5 Reasons Children Leave
Children are leaving Jesus. Young adults are leaving Jesus. They say they are leaving the church or organized religion but the hard truth is that they are leaving Jesus. The church belongs to Jesus:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” – Matthew 16:18
He said, “I will build my church” (emphasis mine – jbe). When someone leaves the church they leave what Jesus built. But they also leave the very thing Jesus loved so much that he died for it:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” – Ephesians 5:25
We understand that the church is not brick and mortar but flesh and blood. It is an assembly of people who come together for Jesus’ work. When you leave the church you leave people. To be honest, some assemblies make life hard for young people and they fail profoundly in their mission. Some are self-centered and seek to be entertained by professional and semi-professional people. Others are as dead as firewood in January, Jesus warned that some assemblies would be cast out of his presence for their faithlessness and apathy (Revelation chapters 2 & 3). Churches have problems that must be fixed. But that is another article.
For now, let’s think about the ones who quit.
Children Leave the Church Because of Parents
This may be the hardest truth of all. We (parents) are part of the problem.
Children are a precious gift from God. It is a powerful attestation to God’s faith in his creation that he entrusts us with the most vulnerable creature to be molded and crafted into a faithful servant of his. Children are described as “heritage” and a “reward” (Psalm 127:3), a “blessing (Psalm 37:26). They are described as “olive shoots” by the psalmist in Psalm 128:3, that is, as a great blessing from the much-desired tree. Even our Lord entered the world as a child. A man with many children is like one who has a quiver full of arrows (Psalm 127:3-5). Children are an amazing gift from on high. But for all their splendor a child cannot raise himself.
You might think otherwise.
For too many children, once they can reach the bread and the peanut butter jar they are put on autopilot. They make their decisions largely independent of any parental oversight or guidance. Friends, associates, and activities are chosen by the child and at least benignly supported by mom and dad. Even so-called helicopter parents fail to guide their children into paths of righteousness. Instead, they make sure children are at little league games, band practices, and choir concerts while ignoring many opportunities to grow in Christ. It is not that these things are bad – they are not – but there is something better which parents often fail to support.
There are precious few children who can be deprived of strong parental guidance and still prosper in Christ. It is possible but uncommon. A major part of raising a child comes through the example set by parents. Few children will, at least in their early adult lives, exceed the spirituality of the parents. Let that sink in for a moment.
Children Leave the Church Because of Shallow Teaching
For those children who are blessed with parents seeking opportunities for spiritual growth, there remains another challenge: Bible teaching that lacks depth and substance. The local church must aide parents by providing sound teaching for children through the Sunday School programs and similar educational activities. Sadly, that teaching does not progress far beyond songs about Zachheus the wee little man, and good ol’ Noah. I really hate to write these words because many wonderful Bible class teachers do their best in the classroom, but they need help. Bible class is not an afterthought. It is a critical part of the spiritual development of a child. Congregations must support the teachers and the work they do.
Teaching should track what students are exposed to in the public schools. When curriculum is taught that rejects Creation, the Flood and the idea of miracles, students should be taught the truth as God has revealed it. Schools are often the enemies of truth. Repeated studies among those who leave the church point to the inability to accept Bible teachings that conflict with science. Deeper studies will demonstrate that belief in God and the supernatural nature of his work through history is rational and truthful. But if the churches are not teaching it and if the parents are silent, from whence will children learn truth? We leave them at the mercy of studies that uphold science as supreme and the Bible as myth!
Children Leave the Church Because of Demonic Deception
Satan is busy. He does not jump out of bushes and steal the souls of our youth. Instead, he works through influence and peer pressure to deliver those souls to eternal death. We see his activity in many places. Terrorism, brutal repression, famine caused by war, abortion, pedophilia, child abuse and more. It’s pretty obvious he is there causing the disturbance. But he also works quietly, so sly when tempting our youth. He is patient and able to groom our children into lost souls. We’d better take him seriously.
Paul describes a spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 with real weapons used against real fortifications. They are spiritual, not physical, but still very real. Your children are on the frontline. They will be taken captive if we do not support them. During the Gulf War, the military was rightfully rebuked for failing to provide our soldiers with adequate gear to protect them. Body armor was not adequate and vehicles had less than required hardening against explosives. It was a horrible thought that we would put our soldiers in harm’s way without supplying them with the very best equipment. We must prepare our children for the assaults coming from Satan. We are not ignorant of his tactics (2 Corinthians 2:11), we know what his plans and schemes are. We must prepare them.
Satan will never tap your child on the shoulder and say, “come with me.” But one of his followers, in the personage of your child’s best friend, will. Like the Israelites under Samuel, they will seek the world and its empty promises (1 Samuel 8:5) if they do not know better.
Satan is liar (John 8:44). The first time we meet him in Genesis 3 he is lying and he has not stopped yet. He will lie to your children!
Children Leave the Church Because They Were Never In the Church
Wow. This is a mouthful! I expect some emails about this. “Who are you to decide who is in our out of the church?” they will ask. “Don’t judge!” they will warn. The hard truth is that not all who claim t be of Jesus really are. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Did you catch what Jesus said? Some will claim faithfulness but are not. Some of our children may be in that crowd. Of course, hope remains. The time to act is now. Let us teach, re-teach, and teach some more. Model the faith of Christ before them. Let them see that being a Christian is worthy of their thought and time.
Children Leave the Church Because The World Became More Important Than Jesus
When youth enter college they are bombarded with serious choices. These decisions will follow them for the rest of their life. Everything they do is focused on their future. Sometimes, the demands of the world are so intense that the things of God are crowded out. Slowly, the young person begins to pursue career at the expense of spirit.
Let me be clear, planning and preparing for the future is Biblical. But let’s keep our priorities in order.
Jesus spoke of the error of confusing the earthly and the spiritual.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-20).
Paul reminds us:
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:8-10).
We must guard our children from the shady narrative of the world. Train them up as God would have us and surround them with prayer. Let us stem the tide of failing children.