6 Questions I’m Hearing Again from Young People Raised in Evangelical Churches

I heard these questions from young people in the 1980s, but they tended to die down (at least among young people in my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, who were then in the midst of our conservative resurgence). With no desire to use this post to enter into theological debates, I want to review some of the same questions I’m beginning to hear again—often, among college students raised in Christian homes.

  1. “How do I know the Bible is true?” Few young people I know are willing to accept their parent’s faith at face value. They respect the Bible, but that doesn’t mean they always accept it as truth.
  2. “If God is love, won’t He accept love in any relationship?” Some young folks accept the Bible’s description of God as love, but they turn to other sources to define that love. They thus broaden their definition beyond biblical parameters.
  3. “Does it really matter whether I go to church?” “If my faith is between me and God,” some say, “I don’t really need to be part of a church.” A spirit of individualism overshadows any sense of needing other believers as witnesses and encouragers.
  4. “Might there be more than one way to God?” Often raised among followers of other world faiths, many young people struggle understanding why God would judge their friends and classmates.
  5. “Who cares what denomination the church is?” The question is an honest one for a generation raised in local churches that often themselves exhibited little denominational connection or loyalty. 
  6. “How do I know if this whole ‘religion thing’ isn’t just manmade?” They hear that thinking from others at times, and few believers have taken the time to try to answer that question.

Maybe these questions aren’t so new after all. Perhaps they’re simply a reminder of an important truth for church leaders: just because we tried to answer the questions in one generation doesn’t mean they won’t come around again. And, if we aren’t willing to hear and tackle the questions, we’ll lose another generation.

What other questions are you hearing from young people? 

15 Comments

  • Hello Mr. Lawless,
    I would love for you to formulate a response for each of the questions above for us to share with those we come in contact with when we hear these questions. You have a gift for concise, yet meaningful answers that can be used during these discussions.

  • Mark says:

    I am a member of that age group although not Baptist but the questions are the same.
    My questions were:
    Why is leadership self-perpetuating?
    Why is nothing done to keep the younger people from being run off by older members?
    Why are the cliques not respectfully broken up?
    Why are the answers to questions dumb and short?
    In denominations, why are the people who may have run a church into the ground promoted to denominational leadership?
    If God is love, why are some in the congregation permitted to hate me?
    Why did no one with power speak up when the preacher condemned those of us younger than 22 to hell for the sins of others?
    I got in trouble for asking my mother one of the questions. Thus, I learned quickly never to ask any of the others.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks for the honesty, Mark. I’m grateful for your input.

    • Keith Gardner says:

      Mark, what sins of others were you condemned for by those leaders? I really am interested to know that, no animosity intended, really! As for the other things you mentioned, humans are humans and all too often Christians have been tricked into believing that forgiveness means pat them on the back, everything’s ok, no consequences. Thus, bad leaders are promoted beyond their level of competency.

      • Mark says:

        Having premarital sex, listening to rock and heavy metal music, males having long hair, males having an earring, lust, and dancing. Not everyone was doing everything on the list. Some were doing none of them but all were declared guilty. Now lust was deemed a horrible sin, but no one ever said that normal sex drive was not lust. I wondered why God would give me something and then send me to hell for having it.

    • Jim Watson says:

      It is difficult to answer questions in a specific way when they are asked in a general way. Most of your questions seem to stem from human beings acting like human beings. In fact, you even exhibit some of those characteristics yourself. And, I suspect, that there are emotional reasons for both your actions and the actions you decry.

      We are ALL sinners. And, in the absence of accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are ALL condemned to hell. It is not something a preacher does to us. It is not something God does to us. It is the default human condition.

      We need a Savior to escape hell. No one needs to send us there. We are already headed there all on our own. No one needs to condemn us. We are condemned already. And, we don’t have to do EVERYTHING wrong in a list. James 2:10 clearly tells us that, if we violate any part of the law, we are guilty of violating it all. One sin (any sin) condemns us to hell in the absence of salvation through Jesus Christ.

      I hope that you have now found those scriptural truths and received salvation from our Lord. If not, I encourage you to find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church in your community to help you on that journey.

      • Mark says:

        This was a group of baptized Christians to whom the preacher issued the condemnation. No, there was no (opportunity for) forgiveness or grace. I am very much aware of liturgical churches (some of which are rapidly growing) saying of the confession and being given absolution. The question for discussion though is “why isn’t there forgiveness in evangelical churches?”

        • Jim Watson says:

          There is certainly opportunity for forgiveness and grace. There is also the understanding that not everyone in a church is a true believer. There is an understanding that not all those who have been baptized are actually saved. And, of course, there is also the understanding that salvation is accompanied by repentance.

          Forgiveness and grace are gifts from God. He alone can give them perfectly. Human beings (even preachers) will never live up to the ideal. They, like the rest of us, are all fallen sinners. As such, they need to be afforded the same forgiveness and grace for themselves that you desire for yourself,

          Can you grant that to them?

          • Mark says:

            I forgave those who said it and condoned it. However, it did not help anyone who was on the receieving end and I don’t want it to happen to the next generation cause they will be out the door in an instant.

  • These are good question to ponder in our campus setting at NGU. We need to think through how we are answering them.

  • Mark says:

    I suggest you all talk to Dr. Patrick Mead. http://www.fourthavenue.church/about/staff/
    His blog over the years took on difficult questions from anonymous people like “Does God hate women?” and answered them in a way that was Biblical but would have gotten most preachers fired.

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