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In a recent column for CNN, Rachel Held Evans offers some thoughts on “why millennials are leaving the church.” Her post struck a chord with readers. She is addressing a perennial topic of conversation among church leaders and church goers: what will happen to the next generation.

Like Rachel, I’m 32 – right on the border of the millennials, and many of the questions and doubts I hear from the millennial generation resonate with me too. But my analysis differs somewhat from Rachel’s.

Rachel’s Analysis

Rachel thinks millennials are leaving the church due to the perception that evangelicals are

“… too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

She’s right to decry a vision of Christianity that reduces repentance to a list of do’s and don’ts. I too have noticed that many millennials desire to be involved in mercy ministry and support justice causes. And I couldn’t agree more when she says “we want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.”

The Church’s Response

How has the church responded? Rachel sees church leaders trying to update their music or preaching style, and thereby running up against the “highly sensitive BS meters” we millennials have. We’re not fooled by consumerism or performances when churches cater to what they think we want.

Rachel writes:

“What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”

I agree with that sentence for the most part, although I would tweak the last line to say “What millennials really want from the church is substance.” Not a change in substance, necessarily, just substance will do.

Too often, our churches have offered a sanitized, spiritualized version of self-help therapy, and Jesus has been missing. And that’s the problem. Like every generation, she says, “deep down we long for Jesus.”

Here’s where Rachel and I part ways – on what communities following Jesus look like in our culture.

The Biblical Jesus

When I read the Gospels, I’m confronted by a Jesus who explodes our categories of righteousness and sin, repentance and forgiveness, and power and purity.

I meet a Jesus who doesn’t do away with the Law of the Old Testament, but ramps up the demands in order to lead us to Himself – the One who calls us to life-altering repentance and faith.

I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.

I see a King who didn’t hold back anything from His people, and who expects His people to hold back nothing from Him.

Is the Church Obsessed with Sex, or is it the Culture?

Following Jesus leaves no part of our life unchanged.

That’s why it strikes me as odd that Rachel sees “obsession with sex” as one of the biggest obstacles for contemporary Christianity to overcome. I visit lots of churches, and I find that sexuality is not a frequently discussed subject from most church platforms or Bible studies. In fact, one could make the case that Christians haven’t talked enough about Jesus’ radical zealousness when it comes to sexuality. The fact that cohabitation, premarital sex and pornography are often overlooked among our congregations betrays the vision of sexuality Jesus put forward – a vision of the sacredness of a man and woman’s covenant for life, one that excludes even lustful thoughts from God’s design.

When it comes to sexual obsession, we ought to take a look at pop culture. One can hardly watch a TV show or a popular movie without being assaulted with sexual innuendos, crude jokes, or overt displays of all kinds of sexuality. Pastors and church leaders go on news talk shows and are badgered about their views of sexuality, as if nothing else matters but that the church join in and celebrate our culture’s embrace of Aphrodite in all her warped splendor.

Challenged to Holiness

Rachel says millennials want to be “challenged to holiness,” but the challenge she appears to be advocating is one on our own terms and according to our own preferences. That’s why I find it ironic that she decries the catering churches that alert our “BS meters,” while simultaneously telling church leaders they should do a better job catering to our generation’s whims and wishes. (She has since clarified this as not a list of demands, but desires and dreams.)

Truth be told, I don’t want a church that serves my preferences. I want a church that gives me Jesus and makes me want to serve His

Counting the Cost

One sign of Jesus’ Spirit is He convicts the world of sin (John 16:8). The sign of the spirit of this age is that the world is coddled instead of convicted. And those who marry the spirit of this age will always be widowed in the next.

Perhaps that’s why millennials have left the churches that most resemble the type of community described by Rachel at rates far greater than evangelical churches. When the counter-cultural message of Jesus is softened or tweaked, or the raging idols of this age (such as money, sex, and power) are overlooked or ignored, the cost of Christianity disappears. Christianity without a cost is Christianity without the cross. And Christianity without the cross isn’t Christianity at all.

What Kind of Millennial Christian Will We Be?

Some millennials, like many from generations before us, want the church to become a mirror – a reflection of our particular preferences, desires, and dreams. But other millennials want a Christianity that shapes and changes our preferences, desires, and dreams.

We’re eager to pass the gospel on to the next generation, to live in ways that call into question the idolatries of our age, to stand in a long line of believers who have been out of the mainstream, constantly maligned and misrepresented, but who love Jesus, love people, and aren’t afraid to call everyone to repentance.

That’s a Christianity this millennial believes is worth dying for, but also one that’s worth living out in a local church with other believers from all generations.

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215 thoughts on “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church: A Response to Rachel Held Evans”

  1. Dan says:

    Thanks for a great post. Welcome back.

  2. James says:

    Well. To resonate with two parties is often a dilemma. On one side, being 33 years old and only a believer for 9 years, I don’t have the dogma of a church tradition bearing down on my conscience. On the other, I have a somewhat new experience as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

    Yes I have left churches from traditional to modern based on the level of BS coming out of both pulpits and “worship” services.

    What to do, what to do. Its ironic that Rachel Held Evans points out something Leonard Ravenhill frequently stated, “That world outside there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity, it’s waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity.”

    I wish that evangelicals would admit the over politicized, highly clique’d, and socially unconcerned church we are so accustom to today. The Constantinian reign has lasted a long time, and until we take note from the words of Christ, we will never be radical enough to be that new demonstration that millennials are searching for.

    Personally, I could care less what they find when they search. If the church is not demonstrating Christ – then they are perfectly justified in their dissatisfaction. Until we can reflect Christ in the demonstration/substance of our lives to the world around us, there is no institutional or liturgical style that will save it. Just look at Europe, Denmark, Sweden…. Geneva even.

    May Christ help us all.

  3. Brittany Butler says:

    Praise the Lord that you wrote this. My husband and I felt the same way about the article – couldn’t have said it better!!

  4. Clay says:

    The fact is millenials are leaving all churches – conservative, liberal, Catholic, Orthodox, protestant. So the issue isn’t simple, and I don’t think a change in substance is necessarily going to make that big of a difference in the number of millenials that stay in church. Any way you slice it, church gets a fraction of kids’ time compared to the secular culture which is making major headway into kids’ hearts. In my opinion, the only thing that will change the tide is a change in the home. Parents have to foster a Christian culture within the home and offer an alternative worldview to that of modern secular culture.

    1. Andrew says:

      I agree that parents need to foster a Christian atmosphere at home, but you must be careful of making it a religious duty. I have many millenial friends (because I’m one) that have grown up in that same environment you speak of (including myself) and have turned away from God because their view of Him is of an authoritarian king with little compassion and lots of rules.

      That of course is false, but my parents raised me in a Christian manner and unknowingly to them, this was my outlook that I took from it.

      What I’m getting at is that children need to understand who Jesus really is and use that as a springboard of asking them questions about “why” something is wrong rather than telling them “Hey. Stop doing that. That’s wrong. If you do it again you’ll get punished.”

      I’m not railing against punishment and consequences, but rather I’m stressing grace as well.

      1. Clay says:

        I agree with you. I’m not interested in forcing my kids into some sort of robotic compliance. If I can teach my children to pray every day, to love and serve God and neighbor in small-ordinary-everyday ways, to forgive and ask forgiveness, and participate in the life of the Church, then I feel I will be able to turn them over to God when the time comes for them to leave my care and trust Him to take them from there.

      2. Mel says:

        Well this complaint is old. I remember thinking this when I was a teen and I’m in my fifties now.

        The fact of the matter is that until we realize that we are called to live out what Jesus gave us as a gift and not sit around waiting for some great emotional experience or more gifts to appease our selfishness, we leave. We leave because we are selfish and we have hard hearts.

        And we will give a million excuses blaming everyone else rather than admit it is just our own sin.

          1. Anna says:

            Mel, you seem to see the world in terms of excuses and blame rather than simply seeking to understand. If you think that someone’s exposure to God via other people is somehow unrelated to or an insignificant factor in their experience of God, then I respectfully disagree with you. God has given his love and truth to us within the context of a person – by his own son AND by the demonstration of his adopted children. I’m sad if you feel that it’s simply a matter of following Jesus in a vacuum divorced from your context and unrelated to how other people have shown or have failed to show you the gospel. If that is your experience, then I hope he puts people in your life to show you differently. Instead of dismissing these people’s experiences as adolescent, I am glad that they don’t shove their pain and questions under the rug (a la Job’s friends) and are willing to be honest about perceived injustice/questions (a la Job). Sometimes that comes in the form of leaving the church. I’d rather someone extricate themselves from a shoddy form of the gospel and for God to then show them the real truth, or even that someone extricates themselves from a good church and honestly question God, (thus taking a chance for a more intimate relationship with him) rather than passively stuffing their rebelliousness and remaining in the church. You might dismiss it as teenage rebellion. It may actually be how God is meeting, calling, and pruning them, to bring them closer to himself in the end. Only he knows.

  5. Jake Swink says:

    As a millennial, I have seen many friends leave the church. I have seen some stick around, and I have seen friends join.

    The biggest reason I see for people leaving is that things are no longer “authentic.” We don’t really see a love for Jesus in the generation before us. There is no authentic love for Him, just some cheesy songs on the radio.

    We listen to people like Lecrae not because we enjoy rap but because we love the truths he preaches through his songs.

    We love reading Sproul, Grudem, Piper, Keller, MacArthur, not just because they are “popular” but because they truly love Jesus.

    Why do we think we see so many young men flocking to Driscoll and Chandler? They are 2 guys who really love Jesus and are not afraid to let you know it. They will stand hard on truth and are authentic men.

    The church needs to stop focusing on how to get us in the door and more on Jesus. Less on programs, more on discipleship. Less time spent on itchy ears, more time spent talking about sin and how the Gospel over comes it all!

    idk… just some rambling thoughts….

    1. Clay says:

      Just because someone doesn’t appear authentic doesn’t mean they don’t love Jesus. It’s possible that the attempt to cater to young people through cheesy music or whatever is motivated by true love for Jesus and love for young people and a desire to help them want to stay in Church. It’s misguided, but I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that there is no authentic love for Christ.

      1. Jake Swink says:

        I don’t mean to say that their is no authentic love, but that we don’t see it at all.
        Many churches have it, but we don’t see it.

        You see the difference I am making?

        1. Barb says:

          To quote Chandler, the elder brother needs the Father as much as the prodigal son does. When dealing with believers from a different generation who have been subjected to perhaps a different set of teaching, it’s important to bear the fruit of the Spirit – love, patience, gentleness, kindness (2 Tim 2 notice the language in describing the Lord’s Bondservant is explicitly parallel to the fruit of the Spirit). This means dying to self to take the time to get to know them and love them. If you’re “not seeing the love” even though you admit it may be there, it begs a couple of questions:

          – Where/how are you looking? Where/how are you not looking?
          – Are you yourself demonstrating biblical, 1 Cor 13 love within that context?

          The apostle Paul gives a wonderful admonition to young Timothy to be an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. If you want to see the love, rather than run away, why don’t you start there?

          1. Jake Swink says:

            Thanks be to the Father, I have found a Christ loving, Gospel loving church where I live.

            To answer your first question, I grew up in a Independent Fundamental Baptist Church, and was stuck in those circles for quite some time.
            To give you my background and why I didn’t see any love.

            And I completely agree this is what my generation should be doing! There are a few of us who are, and I like to think that I am doing that in my local church! My generation is completely filled with pride (myself being the greatest of these sinners!) and we don’t want to love it is so true! May God have mercy on all of us!

            Thanks for your comment Barb!

      2. Clay says:


        No I don’t really see the difference in the comment you wrote. You wrote, “We don’t really see a love for Jesus in the generation before us. There is no authentic love for Him, just some cheesy songs on the radio.” That seems like an overgeneralized judgmental statement to me.

        1. Jake Swink says:

          When I say “there is no authentic love for Him…” yes. I will agree I was generalizing. Again, I want to say though, this is what my generation is viewing and saying not necessarily myself. I do see some of this, but yes it was a judgemental generalization, forgive me.

      3. Darrell says:

        Clay I do agree with your assumption ” you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” However, and I want to say this in a loving tone, the potential of a church being seeker friendly is a very real problem in our culture today. Thousands and thousands of dollars are spent on worship services in churches and not only for the spectacle you and I see every Sunday morning. Most large churches in this nation hire marketing firms to exploit the human nuances specific to the community surrounding the building. Sure, they call themselves Christian Marketing Companies but nonetheless, the church becomes a business when you start branding the name on the sign out front. So, in my opinion, if Sunday morning means coffee and bagels; a trip to the bookstore, a 30 minute mini concert, 10 minutes of announcements on the megatron and a sales pitch before the offering. All things equal-you are probably at a church with a huge mortgage. And that means one thing, we need to have the whole family on board in order that we may skim off enough leftovers from Mom and Dads check to keep up appearances. Percentage wise, churches with a big stage expense are seeker friendly. Instead, that money could be out in the world doing some good. Not related, but because I see you as a worthy pilot for our generation. Why don’t kids stand up in the middle of service and in-unison voice their disdain with the church leadership? Are we too civilized? Or is just because we really don’t care anymore than the people we complain about.

      4. Dustin says:

        This is very true no matter who it is or what type of church it is. The effort can be sincere, but misguided. Happens is liberal churches, conservative churches, and everything in between.

        1. Lex says:

          In the first place, am I the only one getting tired of hearing of the “Millennials”‘ omniscient “BS” meter?! Have an opinion? Good. Join the crowd. Stop this nonsense of thinking your opinion and preferences makes everything else “BS.” Frankly, a lot of the “M’s” enlightened opinions are “BS” to me.

          “Too political”? Really? How do Millennials get by thinking their tender feelings towards all things environmental, sexual, and social aren’t political expressions of personal preferences?

          As best we are enabled by the Spirit of Christ, we’ll teach the Word of God, love Jesus, and attempt to reach the lost with the love and grace of Christ without accommodating this culture’s mores and preferences. If that isn’t sufficient, we have nothing else to offer.

          1. The problem is that political ambitions have trumped reaching out to the lost. Like it or not, Millennials are the future of the church, just as every generation is. And despite its reputation for rigidity, evangelical theology has shown a lot of flexibility over the last fifty years.

    2. Scott says:

      So they leave the church because OTHERS don’t live up to their standards? They leave the church because they perceive themselves to be more authentic than the previous generation?

      1. Jake Swink says:

        Pretty much Scott. It is extremely hypocritical.

