On April 15, 1912, in the cold dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the largest passenger ship of its time hit an iceberg, sank, and killed 1,517 people. The story of the Titanic has been memorialized as one of the greatest examples of how the unthinkable can happen with catastrophic effects. Everyone thought that this ship was indestructible. Nobody could see the threat lurking under the surface of the water. But the pundits were wrong and the ship perished on it’s maiden voyage. The church of America today is seeing an epidemic of Titanic proportions.
The polls and statistics tracking the health and welfare of the church for decades all agree that there is a crisis affecting the future of Christianity in America. While there are a multitude of external threats surrounding us; Islam, Socialism, and the economy, the greatest threat to the church, just under the surface, is the massive exodus of young adults.Researchers suggest the conservative Christian church could be gone within the next five years. One thing is clear, the Church in America is quickly becoming obsolete.
Many of our listeners have children, grandchildren, and in some cases great-grandchildren. They have watched as the values that they once shared are no longer being passed down from generation to generation, and they are fearful for the future of the church. We are losing ground for the church, and if we don’t do something soon, we may not have a solid foundation to build on.
For too long conservative churches have ignored the notion that they are aging. Unless its members replace their ranks, the church will be empty once they are gone. The primary reason we are losing the battle for the hearts and lives of young adults in American churches today is because we have blind faith in our youth programs. Look at your church budget and ask this question. Apart from out of state missions and the general church upkeep and salaries, which ministry has the largest budget? Chances are its the youth ministries. Think about it. We have a multitude of programs, materials, and resources for Youth Groups, Vacation Bible School, and Children’s Church, but what do we have to show for it? Over the past 20 years we have invested more time, talents, and resources in youth programs than any other ministry, but where are these youth today? Chances are
they have abandoned the faith.
A. W. Tozer in his book The Pursuit of God says, “How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done by our teachers.” The youth in the church today are entertained and lectured, but few have been given the opportunity to struggle with their own faith. Philippians 2:12 exhorts us to “Work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” In essence, the massive church abandonment is a product of our own creation. We have struggled to provide a safe environment for our children, we have paved the road to spiritual success, and we have opened the door of possibilities for the future. But something is still missing. Youth today cannot imagine the power of God, they cannot envision the work of Christ, and they cannot see the Spirit’s involvement in their daily activities because they have never had to work for their spirituality.
The second reason we are losing ground with young adults is because we have neglected to engage them. The two major reasons cited by young adults as to why they have left the church is because they don’t believe the arguments of the Bible and they don’t hold to the traditions of their parents. Some Christians have falsely assumed that what was good for them will be good for their children and grandchildren. One factor not considered, however, is the notable differences between generations. Youth have always had a difficult time connecting to their parents.
Generational gaps always pose challenges of heritage, communication, and relevance, but due to the dawn of the digital age and the widespread ideas of secularism, children growing up today will have drastically different life experiences than their parents. Values are not trans-generational. They emerge from experience and world view. The values of the next generation will not be the same because they did not grow up under the same circumstances as their parents. You are the product of your upbringing and your children will be the product of their surroundings. A young adult
under the age of 20 will never remember a day without iPhones, Facebook, and MTV.
Tim Keller, a church planter in New York City and well known author has said, “To over-contextualize is to make a god of this generation, but to under-contextualize is to make a god of an older generation.” Simply put, if we only cater to the concerns of this society, we are robbing God
of His role in our lives. However, offering older traditional values as a substitute for present cultural norms is not any better. We need to be presenting a counter-cultural relationship with Christ, rather than a preferential lifestyle that many young adults will unabashedly reject.
What Can Be Done?
In the midst of this dark time in church history, there is hope. Christ told Peter that He was going to build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). For the first time in recent history, many young adults are questioning their faith with sincerity and struggling to find meaning with spirituality. Young adults are attempting to disassemble the essence of religion and put it back together in a way that they can comprehend and relate to it. As a result, they are finally working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). But the youth of today are not turning to the traditional forms of authority. They have abandoned the church and they are rethinking how they want their relationship with God to look. As a result they are turning to the internet for their answers. Now more than any time in history, the church of the future needs trustworthy guidance.
For almost fifty years Songtime USA has maintained a solid foundation of biblical teaching and guidance. Many of our listeners have grown up listening to the broadcast. Based on many letters and testimonies, our listeners have truly benefited from our solid emphasis on God’s Word.
Now we want to provide these same values to the next generation by starting a new program that is geared for them. Without disrupting the progress we have already made with Songtime’s broadcast, this new program will be featured on the internet and as a CD resource for churches and parents. Our hope is to develop a program that offers stability to a generation that is on the edge. We can’t give up hope. We must continue to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 1:3). There is a lot to do, but now, more than ever, your efforts, support, and prayers are needed to impact the
church of the future.