Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Was I Better Off Not Growing Up in a Christian Home?

I just read a study from the Barna Research Group that states 70% of young people who come from Christian homes will leave organized religion, the Church and, more importantly, their faith by age 18. Their findings are troubling. The Christian community is losing an entire generation of young people. Clearly, something is wrong.

Barna also suggests that most young people don’t know how faith, the Bible, and belief in God are relevant to their lives. All of this got me to thinking was I better off not growing up in a Christian home or the Church? I became a Christian at age 20. I had no religious training. My family did not force me to go to church nor did they suggest I believe in anything in regard to God or religion.

So when I accepted Christ as my personal Savior, it was real and personal. It wasn’t somebody else’s belief system. It was mine. I took it seriously and believed right from the start that if I was a Christian, I had a mission to accomplish. In fact, I thought everybody was serious who went to church; however, in a short time I found that not to be the case.

Could it be that if you grow up in the Church that it can be an obstacle to your faith? I don’t want to suggest that growing up in a Christian home is necessarily bad or attending church in your youth could be a problem. However, there are a few things I didn’t have to deal with.

The Barna Research Group helps back this up by identifying some of the key issues that lead young people away from the Church and their faith.

The most troubling obstacle to young people is a dual message. They hear one thing at church and see a completely different story at home. In other words, the parents act one way at church and in a completely different manner at home. Young people cannot process this nor understand what is real or fake; therefore, faith and belief in Christ is not real if it cannot be lived outside of the church.

Kids are smart, and they pick up on things fairly quickly. If you say you love God and believe certain things, then it had better define your life. That means if you say you are a Christian you’d better act like a Christian and reflect the attributes of Christ. Otherwise, you are not doing your kids any favors.

I didn’t have anybody forcing their beliefs on me. I wasn’t indoctrinated. I was allowed to think for myself and to come to my own conclusions. I think sometimes in Christian homes the parents can be a little bit overbearing. “This is what I believe, and I expect you to believe the same thing.” It just doesn’t work that way. If you take that kind of approach, it’s a sure thing that your kids will be on the road to rebellion. We have to present the faith and the facts about Christianity but, ultimately, it’s the individual’s choice to accept it and believe it.

I wasn’t protected from the outside world. I went to public school from the first grade to graduation. I had real world experience dealing with all sorts of kids—no safe bubble, no Christian subculture. A lot of kids that grow up in a Christian family have no idea how to relate to nonbelievers. In fact, given the first opportunity of freedom, they are more than ready and willing to leave the ranch.

Think about it. How are we going to fulfill the Great Commission if we can’t relate to people who think differently than we do?

At some point, when you grow up in a Christian home and the local church, you are going to take a look around and ask yourself this question; are we really making a difference in the world. Most young people realize there are all kinds of needs—poverty, homelessness, hunger, social injustice, pain and suffering just to name a few. But sometimes the Church seems to be more interested in building a bigger building. Unfortunately, too many Christian want a life based on comfort, convenience and safety. Young people think the Church and Christianity aren’t relevant if they can’t help people in need. I didn’t have this problem when I first started going to church. We met at a park. Then we met in somebody’s basement. Our resources went to help people in need. Maybe that’s the way it should be.

I wasn’t treated like a kid. The worst thing we do in the church is not integrating our young people into the Christian community. Today it’s all about youth ministry and young people doing their own thing. In other words, we want them to be entertained, and maybe out of the way.

When I became a Christian, the church I first attended valued their young people. They were part of the fabric of the church. They served in every area of ministry. That’s the way it should be. Hey, they’re the future. Maybe if we got them involved earlier in life, we might not have a 70% dropout rate.

Final Thought

I didn’t have all of the baggage, and maybe that was a good thing. As I said, my faith was real and genuine. I had to think through the process for myself and, obviously, I made the right decision in accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior. Unfortunately for a lot of young people in Christian homes, they’re just coasting through. They don’t know what they believe or why they believe what they do believe. Most parents just assume their kids are OK. But that is the furthest thing from the truth. It’s as if everybody involved would rather not know what is really going on. It’s a recipe for disaster. So was I better off not growing up in a Christian home? Maybe. I wouldn’t recommend it, but we have to do a better job because if things continue on their current path, there won’t be any Christian homes left.

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