s simple formula for private confession….

    That pastor later was appointed to the Synod´s commission that developed our new hymnal.

    It feels strange to know that I had a direct hand in molding a part of the LSB. I wonder what people would think if they knew that this form was originally authored and then practiced by a homosexual with his pastor.

  • fw

    #19 & #22 Cindy and Van

    Dang girls! you two should start emailing each other. You are both awesome examples of the diversified profound UNITY that comes about from a simple focus on Jesus Christ. I love you both and get alot of inspiration from each of you! Your honest gives me alot of courage to live out my own life, with all it´s chaos.

    Thanks!

  • fw

    #19 & #22 Cindy and Van

    Dang girls! you two should start emailing each other. You are both awesome examples of the diversified profound UNITY that comes about from a simple focus on Jesus Christ. I love you both and get alot of inspiration from each of you! Your honest gives me alot of courage to live out my own life, with all it´s chaos.

    Thanks!

  • fw

    #25 SBauer

    What you wrote was a rare gift for me. Only a cradle Lutheran would have a confession like that one. I can relate in spades.

    And what you write about confession and absolution….. it is all really about Jesus Christ increasing and us decreasing isn´t it?

  • fw

    #25 SBauer

    What you wrote was a rare gift for me. Only a cradle Lutheran would have a confession like that one. I can relate in spades.

    And what you write about confession and absolution….. it is all really about Jesus Christ increasing and us decreasing isn´t it?

  • fw

    #27 Redux

    The next time anyone here hears the phrase “practicing homosexual”…. feel free to recast this phrase in your mind with a new meaning!

  • fw

    #27 Redux

    The next time anyone here hears the phrase “practicing homosexual”…. feel free to recast this phrase in your mind with a new meaning!

  • Van

    David, #26
    Do you think “we” can “keep” anyone in church? At what point is our work enough to keep anyone?
    Van

  • Van

    David, #26
    Do you think “we” can “keep” anyone in church? At what point is our work enough to keep anyone?
    Van

  • Van

    Frank,
    You’re kind…I guess you see I’m working up enough courage to post! ha!
    van

  • Van

    Frank,
    You’re kind…I guess you see I’m working up enough courage to post! ha!
    van

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    Van,
    No, I don’t think “we” can “keep” anyone in the church. Of course it is God who does the saving and keeping. But God uses means to accomplish that, i.e. his Word. Let me rephrase my previous sloppy statement: When our goal and practice is to saturate our children with God’s Word, then we will see that his Word does not return void.

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    Van,
    No, I don’t think “we” can “keep” anyone in the church. Of course it is God who does the saving and keeping. But God uses means to accomplish that, i.e. his Word. Let me rephrase my previous sloppy statement: When our goal and practice is to saturate our children with God’s Word, then we will see that his Word does not return void.

  • fw

    #26 David Kjos:

    Might I suggest that the problem is not one of whether to use the small catechism or direct bible passages and memorize chapter and verse.

    The problem is that it is always so very easy to make jesus life, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins just one of many doctrines, or maybe even make it merely the center or most important doctrine.

    The Evangelical Lutheran Church confesses that the Gospel of the Christ is the ONLY doctrine we have. every other doctrine plays merely a supporting role to that one doctrine.

    Those other doctrines then become fundamentally important, but in their proper sub-ordinate role.

    This is what we continually strive for and battle for as Lutheran christians. This is what constant renewal needs to look like: A constant and radical re-orienting anew to this central only-saving doctrine.

  • fw

    #26 David Kjos:

    Might I suggest that the problem is not one of whether to use the small catechism or direct bible passages and memorize chapter and verse.

    The problem is that it is always so very easy to make jesus life, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins just one of many doctrines, or maybe even make it merely the center or most important doctrine.

    The Evangelical Lutheran Church confesses that the Gospel of the Christ is the ONLY doctrine we have. every other doctrine plays merely a supporting role to that one doctrine.

    Those other doctrines then become fundamentally important, but in their proper sub-ordinate role.

    This is what we continually strive for and battle for as Lutheran christians. This is what constant renewal needs to look like: A constant and radical re-orienting anew to this central only-saving doctrine.

  • Van

    David, you said, “When the goal is to give them the Gospel, then we will keep them in the church. Certainly not all of them, but a great deal more.”

    What I was getting at was that even when we do give kids, or adults for that matter, the pure Gospel they may still choose to leave. Don’t you think? Like a parent who does “all the right things” and a kid still chooses to rebel. Or like when our Heavenly Father has given us all the blessings we need to thrive and believe and we still choose to walk away or rebel or sin for that matter.

    I guess what I’m saying is that to some extent there’s not really an answer to this post’s question.

    We can’t keep anyone in church.

    But God is faithful to keep all His in the Church.

    We must focus on our obedience to proclaim the Gospel and leave the results to Him.

    What do you think?

  • Van

    David, you said, “When the goal is to give them the Gospel, then we will keep them in the church. Certainly not all of them, but a great deal more.”

    What I was getting at was that even when we do give kids, or adults for that matter, the pure Gospel they may still choose to leave. Don’t you think? Like a parent who does “all the right things” and a kid still chooses to rebel. Or like when our Heavenly Father has given us all the blessings we need to thrive and believe and we still choose to walk away or rebel or sin for that matter.

    I guess what I’m saying is that to some extent there’s not really an answer to this post’s question.

    We can’t keep anyone in church.

    But God is faithful to keep all His in the Church.

    We must focus on our obedience to proclaim the Gospel and leave the results to Him.

    What do you think?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17639370291865261582 Cindy

    Van,

    Regarding #28…I’ve found that it’s good to follow Frank’s advice, and I can always use another friend, so if you want to email me, just click on my name and find my email link on the next page.

    It took me ages to work up the courage to post. I was a lurker for well over a year. Some of us are just a bit shyer than Frank! But though we may be standing among giants here, they don’t bite or stomp on us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17639370291865261582 Cindy

    Van,

    Regarding #28…I’ve found that it’s good to follow Frank’s advice, and I can always use another friend, so if you want to email me, just click on my name and find my email link on the next page.

    It took me ages to work up the courage to post. I was a lurker for well over a year. Some of us are just a bit shyer than Frank! But though we may be standing among giants here, they don’t bite or stomp on us.

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    Van,
    I agree completely. But I was looking at it from the question of our responsibility, as God does not work outside the means he has ordained.

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    Van,
    I agree completely. But I was looking at it from the question of our responsibility, as God does not work outside the means he has ordained.


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