An alarming study shows that “Nearly half of young adults with ties to Christianity say church can’t answer their questions” The study surveyed over 15,000 young adults in different countries, ages 18-35 who had ties to Christianity. Consider the results, of those surveyed:
- 47 percent of respondents with some connection to Christianity say they feel the Church “cannot answer their questions” or spiritual doubts.
- only one-third (33 percent) say they feel deeply cared for by those around them
- 58 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29, who grew up with some type of Christian background, either no longer identify as Christian or do not regularly attend church even if they still identify as Christian.
- Nearly half of young adults who said they left the Christian church reported being active in their church during their teen years.
- Almost half of the young adults who have left Christianity see the religion as “hypocritical.”
- 31 percent of respondents said “science” also challenges their willingness to believe.
- 28 percent (one-quarter) of respondents said human suffering and conflicts around the world cause them to have doubts.
- 29 percent of respondents identify as atheist, agnostic or simply irreligious today.
- 89 percent of church dropouts say they want to distance themselves from the “politics of the Church.”
- 80 percent of young people who left Christianity said they believe that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual,” while 81 percent say present-day Christianity is judgmental.
- 74 percent of those who are no longer Christian said present-day Christianity is “out of touch with reality.”
No doubt, the article concluded: “churches are struggling to not only adequately respond to the questions of many young adults today but are also struggling to raise up the next generation of church leaders.”
What Is the Church to Do?
To those in the church, my answer is simple: return to what Jesus emphasized and integrated: truth (John 14:6) and disciple-making (Matthew 28:16-20). You cannot separate the two, and you cannot practice one without the other. Christians near and far must not only know and live the truth; they must also build relationships that reproduce the truth in others. Of course, we must do this in the twenty-first century and across cultures. Some things will be different, but the model is the same. As disciples, we must study and integrate truth from philosophy, apologetics, the Bible, theology, and evangelism to find and give answers that really help. Here are five areas of truth for the people in the church to study in order to answer their questions.
Truth from Philosophy
Those in the church must not forget that Paul’s opposition to philosophy (Colossians 2:8) is against bad philosophy (insipient Gnosticism), not good philosophy. Indeed, good philosophy, as the literary apologetic giant reminds us, must exist to answer bad philosophy. Good philosophy connects us with truth and reality that unlocks, enhances, and sharpens our thinking about the world. Bad philosophy begins with skepticism and cuts the knower off from knowing reality; it keeps us in the fog of phenomenalism. Good philosophy shows how the truth of a knower and the thing known have distinct natures, which dictate what they are and what they are not. Such natures or essences have intended ends or functions; they can be judged good or bad, according to their nature. This includes human beings as rational, moral creatures. We live in a fallen world, and we know for a fact that natures in our world can cease to exist. Therefore, we can conclude that something must exist outside of our world which is not created and, cannot stop existing to account for our world. Such a world shows us that One perfect, immaterial, eternal Being must exist (Romans 1:18-20). Thus, this kind of certain thinking about the world must find its way into the pulpits and pews, as well as the lives of those we disciple.
Truth from Apologetics
Those in the church must not forget that Christianity is a faith that makes certain truth claims about God, miracles, and history. However, unlike many other faiths, Christianity has a sound and valid answer. A defense is made (1 Peter 3:15) that is not based on mythology, unverifiable history, or experience alone. The ultimate Being of good philosophy is identical to the God of the Bible, since it is impossible to have two eternal beings. This God communicated through prophets and their writings by making numerous prophecies about a coming Savior hundreds of years in advance of their fulfillment.
He will be a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18-Acts 7:3); from the line of David (2 Samuel 7:12-Luke 1:31-33); born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14-Matthew 1:23); in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-Matthew 2:6); die for our sins (Isaiah 53-John 19); and rise from the dead (Psalm 16-John 20).
Jesus of Nazareth made the historical and verifiable claim to be this promised Savior (Matthew 27:11) who rose from the dead (Matthew 28). His close followers offered their testimony and became willing martyrs of this claim, as proof of his resurrection (something they knew to be true or false). However, our defense does not stop at the resurrection. We are required to make disciples just as Jesus commanded. We must trust and teach the Bible of the prophets and apostles to be the word of God.
Truth from the Bible
Those in the church must not forget the power of God’s word, the necessity of discipleship, and the reality of apostasy. The apostle Paul taught that in the last days, from time to time, even after being taught the truth, people will walk away (apostasy) from the truth (2 Timothy 3). There will be false teachers that arise even within the church and deceive people. As his mentor, Paul wrote to Timothy stating two things to emphasize and remember in preventing the church divorcing from the truth. First, the importance of beginning discipleship at the youngest, possible age (2 Timothy 3:10-15). Secondly, because it is the word of God, the power of Scripture is valuable for instruction, illuminating sins, correcting error, and gives us examples on how to live righteously (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, when the church engages in discipleship, it must be personal and corrective.
You cannot disciple from the pulpit you must get down in the pew. It is critical to know your disciple’s strengths and struggles. You must fellowship, pray, and pour into their lives to ensure your teaching and training inhabits their soul. They will then be able to disciple others from your example and fulfill the command to go to all nations (Matthew 28:18-19). Cultures that emphasize the formal teaching of truth with low interaction (individualism) must work to build closer relationships; cultures that emphasize informal teaching with high interaction (community) must work to integrate truth and correction. While apostasy can occur with the young and old, these are crucial truths that need constant attention and devotion.
Truth from Theology
Those in the church must not forget the human attempt to present the highest and most complete expression of God’s entire revelation: Systematic Theology. Using this, we can see the integration of what God has revealed through the world by (General Revelation) and what He has revealed through His word (Special Revelation). Through this we can see beginning to end, the difference between the Creator and His creatures, the total depravity of people and complete restoration by Christ; the need for the church and the longing for His return. This is the faith that the apologist attempts to defend, and the pastor tries to teach. Such a study should move our faith into maturity and challenge us to live righteously. It should be used as armor to protect us from heresy and gives us the most comprehensive understanding of all reality. There is nothing else like it and the church should not do its mission without it. As the apostle Paul said,
“I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:27(ESV)
Truth from Evangelism
Finally, those in the church must not forget the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) and the experience of its converts to the faith (Acts 9). While experience can never be a test for truth, it can and should be an expression of truth. It does not matter if you were young or old when you found Christ, there was always a time when you moved from non-belief to belief. The moment you felt the conviction of your sin and the need for the Savior. When you realized your separation from God could only be restored by the love of Christ. Each individual story of faith is as unique as each person in the world, and yet the gospel is the same for everyone. History can attest to the spread of Christianity from its beginning to today. From every tribe and tongue, they shall come, from the poorest to the wealthiest, from the well-educated to the least educated, from the youngest to the oldest, from the greatest sinner to the holiest priest — as the gospel goes into the world it will bring forth salvation to all who believe and accomplish His will on earth as it is in heaven. Nothing can stop it!
So do not fear the studies and the statistics no matter how bad it may seem or becomes. God who is sovereign, upholding everything, brings about His divine plan by providentially working in all things and through redeemed people to communicate His glory throughout all creation. As the lion of apologetics reminds us, we must train trainers, teach teachers, and disciple disciples . . . until the Lord returns. The only question that remains is . . . are you prepared to fight for the faith (Jude 3) with your words and righteous living? Integrating God’s truth, and make disciples (John 8:31) who can answer their questions?