Everyone Who Knows and Loves a Millennial Should Be Concerned About Two New Studies, Youth Evangelist Says
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Two new studies should alarm anyone who knows and loves a millennial, says religion and culture expert, national radio host and author Dr. Alex McFarland.
McFarland, who speaks to thousands of young people each year, points to a pair of recent surveys that give some insight into the faith views of this generation.
“We have known for some time that the faith beliefs and actions of millennials are different from any other generation before,” McFarland said. “Young people tend to walk away from their faith in the college years, and we pray they return to the church, but knowing some of the facts we do about their convictions, attitudes and motivations, we must come alongside them as spiritual leaders and mentors so they share a lifelong commitment to Christ.”
First, a new Barna report called “Reviving Evangelism” looks at the faith-sharing experiences and expectations of both Christians and non-Christians. A concerning discovery is that evangelizing, or sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, is considered “wrong” by about half of millennials. “Among the major findings in this report is the revelation that Christian millennials feel especially conflicted about evangelism—and, in fact, almost half believe it is wrong to share their faith,” Barna reported.
According to Barna, almost all practicing Christians believe the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus (94 to 97 percent). Millennials say they know how to respond when someone raises questions about faith (73 percent). But when it comes to the practice of evangelism, 47 percent of millennials agree at least somewhat that it is “wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.”
A separate study from LifeWay Research also found that many millennial Protestant churchgoers say they believe in God or call themselves Christians, but they have “conflicting recollections about the churches they attended in high school.”
LifeWay surveyed more than 2,000 adults between the ages of 23 and 30 who attended a Protestant church twice a month or more for at least a year as a teenager. Today, 39 percent say are “devout” Christian with a strong faith in God. Fewer consider themselves Christian, but not particularly devout (27 percent), and even fewer say they believe in God but are uncertain of Christianity (14 percent). Another 11 percent say they consider themselves spiritual, but not religious, while just 5 percent say at their current age they are uncertain about their belief in God, and 4 percent don’t believe in God or in any higher being.
The most alarming figure is that two-thirds (66 percent) of those who attended church regularly in high school dropped out for at least one year as a young adult.
McFarland says it is up to older Christian adults and the church to change that.
“From speaking with hundreds of thousands of young people over the years, I have learned that if they have just a few adults who will come alongside them and encourage them to grow in their faith, there’s a much better chance they will remain in the church and be rooted in Jesus long into adulthood,” McFarland said. “So one or two positive influences can make a world of difference in the faith, and life, of a young person.”
Likewise, he added, millennials can be turned off from the church because of insincerity, scandals, misguided focus or any host of reasons.
“Is it really any wonder that kids raised in the churches of 21st century America aren’t often stirred to lifelong commitment?” McFarland said, “Most churches are so occupied with ‘marketing’ themselves to prospective attendees that they wouldn’t dream of risking their ‘brand’ by speaking tough-as-nails truth.
“It is true that our culture has grown visibly antithetical to God and Christian commitment,” he continued. “But in addressing the spiritual attrition rate of young America, it must be admitted that a prayerless, powerless church peddling versions of ‘Christianity Lite’ share in the blame. God only knows the degree of our complicity, and also the time when we’ll be concerned enough to change direction.”
McFarland, the author of 18 books with another on the way, is the creator of the successful Truth for a New Generation (TNG) national and regional apologetics conferences, which aim to help students, parents, youth pastors and community members lift up this young generation, pray for them and empower them to stand strong in their faith.
McFarland was also recently named the National Student Movement Director for the National Day of Prayer. With the 2019 theme of “Love One Another,” NDOP aims to mobilize unified public prayer for America.
View the media page for Alex McFarland here. For more information on Dr. Alex McFarland, visit www.AlexMcFarland.com or follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @AlexMcFarland. For more on the Truth for a New Generation Conferences, visit www.TruthForANewGeneration.com, or follow TNG on Twitter @TruthforaNewGen or Facebook.
To interview Dr. Alex McFarland, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, 610.584.1096, ext. 105, or Jeff Tolson, ext. 108.