The Gospel of Entertainment and the Exodus of the Next Generation

You’ve seen the statistics. Something like 70% of the next generation of Christians walks away from their faith once they leave their home and head to college. The specifics of the numbers and the reasons can be debated, but who can deny that the church has an “exodus” problem when it comes to the next generation?

I’m not a sociologist, or any kind of professional for that matter, but today I write as one of those 70% who walked away and, by the grace of God, came back.

Good Intentions

The truth is that there are far too many variables that have caused this statistic for us to say that this one is the main cause. We could turn to the rise of skepticism, the liberalization of our institutions, the nominalism of parents, and on and on.

Today, I want to discuss a cause that I have contributed too.

We contributed to the problem with the best of intentions. As youth ministers, we thought that if we catered to the entertainment-driven culture of our youth, they would be more likely to stay within the church.

We were wrong.

We certainly tried our hardest. We amped up the music, watered-down the preaching, fit in more game time, and scheduled more fun activities. While none of these are inherently wrong, the effect is undeniable.

They still left.

We thought this would actually be a solution to the problem. The problem has been recognizable for awhile now and in an effort to turn the tide, we tried to entertain the next generation back to Jesus.

They still left.

Unsurprising Results

Before continuing, I want to remind the reader that I consider myself to be a part of the problem and I am not condemning anyone who, like me, thought this was a good idea.

Nonetheless, it is wholly unsurprising to me that this tactic didn’t work. We held up entertainment in one hand, while hiding Jesus behind our back in the other. Once we drew them in the doors, we threw up our other hand and said, “Oh, you thought this was just for fun? Surprise, it’s Jesus time!” I jest. But is the illustration that far off?

The bait-and-switch tactic was not missed on the part of the youth. They could see. They aren’t stupid. While some came for Jesus, obviously, most didn’t. They came for the promised entertainment.

When they realized they could get entertainment elsewhere, and for cheaper, they took it. Why be bait-and-switched, when you can just simply have what you came for?

If they didn’t come for Jesus, it is no surprise to me that they didn’t stay for Him.

A Humble Solution

I really hope I’m not being too harsh. Again, I know we did this with the best of intentions.

I also don’t pretend to know all the answers or solutions to this crisis. My only hope is to look inward, question my motivations, and cry out to God that he would provide us with answers.

I think he has. I think the answer is the same answer it has always been.

The next generation doesn’t care about entertainment. At least, not as much as we think they do. They already have all the entertainment in the world literally in the palm of their hands. Still, they experience depression and anxiety at alarming rates.

They long for the same thing we all long for. Lo and behold, it is no mystery at all. They are exactly like you and me. And what do we all want?

We want life and we want it abundantly. So do they.

Jesus says in John 10:10 “I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

As the statistics have shown us, entertainment does not provide abundant life. But as any follower of Jesus will tell you, “He does!”

So bring them in the door with the expectation of meeting Jesus. Perhaps they’ll be inclined to stay. Perhaps, our numbers will decline, but perhaps not.

I’ll leave you with this consideration. If you were a young person seeking entertainment, would your fist choice be a church? Obviously not. So if you see a young person at church, I promise you they aren’t there to be entertained.

Give them the Gospel. Give them the Word.

become a patron

Advertisements

16 Comments »

  1. We saw this trend toward entertainment-based youth training and resisted it, but were outvoted. Sadly, we are reaping a stunted harvest, but God is faithful even when our work is misguided. Little seeds grow into giant trees. It takes a while. There is a seed in there. Praying for it to germinate.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is My List of Problems with Conditioning Youth EveryOne; ergo:

    ♡ Multiple Religions
    ♡ Absolution of Self Accountability and Responsibility in Favour of Worshipping Distant Dieties
    ♡ Cognitive Dissonance

    …♡♡♡…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This was really good. I loved how you brought up that if you see a young person at church they aren’t there for entertainment. It’s like a light bulb went off! “No duh that’s why they aren’t there!” very cool.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oddly, I tuck you’ve both identified the problem, and completely missed it all at the same time.

    Somewhere along the lines, we got the thought that we need “Wholesome Christian Entertainment.” It needs to be completely separate from “that secular filth.” Yet it needs to be a clone of the stuff we condemn, only pure and can’t cause anyone to stumble.

