I spend at least half of my time meeting with men under 40. Most consider themselves Christians but for the most part their knowledge of the Bible and doctrine is threadbare.
Many attended a youth group, went to Christian camps and grew up in church but couldn’t name the books of the Bible, or the 10 commandments at gunpoint! While there’s often some mild embarrassment about that, most just don’t care.
They don’t have much use for church membership or have any loyalty to one denomination. What younger Christians today care about most of all is this: If you’re serious about Jesus it ought to dramatically show in your life. (But in ways that may surprise you.) That often means things like:
You ought to be as serious about mercy and social justice as you are about evangelism.
You ought to be as serious about the quality of all lives, as you are those of the unborn.
You ought to be as serious about personally caring for the poor as you are providing a comfortable living for your family.
You ought to be kind and respectful to LGBT people and even to your political enemies.
I grew up hugging theological trees. I memorized the Heidelberg Catechism. I understood and could explain the Five Points of Calvinism, even before I was serious about living for Jesus. In my church doctrinal knowledge was a sign of spiritual maturity.
Most younger Christians just don’t care that much anymore about doctrine.
It’s not that they don’t attend Bible Studies or take notes during the sermon. But they are seeking out a theology that works. A theology that makes us better people, not just biblically correct. They couldn't imagine a church split over doctrinal differences like most of us over 60 have experienced. In fact, they wouldn’t want to be part of any church that did split from another. They view fights over theological differences as energy leaks and un-Christlike behavior
They seek out mentors or role models these day who are “well read.” The successful spiritual mentors I know who are meeting with young men, read several secular news sources, so they understand what’s going on in the rest of the non-Christian world. They listen to pastors and podcasters outside of their denomination. They are open-minded on “disputable matters“, but respect Christian who know their Bible and are kind toward those who disagree with them.
Love in action is the new apologetics.
While I still love apologetics and believe strongly it’s the Church’s responsibility to hold to and promote biblical truth, I can’t recall ever leading someone to Christ based on the soundness of my logic. Hopefully they saw in me and others a hint of the kind of life that following Jesus makes possible. But this I know to be true, people aren’t waking away from the Church over our theology, but over our lack of love.
The old camp and retreat song is a powerful reminder, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, …..”