Why young people are leaving the evangelical Christian church.

What these well-written essays are talking about is nothing new.  The evangelical church has been image-obsessed for decades.  I’m not sure whether it’s envy or insecurity or some combination of both, but evangelical church leaders, especially youth leaders, are constantly competing with pop-culture.  This has been going on a long time, not just recently with millenials.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, where the culture is especially liberal in the metropolitan areas, it can get really bad.  I can’t count how many times I’ve winced or rolled my eyes watching youth leaders and pastors and worship bands bending over backwards trying to appeal to young people.  It can get downright embarrassing, especially if you happen to be on stage as part of the worship band and this stuff is going on.

Rock ‘n roll Christianity doesn’t work.  It doesn’t just not work, it’s embarrassing having to watch and even more embarrassing having to be a part of.  There’s nothing un-cooler than a person or group of people bending over backwards trying to be “cool”.  The essence of being “cool” is doing your own thing and not caring what people think about it.  Otherwise, it just comes off as phony pandering.  Being “cool” is about being independent, being free, saying what you want, doing what you want, and not caring or being afraid of rejection or of people not liking you.  For whatever reason, the evangelical church cannot seem to grasp this.  Or maybe they can, but they don’t know what else to do and so just continue on.  I’m speaking from years of first-hand experience on this.  This constant hand-wringing from pastors and church youth leaders over what they think people (especially young people) want to see and hear at church has go to stop or the evangelical church is going to be in serious trouble.  From what these articles are saying, it sounds like they already might be.

An excerpt:

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.

As someone who has been attending a Catholic church for the last 15 months, I can very much identify with those last two paragraphs.





3 responses to “Why young people are leaving the evangelical Christian church.

  1. Matthew, don’t know why there aren’t more comments here, but what your wrote and your observations here are just superb. It just absolutely hits the mark. I believe evangelicalism, like many things in our culture had its high point and golden ages. For evangelicalism, it was during the 70’s and 80’s, and decades before the 60’s revolution. Now that , that trend is obviously run its course. Christianity will return to churches that have resisted what was trendy, but were also able to adapt and reform.

    Not sure if you’ve ever attended a Trident Latin Mass in a Catholic Church, but it is truly timeless, not just in its Traditions, but for its true reverence to the sacrifice of our Lord, which is what Christian worship should really be about. God Bless.

    • Thank you Paul. I could write a part two about this and the celebrity culture that has risen up in the evangelical church (celebrity pastors, evangelists, youth pastors, etc.) and how much of a business the evangelical church has turned into. Maybe I will. The evangelical subculture has become so insular that I think they’re pretty indifferent to any kind of criticism even if its constructive.

      I will definitely keep your suggestion about a Trident Latin Mass in mind. That sounds great. 🙂

  2. Hi Matthew, yes keep me posted. I guess to be fair to our evangelical friends, the business aspect of the church can never totally be removed from the institution. The Church, our Church is an amazing money machine. I attend a small Parish, and wow it can really raise funds when it needs to. For me though I know where the money is going, so I’m cool with it. The neighboring building they built to house the elderly is a perfect example. Some elderly folks are able to live in a great apartment(almost new) for less than $300 month.

    I’ve attended the Ordinary Mass my whole life, but wow, when I first attended the Tridentine Latin Mass, it was mind boggling, it was like Catholic 101 and I could almost feel like a catecumen that went through the RCIA program. The whole mood is very different, and the liturgy is beautiful and timeless. You’ll see what I mean and remember this post if/when you ever get to attend. Take care, all the Blessings to you, your family and parish. Always keep the faith, always in Christ.

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