Here are some more concrete thoughts on “young people leaving the faith.”

Here are some more concrete thoughts on “young people leaving the faith.”

I’m just speaking anecdotally. The research on this is immense and ongoing, but right now I’m just talking about my own pastoral experience.

Yes, many people (my age and younger) have left churches or regular church attendance. But that doesn’t mean they left “the faith.” They are still, at least somewhat, interested in the person and work of Jesus, spiritual practices, and making the world a more just place.

A few folks do find their way into atheism intellectually. But, more often, if they abandon belief in God, it's due to their experience that the more time people spent with “God,” the more awful those people became.

More often than deciding on atheism, however, young Christians watched older Christians craft a religion that resulted in:

3.1. A sexual ethic that led to a higher suicide and death rates for LGBTQIA+ people;

3.2. An escapist end-times theology that caused a profound lack of care for creation;

3.3. A social imagination that said people who couldn’t afford to eat, get health care, or receive housing “deserved it” due to their own (in)action;

3.4. Any government action to lower the numbers of people in those situations was evil, antichrist, or creating an apocalyptic “new world order.”

3.5. A profound ignorance around race, sociology, and history that led to the belief that Black and Brown people, Native peoples, and immigrants were in their current situations due to their own misdeeds and lack of Christian belief.

3.6. Women being limited to caregivers, custodians, and child-rearers.

3.7. A belief that any variation from the above ideas—including voting for candidates that disagreed with those tenants—was “a threat to the Gospel,” “unChristian,” or “apostasy” that required rebuke and, at times, personal rejection.

And therefore, because of THOSE factors, the younger generations felt a profound cognitive dissonance between the ethics embodied by Jesus and (at least, at moments) described in Scripture and the churches they were being raised in.

The Table Church has never had an issue “bringing in the young people,” as we used to say. It wasn’t because we:

5.1. “Stopped preaching the Bible.” Every sermon we’ve preached in, at least my past 2.5 years has been based on a specific passage of Scripture.

5.2. “Don’t teach the historic, Christian faith.” We recite The Apostles Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. I regularly preach on the physical resurrection of Jesus, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness of sins.

5.3. “Caved to culture.” It would be a heck of a lot easier to get speaking gigs, get big donors, or keep some friends if we didn’t preach on the inclusion of LGBTQ people, the evils of America’s racism, or the temporary nature of hell. Being “moderate” (i.e., not taking clear positions) or sticking to our culture (which is still deeply entrenched in sexism and white supremacy) would be “caving.”

It’s because we believe in a (historical, orthodox, and global) Christian faith that doesn’t actively harm people like 3.1—3.7 does above. And that made “bringing in the young people” pretty easy, to be honest.

Anthony Parrott

Anthony Parrott

Washington, DC