Let me tell you a story. It's about a boy named Mikey. Mikey's your average kid. He loves sports, playing video games and just hanging out with his friends. He does ok in school; he gets average grades, and every single weekend his parents would take him to church. He'd listen to the teacher talk about the Bible and Mikey was interested in hearing about this Jesus, who he thought was a pretty cool dude. He believed in God. And during these times at church he would close his eyes real tight and pray to Him. This is how he was in church on the weekend, but during the week, he would very rarely think of God. He didn't pray during the week. He didn't read the Bible. He wasn't involved in church activities because he was busy playing sports and trying to pass spelling tests.
So between school and other activities, he didn't have time for God. And this is how his life continued for years. As Mikey got older he started to get in trouble from time to time. At first, it was small stuff, mischief, the "boys will be boys" kind of stuff. As time went on he got into more serious trouble. He would go to the mall and shoplift, he would steal from the stores, and he even stole money from his own mother! Mikey also got into drugs. He was able to hide it well from his parents, because he had the appearance of a pretty good kid. Besides, during this whole time, he still was at church with his parents every weekend - until he turned 18 years old. It was then that he moved away from home and went to college. The stealing and the drug use continued on during his college years - but one thing in his life did not continue on - and that was going to church. The only reason that he went before was because his parents made him go. Now, being away from home, he could do what he wanted, when he wanted, and because he wasn't made to go, he didn't.
Let me ask you a question… How often do you think something like this happens? A child grows up going to church, he/she becomes a young adult and leaves the home, has some level of freedom, and then stops going to church. They have very little, or no interest at all in the things of God. How often does this happen?
- About 25% of the time?
- How about 50% of the time?
The answer is... anywhere from 70 - 85%, depending on which poll you look at. This is a real problem.
There is a variety of answers to the question of why young people leave the church:
1. They have doubt
2. They see hypocrisy
3. They think church is boring
4. It's too political
5. The church is always asking for money
This could turn into a long discussion about of each of these reasons. The bottom line is this - there is really only one reason - they're not converted! They're not Christians. They haven't been born again. Those who leave didn't lose their salvation - they never had it to begin with. The Bible speaks to this situation:
They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19
Want to know why this is so important to me? That story that I told you about Mikey... that was me. That was my life. I went to church for years, and I was lost. Sure, I would have told you I was a Christian and that I believed in Jesus, because I did. I believed just like the demons believe, yet I didn't even tremble. (James 2:19) I just assumed that I would go to heaven because I did all the religious stuff (I went to church, I prayed, I even received communion). Moreover, I was convinced, not of the goodness of God, but of my own goodness, despite everything in my life giving evidence to the contrary. Not one person in my life ever told me that I had to repent! I was deceived for 30 years.
I'm glad I didn't die because would have certainly gone straight to hell. And I would have nobody to blame but myself. But thank the Lord, at age 30, He saved me. I had nothing to do with it. I simply responded biblically when the true gospel was finally presented to me. I wasn't a backslider; I never slid forward to begin with! I don't think anyone backslides for a couple of decades. I was lost, and I would currently be on my way to hell - but for the grace of God.
So when people claim to be Christians, that means next to nothing to me. I say that not based upon my own belief, but on the strength of Jesus' words in Matthew chapter 7. He says that many will say to Him on the Day of Judgment, Lord, Lord didn't we do this, and didn't we do that for you, and Jesus ultimately says to these people who are claiming to be His followers, depart from Me, I never knew you.
That's terrifying. It's very dangerous to lead a person into believing that they are a Christian, when their life gives strong evidence that they have very little interest in the things of God, and no regard for His law.