July 27th, 2013
08:33 AM ET
Why millennials are leaving the church
Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN
(CNN) - At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.
I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.
I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.
I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.
Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.
Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.
I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.
Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …”
And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.
Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates - edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.
But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.
In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.
Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions - Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. - precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.
What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.
We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.
We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.
We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.
We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.
We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.
You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.
Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.
Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is.
But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.
Their answers might surprise you.
Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com. The views expressed in this column belong to Rachel Held Evans.
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About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
The Order of Creation
Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.
Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.
Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.
Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.
Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.
Does this god even know what he did or when he did it?? Why so many contradictions?
Your character is apparently some type of mad cannibal that you can barely control. You can force him to turn corners in the creepy hallway, but not much else can be done. Your character seems to grab anything and try to eat it; whatever is in front of him is thrown into his mouth and he munches it down.
Sounds like a game I used to play on my TRS-80 Model III in 1982.
Thank you NavinJay, I will leave you alone now. You have finally said the truth. You are angel and god combined, good luck navin jay good luck on jounry for 1 million virgin lord of LDS mormons
That... did sound eerily reminiscent of Pac-Man.
NavinJay, you and darwin satan are brothers
Hey, watch it buddy. There is only one Satan, and thats me.
Lol the list goes on and on, even in the New Testament.
What is the point of asking a question with the word why in it? There is no intention nor design just accidental perhaps not intentional is the only why to explain the universe. Another thing that bugs me is people denying climate change e.g. global warming and the world cradling capacity being over populated on our standard of living as well. All trends show that the economy will have 1/6th of service and 1/4th of manufacturing automized by 2025, so there won't be a need for as many people even in practical terms either in the economy. A last point is that medical marijuana should be legalized in all fifty U.S states!
just finished playing one of the SCARIEST video games ever. Now, hear me out before saying, "Oh, he's probably just a ... that gets scared of everything." I don't get scared of video games or movies. I've played many survival horror games and have seen many horror movies in my day. The only thing that made me just a tiny bit scared were some parts of Penumbra and Condemned. Amnesia was pretty good. Everything else was just boring. This game was different. VERY different.
where is my friend Lol?? at to fight all this evil and satans
"Where is my friend..." is sufficient.
"Where is my friend AT..." is speaking like a dolt.
Christianity, like all religions, is nothing but ancient mythology, written thousands of years ago by a primitive, goat herding culture. It has nothing at all to do with reality. Young people are smarter and better educated today, that's why they're turning away from ancient myths.
You are satan
No, I am.
Christianity, like all religions, is nothing but ancient mythology and primitive superst!tions, written thousands of years ago by a primitive, goat herding culture. It has nothing at all to do with reality. Young people are smarter and better educated today, that's why they're turning away from ancient myths.
you are satan
If prayer actually worked, when you dialed 911 it would go to a minister at a church.
NavinJay I see that me calling you Satan got under your skin, I want to say that I do not think you are Satan.
A person with an imaginary friend is crazy. Several people with the same imaginary friend is religion.
"If you talk to God, you're praying; if God talks to you, you're schizophrenic."
— Thomas Szasz, psychologist
The most religious states in the USA are the ones with the least amount of educated people. Hmmmm.....
Oh, I agree. It's very evil. We need to work on getting more people educated so they understand there is no god and don't need silly religion. Thank you for pointing that out.
You'll notice that no one pays any attention to lol?? (look at the total lack of replies). You may find that he's a complete waste of time, too. Don't take him too seriously.
Observer your eyes are so closed shut to the truth
No se a que le llamas gente educada cuando esa gente le dedica más tiempo a su trabajo y dinero que ha su familia y de ahí los divorcios y el mal crecimiento de los hijos con un vacío tremendo, me alegro que estés leyendo este post sobre religión pues sabes que hay algún vacío en ti que hace que pienses en Dios.
I dont know What you call educated people when families are destroyed because the parents spend more time in work and Making money that taking care about their childrens, the divorce make hurt the childs and grow up with a deep void in the innocent lifes. If people know that is not the religion and its only Jesús how saves your life no one in the nwhole world can discuss that.
From Barcelona, Spain
NavinJay, I think we got off the wrong foot, I am Bringtherain, and I'd like to welcome you to the neighborhood. Hey wouldn't be swell, if we were neighbors! We could go and seeeeeeeeeeeee the sights!
