Category Archives: theology


Statistics reveal that the majority of young people who grew up in church leave it soon after graduating from high school, and most of them will never return. I’ve seen some statistics that speculate that the rate could be as high as eighty percent. This shocking reality should cause us to take a long, hard look at how the church “ministers” to youth.

Why do they leave? While I’m not a professional statistician or sociologist, I have interacted with young people and observed how the church relates to them, and I have come to conclusions that won’t be very popular with some.  Here they are.

When our kids are elementary school age, they go to Sunday school and Children’s Church which is great. However, what are they taught? By the time they reach fourth or fifth grade they have heard the story of the Walls of Jericho, Jonah and the fish’s belly, the parting of the Red Sea, Joseph and the many colored coat, and David and Goliath a zillion times. Oh, the story is presented in a more advanced level as they get older, but it is still the same story. By the time our kids finish elementary school, they have been storied to death. And they are bored.

Then they get to junior high and high school and join youth group, which is great. But what do they get in these gatherings? Silly games, greasy pizza, and a brief devotional that is as shallow as a wading pool. They are taken to stadium events once a year where there is a smorgasbord of continuous high tech emotional hype including blaring music, skits, games, and speakers that have the corner market on “cool”. These speakers dress like a sixteen year old and talk the latest “lingo” as they feed our kids a rah-rah message. At the conclusion of their talk, kids, who have been swayed by all the emotional hype, come forward by the hundreds to “surrender” their lives to God, not having a clue what that means. They come back to church the next week chanting “God is cool” and give the appearance of being transformed from the event. However, within a couple of months they are right back to who they were before the attending the event. While these gatherings do impact some kids, the vast majority are ultimately left unchanged.

Then they leave for college, the military, or jobs, and church is all but forgotten. I believe there are two main reasons for this mass exodus.

First, they have never been challenged in their faith. They haven’t been taught theology and doctrine and thus are clueless on what they believe and why they believe it. When challenged by a college professor or coworker about matters of faith, specifically Christianity, they can’t answer. Then doubts creep into their minds and they see no great reason for their faith. They never had anyone explain theology and how it relates to all matters of life, and have not dug deeply into the Bible. Their church experience has left them empty, and they find no relevance in following Jesus.

Second, they have not seen authentic discipleship lived out by adults in their lives – at church or at home. They see the adults in church bickering about the color of the carpet, the loudness of the music, and the length of the pastor’s sermon. They see adults who gossip, criticize, and live lives that are unholy. Young people are very impressionable, and when they see adults clueless about their faith and living like the rest of the world they think “Jesus really doesn’t make a difference, so why should I follow Him?”.  And they plunge headlong into the “goodies” the world dangles in front of them.

We are losing our kids to the world, and we scratch our heads in confusion and anger and wonder why. My friend, we have failed our kids both intellectually and practically. But their is hope.

I strongly believe that we need to teach our young people theology so by the time they graduate high school, they have a firm grasp on what they believe and why they believe it. Our kids are hungry to know truth, and we must be the ones to teach them. A few years ago I was invited to teach at a local church’s youth group. As I started to my lesson, the discussion took a fascinating turn. The junior and senior highers started to ask deep, penetrating questions about spiritual issues and how these truths impacted their lives. We went straight, without a break, for almost two hours. These kids were hungry. They had questions that were not being addressed at their church, and they wanted, and needed, to have answers.The adults in church basically said “just believe’, and wouldn’t, or couldn’t, answer their questions. I also had the privilege of leading a Bible study in a high school (before the school day began) for three years and found these kids to be hungry for truth and knowledge (evidenced by their willingness to get to school at 6:45 am for the study).

I’ve been told that we can’t bore our youth with theology and deep Bible study. I couldn’t disagree more. There is nothing boring about learning about God and how His precepts shape our lives. Too many kids have been told what not to do without explaining the biblical reasons why. A young woman came to me once and said she had always been told not to engage in sex until after she was married, but was never told why. The pat answer of “because the Bible says so” didn’t satisfy her question of “why not?”. So I opened my Bible and, going systematically through Scripture, explained why God limits sexual activity to marriage. After I was done and answered her questions, she looked at me and said that no one had ever explained it biblically before.

My friends, we must take the risk to teach biblical theology to our young people. Ignorance of theology and the Bible is ignorance of God. And ignorance of God leads to chaotic, messed up lives.

The other thing we must do is to live out discipleship in our own lives. Our kids need to role models in church and at home who show them what a follower of Jesus looks like. They need to see passionate, sold out, surrendered believers who love Jesus and who desire to live out biblical Christianity in all aspects of life. I’m not talking perfection, as no one is, but true, humble followers of Jesus who know what they believe and why they believe it, who apply His Word to their lives as they walk on the journey of holiness, and who openly repent when they blow it. When they see the impact Jesus has on the lives of the adults around them, it will hopefully impact them.

