It’s alarming to me, actually. As a pastor and as a professor, I’ve had to deal with young people who were raised in seemingly strong Christian homes, yet who’ve now turned away from their Christian upbringing. Frankly, I’m grateful that some of these young people still trust me enough to talk to me—and in those conversations, I’ve learned some of the reasons they’ve walked in a new direction.
- Their faith was never really theirs in the first place. They did what they knew others wanted them to do. They followed in the steps of their parents and grandparents. What they never really did, though, was make that faith their own.
- They’ve seen too much hypocrisy among believers. Sometimes, to be honest, they’ve seen the hypocrisy in their own homes; their parents weren’t the same people at home that they were at church. In other cases, these young people have seen the moral failure of far too many church leaders.
- They have never really been discipled themselves. Even though they grew up in a Christian home, no one walked arm-in-arm with these believers to help them get grounded in their faith, to stand against the devil, and to walk in victory. They’ve had to “figure it all out” largely on their own—and that’s made them vulnerable.
- They live in an ever-changing culture that gives them permission to live differently than their Christian upbringing demands. When I was younger, you may have wrestled with lifestyle issues, but you did it quietly and alone. That’s not the case anymore. Culture now invites and welcomes deconstruction of faith.
- They have never had anyone legitimately hear their questions, much less try to answer them. Too many older believers have simply criticized their doubt and called them to “just believe.” It’s accurate that we must believe, but belief that cannot answer opposing questions is surely lacking.
- They have had no real grounding in the Word. This issue, of course, is connected to #3 above. Others have told them, “This is the Word of God,” but no one’s helped them know why we believe that about the Word. These young people now approach the Bible with skepticism—if they approach it at all.
- They’re dealing with sin in their lives. I don’t remember who made this statement, but I’ve never forgotten the statement about believers who turn from their faith: “Immorality often precedes unbelief.” Sometimes, young people walk in another direction in their beliefs because they’ve already walked that way in their actions.
- They’ve found a stronger community outside the church than within. They’ve found friends, fun, and fellowship with others—things they for some reason did not get in the church. We know their community with others might be fleeting, but their eyes are on the immediate rather than the long-term. They like what they’re getting now.
What reasons would you add to this list? What’s been your experience?
Posted on January 10, 2024
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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