A social transformation is underway in the Christian community at-large. Take a good, hard look at your children (and grandchildren)—as many of them will not be coming to church in the future. In their hearts they are already gone. It’s a spiritual epidemic which has all but destroyed the churches of England; and like an unstoppable virus it has been spreading here in North America.
I started reading Ken Ham and Britt Beemer’s Already Gone. Ken Ham is the Australian-born man behind Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and soon a life-size Noah’s Ark known as the Ark Encounter. Beemer heads up America’s Research Group (ARG), a major marketing research organization which provided a plethora of relevant statistical data for the book; surveying over 1,000 former church kids from conservative churches in America.
Ham and Beemer document in their book how the UK has experienced a devastating decline (since 1969) resulting in over 1,500 churches closing their doors. They detail a mass exodus of epic proportions from the next generation. Many are calling it quits.
Need a few miserable examples? One of these beautiful churches was turned into a rock climbing center. Another (in John Bunyan’s hometown of Bedford, England) into a night club [image to the right]. Others, also highly esteemed for their property, were turned into museums, clothing shops, liquor stores, tattoo and piercing studios, restaurants, theaters, mosques, and even a Sikh Temple!
The authors state that the disease began with what seemed to be a harmless set of ideas.1 But in a short period of time—a generation, maybe two—it mutated into a plague that has seriously wounded the soul of a nation.
The epidemic is a reality. The abandoned church buildings of Europe are really just buildings, yet they are graphic symbols—warnings to those of us who are seeing the same trends in our local congregations: we are just one generation away from the evaporation of the church as we know it. Slowly but certainly the church of the future is headed toward the morgue and will continue to do so—unless we come to better understand what is happening and implement a clear, biblical plan to circumvent it.
As we look at our churches today, what would we say is contributing to the spread of this disease? In some instances it’s parents abdicating their role in spiritual matters. While we most certainly are interested in how our children interact and are involved in these ministry activities—should we be asking them if they want to go to them? Should they be calling the shots? Add to that the reprioritization of sports (and many, many other extra curricular activities) that often take precedent over the teaching of God’s Word.
Additionally, in some situations we might add sickness to this list—where one is ill and then everyone decides to stay home. No one would argue with a parent staying with a young one, but the entire family? Of course, this is not to say that a nasty and contagious flu bug which has its hold on the majority of the home is not a valid reason to keep everyone in their beds.
And let’s not forget sleeping in on Sundays. Usually this happens because we have lost a grip on the ordering of our private world—this is where we no longer aim to prepare our hearts Saturday night for Sunday morning. We run at breakneck speed and then sacrifice the most important event of the week.
Ouch, I know. But we need to swallow hard and consider those reasons (and likely others) carefully that are contributing to the transformation of our Christian culture-at-large.
We must also do so with grace. There is a danger in addressing this topic without any sensitivity. The body of Christ needs to encourage one-another especially in this area. Our aim is to remind our dads to lead and live for Christ, as opposed to making them feel dejected—if not rejected.
Beware of the evil peril of hypocrisy here. It’s the difference between a loving challenge and well, the casting of the first stone. The truth is to be shared in love, directly to the person who may be entangled in the world’s web. It needs to be done by someone who has invested in their life. (And yes, I personally feel the weight of my own words and responsibility here.)
Bottom-line: one of the reasons for this growing number of young people who are “already gone” rests squarely on our shoulders. Ask yourself these two questions: (1) Am I contributing to the spread of this spiritual disease? Meaning, it is imperative that we are a part of the church, not just visitors. (2) Do I see my children/grandchildren viewing the local church as the greatest place on the planet? Meaning, when you are gone they will pattern their attendance after yours.
What a reminder to parents (and Christian leaders) [and grandparents] to do exactly what God’s Word instructs us to do—to “train up a child in the way he should go…” (Prov (22:6). And further, “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart, You shall teach them diligently to your children, and talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut 6:6-7; NKJV). What a reminder to teach children from when they are born—and a reminder to be diligent in providing the right sort of training/curricula, etc. for children.
We can’t just train them to be in church, we must model it. Otherwise we are building a wall of hypocrisy that will keep them from re-entering when they reach adulthood. Seriously, we don’t even plan to get to bed at a decent hour, let alone communicate the joyful longing to worship corporately with our church family.
Often, as a spiritual leader in my home, I am convicted by His Word and need to hit the reset button in how Missy and I are ordering our private world. Perhaps this is an area where you need to do just that, RESET.
“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25).