Millennials Leaving the Church
Every month or so I see one come across my newsfeed on Facebook – an article by the current religious leaders trying to explain why my generation is walking away from the church or the faith entirely. Most of the time they’re so sadly off base that I have to wonder if they even know anyone from my generation. Every once and awhile they come close to hitting the mark in some small area, but usually, the emphasis of their articles is on shallow issues that are easy to address (music, cool factor, mood). It’s probably professionally dangerous for some of these men to write about the actual issues my generation has with the church if they even wanted to. Personally, I think the church’s reaction to doubting and questioning established views is the primary reason many leave their faith.
I have wanted to write about this topic for quite awhile, but I’ve wrestled with how to present my thoughts. Honestly, it’s not a simple topic to discuss because everyone who has left the church has walked out for different reasons. Also, some people struggle with these same topics, but instead of feeling pushed out of their faith they find that the struggle brings them to a place of deeper faith in God. I don’t expect to touch on every issue that anyone has ever had with their faith, but I do think that the issues I hope to discuss are much more realistic than the surface level topics most people scapegoat for the exodus of millennials.
I know friends or acquaintances who no longer identify as Christian, I’ve read numerous blog posts by people who have struggled through issues with their faith, and there are several unifying topics that they all mention in some way or another. Some people have issues reconciling science with what they’ve been taught about the age of the Earth or the history in the Bible. Other individuals have doubts or questions about the basis for certain beliefs or practices upheld by their church. Some have suffered spiritual abuse due to harmful practices and find it difficult to engage with God or his people. I’ve read many accounts of women that grew tired of the second class position they were subjugated to in many church settings. What all of these issues have in common though is that when they’re voiced the church often responds as if the people questioning have something wrong with them.
There is nothing wrong with these Christians or former Christians and their questions. The problem is that they dared to think that there could be another way of thinking about a topic-a way that wasn’t in step with the established views. The problem is that the church culture they were in has an attitude of superiority; they’re right in all their beliefs and don’t try to question them. But nevertheless the questions do come and when they do the typical response of many within the church is to tell these people the same shallow platitudes they’ve heard all of their life. When questioning whether the Bible actually supports a certain belief a common response from those within the church is “the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” Such responses dismiss the legitimate questions being asked as if they’re childish.
So what can be done to correct this? For starters, I believe that the church needs to be open and honest about the diversity of perspectives on various issues. This means not hiding away those “crazy” Christians who may just have the answers that these believers need. Second it means acknowledging that even though a particular church or denomination may believe that one view of a topic is correct and all others are wrong, there are other rational Christian beliefs on various topics. This can be hard because it’s easy to worry that a young Christian may be led astray, but we need to let the Holy Spirit do His work in leading each of us in the direction He may, and if that means that some Christians decide they believe slightly differently than their churches that should be okay because ultimately what is the goal? Is it to have people who all believe the same as us, or is it for people to continue to grow in their love, worship, and service for God?