Pray for 2 Youth: Day 23 of the Pray-May Challenge

Here’s the stark truth: many youth, though they grew up in vibrant Christian churches, drop church and stop following Jesus after graduating high school. We are deeply concerned about this trend.

Many capable people are asking why, and are digging into this alarming drop-off. James Penner, a former colleague of mine from IVCF, has conducted a Canada-wide study on the relationship of Canadian youth to church in the ground-breaking study Hemorrhaging Faith.  Kara Powell, from the Fuller Youth Institute, is leading the way on how churches and families can help faith to become more “sticky” in the lives of our youth, and she identifies six crucial elements in this article, which then morphed into her important book Sticky Faith, co-authored with Chap Clark.

Today I ask you to pray for youth. In particular, I would ask you to identify and pray for two teenagers outside of your immediate family.
  1. After identifying two youth by name, would you pray a blessing upon them? Pray that they would experience God’s favour and grace in their lives–family, church, work, school, and relationships. Pray as the Spirit leads you.
  2. Kara Powell mentions 6 key components to a faith that sticks. One crucial element is that youth are connected to at least five caring adults. Would you pray for those connections? Pray that these youth would have caring adults in their lives–adults who will talk to them about their own faith journey, encouraging them to express their doubts and sharing with them about the grace of Jesus which is greater than any failure. Pray that they will have vibrant, Christian adults who will talk to them about life following Jesus after high school. Pray, pray, pray for these connections, and as you do, be open to how the Holy Spirit may be inviting you to be one of those caring adults.
  3. Take a prayer of Paul’s, as we outlined in Day 2 of our prayer challenge, and pray this prayer over the lives of these youth. Pray that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened, that they would know how deep and high and wide and long Jesus’ love is for them, and that they would be drawn more deeply into his life.

Thank you for praying. As the father of two teenage boys and the pastor of a church with many more teenagers, my heart longs for each one to become fully committed followers of Jesus who experience God’s life-changing love and purpose for a lifetime.

Our youth matter. Let’s pray, and let’s keep on praying. I challenge you to post the names of these two youth you’ve prayed for today, and keep praying for them. Pray for them for a month, and then ask: What more, Lord? How can I encourage this young man or woman in their faith? How can I be part of how you will grow them up spiritually strong? And keep praying!!

My prayer today: Father, we love our youth, and ask that you would pour out your Holy Spirit on them today. We ask that you would create in them a deep longing for you, and a tenacity to follow Jesus whole-heartedly. And give us your vision for them. Inspire us and challenge us in how we are part of the answer to our own prayers. Move us into ministry, as we become part of the caring team of adults who support and mentor and cheer and listen to these youth of yours. For the sake of your people, we pray. Amen. 

Want to know more?

Going further than the links I’ve already provided above, you could also listen to two different conversations with Kara Powell on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Super encouraging and inspiring.

I’d also suggest you read James Emery White’s latest book Generation Z. (And you can catch his mind-blowing insight, again with Carey Nieuwhof, here.)

10 Reasons People Turn Away From Faith in Jesus

I find stories of faith-change fascinating. What leads a Muslim to forsake his family’s faith? How does an Orthodox Jewish girl move away from the only belief she’s ever known? Why does a devout Mormon family switch allegiances? It is so amazing to witness their struggle, to feel the tearing of their hearts, and to see (in some) the dawning of a new faith.

Having said that, forsaking faith sends shock waves through those left behind. When the famed evangelist (and associate of Billy Graham) Charles Templeton forsook Christianity and embraced atheism, Christians reeled. Whether it’s on a larger stage or within our own friendships and families, people leaving faith creates a struggle for understanding. How could this happen?

Why do people who’ve have faithfully followed Jesus sometimes turn away? 

Walking AwayIn a recent message I shared with the Erickson Covenant Church, I explored 10 reasons people have walked away from Jesus. They were either the primary reasons, or they created the conditions which resulted in them walking away.

10 Reasons People Turn Away From Jesus

  1. Disgust in other Christians. People who have been hurt by other Christians will often pull back, feeling betrayed and stung by the hypocrisy they’ve experienced. Whether through church division or personal conflicts, people can question the validity of the Christian faith when Jesus followers seem less Christian than those outside the church.
  2. Disappointment with God. When God doesn’t seem to be hearing me or answering my prayers, disappointment can set in. Often this is due to unrealistic and untrue expectations of what God was going to do in the first place, but it also can happen when God seems silent and unresponsive. Are you even there, God?
  3. Difficulties. Related to disappointment, we can experience difficulties in life that can drive us away from God. Following Jesus can make life worse, blowing up relationships, inviting persecution, the rejection of family, and hard times. Or, quite simply, the ongoing call to take up our cross and follow Jesus can become more than we signed up for.
  4. Distractions.  We live in a hyper-busy world, and our attention can jump from one thing to another. I’ve seen people who used to be really fired up but now have other priorities. Now I’m on to a new business venture and I don’t really have time to invest in spiritual growth. I signed the kids up for hockey and we just can’t make it to worship anymore. I’ve got this new hobby, etc. And distraction from faith leads to the destruction of faith.
  5. Discouragement. I’ve heard it many times, when people feel like they have been trying so hard and getting nowhere. Discouraged with themselves, discouraged with their lack of experience with God, discouraged by some recurring sin, they give up.
  6. Doubt. Of course, there are those who struggle with doubt. Maybe their aren’t so sure about the resurrection or that Jesus really is the Son of God. Perhaps they’ve got doubts about the Bible. This could be honest doubt, and that needs to be expressed in an open community. Doubt can be a great pathway to growth and learning.   Doubt could also indicate a lack of discipleship–they’ve never really been taught or lead to grapple with the basics of faith. But doubt can also be a smoke screen for sin (next point).
  7. Desires. The truth is, some people leave the faith because they don’t want to live under Jesus’ authority.  I want to sleep with her. I want to serve myself. I  want to rip them off. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it.  And they walk away from Jesus. Often when people voice concerns about the uniqueness of Jesus, it’s covering over a desire to do something that contradicts his Lordship. By ditching Jesus’ leadership, they feel free to live how they want.
  8. Distance. Distance often comes as a result of other things–we feel disappointed or disgusted, we are distracted or have doubts, and we pull away. We isolate ourselves from other followers of Jesus and before too long we just don’t feel a part of things anymore. Sometimes distance is chosen, and other times is comes due to mental or physical illness, difficult family situations or a change in lifestyle. But make no mistake, distance isolates and leads people away from faith.
  9. Drift. I’ve noticed that people who never put any intentionality into their spiritual growth simply drift. Like a boat with no oars, no sail and no motor, they end up somewhere far away. Perhaps they had embraced a basic faith in Jesus, but without intentional community, without incorporating spiritual practices, without choosing to follow Jesus, they ended up drifting away.
  10. Deceit. And finally, we can be deceived. We believe a lie about who Jesus is and what life is all about;  we come under spiritual influences that cloud our minds. We listen to a buddy at work or a brother we respect, and our faith is quelled; we read a compelling book or watch a viral video, and the argument presented seems so persuasive. Without ever exploring valid alternatives, we accept a lie and faith is dislodged. There is an enemy, and he seeks to deceive and devour.
  • Have you seen any of these 10 reasons turn people away from faith in Jesus?

  • Have you struggled with any of them yourself, and what did you do about it?