Thursday, October 26, 2006

Four percent

A rather big deal has been made of late about the decline of Bible-believing Christians with some notable sources taking note and commenting on the apparent dearth of Biblical Christians among the youth. The point that has been causing the most friction is Ron Luce's claim that only 4-5% of today's young adult Christians are going to be Bible-believing Christians. That's a tiny percentage, obviously, and the validity of the statistics has come under criticism from various sources. It's important to note, however, that whatever the validity of this particular set of statistics, it rings true with others (Josh McDowell found a few years ago, for example, that less than 10% of Christian teenagers believed the Bible was the absolutely true word of God), and more importantly, even if it's off by a factor of 5 (not likely!) that'd still be less than a quarter of the church that believes in the validity of Scripture.

Ben Witherington's blog entry on the topic addresses the issue quite adroitly, and effectively argues that more Scripture, more theology, and more real substance is what's ultimately needed here - not the decreasing amounts all-too-often advocated by people thinking that compromising with culture will gain converts. He writes:

My word today to Youth Ministers is this--- one key to retaining the youth is this--- have they been captivated, caught up in love, wonder and praise of the Lord, or have they merely been entertained? There is a difference. Does the event not merely make them dance but make them kneel and confess their sins and pray? Does the event not merely move their emotions but challenge their thinking? Does it bring them to repentance, or are you offering some kind of forgiveness without repentance, crown without a cross, encounter without commitment? And are you integrating them into a caring Christian community where they will be planted deeply, richly in God's Word? The key to retention is surrounding a new Christian with a caring, supportive and yes challenging Christian environment that involves more than just worship. It also needs to involve some profound Christian education, as our youth will never get that from our culture these days. Youth ministry is often failing because in general the Church's Christian education is failing. Less than a third, on average, of people who go to worship stay for Sunday school or Bible study or its equivalent. We should have noticed this warning sign a long time ago.

I highly recommend reading the rest of the blog, if you have time. It's worth the minutes it will take you to get through it. It's certainly something we need to be attentive to - and something we need to address. Christian teens and young adults are leaving because they're not having their questions answered. We ought to be answering. And people my age (that very same age group) ought to be among those stepping up with the kind of intellectual response that questioning people need. Tired, trite responses with no Scriptural, theological power to them are not going to keep people in the body.

- Chris

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