A generation losing their religion

Losing_my_religionI was reading an article yesterday called, “Losing Faith: 21 Percent Say ‘Religion Not That Important.” Apparently, America is losing her religion. In the article they mention that this apathy toward organized religion is steadily rising.

This made me think about the countless conversations I’ve had over the last few years with the 20 and 30-somethings who pretty much don’t resonate with our typical Western churchianity. 

My question is, should we lament or celebrate?

It probably depends on what you’re defending.

Here’s what I’m seeing. Traditional Christianity, especially the traditional evangelical and fundamentalist variety, is in a state of crisis whether we want to admit it or not. Especially, if we’re talking about reaching anyone under 35.

And as an evangelical “charismaniac” pastor, I say this is probably good. 🙂

So, I will celebrate.

We all need to lose our religion.

We need to find our life hidden in Christ, not hidden in our denomination.

Jesus said this to the religious leaders of His day…

“What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” (Luke 11:52 NLT)

What’s the point here? It’s that these religious leaders put following their rules–their accepted behavior requirements and sin-management–over intimacy with God, over seeking and bringing the Kingdom of God on the earth like they were supposed to be doing.

Why? Because they didn’t enter in themselves.

They were like the “elder brother,” who had everything the Father has, but didn’t avail themselves to any of it. They were religious orphans (Luke 15:25-32).

Their relationship with God was only in studying about Him, worshiping their traditions, going out of their way to make converts so they could teach them to parrot their judgmental disposition of those not like them (Matt.23:15).

They talked constantly about being holy, being separated, and they railed constantly against the evils of the government in their day–the Roman Empire.

They sought wealth and honor instead of the Kingdom, their own comfort rather than showing compassion for the outcast.

They were divisive and sectarian in the name of truth and constantly argued with each other about who had the correct interpretation of their sacred Scripture.

They sang their hymns every time they congregated, honoring God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him in their actions (Matt.15:8).

Is this beginning to sound familiar?

The religious people of Jesus’ day didn’t know love because they never received love (1 John 4:19). You can’t show someone something you’ve never received, lead someone where you’ve never been yourself.

Oh, you can talk the talk, but in the end it just leads to a guilt trip.

And there’s nothing more cruel and mean than a religious spirit.

So why are young people leaving our churches in droves? Why are they “losing their religion,” if you will? Do you think it’s because they’re just rebellious and self-centered?Did the evil media and secular universities poison their young virgin minds?

Is it the dreaded “last days,” and these are the “signs of the times?”

Didn’t Paul warn us about these days? (1 Tim.4:1-2; 2 Tim.4:3-4).

Actually, he warned Timothy. So, it was true in his day too…

…you know, in the first century.

Could it be that young people are actually rejecting our divisive, fear-driven, condemning, manipulative, uncaring, judgmental, hypocritical, politicized religious facsimile that has been put forth as “being a good Christian” to them?

Just a thought…

Jesus warned His disciples against the “leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15).  This “leaven” is the religious spirit and political spirit. Both are driven by fear instead of love.

Because the life that Jesus and the New Testament writers gave us is about sonship–about truly amazing grace, radical acceptance—the unending power of freedom found in the Father’s unconditional love. It’s about living life from His embrace. As Leif Hetland would say, it’s about seeing everything through Heaven’s eyes.

It’s about our life in Christ. We died and our life is in Him (Gal.2:20; Col.3:3). We now draw our life from Him (John 15:1-5).

There is no other authentic version of Christianity. We just thought there was.

You see, there was never a more fundamentalist, rule-keeping, Temple attending, Bible studying, spiritual disciplining people on God’s earth than the Scribes and Pharisees. They tithed, they fasted twice a week, they followed every jot and tittle, they were always in “God’s House” whenever the doors were open.

And they looked down on anyone who didn’t.

And they were the same “faithful” who had Jesus crucified.

Actually, this makes me wonder how many “Wolf in sheep’s clothing, false prophet, heretic” blogs that Jesus would be the subject of today if He were walking on the earth.