    3. Sarah says:

      Haven’t read the whole conversation which followed your original post Jake but just wanted to say i’m a millennial and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said in your first comment.

    4. Darren says:

      It is interesting that the generation that you speak of has been asked to completely change how they worship and reach the lost. We were told we need to change in order to reach the millennials. You cant confront people with the sin in their lives because we do not want to offend people then they will not stay. We need to offer more messages that provide everyday help rather than talking about sin. Now you say you do not see authentic Christianity in the previous generation. That it is not the worship style but the substance. This is why my opinion as a 52 yr old has changed. Was a strong church grow seeker sensitive proponent….Not anymore!

  6. Dave says:

    Reading Rachel Held Evans makes my ‘BS meter’ go crazy—so I don’t read her much. I guess CNN digs her, though. . . .

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      Hey man, let’s engage with Rachel’s ideas, and not make it personal. Thanks!

      1. Concerted Effort says:

        Ideas come from people.

    2. Akash Charles says:

      agreed it should not be personal but when someone distorts the word of God so much it is really hard to not feel annoyed-after all it is God’s word

  7. Chris says:

    There are so many facets to this discussion and this hits on some really good points. Clay’s comment is spot on as well. And let’s face it, secular culture which gets the vast majority of our time isn’t interested in painting Christianity in any true light. All of that morphs into the presuppositions we bring with us when we step into the church doors.

    I do believe that the Gospel and authenticity can break down those walls, but those walls are up and they are huge; our failure to recognize that is to our detriment.

  8. Ryan says:

    Mere Churchianity – by the late Michael Spencer

  9. Clark Dunlap says:

    Thank you for this reasoned approach to RHE’s ongoing dialogue. You pointed out good things she said and I appreciate that. Then you balanced it well. Seems like whenever I read her all I can think is “haters gonna hate.”

  10. Denver says:

    I think your article, along with Dr. Anthony Bradley’s and Brett McCracken’s Washington Post article all elaborate on a succinct response to the Rachel Held Evans article. The very church she is describing already exists and it’s losing members at an even greater clip without anyone manipulating numbers or coming up with some semantically driven roundabout explanation.

    Essentially, her article boils down to catering to her desires and whims. Some of what she said is valid, but it’s included with language that comes down to personal tastes and beliefs, and there is already a church for that.

    As far as the sex issue, I seem to recall her the one in a thumbs-up picture at William & Mary with a rather sexually-themed t-shirt-wearing group of students. (Google it.)

    I just wish she would be honest, such as with the sex issue, and say that it’s not so much the talking too much/preaching too much part that she has an issue with, but is instead the part where actual church doctrine across the several millennia wholeheartedly conflicts with her own views. Unfortunately, we don’t get this sort of candidness in articles like these.

    I simply reply amen to your statement that “Jesus and makes me want to serve His [preferences].” and not my own version of cheap grace.

  11. Chris Hall says:

    As my friend pointed out, she seems to be describing a vision for what “should be” that reminds me a lot of what today’s mainline church IS…you know, those denoms who are seeing rapid decline in membership? It would seem the UCC, UMC, PCA and others should be seeing their buildings full of millenials.

    1. Ryan says:

      Yeah, the issue is conflicting statistics. What’s happening is that now, more than ever before, young adults are leaving evangelical churches to head to the high church. The issue is that “more than ever before” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “a lot” or even “enough to keep the churches afloat.”

  12. Rich says:

    Bravo, Trevin. As a “younger” thirty-something, it saddens me to observe so many of those around me determining the validity of theology, doctrine, and the Church based around what they “feel.” One of my favorite verses simply states, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end that way leads to death.”

    I view many of the friends around me getting swept up in using hypocrisy and lack of authenticity as a way to simply justify living selfish lives and having selfish belief systems. That may come across as harsh to some, but I’ve read too many blogs and talked with too many people who want to have faith “their way,” and in doing so alleviate the messiness of Jesus AS LORD in favor of Jesus AS SAVIOR. We would all do well to remember that Jesus himself said that His message would tear families apart, that it was a narrow path, and that many would stand before the Judgment Seat thinking that they were saved only to find out otherwise. Scary stuff…

    I am a worship leader at a church that has a “modern” worship service to bring in the Gen X/Millenial set, and it’s a constant struggle in my heart for me to find the line between being relevant and coddling them with Christian “fluff.” I don’t want to be a worship leader that is satisfied with promoting an “easy Gospel,” and I truly believe that many have sacrificed their churches to the idols of trendiness and feel-good teaching.

    I may be totally off-base, but these are my observations…

  13. A says:

    Some good points, thanks.

    I also agree with James in that we do need a new demonstration of Christianity…or, in fact, a demonstration at all. I am a “millennial” (though I had to google the term to check if I was!), and I find it difficult to locate a church group that is living out something that is in some way at least partially resemblant to what the Bible describes as true christianity and discipleship. Churches are either too focussed on the superficial, or too focussed on the “experience” of the service/an experience of God. Neither approach is appealing – I don’t want to go somewhere where only the middle/upper class are truly welcomed, and nor do I want to attend somewhere where once every few months, my experience might tie in with the service. I want to be part of a church community where there is a desire to follow Christ, a love of the scriptures and a prayerful effort to put what is taught into practice. I want to be able to serve somewhere that doesn’t discriminate because someone is a refugee, or alcoholic, or on a lower income (or indeed, where those with higher income are shunned either – I’ve seen it happen both ways). In fact, I want to serve somewhere that actually wants to serve because they love others, not because its the thing that should be done. I want to be part of a community that cares for all the members of the congregation, regardless of age. I want to be somewhere where I will be encouraged and disciplined in my walk of faith, where the teaching will shape me. And I want to be somewhere where truth and honesty prevail. Basically, somewhere that puts God and His word first, and lives it out – all of it!

    Unfortunately, the leadership of the church I currently attend tends more towards preaching that we should reach out to all, but in practice is only interested in the middle class. Because of this, I had a look to see if there were any other Christian groups/charities in the city that do work with refugees and the homeless, but to my despair, I found none. Instead, I found numerous secular groups who are keen to enable alcoholics to get back on track, who are keen to help others realise that all members of society have value, who do clean-up operations…the list goes on. Our church also doesn’t provide much for the many children who attend, yet there is an abundance of secular organisations with clubs and events for them to attend. There is, of course nothing wrong at all with what these groups are doing, but my despair lies in the fact that where we should be the “hands and feet” of Christ, we have failed, and are continuing to fail. Society isn’t seeing Christianity in practice at all.

    I have no desire to be part of a church group that does not embrace our call to serve the members of the body and wider society. I don’t want to be part of a social club (though do want to be somewhere with genuine fellowship), but a member of a Bible-based, living-it-out kind of church. But when my other option is to attend somewhere that is socially focussed but more experience rather than Bible-led (often avoiding any reference to the wrath of God…how the love of God can ever be realised without His wrath is beyond me), I can fully understand why some people just get fed up completely and become involved in other things that are at least genuine and true to what they have in their mission statement. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it extends beyond the “millenials”.

    1. Flyaway says:

      My take is that if you see something that needs to be done, pray, seek God, and then just do what you are led to do! Maybe others will follow.

  14. Ryan says:

    I find both articles to be quite interesting. I agree, to an extent, with RHE’s perspective. The goal of the church is not to try and change itself to be as cool and hip as possible. First, this results in a highly superficial church setting that pulls people in but does not nourish them, and second – have you ever been to a pastor’s conference? Generally speaking, we are not particularly hip people. This is why the attempts of a lot of churches to be cool end up coming across as forced and insincere.

    But is it insignificant? I’m not sure I’d go that far. There’s a reason why evangelicalism is so much larger than many other faith traditions. We sometimes like to delude ourselves into thinking that this reason is that we faithfully preach the Gospel while mainline Protestantism just teaches a thin moralism; however, while there certainly are some elements of that within the mainline church, there are still a great many Protestant churches who do preach the Gospel just as ardently as we do, so that’s not it. No, I think the bottom line is that cultural relevance is an important part of reaching the culture around us. It’s not good for us to deliberately pander to current cultural trends, but it’s also not a good idea for us to make our churches obtuse and inaccessible.

    For me, the main takeaway is that we need to preach the Gospel. I think her main criticism of evangelicalism, and one that I wholeheartedly agree with, is that we’ve muddled in too many other things with our mission. If you tell a non-Christian that they’ve got to abandon evolutionism in order to be redeemed by the blood of Christ, you have failed as a minister of the Gospel. Even something like TGC, a website that I greatly appreciate for all its ministry resources, often falls into this. Gospel Coalition is a bit of a misnomer as its really The Reformed Coalition. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Penal Substitutionary Atonement as much as the next person, but the Gospel managed just fine for the 1600 years before it came along.

    Think of it this way: The Gospel is the foundation of Christianity. Imagine doctrines as structures that are built on that foundation. These buildings rise and fall and rise again, but the foundation remains unchanged. Evangelicalism, however, tends to view theology as an atom: The Gospel is the nucleus, and doctrine forms the electrons. Should an electron be added, removed, or changed, the entire atom becomes unstable. As a result, evangelicalism tends to see the Gospel as being a package deal: Accepting the Gospel means becoming a Creationist, Republican, Pro-Lifer who subscribes to either Calvinism or Arminianism (depending on the evangelical), pre-millenialism and Zionism. I mean, these are all important issues that need to be discussed, but they’re not central.

    I must confess to being deeply saddened every time I see someone like John Piper condemning non-Calvinist soteriology as being anti-Gospel.

  15. I’m thankful for your response to Rachel’s ideas. She is a hard person to hammer down as she writes so well on relevant and theological topics. The problem with much of her analysis relates to lowering the standard of Jesus while using a “loving LGBT or your a bigot” approach. I have stopped commenting on her blog as she rarely is interested in other views.

    Her opinion in this article I thought was rather weak. The article read to me “I’m just posting on CNN” rather than “I’m going to write something helpful.”

    So, good job at interacting without making it personal.

    1. Lance says:

      Alan, forgive my bluntness, but either you love everyone or you’re a lost, hard-hearted bigot. LGBT people are not defined by their sexuality just as you are not defined by yours. But not supporting their equal rights is bigotry. I would’ve said the same thing to you in 1953 when so many Christians supported Jim Crow laws and cited slavery verses of the Bible.

  16. Steve says:

    Nothing new here. Each new generation that comes of age and on the scene thinks it has the right and the authority and the duty to question those who have come before. Millennials are doing nothing new or different from what the Boomers did for example. From what I can see the only difference between them and the Boomers is that the Boomers wanted to die before they got old. They failed in that goal as well.

  17. Meredith says:

    I have to disagree with much of your criticism of Rachel’s article… she hit spot on the reasons why I left the church and subsequently the reasons why I returned to church when I found a solid Christian community that addressed those particular issues. I think she correctly points out that much of evangelical culture has latched on to specific social issues and substituted lists of rules for living in community and in grace. You talk about standing outside the mainstream, and I think that is just what she’s asking us to do – stand outside the mainstream American Christian culture that finds it easier to condemn our gay friends than to get to know them, or easier to provide a hip church coffee shop than start a local pregnancy crisis center. I see a growing number of churches (many of them small church plants) that are making important changes in respect to these and other issues. Those are the churches that probably come to your mind first and that you assume she is attacking. I think though, she is commenting more on the public face of evangelical Christianity, which is far too often politically aligned and unwilling to get into the messy details of real life. I think deep down, you two are actually arguing for the same things if you just take her article at face value – I am guessing that you have projected some of your theological disagreement with her regarding other issues into your reading of this particular article. Thanks for writing on it though. This is an important conversation that needs to happen regarding this generation and the church.

    1. Matt says:

      So, in the end, you didn’t leave the church, you just found one that was more to your liking, and, I hope, more in line with what the Gospel says. This, to me, is the fallacy of RHE’s thesis. The kind of church she desires does exist. Why aren’t the millennials going there? Or why aren’t they finding groups who will plant these types of churches? The answer to her question ultimately is that they are making gods of their own desires and using them as excuses for not joining the body of Christ. It’s ironic, but there are many Christians who DO go to church for the same reason. The church meets their needs, schedules, demands, so they attend without ever really making a commitment to Jesus.

      1. The point is that many Christians aren’t lucky enough to even have a church that addresses the issues Melissa and Rachel are concerned about. in my area my choices are Catholic and Mainline CHurches whose theology I disagree with, and evangelical churches whose members freely throw around the n-word and care more about the right to carry guns to church than the rights of the poor. I’ve heard wildly offensive teachings coming straight from the top of churches like blacks are blessed but they’re less human than whites; truly submissive women should address their husband as Master; people are going to hell if they don’t fully accept Calvinism or vote republican, and illness and disabilities are the result of sin.

        Each of these examples I gave came from a different church except for the n-word which I heard used at all of them. Now how is my desire to find a church that doesn’t teach these horrible things making a god of my own desire?

        1. A says:

          What’s the n word??

        2. JohnM says:

          Have you really heard all those “wildly offensive teachings”? Stated just like that? Maybe you need to move if you can’t find any different kind of evangelical church wherever you are, ’cause wherever you are sounds crazy. :)

          1. Exactly like that. Word for word. And sure, I would gladly move if I could. But even if I moved, the point is that there many people who live in similar situation, and they don’t have the luxury of a good church to attend.

  18. Danita says:

    I was attending this church in Houston, Texas. A female Pastor by the name Jacqueline T. Flowers in this church premarital counseling was giving, she preached with such conviction that I started getting mad at the gospel because I didn’t know any better how Christ was working on me to m change my life to be a follower of his. I thought i was loosing my mind because obedience is hard when you are a new babe in Christ. Now don’t get me wrong I’m a PK raised in A Baptist church but when I changed to non-denominational Jesus was alive in me, but because I was afraid I walked away from a great ministry. Now hear’s the point when Shepherd see one sheep has strayed away should the shepherd seek and save what is lost. I don’t believe Pastor’s follow through like the true Shepherd

  19. Justin says:

    First, I know this entire back and forth is predicated on church membership statistics, as evidenced by a lot of the comments here, but that’s also where it loses me. I feel like I can’t participate in the discussion because I think the topic itself is ill conceived.

    For Christians to argue over what “denoms” (ugh, seriously?) are growing most rapidly is no different than Apple and Android fanboys arguing over sales numbers or movie fans pouring over the latest blockbuster’s record breaking ticket returns. It’s a popularity contest, plain and simple; don’t let anyone tell you any differently. And connecting popularity with legitimacy, quality, or truth is a mindset born from our capitalistic obsession with numbers.

