A noted Christian apologist says evangelical churches shouldn't be resorting to "infotainment" in their attempt to keep younger generations interested in church – and that includes making casino games available during celebrations.
As Millennials age out of the home, they – like generations before them – are leaving the faith. But according to a new survey, the difference is that the current generation of Millennials is unlikely to come back.
Analysis by the American Enterprise Institute of a poll called the "General Social Survey" confirms what two writers at FiveThirtyEight say: "… there's mounting evidence that today's younger generations may be leaving religion for good." AEI's researchers cite three reasons: Millennials' parents taught them fewer religious practices; more of the Millennials have secular spouses; and fewer feel the need to pass their faith on to their children.
Dr. Alex McFarland of Truth for a New Generation agrees with the assessment. "Many American evangelical parents have fallen down on the job," he acknowledges. "Almost anything can preempt a family's commitment to Christ – soccer games, high school trips, virtually anything and everything."
And although the survey looked at Millennials of all faiths and denominations, McFarland says the evangelical church followed some bad trends as far back as the 1970s.
"The quest to make youth ministry and discipleship ever easier and more accessible and not just 'study and reflection' – but actually 'make it fun' and 'make it exciting'?" he questions. "[That] made many churches more about what I would call infotainment and less about imparting the rock-solid truths of scripture."
And when parents lost the foundations of the faith, the apologist laments, there was less to pass on to their Millennial children.
In a way, McFarland says the horse is already out of the barn. "The majority of Millennials would not come back to a church that they were never a part of in the first place. They need to be evangelized," he emphasizes.
According to McFarland, the way to get folks back to church is to teach the truth of the gospel – not by using worldly gimmicks such as a casino night.
Southern Baptist casino night
Blueprint Church in Atlanta, whose lead teaching pastor, Dahti Lewis, is a vice president with the North American Mission Board, celebrated its ten-year anniversary last weekend. While the celebration included all the things one might expect at a Southern Baptist shindig – food, fellowship, door prizes – it also included roulette, black jack, poker, and craps.
No real money was wagered during the celebration – regardless, McFarland says there's no place for even "pretend" gambling at a church.
"We've nearly reached a new low when we have to emulate casinos to try to get people interested in church," he tells OneNewsNow. "If we've got to go that far to mimic some of what represents the darkest parts of any culture, God help us.
"Rather than do pathetic imitations of the world, why don't we in the church offer the world the thing that we alone have to dispense: the truth of the gospel," he emphasizes, arguing that's what is most effective in attracting new converts.
Research finds that when real gambling enters a community, it often comes with increases in crime, prostitution, and bankruptcy claims. McFarland calls the church's casino night a "tacit endorsement" of the real thing that implies it's "okay to do that in our spare time."