After all, He made wine at weddings, went contrary to the accepted religion of His day, hung out with the scum of the earth, and showed grace and compassion to harlots and down right evil people.

Selah.

It reminds me of another charge Jesus laid on the Pharisees, that they honor the prophets of the past with tombs but surely would’ve stoned them if they were alive in their day (Matt.23:29-30).

That pharisaical spirit is no different today, venerating our history, the revivals and reformers of the past, but condemning the current moves of God with equal passion.

Maybe that “old time religion” wasn’t that good for aunt Tilly and grandpa Moses, nor did it give them the life of freedom Jesus paid for. Maybe our young people today see that it won’t give them life either.

Maybe losing our religion is a good thing.

Maybe our children aren’t running away from God, maybe they’re waking up and running to Him.

“Oh no, I’ve said too much, I haven’t said enough…
That’s me in the corner,
That’s me in the spotlight,
losing my religion.”

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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38 Responses to A generation losing their religion

  1. kyliejlowe says:

    “Could it be that young people are actually rejecting our divisive, fear-driven, condemning, manipulative, uncaring, judgmental, hypocritical, politicized religious facsimile that has been put forth as ‘being a good Christian’ to them?” It could be! 🙂

    “Maybe our children aren’t running away from God, maybe they’re waking up and running to Him.” Absolutely! That is how I feel. For me, leaving fundamentalism has really been a journey of trying to learn about who God is for real.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Kylie. I really appreciate your insights. It was my three sons, who are now in their late 20’s and early 30’s, who first taught me to see this. They weren’t rejecting God or Christianity, they were rejecting our divisive, fear-driven, right-wing version of it. And I’ve heard your story echoed by so many other’s your age over the years since. Well, I for one, am SO thankful that God opened my eyes and led me out of my orphan-hearted religious bondage into His unfathomable love and grace. In my 35 years as a Christian, and as a leader over half of that time, I’ve experienced “churchianity” and I’ve experienced freedom. Freedom is MUCH better! Blessings to you. 🙂

    • kyliejlowe says:

      You’re welcome. I’m in the process of finding freedom, I’d like to think…definitely better! 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yup, you’re in a good place. And you’ve got a good Papa who will see you through it. 🙂

  2. GREAT post, Mel. And it’s not only the younger generation losing their religion. Many of us are using our own blogs to remind our brothers and sisters in Christ about what really matters. The heart of Jesus. His heart is what gave us his two commands to love God and love our neighbor, out of which will flow our obedience to him, our desire to follow him, and our willingness to embrace the narrow path.

  3. N. says:

    Hello! Um, is it true that everything God the Father has, we have also? What exactly does that entail? Im asking because it just seems to incredible to comprehend to be honest…lovely blog!! 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s a great question. The quick answer is YES! YES! YES!

      Actually, I did a whole series on this at my church and will be writing two posts next week about this very thing–one on what’s available to us in Christ, the other on why there seems to be a disconnect in our daily life experience. I will give you some Scripture references, with links you can click on, and briefly summarize here.

      First, as believers, we’ve been placed IN Christ, His life is our life now (Rom.6:3-14; Gal.2:20; Col.3:3). By His divine power, everything has been given us. We are now “partakers in the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:3-4). It was His Father’s “good pleasure” give us the Kingdom (Luke 11:32). We have the same fullness in us that fills God (Col.2:9-10 AMP). And we access everything by faith (Rom.5:2; Eph.3:12).

      And what it looks like is knowing you’re unconditionally loved, accepted, you have total peace of mind, fullness of joy, security, freedom from fear. He is your provider, protector, your victory over every seemingly insurmountable challenge you may face. He is our comfort and we will never ever be alone again, rejected or abandoned ever again. We have been chosen by God! It feels like finally living for the first time, being full of love and compassion for others. Being free from shame and condemnation. Being glad to be alive and fully satisfied with who you are. It means rest, which is the end of striving for significance and acceptance. It means finding out that you have a home, that Jesus’ Father is your Father. And everything He is, you are in this world now (1 John 4:17), because you are in Him. You find your purpose and the deepest desires of your heart are unlocked in Him. It’s God’s will that you find these things, for in Him are all the treasures and knowledge hidden (Col.2:2-3). And this is just the beginning!