    Not to mention the very idea of church membership is gross to me. I’ve already got a gym membership. I don’t need another piece of plastic on my keychain. “Where two or three are gathered” is good enough for me.

    Now, forgetting all that, on substance Trevin, I can appreciate where you differ from Rachel. I just completely disagree with you. To focus on just one example, the church is obsessed with sex–not in the sense that it talks about it in a meaningful way all of the time, but in the sense that it’s the go to topic for eliciting shame and guilt.

    Want to call out your congregation? Lecture them about porn or naughty thoughts.

    Want to challenge your youth group? Pre-marital sex is the eternal topic du jour. Also, Modest is Hottest!!

    Want to galvanize your church to action in the community? Lambast them for their greed and material obsessions…uh, not so much. Well, unless the topic is about tithing. In which case, greed bash away!

    So, is it culture’s fault that what Rachel said resonated with me, or my own lack of holiness? Maybe it’s that as a millennial and current citizen of Earth, I’m comfortable in saying that as a global society, we are in a better place now than we were 2,000 years ago, though we still have a long ways to go. I feel like that basic idea bothers some traditionalists, and that’s what bothers me about many contemporary churches. Reacting against culture just for the sake of being different or because you are personally not comfortable with how things have changed is not the same thing of “not being of the world.”

    Bottom line: when the POPE is interacting with contemporary culture more successfully than you are, you have a problem.

  20. Ian says:

    I think there’s more going on here than either Ms. Evans or Mr. Wax address.

    I suspect that the difficulties millenials are experiencing (myself included) have to do with a hermeneutic of suspicion (our so called “BS meters”), the radical accessibilty of information in our digital age, confusion over what authority/legitimacy is/how it works, and other influences as well. There’s so much going on that affects how we think and see the world–I pretty much don’t know where to start.

    I can understand why, given the target audience of the article, you’d tend to focus on ecclesiology-lite (what Mr. Wax sees in the Church and in Ms. Held’s comments about the Church to CNN). But you’re not focusing on the right limiting reagent if you want to address the issue of church departures; if something has changed, what’s different now at this moment that separates it from every other moment?

  21. Ryan says:

    “For Christians to argue over what “denoms” (ugh, seriously?) are growing most rapidly is no different than Apple and Android fanboys arguing over sales numbers or movie fans pouring over the latest blockbuster’s record breaking ticket returns. It’s a popularity contest, plain and simple; don’t let anyone tell you any differently. And connecting popularity with legitimacy, quality, or truth is a mindset born from our capitalistic obsession with numbers.”

    This is great. To paraphrase George Carlin, “Every denomination growing slower than yours is preaching an impotent Gospel, every denomination growing faster than yours has compromised truth to please the world.” Like the Apple fanboys, we convince ourselves that our approach is the absolute best, and then run the statistics through this filter so that they line up with it.

    1. Ryan says:

      Whoops, this was supposed to be a reply to Justin’s comment, above… And they say millenials are tech-savvy!

  22. Linda says:

    The whole problem I find with the idea of Millennials leaving the church is that the church is not some building. It’s people. We are broken sinners redeemed by Christ. Twenty-somethings are doing themselves no favours when they forsake fellowship because of “a lack of authenticity”. (Please.)

    If we want authenticity in the church, then we should be authentic in the church. If we want to see people being real instead of fake, then we should be real instead of fake. We should prepare to challenge others, and be challenged also. Instead Millennials are leaving because of a “lack of Jesus”? Why don’t they bring Jesus with them and go to church?

    I’m pretty sure Jesus puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of the Church. We are His Bride, after all. So if we love Jesus we ought to love what Jesus loves. For the love of Jesus, we should go to church!

    1. Jake Swink says:

      I completely agree with you Linda. I know you took some beef with my comment and thank you for engaging it.

      I am not saying all millennials are this way. This is just my observation from those of my friends and myself. I do know that there is a group of us trying to bring an authenticity to the church, trying to bring a love for Jesus to the church.

      I am just commenting on this to say why I think people have left from this generation.
      There is the whole guy who goes on and on about Jesus vs Religion(church) which I completely disagree with and I know many others who do, but that is the general feeling of people today towards the church.

      God Bless

      1. Linda says:

        Hi Jake,

        Actually I was ranting based on other articles and videos that I’ve seen over the course of the past few weeks that got my blood boiling. So I charged right in to comment on this article instead of reading the comment thread first. I’m afraid I didn’t see your comment – or I would have been a bit more careful about what I said and how I said it! Sorry for any confusion. I have no beef! :)

        Now that I’ve read your comment I can say that I agree with you (especially the part about cheesy songs on the radio!).

        I’m 25, so I guess you could say I’m a median-Millennial. ;) And I DO want to see authenticity in the church. I just don’t buy the idea that twenty-somethings should leave the church or condemn it as inauthentic when there’s so much they (we) could be doing.

        Anyway, thank you for your comment, and I apologize again for any confusion.

        1. Jake Swink says:

          No probs! Have a great Christ filled day!

  23. Ernie says:

    Perhaps we should consider what happens when the Church itself becomes an “idol of thought” rather than a compassionate lifestyle. I think this is the point that many Millennials are trying to make. This type of idolatry is every bit as dangerous as the idols of money, power, and sex.

    1. Millennial-ish says:

      “Idol of thought” is such a great way to describe my current experience with church. There is so much focus on doctrine that grace gets trampled in an effort to be doctrinally sound. And by grace I don’t mean overlooking sin to go along with culture, but an inability to care for distraught souls in an uplifting manner. Anyone who doesn’t fit the mold is alienated. And of course the mold is dictated by doctrine. Ugh, I’m rambling here but it feels good to at least get this out.

      1. Ernie says:

        The first thousand years of Christianity would be unrecognizable to mainstream Christians today. You might be interested in reading authors like Marcus Borg or Karen Armstrong for a scholarly discussion of those differences. For instance, when the Bible was translated into English in 1611, belief was used for the Greek pisteuo. However, it wasn’t until the late 17th century that belief meant intellectual agreement. In Middle English, bilieven meant “to hold dear; to be loyal to.” That’s a big difference when you consider the difference between saying “I believe” in an idea or telling a person that you believe in them. You aren’t agreeing they exist; you’re expressing a loving commitment to them.

  24. Ryan says:

    Oh, I also wanted to comment on the sex obsession because I’ve seen both sides of it. I’ve seen some churches where they’re terrified to even mention sex so it just goes unmentioned, I’ve had other churches where I ended up leaving the men’s group in disgust because lust and porn were the only things they ever talked about. Those are important issues to address, but do we really need to talk about them every week?

    My personal opinion is that Christianity at large has always been rather uncomfortable around sex, and so in response we’ve seen a recent movement that emphasizes the need to confront sex head on. Unfortunately, because they’re largely a reactive group, they’ve taken things to the other extreme, so now we seem like we’re caught between churches who never discuss sex, and churches who won’t shut up about it.

  25. Luke says:

    Millennials should stop complaining; they should become a member of their local church and work for the change they want to see from the inside.

    1. Matt says:

      This is not meant to be snarky because I agree with you. It really is that simple.

    2. Ernie says:

      I think this is easier said than done. If your local church is a community of belief rather than of practice, then you may not make it very far in your attempt to change it. Rules determine outcomes. If you exclude certain ideas, you will never be influenced by them. Don’t you agree?

    3. James says:

      Changing the local church is like asking the Pope to stop being Catholic. The wheel of dogma rolls on, and in large part, the finality of Christendom is certainly on the horizon.

      The visible protestant church, especially in America, is doomed to the same fate as her European cousins if the complaints do not start to be heard.

      The beauty in this debate is that Christ’s Church does not require a steeple to be triumphant. The remnant will always be redeemed, and the truth will always prevail.

      May Christ help us all.

  26. Matt says:

    I have to question the concept of a “highly sensitive BS meter” of a segment of society that voted overwhelmingly for this president. What do they do, turn it off whenever he talks? Because so much of her article depends on this “meter” made opinion, I think it invalidates most of what she has to say.

  27. Andy says:

    It seems as though Ms. Evans would prefer that Jesus would sit in the corner and keep quiet while she straightens out His church.

  28. RedDoor says:

    I want to posit a couple critiques of this article that I hope are helpful from a millenial who’s story is similar to Rachel’s story.

    1. “I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.”

    Jesus does not care that the “religious” folk are offended. That’s a very important point. He was always the sharpest with his disciples and with the Pharisees. He was occasionally hard on other listeners, but it was much rarer than not.

    2. “Truth be told, I don’t want a church that serves my preferences. I want a church that gives me Jesus and makes me want to serve His.”

    This is a red herring. Rachel would agree with that statement which is the entire reason the “BS meter” was mentioned. The problem is how that plays out. Rachel and others would place more emphasis on other things that you would not (tradition, contemplation, mystery). We are not talking about a “liberal” Christianity, set to make a moralistic Jesus out of the Risen Savior. We are speaking about a more “progressive” Evangelical stream of thought.

    3. “One sign of Jesus’ Spirit is He convicts the world of sin (John 16:8). The sign of the spirit of this age is that the world is coddled instead of convicted. And those who marry the spirit of this age will always be widowed in the next.”

    Rachel would also agree with this statement. She would point out the nationalism and moral majority members who are currently being widowed in America. Again, it just depends where you are coming from.

    4. Is the Church Obsessed with Sex, or is it the Culture?

    Justin’s comments regarding sex in the church are spot on. I’ve heard far more about sex from the church than the culture to the point that it is/was unhealthy. While trying to cause me to focus on other things, the church caused me to define myself by my sexuality. And I’m a heterosexual male!

    5. “Some millennials, like many from generations before us, want the church to become a mirror – a reflection of our particular preferences, desires, and dreams. But other millennials want a Christianity that shapes and changes our preferences, desires, and dreams.”

    I think that your conclusion reveals that you have either not fully understood Rachel’s thought or are speaking past her conversation starter. She wants exactly what you want. She grew up a staunch, conservative Christian, went to a Bible college, and was the daughter of a professor at the Bible college. She is no stranger to Evangelicalism; she has just moved to the other side of the spectrum like many, many evangelicals.

    Millenials do not want what you have described. In fact, Rachel’s article is about why that is not the case. Millenials are searching for substance. Not easy answers. Not consumerism. Not a brushing aside of hard, serious questions.

    In fact, what they want is not available in many, many conservative Evangelical churches. So, traditional churches (Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc) are their new destinations. Again, many might be going to these “mainline” congregations, but many are not. We do millenials a disservice when they are misrepresented.

  29. Anna says:

    I’m a millennial, through and through, and I’ve attended church all my life. I “survived” youth group and didn’t “fall away” in college. Now, in my mid-twenties, married to a man who loves God, and actively plugged in and serving in my local church, I’m realizing that it’s empty to me.

    I’ve attended several Evangelical churches (I’ve been at my current church for about 7 years, though) and my relationships are shallow, though I really feel I’ve tried to change that. I see so much hypocrisy and actions with which I can’t agree. I see people in my church — older people, whom I try to respect — saying one thing on Sunday and then posting something drastically different on Facebook.

    And it makes me doubt the church and the, well, the effectiveness of the faith. How is the kingdom of God supposed to make a difference when everyone is always fighting and hurting each other? How is God in that? How is the trans-formative power of the Holy Spirit there? I’m not going to say that I’ve been hurt by the church, but I’ve definitely been hurt by specific people who have used theology, tradition, and faith and twisted them into ugliness and used it to manipulate me – or to marginalize me (because I’m young, or a woman, or childless, or Democratic-ish, and so on). And I see it happening to others, in other churches. There’s something rotten in the way many Christians treat others, and that’s something that I don’t want to be a part of.

    I want to attend a church where people are not proud, where they do not try to hide their sins and hurts from others, but instead humbly seek community. I want a church where women are not dismissed to serve in childcare simply because they are women – after all, we are one in Christ. I want to be a part of a church that allows people to question, to doubt, and to wrestle with really hard truths – and to be okay if there’s some disagreement, because we share the love of Christ. I want to be part of a church that is clear about right and wrong, but recognizes that it is very wrong to judge others because they are not living in a “right” way, but instead accepts them wherever they are, takes their hands, and begins to walk on that slow journey toward holiness even from the unholiest places.

    I don’t see that church. I don’t know where to find it, and instead I see this behemoth of “church” and I’m told I’m supposed to love it, for it’s the bride of Christ. And I DO believe the church is instrumental in transforming lives through Christ, but I also see so many people who are hurt by it. When I’m really down, I wonder if the net effect is positive at all. And I don’t want to be a part of that, even “from the inside,” because there’s no way I can turn that ship around.

    So … that’s my story. Nothing really constructive or critical; I’m not a scholar. Just a confused and discouraged millennial.

    1. Flyaway says:

      Ask God to send you a prayer partner. He will. At my last church 2 ladies started a prayer group to pray for the church. Now at the church I’m attending I started a prayer group. I have a 92 year old lady who prays with me once a week. We have seen answers. It’s exciting to see what God is doing.

    2. Ashley T. says:

      Your honesty is refreshing and cuts me to the quick. God has used your comment to renew my desire to seek after Christ and to be the way Jesus calls His body to be. I’m sorry that you are in this struggle, but you are not alone. I am praying for you.

    3. Barb says:

      Anna, if I may offer any encouragement to you at all….

      I understand your concern and confusion. Francis Schaeffer did, too, as he wrote a little book, “True Spirituality” as he had a crisis of faith due to similar circumstances. It’s good reading. I commend it to you.

      Having grown up in a church that either assumed the Gospel or taught a “softened” view of Christianity, sort of a mix of social justice and moralism, the kind that says that good people choose Jesus and go to heaven, and bad people don’t – it was all powerless to me. If the power of God for salvation of His people is on the preaching of the Gospel, then that power was rarely if ever displayed because what was being preached was not the Gospel. So that was part of the problem. The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment and then points us to the One who breaks the power of cancelled sin and sets the prisoner free. Without that, there is no power,there is no church- there is only a social club.

      Then there are Jesus’ own words that the tares will grow up with the wheat until the harvest. They are not to be uprooted lest the wheat be damaged in the process. However, He does give biblical menas by which the sheep are to be loved by way of compassionate, biblical church discipline – something I knew I needed, but which wasn’t easy at all to come by.

      And so I begged my Good Shepherd for it. For 3-1/2 years I prayed for shepherding and discipleship and fellowship with women where Christ is the center and foundation of everything and not just a cherry on top – in the face of all the kinds of things that are discouraging you. He is a RISEN Savior, and He does promise that He will provide that which we ask in His name – the kinds of things that He would ask for us, Himself.

