We keep hearing about this surge of Millennials leaving the church and/or leaving their faith. I believe they are not leaving their faith as much as they are leaving the church culture.
Ever since they were born, Millennials have been marketed to. More than any other generation before them. I believe they are so tired of being marketed to. Sadly, the church culture has marketed to them also. They don’t want to hear yet another pitch for a short-term mission trip that also includes a zipline. They don’t want to see a smoke machine in their church worship center and their Saturday night club.
This marketing has blinded them to what their faith could actually look like. The faith that their soul is calling out for.
Sadly what have the youth group teachings (more marketing included) and church teachings been dumbed down to? How to be a moral person.
The teachings are more about what have they been saved from? “She’s a Christian because she doesn’t drink.” “He’s a Christian because he doesn’t cuss.”
What do such behavior modifications have to do with being a Christian?
This is more about being moral. Maybe that is why so many moral people are mistaken as Christians. But many moral people do not know of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Teaching to be dependent on a Savior is the way of Jesus but also difficult to teach in this self-absorbed culture. These moral messages of what we are saved from are easier to teach. Plus they also easily impress senior pastors, church boards, and parents.
There is so much more to faith than fromming.
I have a favorite book that has influenced me for a long time. It was published in 1988 and it is still influencing me to this day. This is from p. 140 of Real Christians
Don’t Dance by John Fischer.
“For many, fromming is the reason why we have Christian schools, Christian movies, Christian nightclubs, Christian music, Christian aerobics, Christian TV. In fact, seemingly every aspect of popular culture and contemporary life sooner or later sprouts a Christian counterpart. Fromming has become the major justification for the Christian sub-culture now firmly rooted in contemporary society. It is also a convenient excuse for any shortcomings the ‘Christian’ version displays when compared to its ‘secular’ counterpart and when such a venture comes up short of funds.
“From. It has become an all-important word in the apologetic rhetoric of popular Christianity. We are constantly being bombarded with fromism—From this, that, and the other thing, From all of the things we are being saved from.”
You are seeing it, aren’t you? You have felt this also about your faith over time, right? This is not just a Millennial or Gen Z thing. This has also been your thing. (Remember that this book was written in 1988!)
Just say the word “from.” It makes your mouth frown.
What happens with fromming faith is that Christians become identified not for what they do but more from what they don’t do.
Even that thought brings a frown to your face.
Let’s flip this around to a to faith. What are we saved to?
(This list is in no random order and was put together from a group conversation at my church. I’m sure this list can be much longer. What would you add to it?)
That last one is for real. This is from The Barna Group research into Millennials and their faith. Sadly only 10% of this age group have a faith that is defined as resilient. This would be the kind of faith we want for our children. https://www.barna.com/research/of-the-four-exile-groups-only-10-are-resilient-disciples/ Those with a resilient faith also survey that they want longer sermons. Which may mean they also want less of the attractional—overmarketed—church, huh?
Instead of being saved from the travails of sin, a to faith is life to the full. This is what a resilient faith is. You don’t leave that kind of faith behind in your late adolescence because that is when you need it the most. Plus this kind of faith does not take away your fun. The fun comes in the success you daily live. Look at that curated list again.
Teach this to faith. Be wary of the easy trap of fromming faith. Do praise fromming moral behavior but actively teach what you are being saved to.
And turn that frown upside down to to. Now you are smiling—and hopeful.
Idea: Create your own “to list” with your teen. Use this conversation to give your teen a bigger view of a resilient faith. Your teen may be inspired.