The New Mission Field

For generations (some 45-50 years): Gen-X, Millennials, and finally Gen-Z, there has been this popular idea among Christian parents that they could use their children to retake pagan society for Christ. So they were in effect active missionaries when they went to government (public) K-12 schools and universities.

This idea has had devastating effects. Instead of transforming their pagan friends and the culture, more often than not, their pagan friends and the anti-Christian culture transformed them into backslidden, lukewarm apostates.

Lifeway Research conducted a survey in 2017 of young adults to gather statistics on youth leaving the church by asking about their experience. In 2017, 66% of those surveyed said they stopped attending church.

New research from LifeWay has revealed the challenge churches face in keeping young people in the pews as they head off to college. 

A new study from the research group found that two-thirds of young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager said they stopped going for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.

The study found that the likelihood of leaving church increased with age, with the proportion saying they regularly attended church falling from 69 per cent at the age of 17 to 58 per cent when they were 18, and 40 per cent by the time they were 19.

Once the participants were into their twenties, only one in three said they were still attending church regularly.

We talk a lot about young people walking away from the church, abandoning their Christian beliefs. The research is scary – studies show that as many as 70% of Christian students leave the church during college. Here are the top five reasons we believe (from talking with hundreds of parents, pastors, and youth workers) most students give up their Christian identity in college.

  1. No Grounding — At best, many young believers don’t know why they believe what they believe. Often, those who think they do have never had their foundation of faith seriously challenged. Worst, many 18- to 25-year-olds have no hold on what Christianity actually teaches at all. In fact, The Barna Group’s research on the matter concludes that “less than one-half of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation — i.e., those aged 18 to 23 — have a biblical worldview.”
  2. Sexualization of the University — Here, the statistics are just as disheartening. The stories of broken lives that come from casual sexual encounters discourage even the most optimistic of us. Derek Rishmawy writes at Patheos about the issue saying, “The Bible unsurprisingly starts to become a lot more ‘doubtful’ for some [Millennials] once they’d had sex.”
  3. Anti-Christian Bias at the University — Public high schools are no breeding ground for discipleship but they are often far better than what is found at most secular universities. University of North Texas sociology professor George Yancey authored Christianophobia and spoke pointedly about the anti-Christian bias in the academy on Summit’s podcast. It should be no surprise that ungrounded, untested Christian students are bolting from a commitment to Christian ideas. They’re simply believing what they are being taught in class.
  4. Christianity Was Made Irrelevant — Many students who grew up in the church have either hurtful experiences with their church or no truly relevant experiences with their church at all. The once-a-week, every Wednesday night attendance didn’t translate into commitment. An hour or two each week wasn’t enough to overcome the thousands of other attractive but counterfeit opportunities that fulfilled students’ deep needs and created feelings of belonging, worth, and identity.
  5. No Community — For those that have made it through the gauntlet of the first four pitfalls, they get to campus and find no support. My colleagues working in the Summit Alumni Network and friends at InterVarsity, Navigators, and Young Life would counter that this is their own fault — and who could argue? For whatever reason a student chooses not to engage in Christian community on campus, that student is like the lone gazelle on the African plains: an easy target.

Clearly, sending our children to go to school to be missionaries usually results in them abandoning their faith.

Some of the reasons why I think these children and young adults are not being properly prepared:

  • Pastor does not do expository preaching whereby he goes through the Bible verse-by-verse carefully exegeting.
  • Children did not attend church services with their parents.
  • So-called youth ministry with youth pastors did nothing to build up their faith.
  • Children weren’t required to read great works of theology.
  • Too much time spent on sports and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Poisoning effect of bad wordly friends who corrupt them.
  • Attendance at government (public) schools.
  • Attendance at non-Christian liberal, atheistic, and secular humanist universities.
  • Lack of family devotional time reading Scripture together, the father explaining Scripture and answering questions from children, singing psalms and hymns in worship as a family.
  • Lack of adequate prayer life.
  • Baptized as an infant. They rested on this work and assumed they were saved, when in fact they never were.
  • Being raised in daycare by strangers during their most formative years.
  • Both parents working.
  • Too many so-called Christian mothers who are committed feminists and insist on placing a full time career above the needs of her family.
  • Decisional salvation where one answers an altar call.
  • Succumbing to pressure from degenerate and hedonistic popular culture.
  • Listening to wordly music that doesn’t honor God.
  • Influence of worldly friends.
  • Parents not spending enough time with their children.
  • Consuming worldly televsion shows and movies.
  • Reading worldly books and magazines.

I believe that the lion’s share of the responsibility for these kids lies with the parents. Parents need to evangelize their kids and treat them as unbelievers until they make a credible profession of faith and exhibit fruits of the Spirit. Treating them as ‘covenant children’ only inoculates them against the Gospel. Our children and grandchildren are the new mission field. It’s sad it has come to this, but such is the Great Apostasy.

2 responses to “The New Mission Field”

  1. Excellent article. Webout Proper grounding in the family, Children will be easy prey In secular schools and universities. The church also needs to teach them what they believe, and why!


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