      And He has answered that for me, by way of a well-established confessional church (PCA, traditional) 40 miles away, but I can tell you after two years of being there, it is the shortest 40 miles I have ever driven. There is a family there who drove an hour and a half every Sunday for 10 years until they could move, because they determined early on that they would rather be spiritually fed and physically tired, than physically rested and spiritually dry.

      And when I got to this church, the senior pastor was preaching through 2 Timothy 2 and I was at the same time encouraged by the example and truth and the evidence of it on the people, and deeply convicted of my own sin and pride in my failure to love rightly in the situation I had come from, where I had been discouraged and scourged. This church runs two campus ministries at the local college and includes a nouthetic counseling ministry, run by an associate pastor, and so that environment that you speak of is fostered. It isn’t perfect, but it is most definitely an answer to prayer. Trust the Lord, seek Him for fellowship He would have you to have, and hold fast to this glorious prophecy given through Jeremiah as He speaks of the Christ who was to come:

      I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.
      (Jeremiah 23:4 ESV)

      God bless you, Anna, and I will be praying for you.

    4. RedDoor says:

      Hi Anna,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I fear that it is more common than not. I am deeply sorry for your pain and in many ways, I can relate to you.

      I, like RHE, have left my home denomination (SBC and UPC). I have since joined the CCCC, but am looking at a new Presbyterian sect that has broken off of the PCUSA called ECO. They are open to women, yet disagree with the PCUSA on homosexuality. Another choice is the growing Anglican presence in the US (ANCA). The problem there (as well with the CCCC) is that women in leadership are only recognized by the local church, so each one is a bit different (same with EFC as well). The Christian church (DOC) seems welcoming as well.

      I do not know where I am going next. I am scared of breaking off my denominational ties (where leaving the denom is seen as tantamount to apostasy). I am asking questions that people do not want me to ask (is Hell really eternal, conscious torment? Is annihilationism okay? Why has dispensationalism only been an American phenomenon?) because there are already set answers. But I do know this. I left my denomination because of it’s stances on various issues, women’s role in particular, but the main reason was this: the denomination as a whole acts as though the Church is a rest home for the Saints instead of a hospital for sinners.

      Grace and peace.

  30. William says:

    “There’s something rotten in the way many Christians treat others, and that’s something that I don’t want to be a part of.”

    But it’s something that you will always deal with in whatever church you go to because we’re a fallen people and that’s what fallen people do.

    1. Ryan says:

      In my opinion, this is why so many church plants fail. They promise a fresh new start, a “new” approach to church, one where people can just be people and there’s no judging or politics or hurtful situations. Disillusioned Christians, desiring the fellowship of the church but deeply wounded from past circumstances, flock to these churches in droves. Then… Guess what? People start judging, things get political, and people get hurt. Suddenly everyone says “This is everything I left behind!” and leave, and the church collapses.

    2. Anna says:

      Thanks, William, but that’s part of why I’m not sure if I want to be part of any church. No matter where I go, hurting people will hurt other people.

      My sweet grandmother, who is in her eighties, likes to sing “and they’ll know we our Christians by our love.” It breaks my heart, because lately the reverse seems true.

      I do believe that Christians can be fallen but redeemed and still known for their love. I want that – I think a lot of people in my generation want that – but I don’t think it’ll happen.

      1. Barb says:

        Consider the Christ who even washed the feet of Judas, knowing full well that he was about to go and sell him out for 30 pieces of silver. It is this Christ, the One through whom all of heaven and earth was made and who still upholds it all by the word of His power, who set aside His Kingly, heavenly glory and the Creator became a creature, humbled Himself greatly, took on flesh, and entered into a hostile world in humility out of love for the Father and those who were created in His image. He came not to be served, but to serve. And this is what He calls and enables us to do if we are one with Him through repentance and faith; He calls and enables us to love the unlovely and to lay ourselves down for His Bride, though she be stained and tattered and tossed about at times. One of my favorite passages of Scripture that I learned through experience to be true, is Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah speaking of Jesus:

        a bruised reed he will not break,
        and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
        until he brings justice to victory; (Matthew 12:20)

        Smoldering wicks tend to put off quite a stench and the temptation would be to snuff them out. But Jesus doesn’t do that – He gently blows His Spirit on them and works with them until the flame burns brightly again. Likewise with the battered reed. He doesn’t despise the affliction of the afflicted; and that affliction can make a person like a smoldering wick. What a gracious Savior we have who loves this way! And He calls us to the same.
        He will enable you to love the same too, if you seek Him. Hold fast; there are strong cautions in the Scripture against forsaking the assembly even for fear of persecution and death. Seek the Lord, Seek His heart, seek the Grace to submit to His truth and love and care and discipline, and live faithfully one day at a time, one moment at a time. Bless those who curse you, and when you are reviled, do not revile in return, but bless the smoldering wicks around you, even as you need the same care when your wick is smoldering and threatening to go out. This is impossible apart from Christ, so hold fast and He will sustain you.

        Be blessed.

      2. Josh says:

        Anna, when I tell you the same thing William told you, it’s not meant to be flippant or to discourage you. But what William said is the truth: People are messy. Relationships are messy. Expect to get messy. Even among believers.

        You also have to remember two things:

        1. The perfect church (that’s really what you are describing) will never exist on Earth in this age. It stinks, I know. But instead of looking at it negatively, or with a downcast spirit, look at it as a chance to allow God to mold you and shape you through the adversity. Ultimately, your actions (and reactions) are what you are responsible for—even if those in a particular church were not loving. And just because a truly loving church won’t happen, doesn’t mean we are excused from being a part of a body of believers, nor does it mean we are excused from the responsibility to love those who appear “unloveable,” which leads to…

        2. Consider Matthew 5:46-48 (for example). If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Loving those who are difficult, who are spiteful, who are unloving, who are hypocritical…is not easy, but we are called to love them. Why? Because it reveals the condition of our heart, and it produces fruit. It’s part of having an eternal perspective. These situations and people can be used to bring about fruit in your life—that’s what God wants from you and for you.

        I know that’s not an easy perspective to take, but church division and dissent has been going on since the first-generation churches. It isn’t a generational thing. It’s a human thing.

        Not sure if that helps or not.

  31. Melody says:

    About the sex thing – agree with both you and Rachel.

    I personally haven’t heard a sermon or lesson on sex and purity in 10 years – outside of the youth ministry I’m involved with.

    But I think it was a HUGE focus during the high school and college years of people our age. So much so that years later it might be some people’s strongest memory of church – especially if they haven’t attended lately.

    1. Exactly. You rarely hear sex sermons in church because congregations are mostly made up of married couples, therefore they’ve moved beyond that life stage.

      1. Melody says:

        Well, more and more of us are unmarried past our 20s. And it isn’t as if married people can’t sin sexually. But I think the church assumes adults are equipped with what they need to know on that subject, since youth group hammers on it so hard.

  32. Chris Linzey says:

    “Christianity without a cost is Christianity without the cross. And Christianity without the cross isn’t Christianity at all.”

    Simply brilliant. Thanks for the post.

  33. Ken says:

    Good stuff. I saw the CNN article, and while I agreed with parts of it, much of it rubbed me the wrong way. I think all Christians, including millennials, need to remember that the church is not a retail business; in other words, the customer is NOT always right.

  34. Zach says:

    Denver touched on this above, but Anthony Bradley had a great response suggesting that the United Methodist Denomination has everything that RHE (and the millenials that she “speaks for”) is supposedly looking for:

  35. Sandra says:

    Good discussion here. I am active in a Catholic campus-ministry on a large university campus. The four weekend services are full, and a 9 PM mass is added during the academic year. The order of service has remained substantively the same for centuries, with some small adjustments along the way, and the same can be said for the doctrine. I’m sure that the young people who come to mass aren’t always actively involved, but at a time in their lives when they are free for the first time from pressure from their parents, they are still coming in their numbers.

  36. brian says:

    Dale Alquist, expounding on Chesterton said, “Every era tries to create a new religion, something more befitting the age, but new religions are only suited to what is new. And what is new is soon old. Chesterton argues that the Catholic Church has all the freshness of a new religion, but it also has the richness of an old religion. It does not change with people’s tastes. It is a religion that binds men to their morality even when they are not in the mood to be moral. The Church often has to go against the grain of the world. It has preached social reconciliation to fierce and raging factions who would much rather destroy each other. It preached Charity to the old pagans who did not believe in it, just as it now preaches chastity to the new pagans who do not believe in it.

    “We do not really need a religion that is right where we are right. What we need is a religion that is right where we are wrong.”

    1. Sandra says:

      Thanks, Brian. In the 60s and 70s, the local radio station broadcast the archbishop of La Crosse, WI, saying the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi everyday at noon. It has made a far greater impression on me than any sermon or youth group harangue. Just knowing that there was once such a saint as Assisi, among many others, has inspired me to overlook the human short-comings of the people who tried to teach me the faith and to strive for holiness. Here’s the prayer:

      Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (St. Francis of Assisi)

      Chesterton also said that the church at it weakest still has enough power to boil modern ideologies to rags. That’s a liberal paraphrase.

  37. Ginny Groves says:

    Thanks Reid. Good to hear from you.

  38. What saddens me is that all of these responses to Rachel’s essay assume that she (and therefore millennials) don’t really mean what they say Have you even thoghut for a second that maybe they really want authenticity as you define it, and they’re willing to be challenged and experience life-changing faith and community?

    All of the responses I’ve read, including this one, seem to be saying good riddance to people who want something closer to what the Bible (yes, the Bible) calls for. Stop reducing this to the idea that this is an issue of self-centeredness. I doubt you consider your desire for a church that fits your criteria for authentic church worship and community to be self-centered, but ultimately you’re making the same demands as millennials are. You just happened to have found churches that have met your demands.

  39. Bryan Hodge says:

    In other words, the church is too Christian for M’s who have been indoctrinated so heavily into liberal political and social ethics. Ergo, they leave for the same reason apostates have always left: because they were not of us.

  40. BLeBlanc says:

    “I meet a Jesus who doesn’t do away with the Law of the Old Testament, but ramps up the demands in order to lead us to Himself – the One who calls us to life-altering repentance and faith.

    I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.”

    I think you may miss the point of the original article. In scripture I see Jesus ramping up the demands on the “religious” and not caring if he offends them. I also see him reach out with compassion and love to the “sinners”(Zachias, Adulterous woman) suspending the judgment they deserve under the law.

    I think the original author would argue that the perception of Millenials leaving the church is that we offer excuses and forgiveness to those within the church, but scorn and condemnation to those outside it. That too often the church seeks to enforce morality through politics and angry rhetoric instead of reaching out to the sinner with love where they are.

    In other words we come with lots of truth and little grace so the world hears neither…

  41. David Okum says:

    Refreshing to see this but I think but a few will read it. That is unfortunate.

  42. James Ruark says:

    Great response to Rachel’s article. I could not have said it better myself.

  43. loo says:

    “The fact that cohabitation, premarital sex and pornography are often overlooked among our congregations betrays the vision of sexuality Jesus put forward – a vision of the sacredness of a man and woman’s covenant for life, one that excludes even lustful thoughts from God’s design.”

    This is an interesting take. Let’s go back to the Greco/Roman world of Jesus’ day. Jesus hardly endorses marriage (not the way we think, he endorses it to omit divorce, not to place it as an ideal or earthly goal). In fact, the during the time of the early church for anyone freed person (non-citizen) cohabitation was marriage (there was no great dowry for 1) the poor 2) the widowed 3) the divorcee 4) the slave – so with no dowry and no money, cohabitation was what was understood as marriage.). When Christianity began to spread beyond the synagog crowd it ran into a major hurdle. The western half of the Roman Empire was very different from Judea. Slaves were sent to bed guests at a master’s whim, sent to reproduce with other slaves, and so on. Poorer/lower class women were often on their second or third marriage by the time they were 40 (depending on the area), many women were married men’s mistresses and had little say over their fate (economic reality). These people could not just fit into the early synagog-style church. Women had to get permission to leave certain situations, and depending on partner’s preferences, sometimes couldn’t, slaves couldn’t.

    So, what to do, the Jewish raised Christians could easily fit the law – most upper class women could also, but poor and slaves couldn’t. So, Paul teaches that, like Jesus, the ideal is celibacy. Sure, some were gifted, but Paul tells anyone not currently in a marriage arrangement, to stay single – gift or not. You could argue that was due to persecution, but looking at the early martyrs shows many women gladly were martyred not to marry who their fathers, and in one high-profile case, a publican said they had to marry. Celibacy was the ideal and goal of the early church for at least 700 years!

    So, to say Jesus’ solution to a lewd culture is marriage isn’t quite right, as that generally only perfectly fits those raised in a Judeo-Christian mindset. Since the early church spent more time growing among the poor, slaves and widowed it needed a morality teaching that encompassed everyone, not just those that could fit the marriage mould. So, celibacy became the goal for a devout life. Many women died for the right to live the privileged life of a celibate – nun, abbess, saint. Men too gave up worldly things to follow God well beyond the times of intense persecution.

    Now, I am not celibate, but it think we miss the boat – both Millennials and older when we try and force fit nuclear family marriage – or add gay marriage to the nuclear ideal – as something Jesus and Paul taught as a way to deal with immorality. Paul’s famous better to marry than burn is because married men and women who were believers were refusing to sleep with unsaved spouses as the Jewish teachings in those days made them worry they were unclean, not a “cure” for immorality as it is read today.

    If you authentic and non-BS, then we first have to realize that teaching nuclear family as an ideal will end up allowing every other form of family to be equally validated – if not this generation, then the next will do it. Teaching what the early church actually taught as best is a life given to Christ free from marriage (Paul says marriage will bring trouble). I would argue it takes up a lot of time and energy that could be better devoted to God. If people’s callings were to Jesus first, not to appease the morality police, or listen to hours of bad advice on marriage (from untrained marital counsellors aka pastors) and pastoral positions were open to anyone (gay, straight, whoever, who was worshipping God by living a celibate life), the church would have a voice in the world instead of being accused of bias.

    But that would take people actually sacrificing their own desires and that isn’t something our culture does. It is why gay priests in the Catholic church don’t get called out on public TV because you can’t really argue with a gay man who has dedicated his life to Jesus. But that doesn’t go very far with a guy who has gone and married as soon as he financially could, yet tells others to remain celibate.

    I grew up in the Canadian north among many Catholics and they have a much stronger voice in the world today, because they have a place in the church for everyone, not merely heterosexual, married, nuclear families.