Some of the most brilliant people I know believe in God. You really shouldn't stereotype. I could just as easily say it takes a mental deficit not to believe but I won't:)
You have the wrong nonathiest satan
I was just listing a statistical fact. And it's not just in the USA. if you look around the world, it is also the same. the areas with the most amount of educated people have the least amount of religion. It is what it is.
I can appreciate that. Here are a few thoughts from God on the subject.
"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, "He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness." 1 Corinthians 3:19
"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children." Matthew 11:25
"Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them." Proverbs 26:12
"He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them and he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." Matthew 18:2-6
"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine." Isaiah 55:8
Sorry that was for NavinJay
Correlation does not imply causation. Not in either direction.
However, correlation MAY result from both observed phenomena being caused by some common ancestor further upstream.
All holy books are but stories compiled and written by people as they saw the world 2000 years ago . People back then did not see the world as we do today . The human is but a mammal and the first bible was not put together until 300 years after the story of Jesus . Only the human mammal can write a book and the first bible was written in Greek and unless you can read greek you would not have even been able to read it . Everyone wants hope but outside of the churches doors and even inside only reality exist no matter how hard we try to put it out of our minds . Do a web search of the human mammal . Thats all we are .
Woody, don't put a space before every punctuation mark. It really makes you look stupid. Are you?
It is rather amazing that people–uneducated people–fall victim to this book written 2000 years ago. If you study history, and the history of science, you see how ignorant the writers of the Bible were. They knew nothing about the way the world actually works, and the Bible shows that. People who have studied science see what little value the Bible actually holds for modern living. Sure, it's good for historical and sociological context, but not much else.
Reblogged this on make a difference . . . for life and commented:
Rachel Held Evans says people are leaving the church "because we don't find Jesus there."
How is it love by christians to stop concenting adults to marry who they like? These individuals e.g. LGBTQ pay taxes, obey laws and serve our country but are treated like third world citizens in a majority of U.S states. I also don't understand the zest in wanting to cut WIC and then cutting abortion so you can't have your cake and eat it two. Ultimately the logic is illogical with circular reasoning not going anywhere to a solution just more division of labor e.g. lower standard of living and health.
LGBTQPAFABCDHG I can make a bunch of letters and say they need "rights" too you are satan
Peter Q Wolfe,
Don't assume that Christian hypocrites are trying to be logical. They are only going to pick-and-choose what they like from the Bible and then will ignore the rest.
I love this post and see its truth nearly everyday working with college students. Those who want to reach young people, please understand that God and Christianity do not need to be repainted to be made cool. Communicate truth in love to young people as Jesus did, and you will have the success Jesus has had. Which is quite a lot!
science is fake and Darwin is the Antichrist
Tell that to a doctor that might save your life one day ! Good thing they study science or you would be on your own if you become ill .
Woody doesn't know the truth of things.
education and the internet are killing religion. people who believe in fairy tales don't like fact-checking.
YUP! This is why in the 1700's and 1800's the Church actually frowned on anyone learning to read. If you could
read, you could read the Bible for yourself. That was BAD! You have to think as the CHURCH wants you to think.
Not only allow us to read it to you but because you're a captive audience we can tell you how to interpret it, as well.
As soon as people starting reading on their own, the church lost. More and more non-religious with the passing of each day. Religion will die out. Its inevitable. I wish it would happen in my lifetime.
you are statan and have no morals, your friends stopped being your friend because you are a lonely athiest
You have no evidence I am satan. Satan does not exist. He was invested to scare the bajeezus out of people to believe in your fake god. it wasn't enough to promise them an afterlife. You had to frighten them into believing as well. Sad.
Thanks for the helpful article. It is also my belief that mesothelioma cancer has an very long latency time, which means that symptoms of the disease might not exactly emerge right until 30 to 50 years after the first exposure to asbestos. Pleural mesothelioma, that is the most common style and has effects on the area round the lungs, could cause shortness of breath, breasts pains, and also a persistent cough, which may produce coughing up maintain.
What's all the hub-bub, Bub?! Good, bad, indifferent, God, Buddha, Zeus, Satan, science, or science fiction, why is there such
animosity whenever beliefs albeit cultural or individual are discussed? All people have issues, but if you don't believe in anything,
why be so aggressive to those that do? If you want to change the wrongs of this world, change yourself first.
