How do we as Christians be in the world and not of the world? Jesus said that it wasn’t going to be easy. “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:18-19 Jesus called us all to go out into the world and make disciples. He told us to tell our neighbors about Christ and he told us to be a city on a hill for him. Jesus called himself the light of the world and a light to the darkness and turned to his apostles and asked the same. How do we go to a fallen world and try to impact it for Christ when everything is calling us liars, hypocrites and cowards? We are labeled as judgmental and haters because of what we believe and because we know the truth. Should we expect anything less from a world that killed our Lord and Savior? However, even though this world is clearly going to hate us, we are still commanded to stay in it or else we would have been raptured upon the moment of salvation. It’s been sort of the paradigm for the church people to stay with the church people and form our own little bubbles together. Sure we send out missionaries from time to time because we don’t want to do all the hard work ourselves but it’s far easier to just stay with Christians so we are “tempted” to do bad things. Does this philosophy fit into a lot of mainstream, dare I say, conservative churches today? This sort of worldview has formed a great deal of complacency in the church and unfortunately, apostasy as well, not to mention all of the “fake” Christians we see so often in our churches. So, how does this relate to worldliness and how we interact with everyone else and all of those “unsaved heathen folk”? Everything! The paradigm and philosophy our churches today use when addressing the “world” is exactly why we are having problems living within it and are more and more becoming like it then becoming like Christ.
Let’s talk numbers for just a minute because numbers don’t lie, or so the saying goes. According to research done by, focus on the family, Josh McDowell and partners, Barna, Campus Crusade and others, there are staggering statistics that show a growing apostasy and complacency within the church. I am going to leave the “unsaved” people out of the equation for a bit because the “church” itself needs to be addressed first. The church has a problem. The problem, in short; we’re not teaching the Bible! Unfortunately, this is a relatively new concept too! Before the nineteen hundreds Christians in America would have been considered the majority, plain and simple. If you didn’t go to church on Sunday it was because you were dead. Almost all the court judges and legislature would have said this country was a Christian country based on the principles of God! Hey, we used to teach that in schools too! Where’d that go I wonder? Now, we have this whole idea of pluralism in our churches and government, this whole idea of relative truth and skepticism. How did this happen? Two ways. One, the church of the last century didn’t fight back against the governmental changes and moral changes taking place in America. Two, they didn’t teach their kids to do the same. Now things are getting worse and this generation is showing more reason for concern than any generation prior. The youth of this generation of falling away from the church at an astounding rate and it seems like we are just sitting by and letting it happen. We tell ourselves that they will come back in the end anyway. Wrong. Let’s throw out some numbers about these church kids.
Let’s destroy the myth about youth coming back to the church if they leave it during their college and high school years. Studies by Campus Crusade show that 80% of all people saved come to Christ before the age of eighteen. This means that only 20% come to Christ after this point. So, let’s say a teenager leaves the church when he is sixteen without ever accepting Christ. He is 80% likely to never accept Christ. So, let’s ask ourselves why the youth of the church are leaving and why we are becoming more like the world than we should. According to Barna, there are six top reasons that young adults and teenagers are leaving the church. Churches seem overprotective, Christianity seems shallow, churches seem antagonistic to science, church experiences related to sexuality seem simplistic and judgmental, Christianity is too exclusive, and the church seems unfriendly to those in doubt. Another staggering statistic would be that 84% of Christian 18-24 year olds have no idea how the Bible applies to their field of professional study. A couple of interesting similarities jump out here. It would seem as though the church isn’t making the Bible real enough for Christians. This would fall on pastors and leaders more than anything. Secondly, the church is being so judgmental and conservative minded about certain issues that it is stifling growth. Some might say that the church is teaching the Bible well enough and that the youth aren’t really going all that wrong in churches today. I would say to look at your youth groups and tell me if you really think that’s true but I have statistics too.
