The ultimate reason why our young people do not remain in our churches, why they leave these churches, to as high a rate as 70%, is because their needs are not met. And the deepest and most enduring of these needs is their need for the mystical christ. The churches are not giving Christ to these young people, and to the old as well. Their need for genuine spiritual development is not met.
This article describes the ways in which our churches do not give Christ to our young people.
The first way is through the preaching of the churches. Our preaching generally, either in Catholic or non-Catholic churches, do not give Christ to our young people. According to A. W. Tozer we do not have to do research to prove that this is so. You just enter any church today during a Sunday or Saturday and listen to the sermons by the priest or pastor. And you can easily notice that what the priest or pastor is preaching is not Christ, but what he or she thinks of Christ or of a Bible passage and how this applies to one’s life. This kind of preaching does not satisfy the need of the listeners to spiritual development but it satisfies the need of the priest or preacher to say something to the people so that the church organization can go on with its activities.
The second way is through the teaching of the churches. In Catholic churches we have catechism classes and bible study classes for this. In Protestant churches we have the Sunday or Sabbath school and the bible study groups. What is the emphasis in these classes? It is memorization of certain formulas or bible verses and understanding these formulas or verses. Nowhere is Christ given to the young people. The teachers of course boast that they convey the teaching of Christ in their classes. But our young people are not so much interested in teachings, even those of Christ, whether these are in formulas or in scripture verses or famous quotations of great men and women of God. They are interested in meeting the person of Christ, in having a genuine, growing, loving relationship with him. And the churches do not give this kind of real Christ to them. So their spiritual development is not progressing as it should.
The third way that the churches do not give Christ to the young people, as well as to the old, is through the relationship of the members among themselves. Christ is not the motive of their relationship among themselves. They may be led to have games and to have fellowship around games, whether indoor or outdoors. Camps are conducted almost yearly, but you can easily notice that during camps there are small groups milling around certain issues. This group is good in mission to the prisoners. This other group congregates around the issue of mission to the elementary pupils. Christ is the not the issue that unites all the activities. He is mentioned in prayer last, “we pray in the name of Christ”, perhaps because he is last in our thoughts and desires. In many instances he is the savior of last recourse, after we have done everything at our disposal and failed. Then we turn to him.
We now use logic to make our point clear. If Christ, the real Christ and not our idea about Christ, were the one given to our young people and our old people, they would have been real Christians by now and we would not be in such a mess, combatants of two world wars and preparing for a third one. What you sow is what you harvest. If you plant rice, you will harvest rice, never corn or barley. If we plant Christ, the real Christ, in the hearts of our young people and old people, we would harvest Christ, the real Christ: the one who is genuinely interested in our spiritual development.