Polls show that the twentysomethings sitting next to you in the pews may not embrace your faith. What happened to them? Can we do anything to prevent losing yet another generation?
By Ken Ham – President, CEO & Founder of Answers in Genesis-US, the highly acclaimed Creation Museum, and the world-renowned Ark Encounter
Something is wrong. The stories usually involve a close friend or family member who once attended church faithfully but left. In many cases, these once-active churchgoers adopt an openly secular worldview and lifestyle, rejecting all semblance of Christian belief and values. Most churches, it seems, are full of Christian parents, Sunday school teachers, and pastors who tell similar heartrending stories. They just can’t believe what’s happening.
No church is safe. Next time you attend a morning service, look around you. Who’s next? One of the chattering young people, the teens huddled in the corner, the single adults busily pursuing their careers? They may seem happy and engaged, but is Christ really at the center of their hearts and lives?
You can’t just assume God’s Word rules everything they think and do. If you could ask a few probing questions—about creation, abortion, marriage, and the exclusivity of Christ’s salvation—you might be surprised by their answers. They’re on a dangerous path. Six out of ten may eventually leave church. Many of the rest—like Matthew Vines who now promotes homosexual “marriage” in churches—may stay but not believe like you do!
From a human perspective, the Western church appears to be in big trouble. Any astute observer can see that the church—even the most careful local church—is becoming more secularized with each passing day. If the trends continue, where will the church be in the next generation?
The twentysomethings in America (often called more broadly the Millennials, born 1982 to 2000) appear to be at a tipping point. If they keep going in the same spiritual direction, this younger generation—our future leaders—will fundamentally change the culture and the church.
You may wonder, “But what can we do? It seems so overwhelming.” Many have said to me they just get depressed and feel like giving up and waiting for Jesus to come.
I believe Christians first need to take a hard look at how we got here, and then carefully consider the solutions from God’s Word. We serve a powerful God who has given us everything we need if we will trust in His Word and the unchanging power of the Holy Spirit.
How Did We Get Here?
How did we get here? In 2014, Answers in Genesis commissioned America’s Research Group to find some answers. The researchers found that most churchgoers—of all ages—believe God’s Word is “inspired.” On the surface, this sounds positive, but when the interviewers probed deeper, they found several serious problems. Worst of all, they found that many of these churchgoers, especially the younger ones, believe the Bible contains errors.
What Do the Twentysomethings in Church Really Believe?
Imagine if you could open a window and look into the future to see where the American church will be. In late 2014, America’s Research Group conducted extensive phone interviews with the younger generations in US churches to see what they really think.  They found some troubling views.
Churchgoers in Their Twenties:
65% believe you will go to heaven if you are a good person
43% do not consider themselves born again
50% do not believe the earth is young
23% believe God used evolution to change one kind of animal to another kind
19% believe humans evolved from ape-like ancestors
When ARG compared churchgoers on moral issues, it became clear just how much the secular culture has infiltrated the church.
I believe this is a huge warning sign to the church. When a generation no longer builds its worldview on the foundation of the absolute authority of God’s Word, the new generation begins to question everything it says, including its morality. Then they do what is “right” in their own eyes (Judg 17:6, 21:25). Eventually, we reach a tipping point, a twisted perspective where, like Israel, we “call evil good, and good evil” (Isa 5:20).
The ARG study asked where these younger Christians believe the Bible has errors. The most common answer was the age of the earth (37%)! This group of Christians also believe science has disproved the book of Genesis and that the Flood did not occur during Noah’s day. In other words, origins was a major issue among those who believe the Bible has errors.
Doubting Genesis has had horrendous consequences. It should come as no surprise that as generations are trained to disbelieve the Bible’s account of origins, they also increasingly doubt the rest of the Bible. That’s a part of the greater satanic strategy that had its origin in the Garden of Eden. All biblical doctrines (including marriage) are founded (directly or indirectly) in the history found in Genesis 1–11. We see the direct result of this doubt and compromise reflected in the increasing acceptance of same-sex “marriage,” abortion, and so on.
As the newest ARG research reveals, at the heart of what’s wrong with our churches is a failure to accept and teach clearly what the Bible reveals about the age of the earth. It is the big “elephant in the room” that most Christian leaders refuse to acknowledge. Or worse, they endorse compromise by accepting the evolutionary idea of millions of years.
This illustrates that there is considerable biblical illiteracy among the twentysomethings and significant compromise among church leaders. In most cases, the twentysomethings said their high school teachers convinced them not to trust the Bible! Many of them said they wished someone had prepared them better, but no one did.
Not only is this a warning to parents about where they send their children for education, but it is a warning to church leaders and parents about the importance of training the coming generations to be able to defend the Christian faith and strengthen their belief in God’s Word.
