A disturbing new report has recently been released that illustrates a growing trend of young people leaving the church. According to the report by the Pew Research Center – a nonpartisan group based in Washington DC that conducts public opinion polling on a wide range of issues – an increasing percentage of Americans are identifying themselves as not belonging to any religious affiliation. The Pew report identifies those who do not affiliate with any religion as “religious nones.” The majority of these individuals are people who are under the age of 35 and identify themselves as “ex-Christians.” The reasons why these individuals are leaving the church is disturbing and perhaps reveals a deeper problem with the teaching of essential Christian beliefs these young people are encountering in their churches. According to the Pew report that asked respondents to identify the “most important reason” for their lack of affiliation, 51% of the individuals surveyed left because they “question a lot of religious teaching” while 46% left because they disagree with “the positions churches take on social/political issues.” However, it is important to note that respondents in this most recent Pew survey were not allowed to respond in their own words, they were asked to select from options provided by the Pew survey.
Earlier Report Sheds Even More Light on the Issue
Interestingly, a similar survey conducted in 2016 by the Pew Research Center did allow respondents to answer in their own words. The results of this study shockingly indicate that most of those who were formerly affiliated with a church left because they no longer “believed it was true.” In a shocking finding of both the 2016 and 2018 Pew reports, most who leave the church have significant doubts about “the existence of God” — with 81% overall indicating they “do not believe in God” — and believe that no one in the church can substantially answer their questions. If these statistics are valid then it calls into question the manner in which we engage the contemporary culture with the essential truths of Scripture. This should serve as a wake-up call to the churches and Christian ministries to be more emboldened in our efforts to present the Word of God and to offer explanations for the faith that are satisfying to young people who have sincere questions regarding the faith.
Relevant Bible Passages
The Bible encourages believers to be constantly ready to provide an answer to anyone who has questions regarding our hope in the gospel and our belief in God (1 Peter 3:15). Likewise, as modern disciples of Jesus we should follow the example set before us from the earliest followers of Christ. Jesus’ original disciples openly identified themselves as credible witnesses to His resurrection as proof of His divinity (Acts 4:33). All of us who have been saved by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) can seek ways to share this with others as a testimony to God’s miraculous provision for us just as many of us can share of other miracles God has provided for us as well. Jesus Himself said that His miracles would testify on His behalf (John 10:38). Additionally, we can point to the complex wonder of the natural world as an argument for the existence of God as the psalmist did (Psalm 19:1). Above all, let us pray that God would use each of us within our sphere of influence as faithful and true witnesses for His Glory! We should identify and support our local churches, Christian schools, and ministries that are actively engaging young believers and their questions.