Are We Asking the Wrong Question? by Nathan Bramsen
The questions on believers’ hearts may vary across cultures and nations, but we share some common concerns. One question consistently surfaces regardless of the demographics or geography. It is, “Why are so many of our youth leaving the local church?”
I think this question may be intrinsically flawed since the goal should not be to “keep youth in the local church,” but rather, to see unconditional disciples of Jesus Christ formed in this
generation. As Paul put it, until “Christ is formed in you!”
The reality is that the majority of our kids are not ultimately leaving due to the music style, the size of the congregation, or the traditions. They leave because, far too often, we are in a maintenance mode rather than a missional mindset. The church was never intended to be a holy huddle seeking to survive in a wicked world. We were created to intimately know our God and to intentionally make Him known “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a relationship worth living for and dying for. This generation is looking for exactly that. A purpose. Their purpose. Are we preparing our kids for marriage but not for possible martyrdom? Do our Sunday school classes aim to entertain them on the weekend or equip them for the work? Are we seeking to pattern them after a mold or prepare them for a mission? Are we trying to preserve our role or pass the reins? Would we rather have our kids in our physical proximity than to see them persistently proclaiming the message of hope in this world’s darkest places?
Allow me to encourage you with three “beauties” I see in many local assemblies of believers.
The first beauty is an un-compromised Gospel. Salvation is absolutely through faith alone in Jesus Christ, but this is not a mere walking the aisle, praying a prayer, or making an intellectual assent to Jesus’s person. Christ doesn’t want to be part of anyone’s life. He wants all of it. He became flesh, died for mankind’s sin, and conquered the grave not primarily to save people from hell but to bring them into a relationship with Himself. When Jesus walked among men, He never communicated the idea that believing in His name would cost anything less than everything. “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”When we water down the message to fit into our current lifestyle, we suggest good news that is powerful enough to change a soul but not a life.
The second beauty is the preaching of an unconditional call. Isaiah responded, “Here am I,Send me!.” God had said nothing about the details of the call. Isaiah only knew the One calling. Paul reiterated this heart to Timothy in saying, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Are we encouraging our youth to go all-in in this battle at school, home, society, and work—even at the expense of losing their job, earthly dreams, financial stability, and even their own life? Yes, this message will ultimately be taught through example.
The third beauty is an unrelenting commitment to God’s global mission. This commitment is to identify and intentionally equip lives in our local gathering to do “the work of ministry.” Are we actively looking for gifting in the body of Christ into which we might pour our resources, time, and energy that they might be prepared to step up, not at our death but in our decision to relinquish control? When the local church becomes a training ground, when our prayer meetings become war rooms for global advances, when our communion services become passionate expressions of His worth, both we and our youth will not be attending because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s the very purpose for which we exist.
When we get back to emphasizing the mission of God to strategically see every soul reached at the great cost of our time, privacy, preferences, and finances, we will see a great work of God in our days.