Why My Kid Left the Church

Photo Credit: David Wright via Flickr

Photo Credit: David Wright via Flickr


The oldest child just finished his junior year.  He’ll be 18 in three months, and the one scripture I am counting on for truth is this one: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6.

I know- it’s a trite one.  It seems lazy.  There are so many verses with more complicated messages and more theological weight than this one, but I’m holding on to this one and believing it to be true.

Right now it feels like a lie.  My child has departed from it.  He doesn’t believe in religion or church, and he’s skeptical of God.  Maybe it’s because what he knew about love and family and God was pulled right out from under him when he was six.  Maybe it’s because we didn’t teach him enough.  Maybe it’s a scar I know nothing about- I really don’t know.

Here’s what I know because we talk about it a lot.  He thinks Christians are judgmental and mean.  He believes that if he is a Christian he can’t love his Muslim friends, his Hindu friends, his foreign friends, or his unbelieving friends.  He has learned that there isn’t much room in the Kingdom for people who fall too far outside of evangelical Christianity.

We keep talking about why millenials are leaving the church.  There are conferences and debates, books are written about it, and we’ve called in religious heavy-weights to answer the question.  Yet, the question isn’t a hard one.

They aren’t leaving the church because Christians are radically different from them.  They are leaving the church because Christians aren’t different enough.

The church isn’t bearing the fruit of the scriptures.  We’ve stopped being Christians and taken on the role of Christ, here to pass judgement and scour the earth of all the sinners.

Except, again, scripture tells the real story of Jesus.  He didn’t come to scour and judge; he came to save.

Judgement will come and people will face their sins, but that is ONE day.  There is ONE judge.  No one gets a free pass.  Before that?  All bets are off.  We are all still in the race for the Triple Crown.

A few weeks ago 10,000 children were voluntarily unsponsored by people who identified themselves as Christians because they disagreed with a personnel decision made by the CEO of World Vision.  The so-called love of Christ which was represented by “the church” forced Rick Stearns into a corner which led to a reversal of his decision thus damaging a community of adults who had devoted themselves to serving the poor.

The church lost thousands that day.  THOUSANDS.

Friends, I have no doubt that Jesus wept that day.  We willingly took food and medical care away from the most poverty-stricken and vulnerable population on the earth over religious doctrine. The church was stiff-necked that day.  We ignored very clear biblical instructions.

Love your neighbor.  Period.  PERIOD.  There were no by-laws about sexuality, gender, race, or soft drink preference.  Just LOVE.

The reason my child left the church is this, everything he learned about Jesus and scripture and how to be a Christian as he was growing up in church was very simple.  It basically boiled down to two things: love God, love your neighbor.  And he’s right, because that is EXACTLY what Jesus said.

And I said, “YES, that’s right!”

And G said, “No one does that.  So how can you say the Bible is real?  How can you say this is real when we can’t find one Christian who really does what the Bible says?”


Listen, we all fall short.  We do.  I wish I could say that every day I am a font of love and joy, but I teach 14-year-olds.  Most of my day is spent teetering on chaos and hysteria.  I fail daily.

But I have tried my best to love those who are different from me.  I have friends who are atheists, friends who are gay, friends who are Buddhist, friends who are Muslim, and friends from every denomination of Christianity you can find and then some.  We differ on a lot of things.  We disagree about a lot of foundational beliefs.

But what I’ve learned is this.  A person has about 18 inches of physical space between her head and her heart.  Spiritually that 18 inches is a chasm as wide as the very earth we inhabit.

Our heads and our hearts are far-removed from each other at the beginning of our journey, and it isn’t until we’ve travelled a long, and many times treacherous, road that those two entities meet for the first time and start to work together.  Salvation and Sanctification are processes.  We are kidding ourselves if we think we can stuff them into a kid before he turns 18 and send him on his way.

But we can certainly set a better example for how radical love works.

Y’all we can’t argue this.  Jesus not only communed with the worst sinners of the day, he SOUGHT them out.  He went after them.  Ate with them, prayed with them, and LOVED them.

The message he teaches is that we will be judged if we don’t seek the lost and LOVE them.

No one wants a lecture and a punishment, but everyone will take a big helping of undeserved love.  Eventually the person gets so stuffed with love that it starts pouring itself back out.  That extra love gets sloshed on a neighbor, and before long we’re all eating s’mores and singing camp songs.

Jesus said do two things and the law takes care of itself.  The judging will be done by the ONE who has witnessed every moment of our lives.  There’s nothing unhidden.  There’s nothing He will misunderstand or misinterpret.

Yes, the Bible talks often of sin, but it’s message is Love.  It talks often of fear, but it tells us to take Courage.

Jesus is so hysterically clear on how we are to treat our fellow man that we’ve got to pay attention.  Historically, ignoring his commands hasn’t played out well for His people.  It’s not playing out well for me and mine.  It can’t be playing out well for yours either.

So let’s stop it.  Let’s just love people.

Our kids’ souls depend on it.

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1 Comment on Why My Kid Left the Church

  1. Courtney G
    May 29, 2014 at 10:39 pm (4 years ago)

    This is vulnerable and so so good. I think so many people will benefit and be challenged from reading this. Your prayers will affect his life. 🙂 and God will reveal Himself to your son in the way he needs to see it. Thanks for sharing this!


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