      I hope that gives you a glimpse of what I’m talking about. He said if we seek Him by faith and believe that He is a rewarder of those who believe Him, we will find Him. Blessings to you. You are dearly loved.

    • N. says:

      Ah! I’ll be waiting for your posts next week cus I really wanna know the nitty gritty details about this lol

    • naggie007 says:

      Amen and amen and amen … Thanks Mel for the reminder, it is exactly what I needed to read!! 😊
      Can’t wait to read the posts next week.
      May God continue to remove the veils that keep His children blind to freedom, that we may then begin to share truth as we discover the hidden treasure ourselves. Thank you Lord!
      Bless you friend.

    • Mel Wild says:

      You’re welcome, and your comments are much appreciated. Yes, we ALL need lots of reminding. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is really good at that, too. 🙂 Blessings to you too.

  4. TK says:

    I love everything about this post. As a 20-something myself, I can tell you that this is the exact reason why I left the church (which is not the same thing as losing faith in Divinity). I just can’t deal with all the judgement and how people are looked down upon. In addition, I have my only relationship with Divinity, but there are plenty of people who would disagree with some of the things that I believe. They would throw me out instead of welcoming on what should be a journey and spirituality. I will continue to grow. The opinions I hold today I might not hold tomorrow. That should be okay. I should be able to ask questions fearlessly and come to my own answers.

    My biggest problem with most religions is that they stop people from asking questions and learning. I was doing my best to stay out of a discussion at work about evolution vs. creationism. One of the believers in creationism asked “What came first, the chicken or the egg? Obviously, God created the chicken and that’s how the world was made.”

    This argument just astounds me. Anything we don’t know the answer to we just say ‘God did it.’ Nothing in you wants to test and explore this vast world to find the answer (there is a real answer, after all). I’m not here to argue this theory though. I just want to point out that so many people just stop. They have all their answers and don’t need to ask any questions. How would we have electricity, or cars, or hospitals if we didn’t ask questions of our world? How would we have traveled through space or made any progress without asking questions of our world. None of those questions disprove God.

    I’m getting a little too passionate here… you can tell this is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to the church. Faith in God and God’s plan is fine, but that does not mean the answer to everything in the world you don’t understand is divine intervention.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen, TK. You keep passionately asking your questions and seeking. God loves that. It starts with trusting in a good God and we believe from our heart, not our intellect. But science is just the endless discovery of God’s amazing world. It’s not the enemy of our faith, it’s just been the enemy of our narrow-mindedness and myopic view of the world around us.

      On the “creation vs. evolution” note, you would probably benefit from Dr. Hugh Ross, a Christian astrophysicist. His web site is http://www.reasons.org. I’ve talked to a lot who get stuck on evolution and have liked what he has to say.

      I believe Papa God is smiling over you right now. He’s very proud of your desire for truth, and you will find it in Him. Blessings.

    • TK says:

      The way I see it, what we learn about how the universe came to be is all just remnants of God’s creation. It’s like looking a brand new computer. You can find the source of all the parts and packaging. You can find out how it was synthesized and put together. You can go back far enough to see how the idea of that computer came to be and how it evolved into a product. Not one of these things will ever prove that the person where the idea for that computer originated doesn’t exist, even if you never find that exact person.

      Re-reading that, I’m not sure if it makes sense. Clearly I don’t understand everything yet. I just remember being in Chemistry class in high school and learning about the Periodic Table. We learned about it’s history and how we knew the properties of certain elements before we ever discovered them because of the science/math/logic behind the organization of the table. It’s not something that is random… it makes sense. I remember think at the time “it’s like this was planned.”

