I had never been a “popular” kid. (Those that know me are nodding their heads right now.) In Jr. High, I was that awkward kid with a bit of an egotistical chip on his shoulder. No, it wasn’t because I was totally ripped, good looking, and great with the ladies. No, I had gotten good grades for pretty much my whole life. I was a “smart” kid, and I liked to hold it over people’s heads. Whenever I had a disagreement with someone, I would often default to reminding them who’s GPA was higher. Add to this fact that I had no fashion sense, and my hair-style hadn’t changed since the 1st grade, and you can get the picture. I was a real winner.
I was also good at sports; which, when added to my ego, meant that I had high standards for everyone else. If my teammates were under-performing, I would literally yell and scream at them on the field of play. In addition, I would taunt the other team mercilessly whenever I managed to get the best of them. However, whenever I made a mistake, I was the first to blame someone else. It was never my fault. Yep. I was a real winner on the field, too.
In short, I was a judgmental, hypocritical, egotistical preteen. It was no wonder that I only had two real friends by the time I got to high school. I had easily become the unpopular kid.
Unfortunately, my behavior as a Jr. High student mirrors that of many Christians. In other words, young adults perceive Christians as behaving like I did when I was 12 years old.
In a survey of young adults conducted a few years back, the Barna Group spoke to thousands of unchurched people across the U.S. In the survey, people were asked their opinion of Christians. The information they gathered was absolutely shocking. Here is a summary of the hard-to-swallow results of that survey:
- 87% said that Christians are judgmental
- 85% said that Christians are hypocritical (We say one thing while we do another)
- 78% said that Christians are out of touch with reality
- 75% said that Christians push their own political agenda
- 70% said that Christians are not genuine (They are only interested in earning converts, not gaining friends)
Yikes! This does not look good.
Sadly, Paul predicted that this very thing would happen. In writing a letter to his young pastor-friend, Timothy, Paul prophesied that many Christians would become more like 12 year old Chad than their professed Savior, Jesus Christ. Here is how Paul put it in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
In working with teens over the past five years, I have found that the unfortunately reality is that even our own Christian young adults largely agree with the survey results posted above. In speaking with them, and even doing my own surveys among youth, they echo the five survey items posted above. Our own Christian teens feel that their own church is looking down upon them.
It should then come as no surprise that the Christian church is losing its teens each year. Another survey by Barna shows that 61% of young adults that attended church as teens have disengaged from their church in their early twenties. Nearly two-thirds of our young adults are walking out the doors.
We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to drop the attitude, judgmentalism, and hypocrisy. We need to show our teens what the love of Christ is all about. We need to mirror was Jesus, himself said in John 3:16-17:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
In other words, we need to point others to Christ. Why? Because he is everything we are not:
- He is love (1 John 4:8)
- He is the way to a better life (John 14:6)
- He is merciful (Romans 9:16)
- He always forgives (Luke 24:47)
- He desires true friendship (Romans 5:6-11)
- He saves (John 3:16)
Let’s refocus our lives, our ministries, our friendships, our families, on one thing – Jesus Christ. Through Him, our church will no longer be seen as the unpopular kid, but one who humbly accepts, loves, comforts, and desires friendship with all that we meet.