Tag Archives: Christ

Why Are Young Christians Becoming Atheists?

Listening to Young Atheists:
Lessons for a Stronger Christianity

Surveys in recent years have shown that between 60-75% of American Christian youth will cease attending church after graduating from high school. This low retention rate has led to many concerns about the demographic decline of confessing Christians.

Many speculate as to why, and a Christian foundation asked confessing atheists at colleges across the country why they became atheists. The conclusions were surprisingly uniform – and present a damning condemnation of contemporary approaches to youth ministry.

One student, Phil, shares his journey to unbelief:

“Church became all about ceremony, handholding, and kumbaya,” Phil said with a look of disgust. “I missed my old youth pastor. He actually knew the Bible.” …

[Phil] loved his church (“they weren’t just going through the motions”), his pastor (“a rock star trapped in a pastor’s body”), and, most of all, his youth leader, Jim (“a passionate man”). Jim’s Bible studies were particularly meaningful to him. He admired the fact that Jim didn’t dodge the tough chapters or the tough questions: “He didn’t always have satisfying answers or answers at all, but he didn’t run away from the questions either. The way he taught the Bible made me feel smart.” …

During his junior year of high school, the church, in an effort to attract more young people, wanted Jim to teach less and play more. Difference of opinion over this new strategy led to Jim’s dismissal. He was replaced by Savannah, an attractive twenty-something who, according to Phil, “didn’t know a thing about the Bible.” The church got what it wanted: the youth group grew. But it lost Phil.

Too often we think that youth ministry should be about fun and games. With the reduction of “Big Church” sermons in the Evangelical world to simplistic, rhyming aphorisms for a better life, the standard has been set so low that the youth ministers are forced into farce. From the adults our youth have learned that doctrine isn’t fun, and catechism is a terrible game. Of course, catechisms were originally meant to train children in the faith.

In tandem with, and likely because of, the dumbing down of our teaching in youth ministry, there has been a devaluation of the depth of the Christian response to this world:

 “The connection between Jesus and a person’s life was not clear.” This is an incisive critique. [Stephanie] seems to have intuitively understood that the church does not exist simply to address social ills, but to proclaim the teachings of its founder, Jesus Christ, and their relevance to the world. Since Stephanie did not see that connection, she saw little incentive to stay. …

Others hoped to find answers to questions of personal significance, purpose, and ethics. Serious-minded, they often concluded that church services were largely shallow, harmless, and ultimately irrelevant. As Ben, an engineering major at the University of Texas, so bluntly put it: “I really started to get bored with church.”

Jesus’ call is not to a better life, at least, not in the way that the world understands as better. Jesus calls us to lose our lives, to renounce all that we have. Personal significance, purpose, ethics – our whole lives – are to be understood through God’s plan of redemption and self-revelation in Christ.

Our answers are deeper, sharper, more meaningful … and costlier than the world’s. We just shy away from them. Through our methods we teach that fun is the core value of life. Are we surprised that when freed from church they continue to seek out self-centered pleasure?

We should not be ashamed of Christ’s full-throated proclamation of payment for and dominion over our lives. If people don’t sense that we take the Christian message very seriously, why would they?

But sincerity is indispensable to any truth we wish others to believe. There is something winsome, even irresistible, about a life lived with conviction. I am reminded of the Scottish philosopher and skeptic, David Hume, who was recognized among a crowd of those listening to the preaching of George Whitefield, the famed evangelist of the First Great Awakening:

“I thought you didn’t believe in the Gospel,” someone asked.

“I do not,” Hume replied. Then, with a nod toward Whitefield, he added, “But he does.”

You can read the full article here: “Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity” [The Atlantic]

We’re Headed to Pskov, Russia!

Pskov in Europe

My wife and I are headed to Pskov, Russia!

We recently quit our jobs and are moving to Russia with a team of three for a year. Nansi will be helping orphans, I will be working with local churches and Philip will focus on corporate prayer. We are going with East-West, a missions agency dedicated to the Great Commission.

Lots of updates and photos to follow. Please subscribe to our mailing list to learn more!

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St. John Chrysostom’s Sermon on John 3:16 – Still Powerful Today!

Given the nickname “Golden Mouthed,” St. John “Chrysostom” was a well-known preacher and Archbishop of Constantinople during the second part of the 4th century. His sermon on John 3:16 is just as powerful after 1,600 years, perhaps even more so given our increased individual and societal wealth. Jesus’ message hasn’t changed or become more palatable over the millennia:

“God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John Chrysostom 250px

Continue reading St. John Chrysostom’s Sermon on John 3:16 – Still Powerful Today!

Atheist Billboard in Chicago

Atheist Billboard in Downtown Chicago
Atheist Billboard in Downtown Chicago

A billboard in the middle of downtown Chicago asks:

Are You Good Without God?

Millions Are.

The Chicago Coalition for Reason, who put the board up, describes themselves as:

An exciting group of organizations in the Chicago area, each of which celebrates a human-centered and naturalistic approach to life. For us, non-dogmatic and rational approaches to ethics, culture and the human experience are the most meaningful and satisfying.

As to the goals, the group thinks:

No reaction might be a good reaction.

“If Christians (or whomever) don’t react, that means atheism is becoming more acceptable in society. Which is great. If they do react, then what exactly are they opposed to?”

This is all part of the New Atheism, which is extremely evangelistic, and believes in proselytism more than most Christians I know – which ought to make us examine our zeal … or lack thereof. Though I have to admit, that my first reaction to the billboard isn’t shock. Most of the people I know and have grown up around are atheists, it isn’t exactly countercultural. Atheism has been the norm for a long time in the West.

A much more shocking billboard would be:

Do you know how much you need God?

HT: The Chicagoist

The Little Things

Who is the Greater Prophet, Jesus or Muhammed

Seeing Clearly puts up a great list of the teachings about Jesus in the Qur’an:

  • Jesus was born of a virgin (Surah 3:45-50)
  • Jesus is sinless (Surah 6:85)
  • Jesus is the Messiah (Surah 3:45)
  • Jesus performed miracles (Surah 3:49)
  • One of these miracles is especially interesting (although only attested elsewhere in the Gospel of Thomas). Surah 3:49 and 5:110 teach that Jesus created a bird out of clay while He was upon this earth.
  • Jesus ascended into heaven in bodily form (Surah 3:55)
  • Jesus spoke at his birth (Surah 19:27-35)
  • Jesus raised the dead (Surah 3:49)

Question for Muslims: since none of the above is true of Muhammed, how can he be called the greatest prophet?

[Whole list taken from Norman Geisler, “Jesus and Muhammed in the Qur’an: A Comparison and Contrast,” SBJT 8:1 (2004), 50-58.]