One of the key reasons kids don’t embrace their parents’ and church’s faith in adulthood is because they never learned how to “own” their own faith. They never asked tough questions about their faith in a safe environment. Perhaps they were raised in a church or home where questions and doubts were discouraged. Whatever the case, they never worked through some of these difficult issues while they were young; therefore, they were never challenged with what they believe or why they believe it.
Every generation has the same decision to make: Will I serve the God of the Bible or a false god? Every newborn must be taught the truth from scratch, or that soul could be completely lost.
I believe the Christian faith is very much like a relay race. One generation carries the responsibility to pass on the faith to the next. As we have seen from the new ARG research, the church is currently failing this critical task in many areas.
How Do We Break the Cycle?
So that’s the bad news! And in reality, it’s much worse than the summary I’ve given you above. Many other areas show that many in the twenties group in the church do not have a Christian worldview.
But before we get depressed and feel like giving up, we need to listen to how God’s Word instructs us. In Luke 19 we read a parable by Jesus: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come’” (Lk 19:12–14, emphasis added). One translation states, “Occupy till I come.”
Jesus gives Christians talents and gifts that they are to use until He comes. The point is we need to be faithful in being about the Master’s work—regardless of what we see happening around us. If anything, we need to be more fired up and more urgent in proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and the gospel.
No doubt we are in a war—a fight for the minds of a generation. Our ultimate enemy is not people but rather an entity whose mission is to destroy those whom God loves. Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
Paul tells us that the solution is to take a strong stand. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:13). This courageous spirit is modeled throughout the Bible. It is what separated men and women of faith from the vast compromising crowd. It’s a ferocious faith that refuses to give up.
Nowhere do we see this spirit of courage, faith, and perseverance displayed more than with the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus fought and endured to the end because He had a passion to honor the Father. He fought because He longed to return to His rightful place of authority at the Father’s side. And He persevered because he knew there was something worth fighting for. You.
Jesus did not allow the Pharisees and religious teachers of His day to misinterpret and compromise the Word of God. He corrected them, showing God’s people a better way (Mt 5–7; 23). When Christ ascended back to heaven following His resurrection, He gave His disciples the responsibility of carrying on the task of “making disciples” (Mt 28:18–20). Deputized with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), they were to take His life-changing gospel to the nations, even to the “uttermost part of the earth.”
Start at Home
So where do we go from here? To begin with, it’s no secret that there is a crisis of leadership today in the Christian home. And unfortunately, men are often the most difficult to motivate toward spirituality. This spiritual passivity in Christian men traces its roots all the way back to Genesis, to the very beginning of mankind itself.
Instead of protecting and shielding his wife from the serpent’s influence, Adam stood idly by while she was tempted into sin. When husbands and fathers fail to initiate that leadership and influence, a void is created, and women typically see the need and step in to fill it.
According to Scripture, the home, above everywhere else, is the epicenter of spiritual development. It is the primary place where the baton of faith is passed on or dropped. God’s command to Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5–9 speaks to the practical, daily nature of imparting faith to our children. It begins by “loving the Lord your God with all your heart.” A dynamic relationship with God is a dad’s greatest asset. And that requires knowing both God’s Son, Jesus, and God’s Word, the Bible.
Unfortunately, in our fallen world, many homes are broken. Mothers and others must often raise the children alone. But God promises to fill the gaps for the “fatherless and widow.”
The Role of the Local Church
Through what Paul called a “falling away from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1, ASV), many churches and even denominations have abandoned the faith Jesus commanded them to pass on. What was Paul’s remedy for this coming epidemic of apostasy? Stay true to the Word of God (1 Tim 4:16)!
Paul admonished pastor Timothy with these timely words: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:14–15).
Two words stand out in Paul’s admonition. The first is “learned.” Timothy had been taught the Scripture “from childhood,” faithfully passed down to him from his grandmother to his mother, and then finally to Timothy (2 Tim 1:5). And now Timothy was doing the same thing with “faithful men,” who in turn were to “teach others also” (2 Tim 2:1–2).
Many churches today are focused on using their church services and ministries for evangelistic purposes, often to the neglect of equipping believers. But the church’s primary job is to train (disciple) followers of Christ, not to reach the world (Eph 4:11–16). Believers themselves are to be salt and light, reaching the lost with the gospel “as they are going” into the world (Mt 28:18–20). We are to gather for edification and equipping and to scatter into the world for evangelism.
Sadly, many churches think entertainment is what the twenties generation wants, instead of giving them the answers they need to know so they can trust God’s Word from the beginning. Personally, I’ve found the twenties generation are hungry for answers! But the church also needs to be involved in training men to be husbands and fathers, and women to be wives and mothers.
