Two thirds of Americans born between 1980 and 1991 identify themselves as Christians, but most do not regularly pray, read the Bible or attend church, according to findings of a new LifeWay Research study. See the following link:
Wow! This is a big deal. I’ve read in other places that usually a generation returns in their 20s as they settle down after college (especially when families begin). I realize people are ‘settling down’ and having families later in life. Still this new generation is not coming back. Just think about this recent survey. 65 percent of people who profess to be Christian admit they don’t go, don’t practice, and don’t pray. Wow. This is not a survey of folks who don’t claim to believe. That makes this quite startling.
So what does this mean for the future? Some say this is yet another warning that some denominations may not survive and many, many churches are facing an end in the years to come. In the next few decades as the dedicated go to be with God and with fewer coming some churches will not be able to survive.
What hope is there? What can we do?
*Reach the unchurched. If 65 percent claim to know Christ and do not come we should not give up on them but we should focus on the many, many who have not had any connection and are not believers. Evangelism becomes crucial. We have to do a better job at reaching those who are not yet hardened by bad experiences, etc.
*Strong children and youth ministries are needed. The old image of youth and children ministries is often that of pizza and games. This image must change. We need to do serious theological, biblical, and discipleship studies with our youth/students. Our younger children need to have a strong start in faith. This is vital.
*Begin talking and dealing with this problem among young adults. The dechurched/previously churched young adults who are not coming need to be treated with love and respect. We need to develop conversations with that age group and talk about what they would like to see their churches do and what would help them.
*An overall church health exam needs to be done in every church. Are we doing the ‘stuff’ the church needs to do- worship, evangelism, missions, stewardship, Bible teaching, caring for the people, and living holy lives. Are we going deeper or are things ‘shallow.’ Are we playing it safe or taking risks. Are we challenging our folks? Are we about ministry or taking care of the institution? Are we into cheap grace or costly grace?
This report is a wake up call. What about the generation after this one? We don’t know yet but we have time to work hard and perhaps see better results.