According to Josh McDowell and associates America, (We’ll get to the church in a minute) has been decreasing in Biblical knowledge for several decades. In 1991, 52% percent of America believed there was no absolute truth. That’s not too bad. In 2003 though, the numbers jumped to a ridiculous 91% believing in no absolute truth! You can blame relativism for that one. That’s just ten years and the statistics jumped forty percent! In 1995, 10% of Americans believed the Bible was the absolute infallible word of God and in 2002, 4%. The statistics aren’t exactly in the favor of a Christian nation. Still losing this in the world and not of the world fight from these statistics. Let’s talk about the church and young adults. 63% of young adults don’t believe that Jesus was really the son of God. Um…. 58% believe in relative truth and that all truths are valid. 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. I’m pretty sure there’s a verse in 1st Corinthians 15 that’s pretty clear about the importance of that one. 65% percent don’t believe Satan is real. After all, Satan’s greatest deceit is to make us believe that he doesn’t exist. 68% don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. Now, how exactly are we supposed to be a city on a hill and salt and light to the world if we don’t believe that the very source of our power in Christ even exists in the first place? 64% believe that if a person is generally good then they go to heaven. Um, shall I site Ephesians 2:8-9? I shall. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no man can boast.” This is what the youth, essentially, my generation believes doctrinally and about the Bible. It’s no surprise that people are falling away. This then begs to ask the question why? Why are the contemporary youth struggling so much? Why is the church failing at raising up its children in the way they should go?
I would like to stop here and say that this is not “all” the church’s’ fault. It’s not like contemporary culture is making this whole, raising children thing any easier. The peer pressure and temptation for youth is greater now than it has been ever before. The amount of technology at our disposal and the amount of information at our fingertips makes things so much easier. Pornography is rampant; sexuality is pushed more through media sources now than ever before. Negative cultural trends are looked upon as cool and there is a greater and greater pull for people to see Christians as the “weirdos”. It’s not like past generations didn’t have these problems but they have just been intensified in the past several decade. In the forties and fifties problems in school included chewing gum and talking but in the nineties rape and murder were much more prevalent. So, let’s not blame everything on the church. The world is enticing. The church though, doesn’t seem to be so enticing.
Young adults are leaving the church for six main reasons that can really be narrowed down to two. The church isn’t making the Bible real and relevant and the church is too judgmental. Let’s start with the relevancy of the Bible. I understand that the Bible is timeless and the words of truth transcend time. However, people aren’t seeing that because of the emphasis put on all the “old” traditions and similar stories. The more I sit back and watch the more I notice less and less emphasis put on doctrine and more on entertainment. Some of the statistics of the youth can only be real because the church hasn’t done the job of teaching doctrine or because the schools and the world has done a better job teaching whatever else the world teaches. So then you get the Christians that don’t really understand the Bible and what it really teaches. You get young Christians that should be old and ones that are still drinking milk when they need to be eating meat. You get the hypocritical Christians that talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Shame. The church being judgmental is probably one of the gravest issues I can see. Honestly, I know that sin is sin and that at some point the church should condemn sin; however that seems to be all the church does. I would like to refer to Scripture for an example before I show some statistics. I look back to 1st Corinthians five when Paul addresses the man having an affair with his mother in law. Well, the church condemns the man and casts him out of the church, which if the man doesn’t repent, is just action. However, in 2nd Corinthians Paul addresses the same issue because the church didn’t all the man, who had repented at this point, back into the church! This sounds so familiar to what I see in churches today. They back away from anyone that is “sinful” or having problems instead of exhorting them and helping them get back on track in their walk with Christ. It’s like so many Christians have this holier than thou ideology and that if they get too close to the “sinner” they might catch the disease. No! We are to pick our fallen brother up and love him back to Christ and help him, not cast him to the street and leave him there! On to statistics.
23% percent of adults 18-29 year olds say that the church demonizes everything outside the church. 22% percent say that the church is too focused on the evils of video games, movies and music than anything else. 30% of contemporaries say that church is boring and another 25% say that their “church experience” lacked God. 29% say that the church is afraid of other beliefs and faiths and 22% percent said that the church is too much like a country club, only for the insiders. Another 36% percent said that they were afraid to talk about their doubts of faith in church. 40% said that the churches’ teaching on birth control and sexuality is outdated.