What this says to us is that pastors should teach the whole Bible to the believers in the church. Not that they have to cover every detail in Scripture’s 66 books, but the idea is that fathers and families are given a solid working understanding of the Bible as a whole, along with an ability to understand and articulate a defense of God’s Word and God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Public School, Private Decision
Earlier I pointed out that an “elephant in the room” was the fact that so many Christian leaders have compromised with millions of years or ignore this strategic issue. But there’s another “elephant in the room.” Nearly 90% of kids from church homes attend government-run schools in the US.
Both the National Education Association teacher union and the Department of Education claim that public schools are neutral and not religious. But that is simply untrue. Through required curricula, public schools are imposing the religion of naturalism or atheism on generations of students.
Now, I realize this is a very emotional topic for people. But I ask you to consider it from a biblical perspective. The Bible teaches, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Mt 12:30). There is no neutral position here. If the education system is not for Christ, then it is against Him. If the textbooks do not harmonize with God’s truth, they will naturally teach the opposite of that truth.
Let’s face it: children are being contaminated as a result of their secular education, the secular media, and their secular friends. In a world of no absolutes, evolution, sex outside marriage, gay “marriage,” attacks on gender distinction, humanism, and false religions—children are being tossed to and fro.
There are now generations of adults who attend church but are so contaminated by the world that they think like the world.
Private Christian education is an option, but don’t assume anything when it comes to the curriculum’s content or the faculty’s convictions. Don’t assume that the students there are going to be a positive influence on your children. Do your research on the school; monitor everything carefully; and never shirk your responsibility to be the one who trains your kids.
You must be pouring the “salt” into your children—and this salt should be as uncontaminated as possible. This process is most assured in a home-based education where the parents can take hour-by-hour responsibility for the task.
Maturity comes with training, discipline, renewing the mind according to Scripture, and learning to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than in the power of the flesh. That doesn’t come naturally! It comes with maturity, and maturity takes time. Children are not miniature adults. They are unable to discriminate between good and evil. They don’t have the discipline to choose between the truth and the cleverly crafted evolutionary philosophies.
Some people object to my education recommendations by saying, “Wait a minute! Don’t homeschooling and Christian schools force Christianity down kids’ throats?”
When parents humbly start with the Word of God and build “from the foundation up,” it makes a world of difference. Starting with the logical foundations of all the doctrine in Genesis, not trying to prove the Bible with science, but using the Bible to understand science, parents can teach children how to defend the faith by giving them answers to skeptical questions of the age.
Christianity then is presented as a logical and defensible faith that makes sense of the world and is confirmed by real observational science, instead of what seems to be just a collection of opinions. This is how we need to teach our children—from the time they are born until the time they leave home.
Even when homeschooling or a private Christian education seems like the best option, however, circumstances can make it impossible. If you are one of the people in this category, the fundamentals still apply. You may have to work harder than others, and you may have to access more help, but you have the same responsibility to provide foundational scriptural instruction to your children. You have the responsibility to belong to a strong Bible-believing and teaching church, and you have the responsibility to manage the circles of influence that your children are exposed to. Checking homework and monitoring your children’s friendships will be of the utmost importance.
Are You Ready?
Our whole Western world is changing. But really, it’s the failure of so many Christian homes and churches who have not understood the times, have not stood uncompromisingly on the authority of the Word of God, and have not trained coming generations in the Christian worldview.
Who has the courage to stand up and challenge homes and churches concerning the reality of what has been happening to generations of children and now the dramatic changes in the twenties generation? As one person in his twenties said to me: “The loss of the twenties generation is really in many ways a failure of the previous generations in our homes and churches.” I agree!
So, are you ready to return? Will you help this generation return to God? If so, let’s join together and fight for their souls. Much is at stake, and the time is right now!
This article originally appeared in the 10/2015 issue of Answers® magazine. Copyright © 2015 Answers in Genesis. All Rights Reserved. The article is reprinted here by permission of Answers in Genesis. (Answers® and Answers in Genesis® are registered trademarks of Answers in Genesis, Inc.) For more information regarding Answers in Genesis, go to AnswersinGenesis.org and CreationMuseum.org.
Ken Ham is a former public school science teacher and the founder and president of Answers in Genesis, the highly acclaimed Creation Museum, and the world-renowned Ark Encounter. He is one of the most in-demand Christian speakers in North America. Ken has edited and authored many books about the authority of God’s Word and the impact of evolutionary thinking on our culture, including the best seller, Already Gone. Read his blog at answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham.
1. The 2014 research was conducted on those who are attending church. One in five said they primarily attend a Baptist church (this was the biggest denomination represented). One in nine said they primarily attend a Roman Catholic church. However, when the Roman Catholic denomination was taken out of the groups, the statistics in regard to the answers did not change.
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