When the emotions are gone, what’s left?
Engaging the mind as well as the heart is vital
Published: 16 March 2017 (GMT+10)
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, February 2015
With the aim of encouraging parents and leaders to engage with the creation issue in their spheres of influence, we have often cited very alarming figures about the percentages of youth who leave the faith. But it’s not just the youth. At CMI we get many testimonies from adults who explain to us that doubts about the veracity of God’s Word caused them to be ineffective Christians, or to leave the faith altogether. Jason W. is an example of this. He told us:
Hello, I am writing … to thank you. I discovered this site recently and I enjoy it and find it very informative. I have battled doubt in my faith life for a long time, and most of it comes from evolution and dinosaurs and scientific stuff. I have found your website most useful in combating some of this … As is my habit most days, I turned over to your website and lo and behold, there was an article on the front page ‘Dealing with Doubt’. I almost laughed to myself but after reading the letter that the article was responding to I realized it was almost as if I had written that letter. My heart was touched and I felt God plainly speaking to me.”
To combat declining attendance, many enterprising churches adapt their styles in an attempt to match the cultural allure that they believe empties their pews on Sundays. Some such initiatives might be a ‘cafe-style’ church with round table seating, or dramatic audiovisual elements incorporated into the service, coffee shops in the lobbies, and more. I recall that one megachurch in my birth country of Australia gave away a brand new car once a month that all who attended church were eligible to win. And the most common one is to simply adapt the music and preaching style to a more contemporary one, adding drama elements and fast-paced interactive youth programs.
Getting them in the door is good … but let’s keep them there!
Now, the point of this article is not to say that these ideas are in themselves necessarily right or wrong. Some might actually be very good at initially meeting people’s needs, or overcoming the perceptions of old-fashioned stuffy churches, and thus, be relatively successful at getting heads in the door. But one often finds that if this becomes the ‘main’ focus of the church, their teaching ministry tends to lose emphasis. For example, many churches (whether conservative or charismatic) have huge choirs or a contemporary band with correspondingly many musical items. This reduces the usual teaching or sermon time—meaning that the focus is not on teaching.
The reality is that many large churches, in particular, suffer a high exodus rate and many leaders have honestly told me the struggle to keep their youth once they start college/university. That is, there is an ongoing turnover. An entertainment-driven focus can obviously help people to feel good about coming to church. It can be fun and give them a bit of a ‘spiritual high’, but we all know that such highs don’t last. Once it becomes the norm, the tendency is to move on to somewhere else to try and experience the next ‘high’. In fact, the Bible has warnings about following the heart too closely. Jeremiah 17:9–10 says:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways … ”,
Striking the balance
Whatever style one church might adopt we would simply say it is not a case of either ‘this style’ or teaching, but it should be a case of both. Never skimp on solid teaching grounded in a Genesis foundation, combined with the incredible wealth of information available today to support what the Bible teaches in this area.
And contrary to the fears of a lot of churches about making a stand on creation, if it’s backed up with solid evidences it doesn’t keep people away—it draws them in! And it grounds believers far more confidently in their faith.
We have so many testimonies of people leaving the church because of doubts about God’s Word, but restored when finding solid teaching that confirms the Word. For instance, Kenneth M. said:
“Another thing that amazes me is the response of many Christians that the creation/evolution issue doesn't matter. I was raised in the church until my teens, before rejecting it and declaring myself an atheist/agnostic. I decided a few years ago that it might be worth just checking that I had it right! In my search, the creation/evolution issue was the number one sticking point for me—how could I possibly believe the Bible if it was wrong from the very start (and with no good reason to be wrong … if God used evolutionary processes, the big bang etc., then surely Genesis would simply state such things, or at least allude to them, rather than constricting itself so clearly to 6 literal days and a certain order of events)?
“So to me, it mattered A LOT. And it continues to matter, which is why I am a very frequent visitor to your site and have purchased several books from your store. Thank you and God bless!”
I’m sure that Israel’s King David had many emotional highs and lows. He sang and danced before the Lord but also spoke about his time in the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23.) But what sustained him was knowledge that his God was the one true God of the universe. That enabled him to overcome doubts and fears so he could also proclaim “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (vs. 4). Tamas P. had some low times, too, brought about by doubts about his childhood faith. He wrote:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters at CMI.”
“CMI has been a great blessing for me for many years, I think it is time to say thank you. I started to desperately look for the truth a few years ago. It was for me the valley of the shadow of death indeed. I saw no future, I was totally lost. My former faith from my late adolescence had been gone for a long time. And here comes your precious Ministry and invaluable work into the picture. I found your site full of well written articles and good quality information, which turned out to be the way God reached out to me. It is indeed His grace. I believe God saves millions of lives through your ministry. You are His witnesses in these times, like Noah a few thousand years back. My life took a u-turn … He gave me back the joy of life. Thank you!” (Emphasis added).
In the church we simply must deal with the objections that people are going to face in the world. Intellectual skepticism is often spiritually fatal in the long term and cannot be overcome by programs that provide short-term emotional highs. In the public realm, our youth in particular are being targeted by teachers and lecturers who want to turn them into atheists. This is readily borne out by the statistics of youth leaving the church.
The missing link (not apemen!)
Most pastors and leaders are simply not trained or equipped to deal with the 24/7 presentation of evolution taught as science in the schools or media. But that’s why CMI exists. We are the missing link when it comes to helping preserve people in the faith. We serve as an aid to the church, and with one coherent and logical (and entertaining, too!) creation presentation we can help clear away many of the doubts. But most of all, and often for the first time in their lives, people realise there are answers to the questions and doubts that have plagued them for years. And moreover, now they also know where to find them—the CMI website and our publications!
After a presentation by a CMI speaker the pastor provided this feedback:
“Our church often supports big-name speakers who come to town, and certainly they’re entertaining and motivational. But in fact, I would say what you’ve done [CMI speaker] tonight is more valuable to us than those big-name speakers. That’s because you have equipped US with the TOOLS to be effective at evangelism, long after our memory of you has faded. It’s not about the hype around the big-name evangelist; it’s all about equipping US to do the evangelism, long after the speaker has gone. On that point alone, CMI’s ministry is unique, and hugely strategic. Churches should really be getting behind you guys in a big way … It’s given us stuff that we can talk about, without sounding like idiots.”
So, I encourage all who read this to revisit their church programs and ensure that it involves some element of creation teaching, but also contact us to arrange a speaker for your church. CMI charges no set speaker fees and the reason this is possible is due to the faithfulness of supporters. Thank you.