Weak Preaching Has Left Millennials with Weak Theology. Will They Weaken the Church?
Answers in Genesis recently commissioned a survey of millennials – those born from roughly 1980 – 2000. The result of that survey, all centered around their theology and how it relates to specific issues, is quite shocking. In fact, I would say that the picture this survey presents of the future of the church is not promising. Here’s some of the results of that survey:
- Over 40% say they are not born again.
- 35% declare the Bible has errors (or they don’t know if it has errors).
- Close to 90% attend or attended public school.
- Over 45% say that Sunday school did not teach them to defend their faith.
- 45% say homosexual behavior is not a sin, or they don’t know if it is a sin.
- 40% believe “gay couples” should be allowed to “marry” and have legal rights.
- 20% say there are books (other than the Bible) that are inspired by God.
- 65% believe that if you are a good person you will go to heaven.
What makes this survey so troublesome is that the people surveyed reported attending church regularly, many of them go at least 3 times a month! What can conclude when we see survey results that indicate that many people attending our churches hold unbiblical and anti-biblical views?
The first questions we must ask is what are we teaching? Or, perhaps more accurately, how are we teaching? In my experience most churches (and pastors) are topical in their preaching. This means that every Sunday is a different sermon from a different passage of Scripture. This topical method of preaching has been an American standard for many decades, and has served to produce at least two generations of biblically illiterate people that attend church.
The method of preaching that often gets overlooked and ignored is called expository preaching. This is when a book of the Bible is selected and the pastor preaches through every chapter, every verse in succession. At times it can take a year to preach through a single book of the Bible utilizing this method. Some of the reasons given for not utilizing this method of preaching include:
- It takes too much work/study and I don’t have time to devote to it.
- People get bored with being in one of the Bible every week for months at a time.
- Some books of the Bible are not relevant to us today.
- Some topics in some books are too controversial and we prefer to avoid those subjects.
There’s no need to comment on those thoughts. Any preacher that would use one of those thoughts to justify his method of preaching is not worth listening to on any given Sunday. If the sermon is not the main focus of our gathering each Sunday, and Jesus is not lifted up, we are wasting our time. The idea that any book of the Bible is not relevant, or that any topic is too controversial is a heresy that is slowly killing our churches and producing theologically illiterate church attenders.
The reality is that the churches’ silence on many of the difficult, controversial topics of our day has created a vacuum that is being filled by secularists and others that see the Bible as a book of fairy tales. Because more pastors are not willing to address tough topics – they don’t produce warm fuzzies – many young believers are left to fend for themselves when it comes to being educated about these topics. The drive inside many churches to avoid conflict is a misguided attempt to produce unity. Pastors believe if they only focus on the main issues in Scripture that the church will be united. Two decades of this mentality has proven otherwise.
I’ll be the first to say that issues such as abortion, gay marriage, gender identity and immigration are tough. Some of these the Bible speaks directly to; others are not so clear. But the one thing I am absolutely convinced of is that clear guidance can be gleaned from the pages of Scripture. But it takes a man dedicated to clearly communicating what the Bible does say about these topics, and a willingness to teach the biblical principles concerning each topic regardless of public opinion.
One example is the lack of willingness to address the topic of abortion. How any pastor could find justification for refusing to address this biblical, moral issue is beyond me. The Bible makes it clear that murder is a sin (Ex. 20:13); that life begins at conception (Psa. 139; Jer. 1:5); making abortion nothing less than murder. How this can be considered controversial for Christians is a mystery to me. And before anyone argues that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape I want to remind Christians that if you believe God is Sovereign and in control of all things then you cannot – must not – argue for abortion in the case of rape.
If these statistics are looked at from a theological perspective it is clear that there is a significant gap in the theological education of many young people. Maybe all the feel good, emotionally driven fluffy sermons have not produced theologically sound disciples after all. Maybe our 12-steps-to-happiness and 5-principles-of-peace have not filled the educational void. This isn’t about trying to point fingers or figure out who’s to blame. This is about correcting decades of mistakes and focusing on the future of our church and our faith.
The most troubling aspect to this is that in a few years it will be many of these millennials with unsound doctrine leading our churches. As we’ve seen from many of the liberal, mainline Protestant denominations, liberal leadership produces dying churches. I encourage churches and pastors to examine their teaching and preaching to see if it is producing disciples or church attenders.