Will these two measures guarantee that our kids will be strong, uncompromised followers of Jesus? No. We are fallen human beings and some will choose not to follow. However, I believe that if we do these two things, we will dramatically lower the mass exodus of young people from church that we are currently experiencing.

My friends, lets turn the tide and start giving our kids what they really need. We’ve lost way too many. Let’s resolve to lose no more.


Grace – the key word in our salvation. We are saved by God’s amazing grace. It is so profound, so incredible, so powerful, yet we often take it for granted or don’t really understand it. You see, we are helpless to save ourselves, no matter how “good” we are or try to be. God’s grace is His free gift to all those who trust in Jesus and His finished work on the cross for forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Ephesians 2:8-9 says;”For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift from God, not as a result of works,so that no one may boast”. Indeed God’s hand of grace is powerful, but what does it include? In order to help us understand the depths of grace, I like to use, what I call “the five fingers on the hand of God’s grace”. Here they are:.

JUSTIFICATION   This is a legal term that, simply put, means that our guilt is gone. Romans 4:25-5:1 says:He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ“.  The eternal weight of our sin has been lifted from us through the blood of Jesus as He took our guilt on Himself, and we go free. Think of it like this…you are in the Supreme Court of Heaven and the Heavenly Supreme Court Justice sits on His throne to determine your eternal destination. The prosecuting attorney, Satan, stands up and presents an eight hour detailed case of every sin you have ever committed, accompanied with exhibits and documentation. Finally, when he is done, he glances at you with  a smug look of victory and wheezes, “the prosecution rests”. Now it is the defense’s turn. Jesus your defense attorney stands up and gives only a three sentence case as He says “This person has repented of his sin and has trusted in me as his Savior. I took His guilt upon Myself at the cross. He is Mine”. And then he sits down. The Supreme Court Judge asks you to stand up, looks you in the eye and pronounces His verdict: ” You are declared innocent because the debt of your sin has been paid in full. Your guilt is gone. You are free to enter into My heaven”. That’s justification!!

REDEMPTION   This is a word taken in the context of the slave market when a slave obtained his or her release through the paying of a ransom.  Romans 3:23-24 says:for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;  and Colossians 1:13-14 says :”For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins“.  We have been redeemed not with money or material things, but with the blood of Jesus. You see, a price had to be paid for our sins, and God set down the mandate that blood had to be the price: “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).  A pretty steep price to pay, a price that we couldn’t pay. Only perfect blood could pay the price . The only perfect One is God, but God is Spirit. How could this be done? The incarnation of God. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity became man to shed his blood so that the price of redemption could be paid. Because we are redeemed by Jesus’ perfect blood, our redemption is eternal. The price has been paid in full and cannot be “refunded”.

PROPITIATION  This literally means to gain or regain the favor of; an expiation.  1 John 2:2 says: “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world“, 1 John 4:10 says : “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”. and Romans 3:25 says: “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith…”. Propitiation basically means that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross totally satisfied the demands of our holy God. God accepts the blood of His Son on our behalf and because He does so, the enormous barrier of sin that separated us from having a relationship with God has been obliterated. We can now come into the presence of the Father through the blood of His Son.

RECONCILIATION  This parallels propitiation and means to change from enmity to friendship.  2 Corinthians 5:16-21 says: ” Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  Think about your checkbook. When you receive your bank statement the balance of the bank is different from what you have in your checkbook. In order to make sure you have the correct balance you must reconcile your balance to the bank’s by adding and/or subtracting outstanding checks, deposits, and other charges. Thus you bring the two into agreement. The same with us and God. He is the standard and we must be reconciled to Him in order to have a relationship with Him. Jesus brought us, sinners condemned to eternal hell, into agreement with God’s holy standards by dying on the cross for us. The result? We are now have a wonderful relationship with God!

SANCTIFICATION  This means to set apart. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says: Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God“. and Hebrews 10:10 says:By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all“.  SInce we have been justified, redeemed, propitiated, and reconciled, we are now children of God. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit who gives us everything necessary to live a life of holiness that brings honor to God. We are His people belonging to Him, and now we must choose to be His bond slave and turn away from enslavement to the world. We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ, because we have died with Christ to our sin (Colossians 3:3; and see my 4/8/10 blog  “Dying to Self – the Key to Life”).

Those are the five fingers on the hand of God’s grace – justification, redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, and sanctification. What a marvelous grace we have been given. The next time you sing “Amazing Grace” remember the incredible truths that are inherent in God’s grace.