    1. Dave says:

      not married, or not celibate?

      1. loo says:

        What part is confusing?

        Celibacy is far, far, far beyond sex. It is a life committed to ministry. In traditional Catholic and E.O. orders, once you join, and, in Catholicism, go through the steps – decision, direction, become a noviciate/jr. monk, vows, until one is a full fledged. Similar in the Eastern Orthodox church, but Monks cannot become priests, not sure that is restricted if that is restricted in the Catholic church. Anglicans in England and Canada have nuns.

        Many evangelical missions in the past would not allow missionaries to be married, that changed, but originally, if you wanted to be a missionary, you were expected to do that instead of marriage. Missionaries were not called for life – as Nuns and Monks are (after vows) meaning they could retire back home. In the early church practice, though, you essentially died to your former life, and once the vows were taken, you never went back home. The order would take care of you until your dying day.

        Does Paul look forward to retirement? Did any of the apostles? No, in the early church, the view was, once committed, always committed. If you committed to Celibacy – as Paul directs unmarrieds to do – then you didn’t run out and get married once the persecutions stopped.

        No, I am not celibate (nor Catholic or Eastern Orthodox) – is that clear now?

        1. Dave says:

          I think so. Since you are not celibate, I assume you’re married.

          My take from that quote (the one you responded to) is that the author understands there are people who believe they can be faithful Christians while being sexually active outside of marriage. As someone who is single, never married, and well into my adult years, I’m aware of the temptation to think that way. But walking with Jesus requires me to reject that belief and realize that sexual relations can only occur within a marital relationship. Having said that, the opportunity for committed ministry can be even more rewarding, as you have said.

  44. S.C. says:

    Ever thought that maybe some “Millennials” are leaving their regular churches because they are learning that GOD did not make or encourage “religion”? Jesus did not teach religion nor did he make “religions”. Man created religions. This guy could not have said it any better.

    1. Barb says:

      You do realize he has come up under better shepherding and discipleship and has had to repent/restate some of that since he posted that, right?

    1. JohnM says:

      We’ve been going on about “relevance” for a while now, hasn’t the term gone a bit stale? Anyway, “the church” can mean a lot of things, but when I say The Church I’m talking about something that by definition cannot but be quite relevant. It’s just a question of whether individual members recognize the relevance. We don’t expect the world will.

  45. nel says:

    Amen. And thank you.

  46. Lowell says:

    If you know anything about Rachel Held Evans, it is that when she says people are sick of the church being too political, she only means when they promote conservative ideas. She has no problem whatsoever with anything on the liberal agenda. Too many evangelicals are ashamed or embarrassed for having entered the political fray in the last twenty years. I am not among them. I read Christianity
    Today. One page features an article about how the church should stay out of politics. On the next page is a urgent plea for us to call our Congressmen about sex slavery. Which way is it?

    I am glad Wilberforce made his voice heard in political arenas. It ended slavery in England. The church is at its best when it takes the Gospel to Congress and political offices everywhere.

    1. Sandra says:

      I started reading Christianity Today in the 80s when I was a young, dunno, maybe a soon-to-be GenXer ? Anyway, the magazine had a lot to say about Mormonism being a cult. Then in 2012, I couldn’t help noticing that the same publication sided with Mormonism to support a certain political candidate. Kids are smart; old kids are smart too. We’re looking for consistency and passion in leadership, and a willingness to remain true to something that is larger than ourselves and demands our whole selves. I left evangelicalism in my 20s, despite my credentials as an MK and Christian college graduate. I wanted to be someone who stood up for Christ no matter what the cost, even if it meant that health and wealth would miss me. The few beloved adults who stood as genuine role models for me have mostly passed on to their reward, and they were mostly people who made enormous sacrifices to serve as missionaries.

      My parents, now elderly, are still part of the old evangelical church, but I tell them regularly that it has “slipped its moorings.” It doesn’t matter that the church is evangelical and not something else. They stay out of loyalty. It could be “Any Church.” The moorings are slipped when sexual sin–no, sexual crimes– are not reported to authorities; when concealed-carry guns are brought into God’s sanctuary for the express purpose of extinguishing the life of anyone who might threaten the elect; and when the nuclear family of Genesis is portrayed visually as the all-American family with two kids, a baby and a dog. Oh yes, and where the pastor preaches that single women with children have Satan at the head of the household. These issues very nearly ruined my faith, particularly the sexual crimes. Foolish messages? Yes. Irrelevant? Not at all. Kids have an eagle eye for consistency, and they know when they are in the presence of people who truly care for them. That church is working very hard to be relevant to young people, with plays, costumes and catchy tunes, but the last time I visited the youth service, the entertainment–oops, I meant to say “message”– was about “cooperation,” something my daughter and her cousins could have learned at the neighborhood public school. God is bigger than all of that, and fortunately faith has never been stronger or more important for me that now. And when I pray about my daughter’s faith, the response I hear is, “if you want your children to walk in faith, then walk in the faith yourself and show them the way.” That’s a heavy responsibility, but the millstone reserved for those who lead children astray must be much heavier.

    2. Dustin says:

      “I read Christianity Today. One page features an article about how the church should stay out of politics. On the next page is a urgent plea for us to call our Congressmen about sex slavery. Which way is it?”

      To me, a church being too political is when the church takes a side about a political topic upon which many Christians disagree. I hope that all would agree that sex slavery needs to end and is therefore not a political issue as it relates the the church. I hope a person would not avoid calling their congressman about sex slavery because they think that this action would be too political.
      From what I have read of Rachel’s, she is against churches promoting political ideas of any kind as something that is a requirement to belong among the people of the given church. For example some people want to have the right to have guns, some want the right taken away. I don’t think that is an issue that a church should take a side on….though each member could be active in the cause outside of church.

    3. Kevin Thomas says:

      One of my favorite quotes: “Mixing politics & religion is like mixing manure & ice cream. It doesn’t do much to the manure, but it sure ruins the ice cream!” Tony Campolo

  47. Matt says:

    They’re leaving for the same reason anyone leaves, or doesn’t come in the first place: it’s a foolish message that doesn’t appeal to anyone. It’s a stumbling block that trips up people on its own. We don’t make it unappealing or attractive. Somebody preaches the Gospel and the Holy Spirit enlightens. Why over analyze this?

  48. kjp says:

    whoops, that should read: I was wondering if RHE believes churches should be “welcoming to GLBTQ’s” or whether they should be “welcoming and affirming to GLBTQ’s”? The latter, of course, is what the so-called “mainline denominations’ insist upon. Does anyone know if she is a “welcomer” but not an “affirmer” or is she a “welcomer and an affirmer”

    1. Ron Cram says:

      Rachel Held Evans supports gay marriage.

      I believe the underlying issue is intellectual doubt the Bible is true. Scientism is a philosophy that says all knowledge comes from science. One of the chief tenets is that science has defeated religion. Many Millennials are affected by this belief. The result is that while they still want the community of the Church, they do not believe the Bible. If the Bible is not true, then it does not have the moral authority to condemn homosexuality. I think Rachel has not fully examined her own beliefs and does not know she has fallen for this misguided thinking.

      1. Eric English says:

        I am sorry, but I think you are drastically misguided. First, which pew poll are you referring to – the one conducted in 2007, which was three years prior to the aforementioned poll?

        Second, an innability for someone to defend the faith is NOT

        1. Eric English says:

          …the reason why people leave the church. It’s the individuals inability to think critically on their own!!!!!!!!!

          Indoctrination has never worked.

          1. Ron Cram says:

            I’m not talking about indoctrination. I’m talking about learning how to “give a defense for the hope that is within you.” I’m talking about providing evidences for belief the way the apostle Paul did in I Corinthians 15 when he talked about the resurrection from the dead and the number of people who had seen Jesus alive.

            People, especially Christians who want to witness to the unsaved, have to know how to think critically. If they don’t, then they cannot see the errors of the militant atheists like Richard Dawkins.

            1. Eric English says:

              Why do you think it is necessary for Christians to “defend” themselves. Christians owe nothing to atheists or classical scientists. Dawkins is a idiot, and Christians should not waste their time arguing, with people like him. When you feel the need to debate people like that, you have already started off the wrong foot in your pursuit of convincing them. You capitulate on the fact that you feel the NEED to provide “evidence” for something that is not on the surface evidential in nature. Science and Religion speak two different languages – one of physics and one of metaphysics; when either science or religion confuse them, it causes problems.

              I just wrote on this topic today. You can view the article here:

              I think your confused by what it means to think critically and classical apologetic methodology. The two are different. What really needs to happen is we need to teach younger generations how to think critically for themselves and NOT classical theistic arguments. What happens when the arguments (which are barely cogent to begin with) run out?

              What’s more is that you seem to also be equivocating on “being missional” and arguing. You say “to provide them with the hope we have”? What’s better for the kingdom: for me to develop a relationship with someone who respects me and my Christian journey (to which I have hopefully shared.) This is the point of everything that Rachel is talking about. The reason that young people are so easily swayed is because the Church puts on a front, a different persona. It lacks the authenticity that scripture demands.

              The question is, is ones faith built upon semi-cogent arguments for the existence of God, or are they built upon an indescribable experience of the divine? I will tell you this much, there is always a better “argument” out there. However, no argument in the world can combat my experience of God’s life-changing grace. AND, by the way, it’s the life change that is your witness, not your arguments.

              1. Ron Cram says:

                It is necessary for Christians to defend their beliefs because the Bible says it is necessary and because the apostle Paul modeled it for us. Christians today have a fear of science. As a result, they have yielded the field to wrongheaded thinkers like Dawkins. You did not even read the Pew Forum results I provided, did you?

                Let me repeat just one important part: In the 2009 poll, when those who had become unaffiliated were asked if science had proven religion to be superstition, 32% of former Catholics and 32% of former Protestants said yes.

                I’m not talking about repeating the failed classical philosophical arguments of the past. I’m talking about using science to show that faith in God is plausible. The Big Bang is one of the strongest possible arguments for the existence of God. It has sent several atheist scientists on a spiritual journey that resulted in them becoming Christians. Two of the most famous of these are Allan Sandage and Hugh Ross. The scientific argument from the fine-tuned universe is stronger now than ever and will be greatly strengthened when Robin Collins’s new book is released. Collins has calculated the fine-tuning of the fine structure constant alpha and it is indeed finely-tuned. If it was not fine-tuned, large animals could live on the planet but we would not have wood burning fire. Without wood burning fire, we would never have achieve metallurgy, science or technology. In other words, God has finely-tuned the universe for discoverability, science and technology. Naturalists will never come up with an explanation for that.

                To think critically means to examine for oneself. One must think critically of the faith he has been taught in church as well as the science and philosophy taught at university. The problem today is that Christian university professors are not comfortable pointing about data that supports belief in God while atheist professors are quite comfortable in pointing out data that supports their worldview. As a result, students get a biased view of the data. The university is supposed t o be an open marketplace of ideas. Unfortunately, that ideal has been lost in this post-Christian world. All I’m trying to do is bring back this open marketplace of ideas.

                I know Christianity can compete. Science and Christianity are not in conflict when both are understood correctly. As Abelard said in the 12th century: ” Truth cannot be contrary to truth. The findings of reason must agree with the truths of scripture, else the God who gave us both has deceived us with one or the other.”

                God has not deceived us. He fine-tuned the universe so we could conduct scientific research. The better we know science, the better we know God. When Christians study science, they know they are looking at the handiwork of God.

              2. Sarah says:

                Dawkins is, unfortunately, not an idiot. He’s stone-cold brilliant. He’s simply spiritually blind. He needs God to work in his heart and open his eyes to the truth. Intellectual brilliance never saved anybody, and I would utterly and completely agree with you that intellectual arguments bring nobody into the kingdom of heaven. Only grace will do that.

                It actually does not make one stupid to believe there is no God. It simply makes one blind. As we all are until we have had our eyes opened by God himself.

              3. Eric English says:

                First, let me apologize, I am not sure what the deal is with this forum. I feel like posts are missing and stuff. I think regarding the issue of apologetic we will agree to disagree. Despite the inherit nature of the word, proof-texting does not support your position. If I wanted to take a bunch of scripture to justify my position, I could, but I chose not to as I think it ultimately damages scripture. We are not dealing with an issue as it relates to doctrine or theology we are dealing with an issue that is culturally based. However, I will say one things as you are so prone to use scripture in your own defense, I would look at the life of Christ, and ask yourself the question: what apologetic methodology is he employing? I think you will find that Christ was his own witness by the way he lived his life and the love that he showed others. In fact, even when confronted with valid arguments from both the pharisees and Pilate, he chose to remain silent. perhaps we all could learn a thing or two about that.

                I am curious if you read the article I wrote regarding the relationship between Christianity and Science, as I deal with the majority of the issues you raise. Ultimately, I conclude (to use Wittgenstein’s theory of language games), that in essence the area of science speaks a different language than that of Christianity. Christianity should be concerned about metaphysical truths and science should stick to physical truths. Science methodology will NEVER prove God! It makes not logical or rational sense to say that an objective system built the physics of this world can every prove an entity that is beyond the physical threshold.

                If we were to really be honest about this situation, I think we would see that really the entity at fault here is not science, but the Church (again, as I outline in the article).

        2. Ron Cram says:

          Several Pew Forum reports have touched on the subject. I will list some of the insights along with the URLs so you can look it up for yourself.

          In a Pew Forum poll published in 2009 and revised in 2011, 44% of respondents say they do not hold to the faith of their parents. Most of those changed their faith before age 24, during the university years.

          The Pew Forum reports: “Two-thirds of former Catholics who have become unaffiliated and half of former Protestants who have become unaffiliated say they left their childhood faith because they stopped believing in its teachings, and roughly four-in-ten say they became unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions.”

          In the 2009 poll, when those who had become unaffiliated were asked if science had proven religion to be superstition, 32% of former Catholics and 32% of former Protestants said yes.

          The effects of the attacks by the militant atheists and the Christian church’s refusal to engage on an intellectual level has been disastrous for the church. In 2007, 25% of Americans under 30 were unaffiliated with any church. By 2012, 32% of Americans under 30 are unaffiliated. If the growth of the unaffiliated continues at the same rate, by 2017 41% of Americans under 30 will be unchurched.

  49. A.J. Holmes says:

    This article really disappointed me. It seems like the author is really just trying to pick a fight with Evans. It also fails in a huge way to miss the major theme of Evan’s article: the desire of millennials for authenticity in the church. This article doesn’t have a shred about that. It does however, seem to set up a few straw-men.