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen. We’re not always fully able to understand revelation, so I understand the frustration of trying to explain it. 🙂

      What you said about knowing the parts doesn’t disprove the inventors existence reminds of someone who once said (might’ve been C.S. Lewis) something to the affect that just because Hamlet can search His whole house from basement to attic and not find Shakespeare doesn’t mean Shakespeare doesn’t exist. 🙂

  5. Kathleen says:

    Mel, again your writing makes me think more deeply into what I’m reading in Scripture and see the connection with my life! I was reading Acts 10-12, then read your post. Could it be that God was calling Peter to ‘lose his religion’ and minister to others? I think back on my own life, while being a Christian from a young age, God called me to lose the relationship with my parents for a few years and step away from the church for a year in order to lose my religion and build a relationship with Him alone. As a mom, I have to now trust in God’s character and His faithfulness when my kids aren’t ‘practicing religion’ the way I want them to, and prayerfully know that He is drawing them into relationship with Himself- to the glory of God! Thank you for such a hope-filled post!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Kathleen, and yes, talk about shift! Peter had to go from the established, tried an true Mosaic Covenant to this radical and strange new doctrine coming from a Man who seemed to come out of nowhere. He had no earthly authority or pedigree. But what He did have was a life lived from the Father’s embrace, He had God’s love and the reality of the Kingdom. And this changed everything!

      And as a parent, it is very hard, so I hear you! But I know you’ve diligently put the seeds of faith in your children. They will bear much fruit. We just need not worry if they grow up differently than us, think differently, or that it takes several stages to get them where they find God’s purpose for their life. The Kingdom is always advancing, even though the Word of God never changes.

      Our job as mothers and fathers (both natural and spiritual) is to nurture the life of God in those in our care, to raise them up in the way THEY should go, maybe not the way we would go. To unconditionally love them, encourage and stand alongside them…to always be FOR them and be their biggest cheerleader. To be there if and when they fall and help them back up. To remind them that they are royalty in God’s eyes. Because that’s how our heavenly Father is with us. He’s not afraid of our questions or mistakes and fumbling’s. He knows what He’s doing. And remember, love covers a multitude of sins–both of the parents and of the children! And God’s will is that our ceiling will just be their floor. 🙂

  6. marklhen says:

    Great post, Mel! Sobering wake up call to the traditional classical-style church. Not meeting the felt needs… and the gnawing desire for a more relevant relationship with God. God’s looking for brave pioneers who are free from fear of man enough to explore free new expressions and styles of church. And at the same time carry an infectious ‘fever’ of passionate relationship with God.

    A great book with convincing empirical evidence, that validates this exit from church by hearts desperate for more in God, is Megashift by James Rutz.

  7. @ marklhen. MegaShift is a great book. V funny. Especially the table of comparisons between organised church versus simple church. I do believe in church – even organised church btw – but only when Holy Spirit is allowed free reign & it’s not boring.

    Great Post again, Mel. The common issue with ‘bad’ religion is the need to be right. We need to lay down the right to be right, and build relationships with people.

    True religion is taking care of orphans and widows. That’s what we should be aiming for. Isaiah 58, the Lord’s chosen fast. God never wanted a religion, the Law was not even God’s idea. He wanted all Israel to come up the mountain and be a prophet / priest – -but the people asked for the religious rule book instead.

    The reason why people are leaving the churches is because 70% of them are not full of Holy Spirit as they think they are. It is the same problem that Paul saw when he came to Corinth. I am absolutely convinced of this.

    @TK. Not sure if you know, but science has actually proved (about 5 years ago) that the chicken did indeed come before the egg. It is a scientific fact. Science will ultimately prove the existence of God, if we had the time to take it to it’s n’th degree.

    Peace all y’all

    Agape

    http://metro.co.uk/2010/07/13/the-chicken-came-first-not-the-egg-scientists-prove-447738/

    • Mel Wild says:

      “The common issue with ‘bad’ religion is the need to be right. We need to lay down the right to be right, and build relationships with people.” Amen! You are spot-on here!

