Last week I was on the Barna Research website looking for some recent statistics regarding teenagers and the Church. Here is just a small sample of what I found:
- 52% of teens who attend Protestant churches believe Jesus Christ sinned while on earth.
- 40% of teens who claim to have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" agree with them.
- 61% of young adults who attended church as a teen become completely spiritually disengaged during their twenties.
- Only 20% of young adults who attended church in their teen years remain spiritually active by the age of 29.
Let me deal with the first two statistics for a minute. Since this is a blog post and not a book, I'll stick to using only one Bible verse to debunk that theory. 1 Corinthians 5:21 explicitly says: "God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (emphasis mine).
So, sadly, somewhere between 40-52% of church going teens who think they are going to heaven are actually headed straight for hell. Belief in a sinful Jesus is belief in a Jesus who 1) is not biblical and 2) didn't exist. There just isn't any good news for the people who believe in a Jesus like that.
Now, dealing with the second half of these statistics, let me just say this. I think a big portion of the problem the Church has with retaining young Christians is that these young people weren't really Christians to begin with. In Matthew 13:1-23 Jesus describes four types of people who will hear the Gospel message. Let me put these in teen-girl friendly terms for you. Imagine a typical camp alter call with me. During that time, four types of girls will respond to the Gospel.
They are as follows:
(v. 19) The Actress. This is the girl who raises her hand during an alter call because all of her friends are. She isn't really sure what the preacher just said, but it sounds good. So even though she doesn't understand what she's heard, and she's too embarrassed to ask, she raises her hand and claims "salvation" and returns to life as normal. This girl most certainly falls into the 80% who will fall away before the age of 29. She doesn't have to fall very far since she wasn't ever grounded in what she believed in the first place. In fact, she may even be among the 40-52% who believe in a sinful Jesus.
(v. 20-21) The Drama Queen. This girl comes forward during the alter call in tears. She's sobbing so hysterically, that she needs five different friends to usher her up to the stage and hold her up as she cries. Normally, this girl comes from a background of pain and heartache. Maybe her parents are divorced, or she was abused at some point during her life. In the very least, she has probably had her heart broken by a boy who dumped her or a friend who betrayed her. Her response to the Gospel is based on pure emotion. She wants Jesus because He will make all of her hurts go away, and her life will magically become all better. This girl, too, is more than likely to fall into the 80% who will fall away because time will prove that life isn't all chocolate and roses once you know Jesus Christ. Life will still be hard, and this girl will think God isn't who He promised to be so she will set out in search of the next quick fix for her pain.
(v. 22) The Have-it-All-Princess. This girl is easy to spot in any youth group. She has the latest cell phone dangling from her ear, the hottest label on her clothing and she drives a car much nicer than the one driven by the youth pastor. She raises her hand during the alter call because Jesus seems to be the hottest trend of the moment. The preacher's sermon made sense, and she can see a need for Jesus in this moment. But, she too will be among the 80% who will fall away. Inevitably, someone or something that is a lot hotter and more attractive than Jesus will come along and she will hop on that band wagon forgetting all about her moving memories of the summer she spent at camp singing Cum-by-ya in last year's jeans.
(v.23) The Real Deal Christian. This girls is harder to spot because in a group of 100 kids, she's one of only twenty. She listens to the preacher's sermon and her heart burns within her because she understands exactly what he's saying. She recognizes her status as a sinner and feels the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Her belief in Jesus Christ is genuine and she changes her life in response to the Gospel message. She is among the 20% who will still be professing her faith on her 29th birthday, and forever afterward.
Although parts of what you've just read were meant in jest, they also represent a really sad reality in the Church today. What about you? Do you know what you believe?