    Have you ever seen art from the 1600s? Have you listened — really listened — to the hymns of the 1800s and 1900s? Church has always been entertaining! We just didn’t get so antsy about offending someone’s sensibilities all the time back in the day. We painted naked angels, naked Adam and Eve, violent crimes, violent crucifixions, we sang songs about bathing in blood and stomping our enemies like ugly bugs… and when fuddy-duddies got all uppity, we said, “This is the Gospel. This is Church. You don’t like it? Read the Bible.”

    When the medium changed to film and data, we let the fuddy-duddies take over the entertainment side of the church.

    Have you ever played Candy Crush or World of Warcraft? No one plays them because they’re easy: they play them because they’re challenging. It’s time for us to pull Jesus out from behind our back and put the challenges he brings back into Christian Entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you think Christianity is all about blood, gore and violence I actually worry for you even though I don’t know you.
      The Gospel of Jesus Christ and His life IS shocking and revolutionary because it is shocking in the way the world can never be. The world can shock with its violence, blood and gore but Jesus shocked in a completely different way. He sat with a woman who was about to be stoned, He healed the ear of the soldier who came to arrest Him, He washed Judas’ feet even though He knew He would betray Him. This is all very shocking to us as we do not live like this.
      The world tells us to be our own hero, to love ourselves and treat and indulge ourselves because “I’m worth it!” These are all from the devil to tempt us away from the narrow path.
      Jesus was born in a stable to a carpenter and that was a stumbling block for the many at the time. They looked at Jesus’ forgiveness, Hischarity, His humbleness and His humility and they felt shame. He was not the earthly and worldly King they were waiting for. He came as a suffering servant and He calls us to be suffering servants also. We suffer and we serve but we count it all for joy! That is the shocking truth of the Gospel in that it flies in the face of modern manners, of self love, self glorification and self worship. We are here to serve.

      Like

      • I did not say that it’s “all about blood, gore, and violence.” If that’s what you got from my comment, then I’m concerned for your reading comprehension skills even though I don’t know you. Remember, no one can say all things at all times. Just because someone doesn’t say something doesn’t mean they say the opposite of that thing.
        There are beautiful, uplifting, and peaceful passages in the Bible. There are stories set up in such a way that they are perfect for children under the age of seven, and great for me to put on my knee and give a nice, pleasant little lesson to my five year old (back when I still had a five year old) and talk about how we shouldn’t judge and shouldn’t gossip and shouldn’t lie and shouldn’t steal. Christian art and media hasn’t lost sight of that. We’re good at children’s stories and uplifting cat posters.
        The Bible also has some really raw stuff. There are also stories of heros stealing, men getting swords stuck in their fat by their assassins, husbands cutting up the dead corpses of their wives and putting it on display, powerfully erotic sex poetry, Jesus used a racial slur (called a gentile woman a dog, but this was to make a point, exegeting individual passages goes beyond the scope of what I’m saying here and the fact I feel I have to say that is just an example of why we need to teach reading comprehension in schools) Peter used profanity, Stephen was stoned, Ananias and Sapphira are killed in church, David and Micahel argue over the fact that he’s wearing clothing that’s too revealing and dancing too hard in front of other women (so there’s male twerking in the Bible) and the list goes on and on!
        Christian media has done fine on children’s stories and family time, giving something I can read to a five year old and tell them not to steal. Where’s our sexy? Where’s our adult nuance on complicated moral situations? Where’s our story where we wrestle with the tension between stealing and starving? We used to have it. We lost it. Have you ever read The Little Matchstick Girl by Hans Anderson? Don’t read it to your children. It’s not a children’s story. There’s a reason it doesn’t get included in some modern collections of his short stories. Yet it’s very powerful, and I think more of our youth need to read it as teenagers.
        Anyway, this is my futile attempt to clear things up for someone who is obviously stuck in the status quo and bound and determined to read things into what I’m saying, and as I look back over this and realize all the things you could read into it, I also realize that I have a life, with children that need me and a job to get to, so I’m going to say that I’ll only respond again if you don’t sound like you’re actively looking to misinterpret me. I can clarify where I’m actually unclear, but I don’t work for you and I’m not in charge of teaching you reading comprehension.

