I read an interesting article this morning – www.politicsdaily.com/2010/02/25/young-adults-doing-religion-on-their-own-blame-it-on-politics/%2F. [NOTE: The link may only take you to the main Politics Daily page. Enter “pew center young adults” in the search box, and it’s the first article that comes up.] The article briefly discussed the Pew Center’s recently-released report, “Religion Among the Millenials.” Please read the entire article, but in short, Pew indicated that the generation of young adults aged 18-29 are leaving organized denominations and churches, but have not abandoned their faith to embrace secularism. They are not worshipping in the way of their parents and grandparents. They are leaving the church because of the church’s role in politics. I do find it interesting that the early church was always involved in politics – as with the Civil Rights Movement – but perhaps the church was dealing more with social politics as opposed to the extreme right- and left-wing issues being fought across the country today. This blog is not a review, or even a discussion about the Pew report. However, this article had me revisit the question many of us in the church have been asking…”Why are young adults leaving the church?”
We must be very careful with information found in surveys such as the Pew report – I think that too many of our churches take this information as a cue to “re-vamp” the church. Speaking as a Methodist, John Wesley (the father of Methodism), Richard Allen (founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church), James Varick (founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church), and all our other forefathers and foremothers, along with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave us all the tools we needed, and still need, for effective ministry. What we need to do is just sharpen the tools for today’s times. Too many ministers and laity feel it necessary to “change” the church drastically in order to attract, or re-attract young adults. Many want to write-off the “traditions” of the church, citing them as being outdated and irrelevant. However, in terms of Methodism, the “tradition” of John Wesley WAS preaching to the people in the streets, at risk of being stoned and ridiculed for his faith and public proclamation of the Gospel. It was the tradition of John Wesley and his brother Charles to “preach” to the local pubdwellers by putting Christian lyrics to the tunes of popular bar songs. Now if that wasn’t an example of bringing the Gospel to the people…!
Please…let’s not start trying to take the “church” out of the church – restructuring pulpits, taking down altar rails, taking crosses off the wall and not using the word “church” in the names of our ministries. These are not the things that turn people away from the church. What turns young adults away is the church that preaches the Gospel, but fails to LIVE the Gospel. The church filled with people who have forgotten what it is like to be young in age, or young in Christ, and forget to be patient and loving to those who are growing up in the faith. We must stop trying to give people what they WANT and remember to give people what they NEED, according to the Word of God.
The true church is made up of the hearts of the people. If our hearts are right and in tune with God, and we continue to preach, teach and live the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, and continue to allow God to give our leaders vision and share that unaltered vision with the followers, then our churches will grow and reclaim its place as the true beacons in our community and in our world.