  50. Thanks for the needed clarifications without denying substantive concerns and differences. I offered a couple of posts that resonate with some of the issues you addressed.

    “Things you should know about Americans ages 18-29″

    “Ten guidelines for ministry to 18-29 year olds.”

  51. Andy says:

    I don’t know if it’s been brought up and it’s probably a bit late into the conversation but I think the problem is essentially millennials themselves. There’s wayyyy too much conversation about what the church needs to do to reach them and not enough talk about the lack of authentic relationships and what seems to me at least what a lot of them are searching for in a church and that is relationships outside of the falseness of social media. That’s where this whole issue is, at least for me anyway. The Gospel is personal. It’s meant to be personally listened to. KIds and younger people are living in world that’s trying to replace that connection in relationships through various social media and internet.

  52. Michael Snow says:

    “I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.”

    So also an old fogy named Spurgeon. We might ask, “Does he offend us old fogies?”

  53. Megan says:

    To heck with style and substance, this is all about the Spirit. Christians of *all* generations are leaving the church because the Holy Spirit is leading them out. The only reason it’s most prominent in the youngest generation is because young people are generally more receptive to change and to the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 18:3).

    Why do we assume humans have autonomy, authority and agency but God does not? Why do church leaders assume the Good Shepherd only wants to lead their flock where *they* want it to go? (John 10:4-5)

    The Spirit goes wherever it will. Jesus curses the tree that isn’t producing good fruit. He can decide for himself whether two or more are truly gathered in His Name, or for a manmade purpose. No building or institution is big enough to house Almighty God.

    Read the Parable of the Virgins. Buy oil for your lamp. Follow the Bridegroom, wherever he leads.

    1. Barb says:

      The Holy Spirit is leading God’s people away from His Bride? Away from corporate fellowship? The Holy Spirit who by inspiration authored these words:

      And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

      (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)

      For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
      The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

      (1 Corinthians 12:14-26 ESV)

      He who is the same yesterday, today, and forever?

      I think not. The one who leads people away from fellowship in the Body is a spirit alright; but it isn’t Holy.

  54. Lex says:

    In the first place, I’m getting tired of hearing of the “Millennials”‘ omniscient “BS” meter! Have an opinion? Good. Join the crowd. Stop this nonsense of thinking you’re opinion and preferences makes everything else “BS.” Frankly, a lot of the “M’s” enlightened opinions are “BS” to me.

    “Too political”? Really? How do Millennials get by thinking their tender feelings towards all things environmental, sexual, and social aren’t political expressions of personal preferences?

    As best we are enabled by the Spirit of Christ, we’ll teach the Word of God, love Jesus, and attempt to reach the lost with the love and grace of Christ without accommodating this culture’s mores and preferences. If that isn’t sufficient, we have nothing else to offer.

    1. Lex says:

      “Your” not “You’re”…

  55. Lance says:

    Trevin, I regret not finding your thoughtful post earlier in the day so I could’ve been commenter 1 or 7 or 18 instead of 140. AS now, you have the misguided trolling Christians like the one above me, admonishing Rachel Evans for her support of gay marriage.

    You see, we Christians can’t even get our discussions done correctly to then go find Christ’s grace and strength.

    The divisions among Christians like this person above me, Ron, shows that the damage done by pastors, political and religious leaders, and the finger-pointing congregations fo them have driven so many God loving people into God fearing.

    God is neither Republican nor Democrats, conservative nor liberal. Gay marriage and most the social issues that drive political rhetoric in and out of the pulpit have frustrated so many of us.

    In Jesus’ days, he was not on an AM radio show spouting anti-gay or anti-thing else nonsense. He was bringing people to him, in the flesh and in his soul.

    Yet, here’s Ron and his anti-gay marriage attack of Rachel Evans missing the point of your article and hers.

    Thank you for writing this. We have a long way to go, Generation Xers like me and millenials like you.

    Hang in there.

    1. Ron Cram says:

      Lance, my comment was not about politics. It was about treating the Bible as God’s Word or not. In a Pew Forum poll published in 2009 and revised in 2011, 44% of respondents say they do not hold to the faith of their parents. Most of those changed their faith before age 24, during the university years. In the same 2009 poll, when those who had become unaffiliated were asked if science had proven religion to be superstition, 32% of former Catholics and 32% of former Protestants said yes.

      The problem is that many Millennials would like to stay in the Church but want to choose which parts of the Bible they will obey and which parts they will not. God doesn’t allow us to pick and choose like that. Following Christ is not a buffet. Either He is Lord and Savior or He isn’t.

      People who think science and the Bible are not compatible will often come to the conclusion science is more reliable than the Bible. I am firmly convinced science and the Bible are fully compatible. I am also firmly convinced of the truth of the Bible and that it is God’s Word. If I wasn’t, then I would want to pick and choose which parts I want to obey. But I understand it is God who is speaking to me and He outranks me.

      Regarding the sin of homosexuality, the Bible is consistent is calling it sin. God certainly loves sinners of all types, but he doesn’t call us to celebrate our sin. He calls us to change us. Same sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is.

      1. Lance says:

        The Bible talks about sexual immorality not homosexuality. See, we can’t even agree on interpretations of the Bible. You will never get people to love church if you’re yelling SIN at every person who doesn’t like male and female relationships.

        This is why if you’re against gay marriage you are a bigot. You are using an incorrect Bible interpretations to deny people basic human rights.

        1. Ron Cram says:

          Lance, I don’t understand why you have to resort to calling names. Anyone can be pejorative. It doesn’t help your case in the least.

          Let me ask you a question. If I could show you a place in the Bible where it unambiguously condemns homosexuality, would you change your position? If your answer is yes, then I will show you. If your answer is no, then it shows you are unwilling to submit to the Bible’s teaching.

  56. Ron Cram says:

    If Millennials are criticizing the church for upholding Biblical standards, that’s not going to change… or shouldn’t. On the other hand, if the criticism is valid then the church should listen and make changes. We do not want to put barriers in front of the gospel.

    Rachel writes “We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.” Is this a valid criticism? Or is this criticism for upholding Biblical values? Making people feel welcome without any need to change is not what Jesus was about. Jesus would say “Go and sin no more” while Rachel would say “I will help you fight for gay marriage in the church.” These are not the same things.

    Rachel Held Evans seems to be dealing with intellectual doubts about the Bible. If she really believed the Bible is truth, then she would not put her own judgment about gay marriage above the Bible’s judgment. Rachel’s “analysis” of why Millennials are leaving the church is very shallow. It appears Rachel may have read the book “You Lost Me” by David Kinnaman (a good book) but the book is far more insightful than Rachel’s musings.

    Kinnaman is the head of Barna Research Group. His book is based on actual research. However, his conclusions understate the role of intellectual doubt among Millennials because the questions focused on attitudes the Millennials held toward the Church. The research would have been more helpful if it probed the intellectual doubts Millennials have about the existence of God and whether science and Christianity are compatible.

    Millennials are dropping out of the Church mainly because of the university experience. In a Pew Forum poll published in 2009 and revised in 2011, 44% of respondents say they do not hold to the faith of their parents. Most of those changed their faith before age 24, during the university years.
    In the same 2009 poll, when those who had become unaffiliated were asked if science had proven religion to be superstition, 32% of former Catholics and 32% of former Protestants said yes. Why is this happening? Two reasons.
    1. Atheist professors are very comfortable supporting their worldview while Christian professors are not. Christian professors at state universities are afraid if they are too outspoken can be sued for “establishment of religion.” Or, they are afraid their colleagues will block their advance to tenure. As a result, students get a biased view of the scientific evidence for the existence of God. Physics and astronomy strongly support the existence of God, but students are not given the theological implications of the facts they learn.
    2. The rise of militant “new atheists.” Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens all wrote NY Times bestsellers in the last 10 years which encourage readers to publicly mock Christians for their superstitious beliefs. Hitchens book, God is Not Great, also blames religion for all the evil in the world – wars, racism, bias, intolerance, divisiveness, etc.
    The result is the Church has two problems: 1, Christianity is seen as not intellectually viable and 2. Christianity is seen a immoral. If Christianity is not objectively true, then it loses its moral authority.

    In October 2012, Pew Forum published a report titled “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation. As the title suggests, unchurched Americans are growing at a surprising rate. In 2007, the unaffiliated were just 15.3% of the population. By 2012, the unaffiliated had grown to 19.6%. This growth took place almost exclusively among those under age 30. In 2007, 25% of Americans under 30 were unaffiliated with any church. By 2012, 32% of Americans under 30 are unaffiliated. If the growth of the unaffiliated continues at the same rate, by 2017 41% of Americans under 30 will be unchurched.

    While we cannot compromise on Gospel truth, it is necessary for us to understand the kinds of intellectual and cultural influences Millennials are experiencing. Currently, 60% of youth group kids walk away from the faith during their four years of college. We need to do a better job of understanding why this is happening and help strengthen their faith.

    My church has an “Apologetics Weekend” with a number of speakers talking about evidence for the existence of God and why we know the Scriptures are reliable. We also have an apologetics ministry that holds meetings once a month on the same topics. These meetings are attended mostly by Millennials who are college graduates still struggling with intellectual doubts from college days.
    While these efforts are good, they are not enough. Churches need to do a better job preparing high school students for the college experience. High schoolers need to know that science and Christianity are compatible. Science has done an incredible job in explaining our natural world, advancing technology and curing physical diseases. A faith that is in conflict with science is not an intellectually viable faith.

    Physics and the standard cosmology are strongly supportive of the concept of a Creator God. But college students are not told the theological implications of the facts they are learning. We cannot expect non-Christian university professors to explain these implications. Churches and campus ministries like Cru, InterVarsity, Navigators and Ratio Christi need to explain the theological implications of the science.

    The conversion story of Dr. Allan Sandage is very interesting. He is the only man I know of who started his spiritual journey because of a scientific discovery he made. His discovery convinced him that God existed, but he didn’t know which God. This began a two year long spiritual quest to find the truth and he became a follower of Jesus. Stories like this can go a long way in persuading university students the Christian faith is intellectually viable and compatible with science.

    When Millennials understand that Christianity is firmly established as “Truth” confirmed by “Science,” then Christianity is seen as having moral authority and the judgment of Christ on issues such as gay marriage will hold more power.

    1. Mycupoverflows says:

      I noticed that you quotet the Pew Research poll a lot and thought you might be interested in the recent research done by Answers in Genesis. Their study found that we lose our kids way before college…in middle school. Here is a link to the first 2 chapters in the book, Already Gone. The study was done on 2,000 evangelical Christians 20-30 yrs old and who were raised in church, attending regular weekly services. (I’m pretty sure that I’ve quoted those figures accurately.) Anyway, it’s a very dire situation and I believe that our kids are not being convinced that God’s Word is truth and that we alk need a Savior. Thank you for your posts.

      1. Ryan says:

        A little ironic, really, considering how in my experience it’s groups like AiG and people like Ken Ham who are the ones driving out a lot of younger people, people who have grown up receiving an education and who say “I believe in Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour” and are then told “Well that’s great, but you’ve got to believe in Young Earth Creationism too, otherwise none of it works. It’s a package deal.” Many youth, finding themselves unwilling or unable to bring themselves to embrace YEC then come to the conclusion that, since it’s “a package deal” if one part of it is bunk, the rest of it must be too.

        Indeed, I think this is the sort of thing RHE was talking about as to why Millenials are leaving the church. When a church starts asserting minor doctrines as hills to die on (minor doctrine here defined as “Anything not stated by the Nicene creed), without leaving room for discussion or differing interpretations, then yes, you are going to drive out many, and often for a fairly petty reason. Certainly many of these discussions are important and I do believe that it is appropriate for a Christian to have a stance on many of these issues, for a church to say “Listen, you’ve got to be a YEC/double-predestinationist/premillenialist/other-hot-topicist in order to be a member here, because otherwise you’re denying the clear Word of God” is categorically irresponsible.

      2. Ryan says:

        Indeed, having now read through the study you linked, I find that for every good point or criticism I have to endure paragraph upon paragraph of Ham frothing at the mouth because Sunday School promotes people to question (i.e. think critically about) the Bible and causes them to turn away from Young Earth Creationism (possibly because many Sunday School teachers don’t believe in it?).

        Some of the statistics he presents are, however, rather disturbing, but most of it is just the authors being upset over the presence of theological disparity.

  57. Kristen says:

    The problem is that most people in the church (my generation- 30s) have not heard the true gospel. The ones that leave, leave because of what this author said, they are getting the “spiritual self-help” bs… never having heard the real reason that we follow Jesus.. if we don’t understand God’s perfect standard, our inevitable fallen nature and our WHY we need a savior… we’ve been coming to and loving Jesus for the wrong reasons… To put it bluntly, those falling away or that want a “substance” change in the church never truly understood the gospel, in other words they are “cultural christians” (some might say “false converts”)and not true followers of Jesus to begin with because they didn’t hear the clear gospel message to begin with: Believe in Him and Repent and you will have eternal life.

  58. Ron Cram says:

    It seems to me the good people at the Gospel Coalition are afraid to engage on the issue of compatibility between science and Christianity. This is an important topic. I hope I’m wrong. Am I?

  59. Ron Cram says:

    Christians are becoming a “hated minority” because we are unwilling to engage on the issue of compatibility of science and Christianity. If the culture saw our faith as reasonable, we would not be hated. Can anyone see that?

  60. Lisa says:

    Ms. Evan’s opinions are nothing more than twisted, christian gobblygoop. Trying to somehow diminish the word of God as though she has some special beeline right up to God to know that He would endorse this “inclusiveness” she’s pushing. Same old liberal agenda all cleverly worded to pander to modern morality. Got news for ya Rachel. Morality can not be changed. You’ve been hoodwinked and deceived by simply living in a modern day. If sexual morality can be “updated” or changed according to liberals, why then you could also make the case to change morality with regard to other topics like lying, cheating, stealing, etc.

    1. Lori says:

      Deception is the what’s wrong w/ the world in general. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory; true… It says in Romans. The Word of God is true. Period. It’s a matter of the heart. No excuses as to any of the sins out there. We all do it. So what’s wrong w/ the churches? They judge unfairly; due to regulations and political realm. It’s just so dumb. I’m a mother of 3 grown Millennial’s. I’m a Christian. I’m not perfect by all means, but I love Jesus Christ. He is my Counselor; His Holy Spirit which in God’s amazing Grace, I have access. He has taught me how to love, and even how to not judge the church (which is hard to do these days). Anyway. I agree about the deception, and can’t believe I’ve read this far down into the comments to see the that word written down. It’s all about that. God bless all of you; I love how Rachel has gotten the attention of the church and even CNN in this column. Amazing God!

