Young adults are less religious

Well, tell me something I don’t know. This story appeared on the front page of USA today or online at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-04-27-1Amillfaith27_ST_N.htm

“Most young adults (18-29) today don’t pray, don’t worship, and don’t read the bible.”

Thom Rainer, who wrote Breakout Churches, is now a pollster (among other things) with LifeWay Christian Resources. He says: “the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships.”

These results are similar to many other reports (e.g., Pew Charitable Trust, Barna Group, Already Gone, The Last Christian Generation). This crisis is involved in the “Youth Exodus Problem” described by Frank Turek on his website (http://crossexamined.org/problem.asp). About three quarters of Christian youth leave the church after high school. When added to the never-churched Millenials, you end up with a profoundly non-Christian generation.

I know, this is such old news that it’s hard to muster the enthusiasm to read any further. But my question for today is what is anyone doing about it? The church doesn’t care. Go read Benson Hines e-book Reaching the Campus Tribes and you’ll see that the majority of attempts to reach the 18-22 (read “college”) age group are spear-headed by parachurch organizations and not any particular church. The church mostly doesn’t care. College students leave for school, they don’t give money, they only need a holding pen, and they’re not going to take over when they grow up. Churches don’t invest there. They invest in young families. The major parachurch organizations are not going to succeed. Campus Crusade, Intervarsity, etc. are not going to prosper. They are hamstrung by their “everyone raise support” business model. Raising money from churches and individuals is doomed if, to be crass, the church is losing market share so fast that we’ll be closing churches “as quickly as GM dealerships” (Rainer). Furthermore, they are more likely to gather up and protect the Christian kids than they are to win the lost. For example, at Kent they have no solid numbers on conversion growth—only vague ideas. Sometimes they view the extension of high school “youth group” for a few more years as their role on campus. Finally, Christian faculty are non-existent or preoccupied. The least Christian group in America is University professors. A majority have a negative view of evangelical Christianity (53%). University professors prefer Mormonism and Islam! Mormonism is a cult, and Islamic extremists kill people. Christian extremists don’t fly airplanes into buildings or strap bombs to themselves, but the Christian faith is more disagreeable than Islam? So the “center of gravity” of this group is overtly hostile to Christianity. What about Christian faculty? If they listen to the guidance of Campus Crusade, Intervarsity, etc. they’re busy with spiritual disciplines, integrating their scholarship with their faith, and other navel-gazing time sucks that aren’t evangelism, discipleship, or equipping. What are these things? Personal sanctification? Professional enrichment? Sounds like “fiddling while Rome burns.” Christian faculty have no role in campus ministries except perhaps “faculty advisor” and “guest speaker.” If churches were wiser, they’d comission any of their members who land an academic job as tent-making missionaries, provide some support, and demand a full report! Don’t look to the faculty to stem the tide. I’ve said it before: being on the faculty is so alternately self-indulgent and enslaving that most are feathering their own nest or workin’ that treadmill like a rat trying to survive the experiment.

What is left? Maybe all we have left are the students. Impossible as that may sound, it makes a great deal of sense. When all allies have abandoned a people-group, they ought to take matters into their own hands. Missions groups were forced from China, and the Chinese Christians were forced underground. Now there’s 100 million Christians in China. Maybe this is exactly what the doctor ordered for the American campus—nobody else is going to do it.

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