I love the Gospel Coalition. And as I have blogged before, I hate it when statistics about family discipleship are inflamed to create a crisis and sell products.
However, below you will find my critique of an article that proposes that there is no need for concern. In the name of being a “factchecker,” the author rightly wants to calm parents. But in the name of calming them, he swings too far the other way, in effect saying there is no need for concern.
Below is my reply.
I am a long time reader, and strong supporter of The Gospel Coalition and what it stands for. However, this article, in its desire to be contrarian, takes a simplistic and wrong-headed view.
It is true that some wrongly inflame fear by quoting sloppy research.
But it is also true that a significant number of young people who grow up in church-going, Bible-believing homes turn their back on their faith or continue lukewarmly.
Is it 88%? No. Is it 70%? No. Mark Twain’s observation about three types of lies comes to mind in those instances. In any particular study, you must ask:
1. Who is in? Who is a Christian?
2. What is walking away?
3. And does the study only look at Evangelical Christians? Or all variant Christian religions (like several of those links)?
Depending on your answers to these questions, you can get wildly differing results. And that is exactly what this article seeks to attack.
However, serious studies have attempted to quantify the amount of young people who walk away. Most recently, Dr. Kara Powell reported in her book Sticky Faith, that about 40-50% of young people fail to stick with their faith in college.
This number seems in line with my own experience and other pastors I talk with. As a former pastor in New England, I know of story after story of young men and women who have been raised in the faith who walk away.
But what if it is as low as 25%? Am I ok with 1 out of my 4 children spending an eternity in hell? Absolutely not!
I too hate hucksters who create a crisis without really examining the evidence. But those who would speak peace, peace need to be careful as well.
Bottom line, should caring parents live in fear? Absolutely not. But should they think deeply about this issue? Absolutely.
Full disclosure, because I care so deeply about this issue, I founded and lead The Apollos Project, a ministry to equip parents to disciple their children.
Bottom line for my readers. Do we have to be fearful? Absolutely not. Should we be alert and think deeply about this issue. Absolutely. Read the whole thing.
To read more about preventing your children from being prodigals, check out The Disciple-Making Parent.