Part 1 – the need for change
New generations largely regard the church with contempt. This has led many to think that the world is coming to an end. Not so at all. New generations have the same spiritual needs as people have had in the past, they just don’t find those needs met in churches. This generation won’t be worked with in the same way as older generations. A change on the part of church leaders is needed to work with New Generations.
In this series we’ll look at the many issues that new generations have with the church, and see if these can be resolved by more thoroughly examining theology. Much of this is covered in my book, New Generations Walk with Jesus.
New Generations Learn About Farming
Image by Liz West on Flickr
In the first articles we’ll look at some things that are doubtful to many. Why do people leave the church? Was there a man named Jesus who started Christianity? What did the early church look like? Are the Bible documents reliable? Some of these are problems for new generations, but there are many others to get to.
The thing that New Generations need more than anything is a safe place to discuss these things, without criticism and condemnation.
I don’t intend to convince anyone. Faith comes from believing and experiencing the truth of the way God has shown us to live. It’s like sucking on a lemon. It’s a very pretty fruit but you don’t know how bad it is, or good, unless you experience it.
Everyone can cast stones at religion – there is doubt about religion and everything in the world. We don’t live in world of absolutes, not even in science. I’ve covered this already in Science, philosophy, and religion – different evaluations.
What I will do is ask you to use the stricter standard of law that asks, “Beyond a reasonable doubt?” Or at least appeal to the lesser standard of civil law, “More likely than not.”
Why they leave and don’t come back
Leaving religion isn’t a new phenomenon. The reality is that people have been walking away from the church since at least 1900. Many just don’t see the need for it. For many it’s a choice driven by teachings, doctrines, and practices that discourage people from attending. Add to this that younger adults feel out of place when they see a sea of gray hair, or they have babies with no time to prepare for church and no baby room to sit in.
The dynamic most see is that young adults graduate from high school, go to college, and most never come back to church. A few return when they want their children to be raised in the church. People whose parents didn’t bring them to church don’t come ever. As young people leave there is no church.
Currently 25% of people in the US are practicing Christians. The rate of decline has accelerated since the year 2000. According to Pew Research, around half say that science is the reason. Others don’t like organized religion saying that it’s divisive and does more harm than good. Some cite sex abuse scandals while in the 2020s LGBTQIA and other faith rejection is cited among the young. Some say they like Jesus but hate the church because it’s a bunch of judgmental hypocrites. Jesus said the same of the religious leaders of his time.
One of the big obstacles to new generation acceptance of organized religion is its refusal to change. It’s noted by many that change most of the time comes from the death of the leaders. I’ve heard so many priests and pastors say that they don’t need to make the church “relevant” – it is what it is and people need it.
In this series we’ll look at the reasons for leaving and ask if the church can be relevant. So first we’ll look at church development and change, and Jesus and change. They’re all very related.
First, what is the standard for comparison and what does God require of us?
The standard for evaluation
The larger Jewish standard comes from the Prophet Micah: “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8 (NASB)
The Hebrew word translated Justice essentially means equality. Treat people equitably. In context, the primary concern of most prophets was how others are treated or mistreated. Religion was the law so equal treatment is a requirement. Plus Micah included the statement to love kindness.
Jesus, when asked for the most important Jewish commandment summed up the entirety of it with: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and [o]foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22: 37-40 (NASB)
As Jesus was leaving his Apostles for the final time he gave them a new commandment: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”” – John 13: 34-35
The Apostle Paul made many statements about Christianity, including: “… the summation of Christian belief is in the fact of Jesus, the Son of God, taking on human form, dying on the cross carrying all human sin from the beginning to the end of time, and rising again on the third day, which was witnessed by many.” Paul went on to say: If we don’t have love we are nothing. “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” that if we have faith but don’t have love, we’re nothing.
– 1 Corinthians 13 (NASB)
The Apostle John wrote that God is love and the word was made flesh (Jesus). In him there is life. As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God. He baptizes in the holy spirit. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. – 1 John 4:7-21 (NASB)
While many have tried to define the essence of Christianity, their biases get in the way. If you simply look at the very strong statements made by Jesus and his apostles, it’s crystal clear from these passages that the essence and intent of Christianity is love. Love is the standard by which all is evaluated. If any instruction anyone gives breaks this standard, or any behavior breaks it, it isn’t from God or Christ.
Love is also the strongest statement of all major religions.
So what changes in religion? Next article in the series: Eras and some beliefs.
Take Home Points
People are leaving the church at high rates because they find nothing of value and believe church doctrines are harmful to society. Many church leaders feel that the church is perfect and they shouldn’t change anything. Who is going to blink first?
The church actually changes endlessly. We’ll look at the changes and hold a purifying candle of fire and light up to them and see if they are love or something else.
The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love. Legal standard.
New Generations Walk with Jesus: The missions in a changing world (by author on Amazon). Young adults not only don’t find what they need in churches, they’re pushed away, and they have a no tolerance policy for the nonsense they see in churches. How do you minister to them? Answers.
Promiscuous America: Smart, Secular, and Somewhat Less Happy. Institute For Family Studies.
How Casual Sex Can Affect Our Mental Health. Psychology Today
Free Speech – Rabbi Berel Wein.
Some series references:
How to Keep Millennials Engaged in Church – on Patheos
What Is Meant by Truth? – on Patheos
Tabernacle of Hate – False Religion – on Patheos
10 Reforms Christianity Needs to Make Right Now – on Patheos
Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. Together we make the world better.