The Southern Baptist Convention (the largest protestant group/denomination in the United States) just released some staggering statistics that would behoove all of us to consider. From 1946 to 1972, the number of Southern Baptists more than doubled, from 6 million to 12 million. Then the membership figures continued to rise, peaking at 16.3 million members in 2006. But things are changing. In total, the SBC has lost more than 1.3 million people in just three years.
As you can imagine there has been much speculation and talk of why the decline. One does not have to look deep into the statistics to find one major problem. Unfortunately, this problem is not just among the SBC but Protestantism in general. The average adult in the SBC is over 55 years old. The statistics say that 3 out of every 5 adults are over the age of 55 in the SBC!
This should be alarming to all of us! I hate seeing the church in a state of decline. It breaks my heart to see churches holding on to life with little hope for the future. For years I’ve listened to a generation of pastors talk about passing on the baton, but they have held on to it for so long that no one dares come and take it. The race is over for them and their congregation.
Where are the 55 and younger? Why are they not following the steps of their parents and grandparents? Why are they walking away from the church? Are they really “already gone?”
I DON’T THINK SO. The next generation of Christians are there. The problem is we are acting like Elijah. We have the “I am the only one” syndrome. We are so busy hiding in our caves that we are missing those who are ready to join the cause (I Kings 19:18).
Satan (like Jezebel) is hunting this generation. They are under attack! He is working overtime in their lives flooding them with information against God. An array of worldliness is thrown at them every single day. If Satan sees the need to go after them, why don’t we? I know… “The church has been here for years. The doors are always open. Let them come to us!” News flash- they are not coming! Why should they? When they hear and see a form of “Christianity” in documentaries like Shiny Happy People it is no wonder they stay away!
What is the answer? How can we reach what might be the toughest generation to reach with the gospel?
Nineveh was not going to Israel to hear the prophets, the prophet had to “Arise and go to Nineveh.” We must…
1. Arise and go to where they are.
Believe it or not, young people are not all working from home in their pajamas. You just have to find them. For me, it is in the local coffee shops and on our college campus. Go and interact with them. Start conversations. Get to know the regulars and allow them to get to know you. For a few months, a young man was coming into our local coffee shop to work almost every day. I began to talk and build a relationship with him. One day I noticed a book he was reading. I asked him about it, bought the book, and read it. Why? Because I wanted to know more about the power of laughter in the workplace? No, I read it so I would have more opportunities to share with him the power of the gospel in my workplace.
Social media. Like it or not social media is driving the next generation. This is where they are and where they will be. A college student in our church admitted to me a few months ago that when she checked her screen time on TikTok she averaged 40hrs of watch time A WEEK!
We can flex our muscles and take our stand against social media, but it will not change anything. This generation is no sooner going to put down their phones and delete their apps than carpenters are going to hang up their nail guns and cordless drills for hammers and screwdrivers. It is not going to happen!
If we can’t beat them let’s join them. Not with defense but with an offense. Let’s flood these media outlets with the gospel. We must put content out there that will encourage and inspire. We must hit the record button and get our faces in front of their faces on social media. We must needs go through Samaria!
2. Show them what reality looks like.
This generation does not know what reality even looks like. What they are continually seeing is not reality. They have no idea what real even is. Faces are painted, relationships are forged, and news is fake. The next generation longs for the truth and we have it! They long for transparency and we can give it. They want to see people who are not photoshopped or living a lie on camera. They need to see real Christians being raw before God and in worship. They need people to look at them and say we get it, I am struggling too. But this will never happen if we keep them at arm’s length or shy away from them. They need to be invited into our homes. They need to sit with us at dinner and see our children refuse to eat their veggies (and how you handle it). They need to see real interaction between you and your spouse. They need to hear you pray a real prayer before you eat, or even see what Bible time looks like before your kids go to bed. They need to see real Christians are real people, not this make-believe world they are continuing to see on “reels.”
Please do not look down on, or criticize this next generation. It is not their fault. They are not the ones to blame. I am afraid we are.
Arise church, and go!