This information is not meant to discourage you; quite the opposite is my intent. We need to see it, take it to heart and allow it to re-energize and motivate us to renew our focus upon being faithful to hand down the faith to our children and grandchildren. Just because the stats are heartbreaking - and they are, it does not mean we should give up. No! Not at all; as grandparents we are still the second most influential people in the lives of our grandchildren and as parents we are the most influential people in the lives of our children. We are able to make a difference - we just need to choose to not be defeated and to stop saying we don't know what to do to hand down the faith. Then buckle down, equip ourselves and be intentional when it comes to handing down the faith.
So, for some information from the Barna Group. "In recent reports, Barna (and other researchers) have noted Christianity is on a steady decline, while Americans’ identification with atheism continues to increase. Barna tracking data shows in 2003, just a little over one in 10 Americans claimed to be atheist, agnostic or of no religion (“none”) (11%), while over eight in 10 identified as Christian (across Barna’s faith segments, this included 7% evangelicals, 33% non-evangelical born again and 41% nominal Christians) and less than one in 10 affiliated with other faiths (8%). Percentage points for all religious segments saw little to no shift over a decade, from 2003 to 2012—but by 2018, Christianity in the United States had witnessed a significant loss of followers, from 81 percent in 2003 to 72 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, the atheist / agnostic / none segment has seen the greatest increase of all groups analyzed, nearly doubling in size from 11 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2018. So, what is leading Americans to shy away from not only Christianity but other religions as well?
Barna has identified a number of trends which might attribute to this move toward secularization, which may spark concern for the spiritual well-being of the next generation. Among young adults, Gen Z teens are much less likely to assert religious identity than generations before them; some of the rise in atheism could be attributed to Gen Z entering adulthood, and the fact they are, thus far, significantly more likely than older generations to claim no faith. Additionally, faith-sharing is falling out of favor with younger adults, even religious ones; almost half of practicing Christian Millennials (47%) believe evangelism is wrong."
There is a lot of information in there for us to think about, but the thing which strikes me the most is how there is such a large rise in atheism while there is an increasing decrease in the number of people (in particular young people) who claim a relationship with Jesus. I see this in my own family/extended family as I have family and extended family members who claim to be atheists and others who identify themselves as agnostics.
Certainly we want our children and grandchildren to be people who believe in God and trust His Word, we want to one day spend eternity with them, we want them to know the joy, peace and love God has for them in their lives now; we want them to believe. However; we are not able to make them believe - they have to make this choice for themselves - but knowing this does not mean there is nothing for us to do to hand down the faith, or our efforts to do so are in vain.
For those of us who have family/extended family who do not believe - or who once did, but have fallen away - we need to look at these statistics and know we are not alone. We may look at families at church - families of our friends and family and see people with generations of family who are making the choice to believe and walk with God. While we rejoice for them, we may feel like failures - we may feel like we did not succeed at handing down the faith to our own children, so how are we ever able to make a difference with our grandchildren?
Many things go into the choices our children/grandchildren may be making to not believe or walk with God - sometimes they are hurt by others, sometimes they look at the hypocrisy in the church - and yes there is hypocrisy in the church - and want nothing to do with it. Plus, remember the quote I shared from Charles Spurgeon yesterday; "Whether we teach young Christians truth or not, the devil will be sure to teach them error." Many of our children and grandchildren have been influenced by teachers and friends who do not believe.
There are many reasons the ones we love may stumble in their faith, wander from the church and make the choice to not believe, but this does not mean we are unable to do anything about it. Consider the following actions we are able to take . . .
- Continue to live a life which shows our faith is real. Make sure our walk matches our talk . . . and have a serious conversation where you apologize if you see there is a gap between your walk and your talk.
- Continue to be a faithful prayer warrior for the ones you love. God has promised to hear, listen to and answer our prayers - do not stop praying until the answer comes.
- Do not judge. Be the person upon whom the ones you love are able to depend for unconditional love. When opportunities present themselves - times when the ones you love ask questions or are willing to listen - share the truth, but always do so with grace and gentleness. Don't get in the way of what God is doing to draw them back to Him.
- Allow your joy to show - when God answers a prayer or works in your life, share it, but then move on unless they want to talk about it.