What is the cause of so many young people falling away from faith?There is an alarming amount of young people falling away from faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. In brief, perhaps the primary cause of this is a lack of true biblical discipleship during their formative years and beyond. Hosea 4:6 talks about people perishing due to a lack of knowledge. When people are not trained in the ways of Christ and do not truly know Him, they will reject Him, and ultimately, He will reject them, too. So just how many young people are falling away from the faith, and what can be done to change it?
According to a study by research organization the Barna Group, less than one percent of young adults in the United States have a biblical worldview. The Barna Group defines a biblical worldview as belief in these key things:
• absolute moral truth exists
• the Bible is completely inerrant
• Satan is a real being, not symbolic
• a person cannot earn his way into the kingdom of God though good works
• Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
• God is the supreme Creator of the heavens and the earth and reigns over the whole universe today
Nearly three-quarters of young adults who fall away do so after high school, according to studies by the Barna Group as well as USA Today. This could be correlated, in part, to the increase in alternative worldviews and pressures they encounter when going to college and entering their careers, but is that really the root cause?
In modern western society, intellectualism and skepticism reign. Whether at home or in church, perhaps the greatest problem causing the young adults of today to fall away from the faith is a lack of discipleship. How many of them were actually taught the Bible? If young people were not trained in the Word of God, they will not be equipped to withstand the worldly pressures that come upon entering adulthood. How can one be expected to have a Christian worldview if they have not been trained in it? If there is no biblical foundation established, surely it will be easier for one to fall away than to keep the faith (Matthew 7:24–27).
Being a Christian requires faith and obedience to God (John 15:14; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 3:6–10). Some popular church culture has promoted the idea of Christianity being easy when, in fact, it is a difficult and life-altering path to follow. Christians are not promised that others will love them; it is quite the opposite. Jesus said: "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18–19). Young people are generally pressured by the desire to please as many people as possible, but they need to be prepared for the resistance that comes with being a Christ follower.
There is even resistance to being a true follower of Christ within the modern "progressive" church culture that affirms sins such as homosexuality as non-sins and twists the Bible to make it say what they want it to mean. If there are no standards that cannot be bent within supposed Christianity, then why bother keeping the faith at all? It would be easier to not have to deal with it in the first place.
How can young people be helped to keep the faith? One aspect is for church youth groups and children's classes to be biblically based rather than entertainment based. Children need to be trained in the Word and what it looks like to walk out their faith. They need to know and experience what faith in Christ actually is. People are right to reject false faith, but when rejection of a false faith leads them away from the genuine article, that is truly sad. We must help our young people come to know who God really is and what His Word really says.
Church happens once or twice per week, so even more important than church is the example children see every day. Parents cannot leave the task of training and discipling their children in the ways of the Lord to the church. It will not be enough. Christian parents need to be actively involved in training up their children in the ways of the Lord, teaching them how to have a personal relationship with Christ and being a living example of what a relationship with Christ looks like. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
As young Christians, and all Christians for that matter, grow in their faith there are bound to be questions. The home and the church should be safe places that are open for people to wrestle with their own doubts (Hebrews 10:23–25). Asking questions and genuinely seeking truth will lead us to reject that which is false and to more firmly hold that which is true. When young people are discipled in their faith, they will learn the joy of following Christ (Romans 5:1–5).
As a Christian, making the choice to deny oneself daily and take up one's cross, becomes easier because discipline is being developed (Luke 9:23; Galatians 2:20). As with any habit, following Christ gets easier with practice and becomes what feels natural. Too, Christ-followers have the indwelling Holy Spirit, who works in us to transform us to be more like Christ (Philippians 2:12–13; Romans 8:29–30). We do not simply want young people to hold on to a religious view of life, but to know God in a personal and transformative way, and to experience His work in their lives.
All believing adults can help disciple children into becoming mature godly adults (1 Corinthians 13:11; 14:20). Spiritual children are susceptible to being "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." This is why the apostle Paul exhorts mature believers: "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Ephesians 4:14-15; see also 1 Corinthians 2:6). When we focus on growing in Christ ourselves, we set an example for our young people. When we pray for them, teach them, and walk alongside them in faith, we help them remain steadfast as well (Hebrews 10:24–25).
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