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Who is Responsible for the Surge in “Nones?
Who is Responsible for the Surge in “Nones?

Marvin Pirila, Northland Watch

Most Sundays when I go to church, I hear a “moderated”, easily palatable message from the Bible.  The church stays away from controversial topics like abortion and evolution.  Why should they be afraid of saying “abortion” is forbidden by the bible, and likewise immoral?  Why stray from evolution when it is the cornerstone of atheism?  Atheism rates are higher than they’ve ever been, even though the facts of the Bible are more substantiated than ever.  Why not give the congregation the tools to challenge atheists and believers in evolution?  Does the church prefer numbers of followers to “true” followers of Christ?  Similarly, do they prefer to deliver a soft speech relative to a more challenging, and more controversial area, to avoid conflict and inflaming the congregation?  With the rates of church attendance declining and atheism growing, isn’t it time to take on the real issues?

Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) are leaving churches or the Christian faith at higher rates than any other age group.  What does that mean for the future of faith in the U.S. and what are they reasons behind them leaving?

One, is the idea that religious people are “hypocritical, judgmental or insincere.”  These include the people who go to church on Sunday, and ignore God's word the rest of the week.

Two, Millennials disagreeing with the opinions of church leaders are increasingly disassociating with churches and individuals who practice what they see as conservative political rhetoric. 

Why do Millenials refuse to listen to opinions they disagree with, especially those based on the Bible?  Many of them cite the lack of evidence, yet the evidence is stronger than ever (The Star of Bethlehem, the probability of random life, the complexity of an individual cell, etc.).

Conservatives stress personal and government responsibility as well as the personal accountability to oneself, others, and particularly God.  Relinquishing your sense of "control", as many of us have learned, is difficult.  Who doesn't want to think they can control every aspect of their life ultimately attaining every wish and desire they dare to think?  Of course, that's naive', because like it or not, mortal life is short, and you have to account for your actions and beliefs before taking your eternal journey.

Three, one-fourth of Millennials believe that churches demonize everything that resides outside of Christian culture – mainstream music, movies, culture and technology.  Instead of melding their personal life with God's, Millenials simply walk away.

Fourth, young people perceive the church as simplistic and judgmental. A fifth or more of feel a ‘just say no’ philosophy is inadequate as young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.

The judgment, the Millennial should fear, is not that of the judgmental Christian, but that of God.  You can leave the church and ignore the judgment of others, but you can't run from your inner moral spirit.  You go to church to learn about God and shouldn't worry about the rest.

Fifth, young adults view the church as closed off and too exclusive, especially in light of an increasingly-diverse society -- feeling forced between choosing church or their friends.

One-third of Millennials do not see churches as safe places to express their doubt and many report having major doubts.  These doubts are perpetuated by misinformation on such things as evolution and carbon dating.  If the church showed them that evolution is a disproved myth while carbon dating is accurate for only as far as historic text supports it (~5,000 years), they might see things differently. Why not combine current findings with the teachings of the Bible?

As many as 18% of young Millennials were raised in homes that had religious influence are now unaffiliated, but only 11% said that they had a strong faith as a child and lived in a home where Christianity was “vibrant” and both practiced and taught.

The study suggests there is a crisis of parenting and not necessarily of faith.  Parents who provide a home where faith is vibrantly practiced are highly likely to create young adults who remain serious Christians, even as they sometimes go through rough patches

In the last decade there has been an 8% increase in unchurched Millennials, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing among the nation’s population.  Millennials say the most common drivers of spiritual growth are prayer, family and friends, the Bible, having children, and their relationship with Jesus - the church is not even in the top 10.   

Still, one-quarter of Millennials are practicing Christians that attend church at least one time per month and say that religion is very important in their lives.

Churches can ensure Millennials are engaged in five ways:  encourage relationship-building; teach them how to understand; interact and be present in the culture; allow young people to take leadership roles and help them develop their skills; help Millennials apply the Bible to their career and life mission and help them build an intimate relationship with God.

Drawing from the research, parents must demonstrate to their kids the true meaning of Christianity through their actions and beliefs, as early as possible in their lives.  If they don't, the likelihood of belief is greatly diminished.  Once the parents have done their job, the church must provide a welcoming environment, avoid judgment, and challenge them.  If they fail, Millennials, like others, will just walk away.