Why shouldn’t 20-somethings leave the church?

As a pastor it should be easy to answer this question, but I understand the many reasons why 20-somethings are leaving the church. The church appears to be tumbling toward irrelevance for 20-somethings, but the opposite is reality for those who choose to stay and be the church instead of leave the church.

Though I see the challenges, when I look at the community God has created here in New York in my church, I’m amazed, thankful, and moved by this church family that is made up largely of 20-somethings. While we are praying for age, experience, and wisdom from God’s word and A LOT more older people! (Anyone over 50 want to move to NYC? What about over 40? Bueller…?) I’ve also seen the massive benefit in their lives and our church from the faithful engagement of the 20-somethings in my church.

One important reality before I begin. No one really leaves the church in their 20s, they take their worship to a new church. A church where God is not, but temporary pleasure, satisfaction, peace, and success is promised yet never fully enjoyed or achieved. This is the sad lie that few identify until it is too late. My encouragement to 20-somethings, don’t leave behind your angst with the church, but use that angst to become the church God longs for.

My encouragement to 20-somethings: don’t leave behind your angst with the church, use it to become the church God longs for.
 
Here are 4 reasons 20-somethings shouldn’t leave God’s church.

  • Experience Healing & Strength
  • A Hopeful Community During a Messy Decade
  • Ask Not What Church Can Do for You, but what You can do for Church
  • Your Future Depends on It

Experience Healing & Strength

As I watch 20-somethings, and as I consider my own life in my 20s, a lot of time is spent seeking healing and strength. I may not have described it like that or you may not see that in yourself, but all of our striving has deeper roots aiming for healing and strength in life. Healing from core hurts and deep wounds of family, friends, careers, and bad relationships. The power for that healing is sought in success, beauty, approval, and sexual satisfaction. These pursuits only cause more hurts. I’ve loved watching the people of God be the place of healing and power through Jesus Christ that 20-somethings are seeking.

This is always unexpected in the church, but God loves to do the unexpected. The healing has ranged from physical to emotional and spiritual. For many, it involves the healing of hurts from the church itself which becomes a beautiful picture of redemption.

The church is the means of God for healing and strength in life that 20-somethings are seeking, but not finding elsewhere.
 
I see this happen on a Sunday in worship and when a message is preached with the Spirit’s power. I see it happen even more often in the community of God that is vulnerable about their need for God and then transforms lives by the love of God flowing through them.

A Hopeful Community for a Messy Decade

Being just removed from my 20s (and therefore an expert), I look back on a messy decade full of job/career transitions, marriage challenges, starting a family, and facing the messy baggage of my past. The 20s are a messy decade. What other time do you leave the comforts of established friendships, try to establish your career while trying to establish the person you will be?

This messy decade needs more than an equally messy community. It needs a hopeful community that can bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the specific challenges every single day. The church can be this place of hope better than your college friends who are dealing with the same things as you.

Find a church where you can be messy like the disciples were in the Upper Room and find the same hope they did in Christ.

Ask Not What Church Can Do for You, but what YOU can do for Church

Many 20-somethings, including myself for a time, think the church is a waste of time and missing the mark on the mission of God. The church, it seems, has wandered away from loving Jesus and others, settling for the aim of fulfilling laws. Problems are easy to see, but solutions require people willing to seek change.

Ask not what the church can do for you, but what you can do for the church.

Ask not what the church can do for you, but what you can do for the church.
 
This challenge invites us to wonder if the church has problems because of us instead of because of “them” (them being the older Christians, leaders, and pastors). When John F. Kennedy challenged the country with this rhetoric in his inauguration speech in 1961, he inspired the country to take ownership of the future of America. It’s time for us to ask the same question and take ownership of the church.

Let’s say you share your faith at work and your co-worker comes to faith. What kind of church do you want to bring them to?

A church you have loved and seen grow into the humble and Jesus-exalting mission we see in the New Testament. How does this church become like that? It’s more than the pastors, it is you. You make the church what it will be in the future…if you choose to.

Your Future Depends on It

This might be a bold statement, but I do believe it is true. If you leave, you won’t come back and if you don’t come back, you won’t stay in Christ and will settle for less than joy in life. Name your favorite Lone Ranger Christian. You likely can’t, but you can name your favorite podcast pastor or Christian blogger. Do you think your podcast pastor or favorite women’s blogger became that way on their own? Not at all.

Their lives have been shaped and formed by the community of God more than the local Christian bookstore. Becoming like Christ requires that you walk in 1 Corinthians 13 love, a love that bears, endures, forgives, and hopes all things.

Your future joy in life and hope in Christ is dependent on you sticking it out with the church community.

Love the Church the Way Jesus Loves You

While I understand every reason people choose to walk away from the church, my encouragement is ultimately that Jesus never walks away from you. He never grows weary of the highs and lows of your life and loves you forever.

As you experience this love, Jesus told us the world would know we were His disciples if we loved one another with this kind of love.

May the church become the place for 20-somethings and all generations to see Jesus and may it be that place because we all love the church to make it that way.

About The Author

Logan Gentry

Logan is currently serving as the Executive Pastor at Apostles Church in New York City. He has served in a variety of ministry roles at Apostles Church for four years, starting with missional community transitions in the church and moving into a development role for the various ministries and church planting initiatives. Logan regularly assists churches in creating, cultivating, and implementing ministries to meet the needs of their congregation and engage their context with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Logan blogs at Gentrified, is a regular contributor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and has contributed to The Gospel Coalition. Logan is married to Amber, they have three children and live in Manhattan.

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