Why not change the world by having all of the Christian hypocrites try to practice the Golden Rule for a change and not fight to deny other human beings equal rights?
Science is the devil and protastants are the anti christ
My point exactly, but why stop with just Christians, aggression comes in all forms, belief systems not withstanding. i.e.
Everyone should practice the concept of the Golden Rule.
There would be a lot less aggression if Christians weren't so hypocritically aggressive against gays and pro-choice supporters. Why not start there?
I agree, there should be a starting point to stop aggression of ANY form, but peace cannot begin if anger overpowers logic.
Understanding won't happen if it is clouded in resentment and emotion.
The Golden Rule as in Do Unto Others as you would have Others do Unto You. Not disputing that one way or the other. However, that could take an ironic sadistic twist for the worst.
There are a lot of interesting viewpoints going on here. I am a Christian, yet I am not religious. Good works mean nothing unless I am living what I preach. Religion states that you have to do this, that, and the other and it gives you rules and regulations that are hard to follow. It doesn't get you any closer to God. The Bible states that God loves man not for what he does, but because God is Love. Whether you believe or not won't change how God feels about you. We are all prejudice in some form or fashion and it's a shame that so many felt rejected because of it. God is Omnipotent, if He wanted to He could force everyone to accept Him, but what kind of loving God would He be? That is being a dictator. Nothing you or I do could make him love us any more or less. Free will has received a bad rap, only because of misunderstanding. He is a loving God, but He also is a God of justice; He gave us the choice to choose him or reject him. I'm not here to debate, but just tell people how much God loves them. I found in my own search that God is seen in the World of Science as well as the church. Could it be that because someone didn't understand that they threw God away?
Which god are you referring to? Thor? Zeus? God is justice? People in the USA walking around 500lbs while children starve to death in the streets in Africa. That sound just to you? You have provided no evidence that any god or god exists or has ever existed. So, I'm just to take your word for it?? Like that?? Oh, you owe me $100.00. No need to show proof, just give it to me. That is how you want people to think?? You are joking, right?
they desrved it
yeah, cuz non-religious ppl like you are doing anything better, sitting in front of computers arguing with others, lol, child please
Navin, sorry to keep you hanging but I will answer your questions if you can answer mine without guessing and such. In your response to mine you kept harping about scientific proof which we will get to. For starters you asked, which God I was referring to, I was referring to Yod He Vov He, you might know Him as Jehovah. I believe that He exists because (1) The Bible says He does. Many rulers from Alexander the Great to Caesar Augustus tried to stop it and failed. The skeptic Rousseau even said about the Bible, "I must confess to you that the majesty of the Scriptures astonishes me; the holiness of the evangelists speak to my heart and has such striking characters of truth, and is, moreover, so perfectly inimitable, that if it had been the invention of men, the inventors would be greater than the greatest heroes. (2) Jesus Christ came to reveal the Father God to mankind(John 1:18). I'm sure that you are familiar with Lord Byron? He said, "If ever man was God or God was man, Jesus Christ was both(Encyclopedia of religious quotes). J.V. Cesserley who wrote "The Christian in Philosophy" said, "That gospel provides that knowledge of ultimate truth which men have sought through philosophy in vain, inevitable in vain, because it is essential to the very nature of God that He cannot be discovered by searching and probing of human minds, that he can only be known if He first takes the initiative and reveals Himself(The Christian in Philosophy pg. 21). Also the other religions have founders, leaders, deities who can be found in earthen tombs. Jesus Christ's tomb is empty because there were Roman soldiers guarding it and no human or humans could have moved the stone of broke the seal that was set. If you are familiar with the resurrection, the disciples were in disbelief when they were told He had risen.
You also mocked when I talked about God being a just God. If you have children, have you ever disciplined them when they misbehaved? Even though they misbehaved, do you still love them? Because of sin, God being a righteous God had to discipline them. He still loved them, but sin demanded justice. In the garden, God had to kill an animal to clothe Adam and Eve. Thus the first animal sacrifice took place. Look at our laws here in America, if you steal, kill, or do something illegal you get punished. Is it a perfect thing, no, but some of it was based from the Scriptures. Just because man missed it doesn't mean that God hates us, that's why He sent Jesus to free us from Sin. As for people in Africa, not all Africa is like that, I was in a church in Zambia that had 20,000 people and 90% were native Africans. The ones I talked to had jobs and even college degrees. What you see on tv isn't the whole truth. Look at the complexity of man and how his body works, science has yet to imitate it. The Bible says that God took dirt and made man, go to a lab and do the same thing without using sperm and eggs.
