Okay, first I have to admit that I started reading this book thinking I would not like it. I cannot say that I agreed with every conclusion that the authors reached, but I do have to say that it was well researched and made a little bit of sense.
The authors surveyed 22,000 people from "evangelical" families who, in their 20's, have abandoned church for one reason or another. It then breaks the groups down into the ones who have said that one day they will return (probably when they have kids) and those that never plan to return. They asked a series of questions to determine why. Overwhelmingly, the answers leaned toward the lack of Biblical authority being taught in churches today. Children go to school and learn what science calls "fact" and then they go to church and learn "stories" of creation, floods, etc. It isn't hard to see why children cannot connect the two worlds. The authors contend that when you take the very first pages of scripture and say "This doesn't necessarily have to be taken literally", then you set children up to take what they want from scripture and leave the rest behind for the "fundamentalists." Why are we losing this battle? Well, I don't come to the EXACT same conclusions as the authors, but I personally think they are on the right track. Or maybe just the right part of the track. Or maybe just somewhere on the track.
I have to begin by saying where I depart from the author's point of view. The statement is made that there are "strong" Christian people who are leaving the fellowship for one reason or another. I have to say that I do not agree with this. Of the top 10 reasons the author lists for Christians leaving church, half of the reasons showed that the people were more concerned about relationships with people rather than coming to church to worship God. Reasons like: boring services, hypocritical people, legalism, too political, etc. A couple of the reasons had to do with distance from home. One of the reasons that floored me was "the Bible isn't relevant/practical" and "not relevant to personal growth." Really? And they are calling these people strong Christians? I am going to stick my neck out here and say this: if you find the Bible irrelevant or do not find fellowship with God's people important, then maybe you should ask yourself what salvation really means. Or better yet, have I truly made Jesus Christ LORD of my life? I would venture to say that the root problem is bad doctrine. If you attend a church where teens are leaving by the dozens and living worldly lifestyles, then maybe it is time to look at all-around doctrine....not just Genesis. Consider Romans 6:20 "In those days, you were slaves of sin, you weren't concerned with doing what was right." The days that Paul refers to are the days before our eyes were opened by the Spirit of God and we were freed from the bondage of sin. Paul calls believers "slaves to righteousness." How can we be followers of our Lord when we don't even find his teaching relevant? Scriptural authority should be a given to those of us who are justified by faith. God's Word should hold authority over our lives!
That being said, I do think that teaching the science behind creation is important to know. Not to "prove" to ourselves that God and science can co-exist. If we have faith in God we already know this to be true. The reason I believe that kids should have this knowledge has to do with the age we are living in. The author does make the point that we are no longer living in a society that values faith, but rather knowledge. I have seen over and over again in conversations with people, that society no longer believes that a person who holds a creation viewpoint can be knowledgeable about science. If our children are to go into the world and preach the gospel in this day and age, they are going to meet with some tough questions. Would it not be better for them to know how to answer them? I have often said that there is so much evidence out there for intelligent design that is consistently overlooked, and deliberately ignored. I have noticed that when I talk with unbelievers (especially those who are college educated) that the very first thing they attack these days is the Scriptural account of creation. These arguments are followed by "the Bible isn't meant to be taken literally..." The truth is, there is just as much (if not more) evidence out there that we were designed than evidence that we evolved.
One difference that the authors and I hold are WHO should be teaching this. They believe that our Sunday Schools have desperately failed, yet they believe that we should simply re-vamp the materials that we are using to teach. I tend to scratch my head at this, because I do not believe that it is the church's responsibility to give our children a "Christian education." I firmly believe that this is the parent's job! They do touch on this fact in the book, but in keeping with modern times, they do not hammer it home. They simply believe that fathers might shirk this responsibility (and most often they do) so we should leave it up to the Sunday school teachers. I am here to say this: churches NEED to encourage and equip parents to teach their children Scripture! Too often, we just say: well, some of these kids don't get this at home so we need to provide it here. They need to encourage, encourage, and keep encouraging until we wake up. We have so many great programs in our churches these days that we tend to think we can just drop our kids off at Sunday School and that is all the Christian education they need. That, my friends, is where we are losing them! Children not seeing authentic faith in their parents. Parents who do not find reading the Bible together with their families important. It is so easy to "disconnect" Scripture from daily life when our parents have done the same. It becomes abnormal to us to see a family sitting and reading the Bible together, and normal to see them sitting in front of a TV! We need to attack the notion of church being just a building where we come to worship! Families who worship together at home are families that model Biblical Christianity to their kids. We, the Body of Christ, are the church.
The book states that statistically Sunday School programs have been a big failure. Again, I agree. But I have to say the the BIGGEST problem that I see in churches today is a focus on programs to teach the flock rather than simply encouraging true Godly living within families. UGH. Okay, let me explain. I will begin with a quote from the book:
"In other words, an increasing level of activities did NOT predict an increase love for God. Church activity alone made NO direct impact on a growing heart....it was a flat line--and a stunning discovery for us."
That doesn't stun me. Seriously. Does it surprise you? We can be signed up for every program, attend Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening and still not be living it out in our homes. In a nutshell: we need to search our own hearts before we endeavor to make a difference in the hearts of our kids. I know that I fall short in worship in the home. I see that and want desperately to change it. My hearts desire is for my kids to walk in truth. I will repent of this and allow the Lord to change my heart. I cannot expect them to be what I am not.