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Holiness, righteousness, and old-fashioned goodness will do far more to draw young people back to the church than modern marketing or post modern messaging. While the article below is directed initially to an Evangelical Christian audience, it appears to this outside observer that LDS are facing similar challenges. How to Bring Today's Generation Back to the Church My church is theologically conservative—in the “Horton Hears a Who” sense. We believe the Bible says what it means and means what it says, and is 100% faithful. Unlike many other denominations, we continue to grow—quite rapidly. Except—in the United States—except with the younger generation. What to do? How do we win back the twenty and thirty-somethings? Some sought to tweak the church’s methods, calling for more savvy marketing, updated music, even fogger machines. Most such suggestions seemed harmless enough. Some were humorous, and too much was just silly. Yet, some of us reacted—wondering aloud if we were losing our focus, and even our purpose. Other innovators are going for the jugular. They say the church has missed it. We pray and study our Bibles, and insulate ourselves from the community. The community does not care what we know, because they do not know that we care. We must stop judging, condemning, labeling, and riding on our high horses. Instead, say they, Christians must get outside the church walls, engage the community, listen, learn, care, and then maybe, just maybe, there will be opportunities to share. My response? First, the accusations are false. Show me the church with members praying too much. Show the congregation that is too well versed in the Bible. Show me the church with altars filled and members consistently connecting with God. That church is relevant, without having to say so. That church would do well to have members spending more time inside the walls, not less. After all, who other than the pastors, spends more than three or four hours a week in church? Second, the church should judge society more, not less—though by example, rather than fiery rhetoric. Should God’s people live by standards of righteousness, holiness, and old-fashioned goodness, outsiders might gain some hope. Perhaps there really is a better way! So, how can the church gain younger believers? Ironically, the best advertising we could do would be to live up to the standards we teach our young. As a boy, in Royal Rangers, I was taught to be mentally, physically, and spiritually alert; to be clean in body, mind, and speech; to be honest and not lie, cheat, or steal; to be courageous by being brave in spite of danger, criticism, or threats; to be loyal by being faithful to church, family, outpost, and friends; to be courteous by being polite, kind, and thoughtful; to obey parents, leaders, and those in authority; and to be spiritual by praying, reading the Bible, and by witnessing. So, let us win the young back to our churches—not through marketing, or through abandoning our core beliefs and practices for the post-modern relativism of society—but by doubling down on what we do right. Let’s pray, read our Bibles, and live with an out-loud goodness—the kind we learned as kids. To see a video presentation of this topic see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evOPKrrSNcE https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-bring-todays-generation-back-church-tommy-ellis/?published=t
As an Evangelical who came of age in the early 1980s, I remember so well the clarity of the world. Democracy vs. Communism and the Moral Majority vs. secular humanism. We figured God would use the church to turn America';s politics and culture to Jesus and righteousness. 30+ years later--what a different world it is! Paul told us to pray for Caesar, not to elect Peter. I will still cast my vote. Nevertheless, my best Christian righteousness will be seen in my love of God and neighbor, far more than in any devotion to a candidate, party, or policy position.
I was reading Elder Cook's conference talk and something he said has caused me to ponder. He presented two scriptures, "If there be no righteousness there be no happiness" (2 Ne 2:13), and, "Behold, I say unto you wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10). Of course I have heard these scriptures many times, but following the first scripture he said: Towards the end of the talk he says further: So, if righteousness is happiness, wickedness never was happiness, and it is a myth to believe happiness is delayed until a future state, how come wickedness sometimes appears to make me happy now and righteousness sometimes appears to not? Am I simply deceived in the very moment?