As for Scientific proof, according to my high school science text book, scientific proof is "showing something that is a fact by repeating the event in the presence of the person questioning the fact. There is a controlled environment where observations can be made, data drawn, and hypotheses empirically verified. The scientific method, however it is defined, is related to measurement of phenomena and experimentation or repeated observation(Encyclopedia Britannica vol. 8 pg. 985).
A former president of Harvard(secular school) by the name of James Conant wrote, "Science is an interconnected series of concepts and conceptual schemes that have developed as a result of experimentation and observation, and are fruitful of further experimentation and observation." (Science and Common Sense pg. 25)
Lets say that someone were to say that Ivory soap doesn't float, well after testing many bars in different environments such as water temperature and stuff, a bar of Ivory soap can actually float in water that is 82.7 degrees. Now if the scientific method were the only method of proving something, you couldn't prove to me that you went somewhere or ate a certain item without repeating those events in a controlled situation.
Legal-historical proof is based upon showing beyond a reasonable doubt that something is fact. A verdict is reached on the basis of the weight of the evidence. There is no reasonable basis for doubting the decision. This depends on 3 types of testimony: (a) oral testimony (b) written testimony (c) exhibits......using this method, you could prove to me what you ate this morning and the places you went: (a) Your friends saw you (b) you have receipts if you ate out (c) other people saw you
The scientific method is good for only certain things that can be repeated. It isn't adequate enough to prove or disprove the things you asked me or others who you disagreed with. I can't prove scientifically that Jesus actually existed, and you cannot disprove it scientifically either. Historically I can prove that Jesus existed via written Biblical accounts, historic Jewish accounts(he was tried by the high priest), I can prove it via Roman accounts because he appeared before Pontius Pilate. Look at the resurrection, which I mentioned a few paragraphs above. According to Jewish and Roman accounts He appeared to many before he ascended.
Historically I can prove I went to Starbucks with my girlfriend because I have the cup I used, a receipt, and she was with me.
Good luck in your search because Jesus can transform your life.
Imagine it's 1950, and you were born in rural Alabama, northern Minnesota, Skokie IL, Salt Lake City, Lancaster County PA, or Southie in Boston. You might have HEARD that there are people other than Baptists, Lutherans, Jews, Mormons, Amish, or Catholics, but you're almost certainly not one of them, and the few that you DO run into are a curious, oddball minority. Still less likely are you to run into any overly gay or atheistic people.
Why are millennials leaving the church today? Because, thanks to the internet, and especially social media, kids are no longer hostage to geography, to the religion they were "born into". They KNOW that they have choices. (Well, except maybe for the Amish.) And, once they realize that there are 50,000 different religions to choose from, each one confidently asserting that all the others are doomed liars, it dawns on them that they can't ALL be right.
But they CAN all be wrong.
That's why the fastest growing worldview in America isn't ANY religion, it's atheism.
Let me get straight to the point...Gays and Lesbians are always welcome in church, but you have to change your ways to be a part of the fellowship. The church will NEVER, and should NEVER support gays or lesbians lifestyle.
it's like telling someone they can be a quasi-citizen, but they can never vote. it's prejudicial.
leviticus 20:13 tells christians to kill g.ays. do you obey your bible and your god and kill lgbt people? i assume you don't. why not?
btw, i'm glad you and most christians are moving away from the cruelty of the bible. better you're "only" h.omophobic and not a g.ay basher.
And while religious people should be allowed to worship freely, their religion should never be welcome in the legislative process of our secular nation.
too much evil too handle, i will be praying all night for these lost souls
Skip all the HYPOCRISY. Do you tell the divorce-and-remarried Christian ADULTERERS in your church to divorce in order to be "part of the fellowship"?
I have seen ol' obsever make this same comment over and over and over. The answer is you can't put the Beast gubmint in charge of marriage. He doesn't like the answer becuz he's EVIL.
Let ME get straight to the point.
When you say "THE church", you mean "SOME churches", but you are too arrogant or ignorant to admit it in public.