  61. Sarah says:

    The church needs to stop obsessing with our generation. Yes its a problem and yes its good that that has been recognised but whilst the church is obsessing with fancy modern quick fix events it is losing its focus on what the church is and what the church is about. I’m not looking for modern aspects and spotlights in a church, i’m looking for a church that is genuinely and passionately in love with Jesus. One which seeks him and his will and cares for nothing else. Which isn’t about people pleasing or making sure it doesn’t offend.

    It’s about where the church’s heart is, not how many events it runs or how many generations of people it contains. If I am in a church which is wholeheartedly in love with Christ then I don’t care if the songs are sung on organ or electric guitar, the words are in hymn books or on snazzy screens, the congregation has 100 small groups or itself is just a small group. Of course there are songs which I personally like and some I don’t, formats I like and formats I don’t. But as a christian I know it isn’t about me and what I like. I am more than happy to put aside my personal preferences in favour of a church that is seeking God in all aspects and seeking human affirmation in none.

    Forget the modernity, forget the flashing lights. Focus wholeheartedly on Christ and you’ll be a church many of my generation would be delighted to be a part of.

  62. Eric English says:

    In defense of Rachel, perhaps you have missed this research conducted fairly recently:

    It seems to back up the conclusions that Rachel reached.

    1. Ron Cram says:

      This article is not confirmation of Rachel’s views, it is the source. The article was written by David Kinnaman who wrote the book Rachel Evans read titled You Lost Me. Rachel got her information from that book (and talking to a few Millennials).

      Kinnaman’s book is far more insightful than Rachels theories. At least he talks about those who are leaving the church because of intellectual doubts, although he underestimates the percentage drastically. Kinnaman has it at 9% while Pew Forum has it at 32%.

      KIannman’s charter was to learn what Millennials think about the church as an organization and so those are the kinds of answers he got. If he had probed the question of what Millennials think about the truth claims of Christianity and if science and Christianity are compatible, he would have gotten much different answers.

      Intellectual doubts often play an important role when people leave the church even when other factors are involved. Plus intellectual doubts are far more problematic. According to Pew the larger role intellectual doubts play, the less likely people will return to the church later in life.

      Rachel’s view that the church has to give in to the demands of gay marriage in the church is counter to the Bible. And it is unnecessary. Once people understand that science and the Bible are compatible, then Christianity regains its moral authority in the culture.

  63. Ron Cram says:

    If you watch this video, you will better understand why university students are walking away from the church. Students raised in Christian homes but who are not well-prepared to defend their faith intellectually are not able to stand up to the ridicule and mockery that is common at the state-owned university.

  64. Ron Cram says:

    Here’s another video of Richard Dawkins at a Ted Conference in 2002.

  65. Ron Cram says:

    Sorry, it seems my earlier comment is still stuck in moderation. There is no way you could have read the several links I provided in that comment. Hopefully, it will make it through moderation soon and you can read the poll results I provided.

    I must comment also on your final paragraph where you write: “it’s the life change that is your witness, not your arguments.” False, it is both.

    As I mentioned before, the apostle Paul modeled using arguments from evidence. Look at his argument in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. After he talks about the resurrection, he talks about the evidence for it – including evidence from eyewitnesses. Verses 5-8 “and he was seen by Cephus and the twelve. After that he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain in the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that he was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all he was seen by me also.”

    Paul went to great lengths to provide evidence for Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. And he wrote this to the church so as to strengthen the faith of believers and unbelievers alike. Jesus’s resurrection from the dead is a great proof for the existence of God. This undeniable fact from history was the evidence that persuaded Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel that God existed and sent His Son to earth.

    In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 Paul writes: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew that I might win the Jews; to those under the law , as under the law that I might win those under the law; to those without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.”

    This is the attitude we are also to have. If I were to update this passage to today’s culture I would write: “I have become all things to all people – to scientists, I speak of science; to historians, I speak of history; to philosophers, I speak of philosophy – that I might by all means save some.” We do not fulfill the Great Commission by deciding who will witness to. It is a terrible attitude to think inwardly “He’s a scientist so I won’t witness to him.” God has given us the science by which we can reach these men and they are being reached. If you do not want to be in on that blessing, that is on you. But I will not make that mistake. I’ve made too many other mistakes to include that one.

  66. Amber Rivera says:

    This is a very complex issue. Many who leave the church have been hurt by the church. We are all humans and imperfect so when you get us all under one roof there are bound to be some hurt feelings. However, when leadership in the church fails to lead by Jesus Christ, there will be unhealed wounds, hypocrisy, stagnation, mismanagement of money, sexual immorality, and the list goes on. When you portray yourself as a house of the Lord but your actions are completely different, people will leave!! The church of today has failed to create a real community, plain and simple. Jesus has been pushed out and we are all for self! Take note at the alarming number of Christians leaving the church today. This cannot be blamed on them. People FLOCK to Jesus because of His grace and love. When we receive His fruits, we are ready for His conviction that creates real change. If His fruits are not in the church, there will be no change. I believe He is missing in the church today and Christians will not waste time being yolked with a church that is missing the core message. Makes me wonder if we will ever truly get back to the church of Acts before Christ returns. May the Lord lift the veil of blindness on us all!

  67. Eric English says:

    @Sarah, perhaps some clarity on my statement is in order. I DO think Dawkins is an idiot, and it’s not because he doesn’t believe in God, it’s for the same reason a lot of Christians are idiots as well. Despite the fact that he has contributed to the field of biology, when it comes time for him to argue using basics philosophical principles (of which he should be well aware of), he chooses to use terribly fallacious arguments simply because he knows his readers will buy into it. Unfortunately, a large majority of his readers must lack basic common sense as well, because they all began drinking the kool-aid.

  68. Eric English says:


    I am not a statistician, so I sent the Barna report you attached to my wife at work – she is a statistician for Gallup. I simply asked her to look at the research and analyze the data (which is what she does for a living), and then send it back to me. I decided to just paste the email she just sent back to me regarding the data that you have cited:

    ==========Email Below===========
    First off, the Pew article is based on research conducted 6 years ago…not exactly up to date on people’s religious beliefs and practices. The article itself is more than 4 years old. Regardless, I think the data itself could still be valid, but it’s just worth noting, especially since there is more recent research by Pew that doesn’t even mention this as a reason. (Slide show) (Full report) One wonders if this were such a big issue, why Pew would have completely left it out of their most recent reports?

    If you look at the paragraph after the table labeled “View of Religion and Becoming Unaffiliated”, it says that most people who were once affiliated with a religion and now NO LONGER are, DISAGREE with the statement: Modern science proves religion is superstition and the table shows that there are many other stronger reasons that people leave a religion than this notion. Less than 1 in 5 former Catholics and former Protestants who are now unaffiliated site this as an important reason. Again, most likely why Pew did not even research this further in their most recent studies. Regardless, to suggest that a struggle with the church and Science is even in the top 10 reasons people leave the church is definitely NOT supported by any of the research Pew has done, in 2007 or more recently.

    1. Ron Cram says:

      Some of the statements in your wife’s email are not correct. The following statements are from the 2009 poll which was revised in 2011. The data is not six years old. As someone who polls students every week, I can tell you the issue is not going away but is getting worse. The mocking and ridicule Christian students face is shocking. Here are my summaries:

      In a Pew Forum poll published in 2009 and revised in 2011, 44% of respondents say they do not hold to the faith of their parents. Most of those changed their faith before age 24, during the university years. The Pew Forum reports: “Two-thirds of former Catholics who have become unaffiliated and half of former Protestants who have become unaffiliated say they left their childhood faith because they stopped believing in its teachings, and roughly four-in-ten say they became unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions.”

      In the 2009 poll (revised in 2011), when those who had become unaffiliated were asked if science had proven religion to be superstition, 32% of former Catholics and 32% of former Protestants said yes.

      1. Eric English says:

        Ron…sorry, I didn’t realize the replies were posting further on up. I still have to read through them all, but I have read the first one and I sent your response to my wife. Her response is below:


        Until he can show me a link that says the poll was revised (and not just the report in 2009), I see nothing that references 2011 data. The footer in the table in the first link still says 2007 (he needs to reference the footnote in the data table properly.) Revising a report or article does not mean new data was collected. Again, if he can show me a methodological report or survey that shows fields data for 2011, then that would support his claim. I sent a report from 2012 that does not reference this issue at all. So, my point on that still stands. There is newer research and Pew chose not to ask people about it. Also, his first point is about people not believing teachings and does not reference science specifically, so it can’t support his claim about science being the reason. There are just too many other beliefs, so that’s a non-starter.

        While the data in the second point matches what is in his link, it still remains true that there are MANY other reasons people give as MORE SIGNIFICANT than science. While 30+% of this specific group agree with the statement, only 1 in 4 of them say it is a major reason AND again, there are other more important reasons given. To claim that this issue alone is making people leave the faith, is not supported when there are at least 5-6 other reasons given that are more significant. I’m not saying it’s not an issue…1/4 former Catholics and 1/4 of former Protestant say it is (again the 30% of people are those who agree with the statement, not those who say this is an issue. So, he needs to stick with the data that supports his claim- that it is a major reason people leave.)

        And if were to read through the whole article to the end, it explains the revised 2011 thing…

        *Revised February 2011 to correct minor reporting errors in responses to Q.3 and Q.16, the open-ended questions that asked respondents why they left their childhood religion and joined their current religion. Due to double-counting, some reasons for leaving and joining religions were overstated in the previous version.

        1. Ron Cram says:

          I’m happy to see she found the reason the report was revised. My assumption that it was based on newer data is clearly wrong. However, it is still based on 2009 data which is only four years old. It’s true that Pew did not choose to ask the question in the same way in 2012. However, the fact did they did not ask the question is not evidence that science has become less important. Pew tried to downplay the importance in the 2009 poll, but the numbers themselves show the impact is quite important.

          Let me repeat two data points:
          1. “…roughly four-in-ten say they became unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions.” That’s 40% of former youth group kids are now atheists. That’s an outrageous number and far, far higher than the percentage of atheists in the population as a whole. Is 40% really an acceptable number to you?

          2. In the 2009 poll, when those who had become unaffiliated were asked if science had proven religion to be superstition, 32% of former Catholics and 32% of former Protestants said yes. This data point answers the question why did they become atheists? Obviously, for the vast majority, it was the science. Again, this number is far, far higher than for the population as a whole. Is this really an acceptable number to you?

          I poll college students on campus every week in an unscientific poll and it’s my opinion that science is growing in importance in students becoming atheists. The reasons are clear. It is because the militant atheists become more mocking and ridiculing every year. Here’s another video of Richard Dawkins- filmed in 2002, it was posted on the website in 2007. By the way, the books by the militant atheists – Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens – since 2006 have all been NY Times best sellers – selling millions of copies. Not only do these books paint Christians as uneducated, superstitious, racial bigots – but they blame religion for all the evil in the world- intolerance, wars, hatred, bigotry, etc.

          While all of this goes on, the Church sleeps. Yes, there are a few brilliant Christian apologists like William Lane Craig, Frank Turek and Hugh Ross who debate atheists on university campuses and win – but still, it is not enough to stem the tide of the militant atheists.

          Not all of the Millennials who leave the Church become atheists and so they will not say they left because they know longer believe in God – but intellectual doubts haunt almost every college graduate of the last ten years, even those who still attend church.

          No good can come out of downplaying this situation. The church must address it.

          1. Eric English says:

            Ron…I have misjudged you my friend. For that I apologize. Apparently we both have something to learn from this conversation. I was certain (relatively speaking of course), that you would respond with more justification and yet I was humbled to see you blew my stereotype of you right out of the water. Your response was very encouraging as well as humbling.

            With that said, I agree with your point that the church fails to provide the cognitive tools for individuals to have cogent responses to intellectual challenges. However, in my experience these tools are helpful in that they provide the individual with a confidence they might not otherwise have. I do not think those tools should be used to PROACTIVELY DEFEND the christian faith. Our proactive use of those tools takes evangelism right off the table. But I do think it is necessary to have a cogent response to seemingly (I say seemingly because I don’t think the majority of the questions are even good ones) intellectual questions.

            If I may now bring this back around to the question at hand, which was Rachel’s position.

            I agree that what you have stated is true insofar as it is one of the reasons that younger people are leaving the church. Perhaps this is even an issue of subculture as well. However, in my experience (and apparently Rachel’s) It seems the primary problem are related to two things:

            1. young people are tired of seeing the inauthentic practice of Christianity. What this doesn’t mean is that we can’t be sinners, because clearly we all are. However, what it does mean is we shouldn’t pretend like were not.

            2. Young people are tired of seeing the political bulls@#t (see Frankfurt on the topic of bulls@#t).

            Thank you for a stimulating conversation. I look forward to any concluding remarks you may have.

  69. Ron Cram says:

    Eric, yes I realized later that my earlier comment was still in moderation. Sorry about that. There is no way you could have read it prior.

    A good percentage of our population attends college these days. The US has about 20 million students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. Millions of these students graduate every year and go into the work force having their faith damaged by the university experience. The message of the university is clear – science has refuted Christianity and so Christianity is not intellectually viable. As the Church, we have to respond to that. We cannot let those claims go unchallenged or people will continue to leave the Church at a growing rate.

    I did not read your blog post earlier but I have read it now. Please don’t be offended, but you write as a philosopher and not as a scientist. While scientism is a great evil, science is not. Science and Christianity are very compatible. In fact, many scientists have come to Christ because of science – or at least their spiritual journeys began because of science. They found their way to Christ because of scripture. But the key role science played in their journey should not be discounted.

    Regarding the issue of apologetics, you asked an interesting question. What apologetic did Jesus use? It is obvious that Jesus used evidence. Jesus pointed to the evidence of his miracles as reason to believe in John 10:37-38. When Philip asked to see the Father in John 14, Jesus said He Himself was the evidence but if you cannot believe that then believe because of the works themselves (John 14:11). In Matthew 12:38-45, after the people had already seen many miracles and yet asked for a sign, Jesus gave them his future resurrection – “the sign of Jonah.”

    Paul used evidence in I Corinthians 15:3-8. He pointed to a number of people who saw Jesus alive from the dead. These eyewitnesses provide powerful testimony to the resurrection.