        Like

  5. Many pastors are seeing the same things. After all, I write a devotional based on Video Game culture, so I get how there is a pull to be entertaining in the church. However, I have found that the best, and most long-lasting results come from teaching deep truths through using what they know. Jesus did it, and the people flocked to him. We can embrace culture without making it about culture, but rather making it about Christ as the King of all cultures. It is as D.L. Moody used to say, “just as all roads lead back to London, all things can lead back to Christ.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great points! I come to church to learn, to remember old lessons, to be encouraged, and to encourage others. I never liked the focus on entertainment, especially since it often leads many people to want to stay in the youth group instead of going to the adult Bible study classes which are more appropriate for their age.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. What happened to be in the world not of it? When you try to create Christian entertainment it fails massively. Why? Guess what? As Christians we are not here to be entertained or to entertain ourselves. Trying to win people over by using the enemies tools will never be the way. It becomes dominionist and Seven Mountains doctrine which is in error. We are meant to be different and outside it all.

    I’ve completely stopped watching secular entertainment because it’s not what we are supposed to be doing. At the same time I’ve realised that entertainment is not what we are supposed to be doing full stop. It’s being idle and indulgent and not what we’re supposed to be about.
    Give them what they WON’T get anywhere else! They won’t get Jesus anywhere else and there will be a real hunger and thirst for Jesus and the Word of God.
    I hunger and thirst for these things and I would love there to be a church of some sort that would provide sound doctrine, fellowship and building up fellow Christians in their walk and sanctification. Guess what, in the whole of the British Isles I have YET to find a place. They are either heavy on rite, ritual and superstition (like the pagans) or flashing lights and loud music (like the entertainment industry) – no one gives you the truth of the Holy Scriptures!
    In the Bible it describes the end times thus, that people will be starved of the Word of God! We are entering this time now! Preachers are being arrested in the UK for reading the Gospel on the streets! Just as Paul did!
    You need to be concentrating on giving people real and unapologetically spiritual food by not erring from sound doctrine. We are losing people to “other” belief systems! The fastest growing “religion” in America now is witchcraft. Ponder that for a moment.

    Like

    • Where’s our sexy? There’s times when atheists are more palatable than Christians. Gandhi said “I like Christianity but I don’t like your Christians.”
      There’s times when I’m inclined to agree with him..
      I have experienced more hostility from so called Christians since becoming a Christian than I ever did from atheists in the atheist world.
      Everyone wants a piece of it and interprets the Word of God to suit their own agenda (usually by putting their own face in every page. I’ve experienced this most my life with Catholicism)

      Going back to the original post.
      We need sound doctrine and good teachers but they are nowhere to be found, that’s because the church age is coming to an end and we are now entering the birth pangs before the end times.
      We need good solid teaching to help people through the veil of tears they will undoubtedly experience during the tribulation which will be the worst time any human being has ever experienced.
      Bells and whistles, lightshows and sexy sure as heck will not get people through a the worst ever time on earth.

      Like

  8. Reblogged this on Change Of Heart and commented:
    What happened to be in the world not of it? When you try to create Christian entertainment it fails massively. Why? Guess what? As Christians we are not here to be entertained or to entertain ourselves. Trying to win people over by using the enemies tools will never be the way. It becomes dominionist and Seven Mountains doctrine which is in error. We are meant to be different and outside it all.

    I’ve completely stopped watching secular entertainment because it’s not what we are supposed to be doing. At the same time I’ve realised that entertainment is not what we are supposed to be doing full stop. It’s being idle and indulgent and not what we’re supposed to be about.
    Give them what they WON’T get anywhere else! They won’t get Jesus anywhere else and there will be a real hunger and thirst for Jesus and the Word of God.
    I hunger and thirst for these things and I would love there to be a church of some sort that would provide sound doctrine, fellowship and building up fellow Christians in their walk and sanctification. Guess what, in the whole of the British Isles I have YET to find a place. They are either heavy on rite, ritual and superstition (like the pagans) or flashing lights and loud music (like the entertainment industry) – no one gives you the truth of the Holy Scriptures!
    In the Bible it describes the end times thus, that people will be starved of the Word of God! We are entering this time now! Preachers are being arrested in the UK for reading the Gospel on the streets! Just as Paul did!
    You need to be concentrating on giving people real and unapologetically spiritual food by not erring from sound doctrine. We are losing people to “other” belief systems! The fastest growing “religion” in America now is witchcraft. Ponder that for a moment.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s