November 23rd, 2009
Ham, Ken and Britt Beemer. Already Gone: Why your Kids will Quit Church and What you can do to Stop it. Green Forest: Master Books, 2009. 192 pp. $12.99.
Many denominations and churches in general are feeling the numbers crunch. What I mean is that people are no longer interested in going to church. Even worse, those who attend church as children are leaving in droves in their teens and twenties. Why is this happening? Can we do anything to stop it? Has this ever happened before in the history of the church? If so, when and where and how can we learn from it?
Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, and Britt Beemer, a statistician and first rate researcher, have come together to answer the question, “Why are our children leaving the church in droves?” The answers will certainly surprise you. The solution may shock you.
The title of the book was enough to grab my attention. What do you mean, “Already Gone?” As a children’s pastor and former youth-pastor, I was afraid that I was going to be indicted somehow in the problem. I was partially correct. Split into two sections, the problem and the solution, Ham and Beemer, set the record straight and dig deep to understand the epidemic that rages in our church buildings today. To make matters worse, they surveyed only twenty-somethings from conservative, Christian churches who attended Sunday School and church regularly as children growing up through their high school years. In other words, they surveyed the “Bible thumpers.”
First, they look at what has happened in England and how the once proud Christian nation has crumbled to her knees to the point of churches shutting their doors for the last time (1,500 since 1969). In America, we are witnessing this firsthand as attendance dwindles from Sunday to Sunday across the nation.
They argue that the problem is rooted in our Sunday School System; however, it is not Sunday School itself. The numbers actually point to the children already questioning their faith by the fifth grade. In other words, they are “already gone” by the time they reach high school. Ultimately, our problem is not with the Sunday School system, which is a fairly new concept within Christianity (mid 1800’s). No, the main thrust of the problem began in about 1859 with the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. At the heart of evolutionary philosophy was the undermining of the Bible. If millions of years are needed for evolution to take place then six literal days cannot make sense and the Bible must be wrong.
Crunching all of the numbers from their survey, Beemer and Ham explain how this undermining of the creation account in Genesis has led to the issue we now face of our children leaving the church in droves. The solution, they argue, is that we must teach apologetics in the Sunday School room, from the pulpit, in discipleship classes, and in evangelism training. With the advent of secular science taking over to explain our origins, we have been taught to believe that we learn facts in the class room and faith in the church.
What is more, the class room shows that you can touch facts through scientific experiment which is all fine and good until they begin talking about matters of origins where you cannot test the hypothesis. It is at this point where the students just trust that the professor or teacher knows what he or she is talking about because they deal with facts all the time.
Therefore, we cannot teach facts in the church because faith is not something that can be tested (or can it?). Rather, faith is just based on mythologies and stories and “after all, science has proven the first eleven chapters of Genesis to be wrong.” The solution to our problem is that we must begin teaching why the Bible can be trusted. We must begin teaching why the science behind evolution is wrong. We need to bring to light the authority of Scripture once again in an age when that authority has been challenged by everyone–including many in the church.
I said earlier that I was only partially indicted. This is so because of my love for apologetics. I take every opportunity I have to share with the children external evidences for the Bible, and Jesus, and creation, etc. Nevertheless, I do not do this as often as I should. If you think I am being too much of an alarmist, I dare you to pick up this book and read what the authors have to say. Crunch the numbers for yourself (the results of the survey are included in the book) and see where they lead you.
If you are in a teaching position of any kind in your local church, I exhort you to read this book. This book ought to be on the desk of every pastor of every local congregation. It is not like Ham and Beemer are the only ones questioning what is wrong–surveys and papers and blog posts abound regarding the steady decline in church membership. Already Gone actually offers a sensible solution to an egregious problem. Pick up a copy today.