Why does it seem like the church is losing more people with each passing generation? Because it is, says Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis-US, the Creation Museum, and the Ark Encounter.
Extensive research has been done on why people—especially young people—are leaving the church. For his book Already Gone (co-written by Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard), Ham partnered with America’s Research Group to conduct research as to why young people are turning away from church.
Around 56% of those born before 1928 (also known as the D-Day Generation) attended church regularly, says Ham.
“But there's been an exodus from the church such that when you look at the Millennials and Generation Z, it's down to about 11% church attendance,” he adds.
The research detailed in Already Gone has revealed four predominate reasons for this exodus:
1. The church has been losing its influence on culture.
In past generations, the United States was much more accepting of Christian values than it is today. Decades ago, marriage was considered to be between one man and one woman. Abortion was considered wrong. People only recognized two genders determined by biology.
“If you look back to your founding fathers, many of them were Christian, and even those who weren’t still had a Judeo-Christian ethic that came out of the Bible, and that’s what permeated the culture,” Ham says. “Even in public schools, there was a veneer of Christianity.”
But that’s all changed.
“A lot of those of the older generation don’t understand the veneer of Christianity that was there has basically been ripped off,” he explains. “We’re now seeing an education system that’s shoving God out, the Bible out, prayer out, nativity scenes out. Now, the LGBT worldview, Marxist ideas, and critical race theory have been forced on generations of kids.”
2. The culture has infiltrated the church.
A big part of why the church has lost influence over culture is that it has been accommodating to culture. While there are certainly exceptions, many churches haven’t taken a firm stand on issues like evolution, sexual ethics, gender issues, the sanctity of life, and marriage.
When evolution was introduced into mainstream education, it didn’t take long for those ideas to creep into Christian theology. Suddenly, many Christians began teaching that God didn’t create the world in six literal days but rather over millions of years.
“Evolution is taught as fact,” Ham says. “They teach that you can explain everything by natural processes. And naturalism is really atheism. So kids are being indoctrinated with the religion of atheism.”
3. The church has neglected apologetics.
When the researchers interviewed Millennials who used to go to church, they asked them, “Why did you leave?” The answers weren’t what many would expect.
“The predominant reasons came down to things like, ‘How can there be a loving God with death and suffering in the world? What about science and millions of years? And how do you know that you can trust the Bible?’” Ham says. “It really came down to a lack of teaching of apologetics.”
Instead of answering the tough questions, many churches focus on spiritual, moral, and relational lessons from Bible stories. The result is that it trains children who grow up in the church to see the Bible as a book with solely spiritual meaning, disconnected from the realities of history and daily living.
4. The church has emphasized worship and entertainment over teaching.
Ham makes it clear that music and worship in the church is a good thing. But the danger comes when congregations elevate it above the sound teaching of the Word or make it so entertainment-focused that congregations can’t join in.
“It becomes primarily performance oriented,” he says. “And then the teaching of God's Word gets watered down and becomes very shallow. I don't care if they have an hour music, but there should be equal time for teaching God's Word, and not just teaching God's Word, but teaching generations how to defend the faith, how to give answers to the skeptical questions that are causing them to doubt God's Word.”
Come hear Ken Ham speak at the upcoming 40 Days & Nights of Gospel Music event at the Ark Encounter! Click here to purchase tickets or for more information.