Why Are So Many Young People Walking Away From Church and What is the Solution?

Why Are So Many Young People Walking Away From Church and What is the Solution?

By Brannon S. Howse

The worldviews and people discussed in this book are destroying America from their graves. Yet most Americans have never even heard of a number of the individuals discussed. As for the names they do recognize, they know little of their astonishing influence or how their worldviews still undermine America to this very day. 


Some of you may recall an exceptional book by David Breese, originally published by Moody Publishers in 1990, called Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave. I remember a personal conversation I had with Dr. Breese on the phone when I was in my early twenties and just beginning to write and speak on worldview topics. He strongly encouraged me, and I never forgot how kind and gracious he was. A man of deep Biblical convictions, David Breese went home to be with the Lord in May of 2002. He ran the race and finished well.


This book is not a replay of his work. Rather, I believe it picks up where he left off. Much has happened in America, to America, and in the hearts of Americans in the 20 years since Dr. Breese’s book was published. Grave Influence is largely an examination of those changes in light of the ideas, values, and worldviews of 21 dead radicals, seven of whom were also covered in the Breese book. 


I know Dr. Breese would not be surprised at what’s happening to America. After all, he tried to awaken the Church that has now been largely compromised and has become part of the problem. Most of all, I know Dr. Breese would be encouraged, because his life, testimony, commitment, and faithful service to Jesus Christ influenced not only me but countless others. I look forward to seeing David in glory, and I have such respect for his groundbreaking work that I hope I have honorably expanded on his approach and offer even greater insight into the destructive forces that are ruining not just our country, but the Judeo-Christian aspects of Western Civilization that have benefited mankind for nearly two millennia.


Sadly, most Christians are just as clueless as their non-believing fellow citizens as to what is happening. For the most part, the Church has contributed to the loss of the culture war by surrendering—often in ignorance—to the agendas arrayed against it. That’s why we’re losing many of our churched youth to aberrant philosophies. We’re not preparing children to know what they believe, why they believe it, and how to defend their Biblical worldview. 


I established Worldview Weekends in January of 1993 to train and equip adults and students to understand how to apply Biblical principles to every area of life. My first goal was specific worldview training. Secondly, I wanted to teach Christian apologetics—to defend essential Biblical doctrines such as how we know the Bible is true, how we know Jesus is God, how we know Christ rose from the dead, and how we know He was God incarnate.

The church in America has had billions of dollars at its disposal in modern times. In theory, this money has been available to fulfill the Great Commission—making disciples of Jesus Christ. Training and equipping adults and students in apologetics and a Biblical worldview is how this is accomplished. Yet, with all of its monetary resources, the Church has largely failed. Untold billions have been spent on buildings and entertainment rather than establishing Christians in the faith. 


Worldview Weekend was born to fill the vacuum left by an ineffective and self-serving Church. We now hold up to 50 free conferences every year. By the end of 2009, we will have trained more than 50,000 adults and students in person. This does not include our online training institute, magazines, website, radio program, and DVD resources. Most churches do not care to do this work of creating followers of Jesus Christ. They are too concerned about maintaining and growing a club complete with social activities, entertaining programs, and multi-million dollar buildings.

You may think I’m being too harsh, but in fact, I’m being reserved in my criticism. Yes, some churches are led by godly pastors. But from what I’ve seen of the congregations in America, these faithful churches represent merely a remnant.

How hard is it to train adults and youth pastors to teach apologetics and a Biblical worldview? Not that hard. You simply have to want to train a church staff, Sunday school teachers, parents, and grandparents to do it. The typical evangelical church prefers, rather, to simply provide people with employment, to make those who show up on Sunday morning feel comfortable, and to provide activities for the kids so they stay out of trouble. Most evangelical churches do not have a comprehensive Biblical worldview curriculum for kindergarten through adult. There are no benchmarks, no tests, no building one year of training on the previous year. There is no interest in teaching “line upon line and precept upon precept.” 


And herein lies one of our greatest areas of surrender. The Church may not be interested in instructing our kids, but many others “out there” salivate over the opportunity. Humanist and educator Charles Francis Potter, in his book Humanism: A New Religion, understood the prospects for equipping students to know what they believe and why they believe it:


Education is the most powerful ally of Humanism [atheism], and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday Schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?


“Ah,” you say, “but what about those students that attend a Christian school?” Numerous studies reveal that Christian school students have a worldview almost identical to those in the public school system. Why? Because the average private, Christian school in America is far more “private” than it is “Christian.” While there are a few Biblical worldview Christian schools, there aren’t many, and it is for essentially the same reason that we don't have many solid Bible-teaching churches. Their goal is not Christian education, the leadership often lacks a comprehensive Biblical worldview, and the focus is more about how many people attend, whether or not the bills get paid, and how popular it is in the community. Christian schools put more effort into their sports programs than into their Bible curriculum. I attended a Christian school growing up and have spoken in enough of them to have seen this problem firsthand, over and over again.

