The youth exodus

A friend and I were chatting this week about how to stem the massive exodus of young Christians from church.

So how do we do it?  Maybe we should do what Jesus did.

He went outside the synagogue walls and into the marketplace with his young disciples.  There he dealt with the real needs of people – spiritual and physical – healing many and speaking directly to their hearts with the good news of God.

Then, he spent time with his close disciples, answering their questions and teaching them.

Finally, he sent these young, inexperienced men out into the countryside – two-by-two – to bring healing and the gospel to others.

So what happened to these men?  They learned what ministry to others is really like the way Jesus did it.  And they learned to lean on God in the fire of life.

They saw the transforming power of God at work in ordinary lives.

When Jesus ascended to heaven, they were ready to take up his challenge to make disciples of the nations.

So, Jesus’ method was simple: Go out with disciples to where people are, show God’s love to them, share the gospel, and commission the disciples to go out in the same way themselves.

I realize that it is an uncomfortable thing to do.  Like many Christians, I’d much rather live quietly and avoid the problems of other people.

But Jesus’ approach to reaching people is exciting.  It really is life-changing – not only for the people we meet but for ourselves, too.

I believe that kind of life would appeal to many young people.

But that means we older Christians would need to lead that kind of life, as well.  We would need to risk ourselves in the outside world.  Only as we live like Jesus will young people be inspired to live like us.

Also, we would need to let young people make mistakes and learn from failure.  We would need to yield responsibility and leadership to them in their outreach efforts.

A Southern Baptist Convention study in 2002 estimated that 88 per cent of children in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18.  I have no proof, but I believe many leave because they are bored and see no relevance of the Christian faith in ordinary life.

And I believe that would change dramatically if young people – and us adults – walked the way Jesus walked.


2 comments so far

  1. Andy Smits on

    Excellent thoughts, Bob. Thanks for speaking into this issue. Your thoughts on the ministry of Jesus remind me of an excellent sermon I heard this week:
    Zach Eswine was really helpful in pointing me back to the radical way that Jesus cared for the marginalized, and invited his disciples to follow him into that kind of practical care.

  2. Robert Douglas on

    Thank you, Andy. I especially appreciate your comments as they come from someone who is doing this kind of discipleship so effectively all the time.

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