      “The reason why people are leaving the churches is because 70% of them are not full of Holy Spirit as they think they are. It is the same problem that Paul saw when he came to Corinth. I am absolutely convinced of this. ” I couldn’t agree more! 🙂

      “Science will ultimately prove the existence of God, if we had the time to take it to it’s n’th degree.” Agreed again. In fact, I think Quantum physics actually believes in the supernatural (non-local dimensions) more than most Christians! Great book by Phil Mason called, “Quantum Glory.” I refered to his book in another post. He does a great job of explaining the connection between the supernatural Kingdom of God and quantum science in laymen’s terms.

      Great comments. Much appreciated. Blessings.

  8. “And God’s will is that our ceiling will just be their floor.” Truth.

    The anointing is supposed to double with every generation, Mel. And son-ship is the key to this. We see this in the life of Elisha.

    When Elijah was taken up in the whirlwind, the first words out of Elisha’s mouth were, My Father My Father! It shows that ELisha had the heart of a son towards Elijah.

    Since, Elisha was a ‘son’ to Elijah, it was for that reason alone that he inherited the double portion anointing. Jewish Law says that the eldest son obtains the double.

    IF we also think about the first thing that Elisha did when he received the mantle – he split the Jordan in two just like Elijah. This was a manifestation of the son can only do what he sees his father doing. Yeah, Elisha had the heart of son-ship – and that’s how he got the double. And so it should be for us.

    The anointing is ALWAYS generational, flowing from fathers to sons. The Lord only anointed Aaron, he did not anoint his sons. That’s again because the anointing should flow down the generations, and increase / double from generation to generation. My ceiling should be my sons floor. Absolutely.

    Lovin’ ya’ll.

    Agape.

  9. @TK. Hey, your observation that your beliefs evolve is spot on. Many church people get entrenched in their dogma, and refuse to budge. It’s better to be open minded, as revelation unfolds.

    Many Christians think they have god all figured out – but i’m afraid they would be really wrong. It is IMPOSSIBLE for example to fully know the word of God. Any religious person will always say how well they know it. But if they truly did, they would be humbled by the understanding that the more you know, the more there still is to know. The word – indeed everything about God – is a book of revelation. It’s impossible to know it all, as it just keeps getting deeper.

    On Science: In general, although scientists fall out with theologians, I think science and theology are good friends. Grant Jeffrey has some good stuff on creationism too. But go with what Mel is saying.

    Keep on keeping on TK. Father gave you a brain – and he wants you to ask questions. It’s the Glory of god to conceal a matter, and your honour to search the matter out. The journey is the goal. The key is to based it all on relationship. The man with an argument is at the mercy of the man with an encounter.

    Blessings.
    Agape.

  10. Jesus came to abolish religion – the wrong type of religion. See attached video, if you’ve not seen this before. It is quite famous.

    http://agape-revolution.com/2013/07/12/spoken-word-why-i-hate-religion/

  11. LightWriters says:

    Losing ‘religion’ can’t hurt if instead it means seeing our children and younger generation led into a true living relationship with JESUS. In His incredible love, I believe the Lord has already heard the cry of this generation, and has gone in search of them…like the ‘one lost lamb’… Thank you for this inspiring post. (Ezekiel 34: 22-30)

    • Mel Wild says:

      You’re welcome and thanks for your comments. I agree. And I also think God is also raising up spiritual fathers and mothers who will reach out to this generation and bring them into our Father’s house. These are actually exciting times if we will let go of those things that aren’t the Kingdom and embrace what God IS doing in this generation. Blessings.

    • LightWriters says:

      Yes! The Lord is working to will and to do according to His good pleasure that which He planned before the foundations of the earth, and through His spiritual family!. So exciting to hear the vision He is raising up for this generation, and so glad to hear you share it!

  12. Cindy Powell says:

    “Maybe our children aren’t running away from God, maybe they’re waking up and running to Him” I’ve had this same thought (hope, prayer). Here’s to all of us losing our religion and finding our (true) life hidden in Christ! Great post. I’ve missed reading your posts while I’ve been gone!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks. And welcome back! I’m sure God ruined you, again, on your trip to SE Asia and has given you greater passion to make Him known. Look forward to the stories and insights. Blessings.

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