So let’s look at this for just a moment. I don’t think anyone could deny that the church is taking a lot of time looking at video games, music and movies as an evil. That music is the devil’s music! Or so the saying goes. One third of the people polled say that that church is boring and that it lacked a certain God feeling. I can sort of attest to this because often I sit and church and look around during worship and see solemn faces and vacant expressions. Alright people, the Israelites praised God for 30 days straight in the wilderness and we can’t do it for thirty minutes. Another third said that the church was too afraid of other beliefs and faiths. Now, I do think the church needs to take a stand on “Jesus is the only way to heaven” idea cause it’s the truth, but I also think we need to be familiar with other beliefs so we aren’t ignorant of other people. Probably one of the saddest things in the church today is their ignorance. The church seems to do a good job in keeping to themselves and making a good point to keep in tradition and the cultures that it sets for itself. This probably wouldn’t be a bad thing if the devil took the same approach too. However, the devil figures out how to hurt us, how to make us go apostate. If we try to say that the church doesn’t need to do something different to keep its members then we fool ourselves. I cannot help but stress the fact that we are losing the battle. Worldliness is slipping into our churches and pulling out our youth. I cannot help but think that this is because the “world” is more appealing than the church. The church is starting to look just like the world and it’s turning everyone away because they say, “If that is what a Christian is then why do I want a part of that?” The reason the church was so contagious in the first century was because it was so much different than anything that had been conceived before. The apostles had the signs and wonders, the testimony of Jesus and the Holy Spirit changed people’s lives. It wasn’t until after Christianity was ruled the official religion of Rome than the apostasy of all the other religions filtered into the church. Another subject for another time though.
So, it’s clear that worldliness is an issue, especially in our churches and in our youth? There is starting to become less and less distinction between the two. The world sees rules and regulations, as does our youth when they should see freedom in Christ. I can’t help but think that there are four main reasons we are becoming more of the world than Jesus commanded. One, the church has stopped teaching good doctrine. Enough of this charity gospel stuff and this it’s all fun under the Son ideology. We need to get back to the basis of Scripture that teaches Jesus as Lord and Savior. Two, we need a good apologetic. Churches aren’t taking time to go through and explain why the Bible is the Bible and why it is inerrant and infallible. I’ve heard it said that we need to take it on faith but faith is the evidence of things not seen and we have plenty to see that proves the Bible true. Where are the lessons on truth and the issues that are the most pressing in the world today? The church needs to stop being afraid to address the “hard” issues that might make a few people cringe in their seats. Thirdly, the church needs to stop being so negative. Statistics show that people are afraid of the church because of being judged. They feel as though if they make one wrong step they will be excommunicated. The church looks at so many things with such a negative outlook. Ever heard a sermon on sex or music? Sex is evil and music is the devil. Why doesn’t the church talk about the beauty of sex within the proper context or the beauty of music? God made both of them and they both glorify him when done right. Still, too much negativity is given to the “problems” of society and we steer away from it so much that it makes the church look “holier than thou” and rules regulated. The contemporary youth don’t have any interest in that sort of thing and so they become of the world. Fourthly, the church needs to get excited again. Where is the love and fervor for Jesus Christ that you saw in the church during the first century? Where is the excitement and the joy of the Lord? Rejoice in the Lord and again I say Rejoice! Why aren’t we dancing in the streets like David? (Can’t do it naked anymore though…) Why are we told to not raise our hands or why are we told to solemnly stand in reverence? Where is the joy, where is the jumping, the gladness? God has redeemed us from the curse of the law! Jesus has set you free from sin! That should get you excited! If we would just live with that excitement people would see that we were different, people would wonder why. We want them to wonder why! We’re supposed to be a city on a hill and we do that by praising the one you made the hill.
So, how do we live in the world and not be of the world? We love on another. Churches become places of safety. We teach our children how to defend their faith and teach them to know why they believe what they believe. We embrace change and cling to the transcendence of the Bible. We become the city on a hill and the salt and light of the world God called us to be. People will come. We may be in the world, but we are also IN CHRIST!