Name It and Re-Claim It


Why is it so crucial to accept that the culture war is lost? It’s because there’s still much to be won if we correctly grasp the job ahead of us. We must articulate the problem in order to solve it. And the only solvable problem left is the Church. To those who spend time, money, and energy still trying to reclaim the culture, I remind them of Founding Father John Adams’ words to Thomas Jefferson: 


Have you ever found in history, one single example of a Nation thoroughly corrupted that was afterwards restored to virtue?...And without virtue, there can be no political liberty…,Will you tell me how to prevent luxury from producing effeminacy, intoxication, extravagance, vice and folly?


Indeed, the average American male has become a feminized wimp. Many may still hunt, fish, and watch football, but that’s only a façade of masculinity. “Tough guys” who refuse to lead, to boldly speak truth, to disciple their children, or to take charge in their churches are merely white-washed wimps. All too many men today shun leadership positions that “real men” would grab hold of. 


Adams was right. Luxury has made us weak, and a nation so thoroughly corrupted cannot be restored. Once virtue has been compromised, liberty is lost. Without virtue and liberty, the culture is lost. 


My friend and Worldview Weekend speaker Ken Ham has written a troubling yet inspiring book with Britt Beemer and Todd Hillard entitled Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It. Working with a professional pollster, Ham surveyed those who attend church every week or nearly every week in conservative congregations. Some highlights from the book will show the monumental reclamation job ahead of us. The researchers found that:


A mass exodus is underway. Most youth of today will not be coming to church tomorrow. Nationwide polls and denominational reports are showing that the next generation is calling it quits on the traditional Church. And it's not just happening on the nominal fringe; it's happening at the core of the faith.

Only 11 percent of those who have left the Church did so during the college years. Almost 90 percent of them were lost in middle school and high school. By the time they got to college they were already gone! About 40 percent are leaving the Church during elementary and middle school years!

If you look around in your church today, two-thirds of those who are sitting among us have already left in their hearts. It will only take a couple years before their bodies are absent as well.

The numbers indicate that Sunday school actually didn't do anything to help them develop a Christian worldview. The brutal conclusion is that, on the whole, the Sunday school programs of today are statistical failures. 

Part of the concern is that the mere existence of youth ministry and Sunday school allows parents to shrug off their responsibility as the primary teachers, mentors, and pastors to their families. 

What this means is that the church is good at teaching Bible stories but not at teaching Biblical principles or applying those principles to all areas of life. How many churches do you know, for instance, that teach the Biblical worldview for law, science, economics, history, family, social issues, religion, and education—the crucial disciplines of all of life and society? At church, does anyone learn about the lies of global warming, radical environmentalism, socialism, evolution, postmodernism, situational ethics, political correctness, or population control? The myth of the separation of church and state, the Biblical reasons for marriage as one man and one woman, the Biblical role of men and women, and the deceptions of feminism? Every one of these issues can and must be addressed from the Bible, and when we do that, we are not “politicizing religion,” we are making disciples who think and live like Christians are meant to. 


I’ve written on every one of these issues, including a 13-week curriculum for teens through adults that addresses these areas with Power Point slides, video clips, a student manual, and student worksheets. Dr. David Noebel of Summit Ministries has developed a worldview curriculum for kindergarten through adult. So why don't more churches, Christian schools, and families use resources like these? (This is not just an advertisement!) Because they truly don’t care. Their real priorities are demonstrated by what they do emphasize. This “not caring” is how we surrendered the culture war in America.


If we have lost the culture war, then who has won? 


The winners are the people I tell you about in this book—and those who wittingly or unwittingly follow them. Alice Bailey, Helen Schucman, Julius Wellhausen, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Dewey, The Frankfurt School, Betty Friedan, William James, Alfred Kinsey, Aldous Huxley, Benjamin Bloom, B. F. Skinner, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Christopher Columbus Langdell, Saul Alinsky, Sigmund Freud, Margaret Sanger, and Roger Baldwin. What most disturbs me is that these people had the terms of surrender spelled out before we even knew the war was underway. 


Most pastors, church staff, and Sunday school teachers are products of a secular school system that did not warn them about the worldviews of these influential people. Schools, for the most part, promoted many of their ideas. Even pastors who attended seminary did not learn the significance of the competing worldviews represented by such people, and most seminaries did not teach apologetics or a comprehensive Biblical worldview. Even evangelical seminaries often avoid applying a Biblical worldview to many issues like those discussed in this book because they think it violates the separation of church and state or that such things are not the calling of a pastor but a politician.  


How can we win the battle for hearts and minds if we do not understand or even know the foundational worldviews and philosophy of the opposition? The spiritual battle that rages is based on the anti-God, anti-moral, anti-family ideas of the people discussed in this book.  


As I said earlier, the war may be over, but the heaviest fighting is yet to come. In the midst of a lost culture, we must stand up for righteousness and oppose abortion, active euthanasia, the attempt to eliminate our Biblical, parental authority. Your first step is to “see to it that no one enslaves you through philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to the Messiah” (Colossians 2:8, ISV). Then we must take action: fight the implementation of hate-crime laws and the efforts to shut down Christian radio, and oppose evil because it goes against God's character and nature. We must accept that we are past the point of restoring our culture and focus on how to preserve our families. We must evangelize, disciple, and raise up those who can lead the remnant. Read on, and let me show you how.

Copyright 2009 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.