Among the plethora of books being written today about why the church is losing the next generation, none will have as wide of a distribution and as high of an approval rating as Already Gone from Answers in Genesis’ (AIG) founder and president Ken Ham.
For this book, Ken Ham enlisted the help of statistical researcher Britt Beemer to examine what is undoubtably the greatest crisis to affect the church in ages.
The premise of the book describes the epidemic and the shocking findings from their research. Young adults who ended up leaving the church in college, had already left the faith before graduating from high school.
This statistic is the most important point that Already Gone has to make. We are not losing our young adults when they are grown up and able to make their own decisions, we are losing them while they are still in their Christian homes, Bible believing churches, and under the watchful eye of their Sunday school teachers. The point is, if we haven’t won their hearts as children, we will lose them as adults.
The church has spent the last twenty years investing in youth ministries, vacation Bible school, and Sunday school materials, but what do we have to show for it? There is definitely something wrong with what we have been doing and we need to be willing to reevaluate our efforts for the future.
Two Major Reasons
The book suggest that there are two problems to why the church is losing the next generation; Sunday school and the lack of apologetics. The book points out that those children who attended Sunday school regularly were more likely to leave as adults than those who didn’t. But primarily it suggests that they have not properly prepared them to defend their faith from the attacks of the world by teaching solid, biblical creationism.
This seems to be a stretch. Yes, the facts show that those who attended Sunday school were more likely to leave as an adult, but it doesn’t give us enough information to really draw a conclusion that the problem was the content they were taught (I wonder how many of these Sunday schools were using AIG materials). Secondly, while apologetics are an important tool for the believer, it is not the primary measure of ones maturity in the faith.
There is a reason that these two problems rise to the top of AIG’s concerns. First of all, they are closely associate with Voddie Baucham and the family oriented church which has been known to cast blame on Sunday school. Secondly, they are apologists. Obviously these concerns weigh heavily on how they interpreted their findings.
I can look at the same results that Ken Ham and Britt Beemers came up with and walk away with a different perspective. The real problem, as I see it, is that the church has resorted to the moralistic teachings or the deep orthodoxy of the Bible while neglecting authentic intimacy with God.
A Personal Testimony
I was reared on AIG. When I was sixteen I went to a secular college and gave a speech on creationism. I fully supported the values and beliefs of my parents and church. I was fully equipped. I even went to a Christian college where I studied the Word of God. But I had a crisis of faith when I was twenty-one. My reasons for questioning my faith were not built on arguments from the world but from observing Christians who were missing the point of Scripture (a point brought out in the book). My crisis was centered on a lack of fulfillment from all the works I was doing, and a lack of intimacy with my savior.
Ken Ham presents his argument that the primary reason youth are leaving the church is because they believe the theory of evolution and the church has not drilled into them enough the facts of creation and the Bible. I understand where he is coming from, but I wouldn’t suggest that this was the basis for their lack of faith, but instead the church’s failure to represent a powerful God, capable of creating the earth. It’s not that they don’t have the right answers to address the questions the world is asking, it’s that they don’t have a strong enough faith to withstand satan’s attacks. Creation can be used to butress that faith, but a belief that God is able to do what He says He will do is the necessary foundation needed before creationism can even be accepted.
The Appropriate Armor
The Bible commands believers to have a ready answer for every man and to earnestly contend for the faith. AIG does an excellent job at developing that argument. But apologetics are a widely debated field even among conservative Christians. What we need more than right answers is maturity.
If we do what Ken Ham is suggesting, primarily teaching rebuttals for the attacks of the world, we will seriously under-equip the next generation’s intimacy with their savior. Still, AIG is a much needed resource the church cannot do without, but we have to start with the appropriate armor.
Paul gives us a clear understanding of what the armor of God is in Ephesians 6.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”
There are a lot of good take aways from Already Gone and plenty of reasons to read it. If nothing else, I hope and pray that this book will challenge churches to rethink how they are ‘doing’ church and challenge them to start ‘living’ church. There are several things lacking in Already Gone that I wish were there, but for the most part, it is a credible source that many people are going to need before they are willing to see the truth. I can say this all day, but who am I. When Ken Ham says it, people might start listening.
If you read yesterday’s article, I address that homeschoolers should not teach faith as science. Ken Ham and I would probably disagree on this point, though we’d probably argue more over semantics than practice. My point is that you have to start with faith before you can build into it the mysteries of creation. It’s simply not good enough to have a discussion with secularists on the same plane. They are arguing, wrongly, from a factual basis (though it is distorted) and will not acknowledge that their conclusions derive from preconceived notions. When Christians simply retort by arguing the facts of creation, they are stooping to the same level as secularists. We are on a different plane and we should acknowledge that. We don’t believe in God because creation is the most likely answer to the question of why we are here, but because God has made Himself real to us through redemption.