    Paul was a practicing evangelist. When engaging with unbelievers it is necessary to defend the faith. Paul was involved in small group and larger public debates about the evidence. People may respond to preaching of the gospel, but only when faith is plausible to them. No one who thinks science has refuted the Bible will respond to a message by Billy Graham or anyone else. College graduates of today are the hard soil of Matthew 13.

    God has called me to a ministry of pre-evangelism. Pre-evangelism recognizes the need to make Christianity plausible, to break up the hard ground so the gospel seed can be planted.

    When engaging with unbelievers, it is necessary to meet them where they are. Paul wrote that to the Jews he became as a Jew, to those without law he became as without law, to the weak he would become weak – so that by all means he may save some. If this passage was updated to today’s culture Paul would say “to the scientists I speak science, to the philosopher I speak philosophy, to the historian I speak history so that by all means I may save some.” See 1 Corinthians 9:19-22.

    Science is actually a powerful tool for evangelism. I have written a booklet titled ‘Is Christianity True? Why Three Brilliant Atheists Became Christians.” It has the conversion stories of Dr. Francis Collins, Dr. Allan Sandage and Lee Strobel. The Sandage story is my favorite because he is the only scientist I know who started his spiritual journey because of a scientific discovery he made himself.

    Follow me on Twitter @Ron_Cram and I will follow back. Once we connect there, I can send you a free copy of the booklet.

  70. Ron Cram says:

    Eric, yes I realized later that my earlier comment was still in moderation. Sorry about that. There is no way you could have read it prior. My response is lengthy, so I’m going to break it into two comments.

    A good percentage of our population attends college these days. The US has about 20 million students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. Millions of these students graduate every year and go into the work force having their faith damaged by the university experience. The message of the university is clear – science has refuted Christianity and so Christianity is not intellectually viable. As the Church, we have to respond to that. We cannot let those claims go unchallenged or people will continue to leave the Church at a growing rate.

    I did not read your blog post earlier but I have read it now. Please don’t be offended, but you write as a philosopher and not as a scientist. While scientism is a great evil, science is not. Science and Christianity are very compatible. In fact, many scientists have come to Christ because of science – or at least their spiritual journeys began because of science. They found their way to Christ because of scripture. But the key role science played in their journey should not be discounted.

    Regarding the issue of apologetics, you asked an interesting question. What apologetic did Jesus use? It is obvious that Jesus used evidence. Jesus pointed to the evidence of his miracles as reason to believe in John 10:37-38. When Philip asked to see the Father in John 14, Jesus said He Himself was the evidence but if you cannot believe that then believe because of the works themselves (John 14:11). In Matthew 12:38-45, after the people had already seen many miracles and yet asked for a sign, Jesus gave them his future resurrection – “the sign of Jonah.”

  71. Ron Cram says:

    Hi Sarah, you are partly right about Dawkins. He is smart but he is not a highly successful scientist so I’m afraid you are giving him too much credit. Dawkins has been very successful in writing popular books on topics related to science. But if you look at his publication record in the scientific journals, it is quite meager. While he has a number of entries, they are mostly letters to the editor or comments on papers. He has only written a handful of papers that make any contribution to science and they were all written decades ago and are not highly cited or influential in biology.

    Now Stephen Hawking is an atheist who is stone-cold brilliant. He has made numerous and highly influential contributions to science.

    Dawkins is really an atheist first and a scientist second, if at all. Dawkins still has not wrapped his mind around the fact that genomics has ruled Darwin’s Tree of Life. When Craig Ventner made a comment on the topic, Dawkins nearly blew a blood vessel. But it’s true. See Koonin’s paper “Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics” at

    The full impact of this paper has not been felt yet, but it’s coming. And Dawkins is not going to like it.

  72. Eric English says:

    Not sure what is going on. Something is apparently wrong with the blog. I am getting notifications that replies are being posted, yet when I come here I see not new posts.

  73. Ron Cram says:

    Eric, yes I agree that the forum is acting strangely. The comments can usually be found higher in the thread than they ought to be which makes it really hard to read the thread as comments are out of order. Sometimes I think my comment did not post and have reposted it only to find I’ve repeated myself. Sorry about that. Just keep looking higher and you will probably find a comment that is responsive.

  74. SeekTruth says:

    “I meet a Jesus who doesn’t do away with the Law of the Old Testament, but ramps up the demands in order to lead us to Himself – the One who calls us to life-altering repentance and faith.”
    Hmmm… that’s NOT the Jesus that I met. HE replaced my OT-induced misconceptions about God with a covenant of LOVE. The church is too hung up on the Bible. Bibliolatry is the church’s undoing whether you or Rachel realize it or not. Luther was just getting started. “God sent us a Savior, not a book.”

    1. Eric English says:

      That is a gross misunderstanding of the relationship between the OT and the NT. Jesus did not do away with the OT, and I think you would be hard pressed to find any mainline doctrine that would support that.

  75. SeekTruth says:

    Bear in mind that it was OT Religionists who declared Jesus a heretic and handed him over for death. Why would Jesus want us to practice the same OT religion that got him killed? He gave us a new covenant. If “mainline doctrines” were reliable, then how do you explain 1.1 billion adherents to that other religion? They consider themselves to be mainline too. Truth is an elusive thing. There’s no safety in numbers. Orthodoxy provides no cover unless conformity to the social majority is your priority. I rather seek the truth. Let the chips fall where they may.

    1. Eric English says:

      Where’s the apologetics guy Ron…He loves this sort of thing.

      I am really not sure if you are being serious or not because the logic you are using borders on the irrational; and nearly all of the assumptions you are making are incorrect. The exception is the last statement you made, which I completely agree with. Despite that fact that you misunderstood what I meant by “mainline”.

      I don’t have time to address all of your post so I will only make a couple general comments. Let the chips fall where they may.

      First, you misunderstand the purpose of both the OT and the Law therein. Your theory makes the assumption that the Jews understood the purpose of the law to begin with (which its clear by the new testament that they didn’t).

      Second, by making that aforementioned assumption you also assume that to “practice the OT” is to do so as the Jews did. (Again fallacious based upon the preceding assumption).

      Third, it was neither the OT religion nor the Jews who killed Jesus. You killed Jesus; I killed Jesus; we all killed Jesus. To place the blame solely on the Jews is to make the same mistake about God’s relationship to humanity that the Jews made in the OT.

      Fourth, the OT religion is not any different from the NT one. You can only assume that based upon the discontinuity of the two, which you have failed to prove up to this point. Furthermore, if you are going to use language like “covenant”, then you HAVE to assume the continuity of the two testaments (I don’t have time to explain why, you will need to read up on Covenant theology to know why).

      From my reading of the Bible the OT and NT act as one continuous story. The NT does not supersede the OT, instead it clarifies it. Moreover, the OT must be understood properly in order to possess any cogent understanding of Jesus, his humanity, deity, and overall purpose. As is true in understanding anything within history – context is everything, and the OT is the supreme context for the NT.

  76. SeekTruth says:


    Assumptions you say? You assume that the Jews did not and do not understand their own OT law. Hmmm… they might take you to task on that. That’s an assertion best debated with a Jewish person, not me.

    Who killed Jesus? Excellent question. Like you, I say that we ALL did. That includes ME especially. In fact personalizing my role in Jesus’ crucifixion is my main connection to Him. I feel like I was there at Calvary. Our eyes met. And I understood. Here a sinless man, the prince of peace, was wrongly deemed a heretic and tortured to death. Jesus came to end the very sort of OT religion that formally condemned him for blasphemy, by the Book. The Book was used as a weapon against him. It’s still used as a weapon today. Indeed, religion poisons everything.

    Your contention that the “OT religion is not any different from the NT one” is preposterous. The Jesus of the four gospels (where Jesus’ words ostensibly are recorded) is to OT Yahweh as Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. The OT alleges that Yahweh was involved in the killing of 2.5 million people through 158 grisly incidents. C’mon. That’s not the Jesus who said to love even your enemies, turn the other cheek, and give all of your money to the poor.

    The only way that you can connect the dots in your Biblical-everlasting-covenant-systematic-theology flowchart is to invoke Revelation and make NT Jesus a killer on par with OT Yahweh. I don’t buy it. Jesus revealed the true face of the Father for the first time. He cleared-up misconceptions about the Father through his example. He was God in flesh. He established a covenant of love. The former so-called old covenant was a flawed man-made attempt to make sense of the world. When the OT is read through the lens of Jesus, the hideous stories of genocide, vengeance, and wrath become transparent attempts by the writers to paint a human face on God.

  77. Eric English says:

    No assumptions here:

    Regarding the relevance of the law-in particular how it has NOT ended(Matthew: 5:17-18)
    Regarding understanding the OT as context for the NT (Luke 24:44)
    Regarding the Jews not understanding the real purpose of the law there are just too many to mention, but here are a couple (Mark 7:1-23; Matthew 15:1-20; John 9:35-41)

  78. SeekTruth says:


    Jesus said a lot of things, many of which are conflicting, and most of which likely are not recorded. As much as he purportedly said to follow every single rule in the OT in Matthew 5:17, moments later in verse 38 he repealed “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” Catch that? He was making a broader point. In another encounter he stayed the execution of a woman caught in adultery, saying, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He broke so many rules that the Pharisees eventually had him killed. Profound. Apparently Jesus held a low view of scripture and legalism.

    In Matthew 15:4 Jesus says, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’” But do you think for a moment he was endorsing this law? Can you imagine Jesus killing a kid for disobeying his parents? No, just like the silly dietary laws, the passage was showing the hypocrisy of legalism.

    The premise that, Jesus was a Fundy so we should be likewise, does not stand up to scrutiny. Despite Jesus’ claim: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law…” we must read the entire speech. When we do we see that OT legalism is out, and love is in… a covenant of grace. That’s what the Beatitudes speak to us. Jesus was not an OT Bible Thumper. He preached the Golden Rule. He taught us to get right hearts and right motives.

    Fulfillment of prophesy does not direct us to extrapolate inerrancy of the entire book.

    So I don’t know exactly what your point is. In light of the scriptures that you referenced, what do you suppose Jesus would say today about a person who is homosexual?

  79. Eric English says:

    Perhaps you should change your name because clearly you are not looking for any sort of rational truth. The information I gave you is very clear; if all you are going to do is twist it to fit some agenda you have, then this is probably the wrong place for you.

  80. S Hampton says:

    AMEN AMEN AMEN to this article and thanks for writing it. I was deeply grieved when I read the Evans article…she had me going for awhile until she brought the whole gay agenda into it…what is that about?? Talk about being influenced by our culture–Jesus was NOT. He held out mercy and forgiveness to those who were repentant–there is a huge piece missing from her argument and from our culture today–repentance from sin. The generation in question is entitled and proud and needs to do what we all need to do–repent in humility before God–rather than demand the Church conform to their politically-correct and off-kilter demands (or “dreams”).

  81. SeekTruth says:


    I can assure you that I am sincerely seeking truth. Rather than answer my question, you erect a straw man and accuse me of pursuing an agenda. I’d prefer you stay in the discussion. Perhaps it would help if you conceded that nothing is so “clear” as we would prefer. Paul warned us about that.

  82. SeekTruth says:

    Style or Substance? A couple years ago I heard Frank Schaeffer (author of Crazy For God) speak at a college a few miles up the road from Dayton, TN, where Rachel Held Evans hails. He mentioned that he was attending a Greek Orthodox church because he liked the old world liturgy even though it was all in Greek. When asked if he spoke Greek, he said no and it’s better that way because it kept him from getting upset. He had a point. It’s the substance of who’s “In” and who’s “Out” that really turns young people off. Better the church include everyone as “In” and let God sort the sheep and goats. Ironically, a few miles down the road from Dayton, TN a church recently made national news for booting out a gay couple and her family.


  83. Trevin,

    I think this is one of your best pieces yet. I’m not quite sure how I missed seeing it — other than ‘life happens.’ God is using you mightily for the Kingdom, and I just want to offer you a word of encouragement in your calling and ministry.

  84. Joel Button says:

    Thank you speaking up in opposition to Rachel Held’s glossy, feel good, make everyone feel good criticisms of Christianity.

  85. Aaron Kunce says:

    Trevin. I posted a comment earlier in the week that was critical of your Wolf On Wall Street price. But I hang with you because I find your work resonates with me so often. And you nailed it here. I am a minister of young adults, have several young adult children in my family, and spend a lot of time with millenials. This is an excellent price. Thank you for writing it and for taking RHE to task a little on this. She is an exceptional writer and a gifted woman. But you were right on the money with your nuanced and challenging critique.

  86. Aaron Kunce says:

    *piece* (sorry my cell phone auto-corrected twice… erroneously.)

  87. Donna Bruton says:

    So is it FACT that millennials are leaving the church faster than other generations did at the same age?

  88. Adam says:

    If I hear one more millennial say how boomers ruined church and they are here to “fix it” I’m gonna vomit. Here’s the truth: millenials don’t know what the heck they want. they say they’re not about “trends” but they have buckled so far on the “LGBTQ movement trend” they’ve weakened the truth. They’re trying desperately to rewrite scripture to say homosexuality is not a sin. They support gay marriage. NOWHERE…NO WHERE in the bible is marriage EVER between two people of the same gender. They try to couch everything in this “Jesus just wants us to love one another” theology. He does. But Jesus also said “Go and sin no more.” Millenials want churches that celebrate sin…and they certainly don’t even want to use the word sin anymore.
    Yes, baby boomers have made mistakes. But most of those mistakes were to cater to the millenials to begin with. Why did we have concert worship? You. Why have we made church a commercial experience? You. The only mistake we made was trying to make church something you would come to. And you did. For awhile. Now you’ve change your minds and want church to be about social justice and mercy. Good for you. But that’s where we were before we started bending to this spoiled, narcissistic society.

  89. Bobby says:

    Science demonstrably shows that humans, along with all life on earth, evolved from earlier life forms. The evidence for this is found in many branches of scientific inquiry, so I won’t go over that here. Millennials are the generation with the highest of percentage of college educated individuals. At liberal colleges and universities, we learn to embrace science and the scientific method; therefore, a higher percentage of millennials have embraced scientific thinking. In science, there is a burden for proof. Proof cannot be just anecdotal, or something a politician, parent, or pastor said. Millennials, among others, want to work with evidence and proof as a framework to reality. Religion does not provide these things. No religion does. The Puritan Guilt Complex is falling because people are seeking evidence and proof to base their lives on. People are rejecting religion because it requires a set of beliefs to be a part of that religious community. People are tired of being told that the contents of any one book or the speech of any one religious leader equates to all-encompassing truth… People know better.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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