According to George Barna, “A majority of twenty-somethings—61% of today’s young adults—had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying).” Obviously, most youth groups aren’t making solid followers of Christ (Matthew 28:19). After recently attending the National Youth Worker’s Convention in Sacramento, I understand why.
The current youth ministry model isn’t hard to figure out. Essentially, it’s daycare for young people. It’s all about attracting young people by being “cool.” No form of amusement is off-limits, and the trendier the better. What about the young people who are truly interested in God’s Word, because they are struggling to make sense of life? They’re introduced to a shallow, cotton-candy version of Christianity that has little to do with following Christ and more to do with convenience. Self-denial is replaced with accommodation, and respect for God’s Word is replaced with compromise.
For example, consider the issue of evolution and the biblical account of creation. When you flip through the first few pages of the Bible, it’s clear that God created everything in six ordinary, 24-hour days. Yet, many Christians think evolution is true, so they promote the idea that God used evolution. As a result, they claim Genesis is just “poetry.” Now, the Bible may not be a science textbook, but it is a history book. Well, evolution is a theory of history. If you trust in God, why wouldn’t you trust His eyewitness account of what really happened in the beginning over human speculation?
Naturally, many young people view this compromise as hypocrisy. You can’t say you believe the Bible is God’s Word and then reject page one. In addition, if compromising the Bible is acceptable for their youth pastors, why shouldn’t they compromise the passages about fornication, homosexuality and drunkenness? If there is no respect for God and His Word, there’s no reason to obey Him. Besides, even if youth group is entertaining, college can provide a much better time. Is it any wonder that the majority of young churchgoers are “spiritually disengaged” after high school? Many of them weren’t truly spiritually engaged to begin with.
C.S. Lewis once said “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” Here’s my plea to youth ministers around the country: stop trying to make the Gospel “relevant” and just submit to God. Acting like the world might bring more of the world into the church, but it won’t keep them for very long. If you want to actually be relevant, preach the Word, because only it “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” and “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).