Not long ago my family and I attended a wedding. It was a wonderful Christian wedding, the bride is a daughter of a family in our church, the bridegroom is a committed Christian, young missionary in Eastern Europe. Both were homeschooled, both love the Lord, and the wedding ceremony was planned by them to be both a worship service to God and a witness to the unbelievers among those present. It was a delight to attend.
The receptions of such weddings are usually a very good opportunity for Christian fellowship. Many Christian families from different churches in the area, most of them homeschool families; parents can share their experience with other parents, and Christian homeschooled children can have company with others at their age in a safe environment. A blessing for the Christian parents, a blessing for the Christian children.
With one exception. (Having been born on the Balkans, I am faithful to my heritage to always find faults even in the rosiest pictures. My ingrained skepticism usually turns out to be right.) And the exception was in the “gender demographics” of the younger age groups under 30 years of age. In the group of more than 200 Christians we had there, the ratio of boys to girls in the age bracket 13–20 years old was approximately 1:1. Nothing unusual so far.
The unusual came when I looked at the age group of 25–30 years. Many young single women were present. Raised in Christian homes, homeschooled, committed to Christ, intelligent, educated, beautiful (youth is always beautiful), trained to be ideal helpers when they become wives and mothers. These are young ladies who in biblical times would have cost the prospective bridegrooms tons of money to take for wives. Women who know and understand Proverbs 31 and can apply it to make any man the happiest husband ever.
And no young single men at their age. Not a single one.
This is not an isolated case. I have been to many churches and conferences. In one or another degree I have seen the same phenomenon in most places: the disappearance of young men from the churches between ages 20 and 25. And don’t make the mistake of assuming this concerns only families whose children went to public school. I don’t even count those. I am talking predominantly about communities and churches of homeschooling families, or families whose children go to Christian schools. As long as the Christian boys stay at home with their parents—that means until the age of 18–20—they go to church; when they leave home, they leave the church as well.
If you think I am exaggerating, ask a young single Christian woman of age 25 and over about her chances to get married. Or ask a father of many daughters.
But then, why would a young man stay in the church? Is there a “male” message in our churches today? Is there a message that gives a young man a worthy cause to work for and to fight for? Why would he stay, to listen all his life to the same sermon over and over again, in many different versions of it? Come back every Sunday to learn—for the n-th time, over and over again—that God loves us? Shed tears over the same emotional stuff every week? Or hear that we live in the “last times” and therefore evil will expand and he can’t do anything to turn the tide? Or that his gifts mean nothing in these “last times,” all he is supposed to do is to “witness” to save a few souls from hell?
I concede, some young men find their meaning in life in “spiritual ministries” in the church—youth pastors, worship leaders, missionaries. But what about the others whose gifts are not necessarily related directly to “church business”? What message do the churches have for those with the gift to be bankers? “Praise God you make money to pay tithes”? What about truck drivers? “God put you there to evangelize at the truck stops”? Do the churches have a message for banking itself as a legitimate part of the kingdom of God? Or truck driving? Or fitness? Or business management?
There is no message for them. The church’s message concerns only the church and the limited scope of activities that the pastors have declared to be “spiritual.” Any young man with gifts outside the scope of these activities is left to feel a “second class” citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. And guess what: Men are born with the impulse to be first class. This impulse is in the Y-chromosome. They will look for a cause, they will look for meaning in life, they will look for ideas, worldviews, professions, that give them the opportunity to have that meaningful first-class life.
In the world outside the church there are many opportunities to find meaningful life. Jobs, careers, political and social causes, sports, adventures, business opportunities—they all give a man an opportunity to prove himself, to have a sense of accomplishment, to achieve goals. Not long after a young man leaves his family he is drawn to them—and predictably. He is a man, for crying out loud, he has the drive, the inner energy to do something! Why would he want to stay in a church, passive, listening to the same sermon every Sunday that tells him that there is nothing he can do to change the world except snatch a few souls from hell? He is eager to go out there and prove himself in all those fields but then the church is silent about them, the preachers never preach about them and never explain the spiritual value of those jobs, sports, political and social causes, business, etc. in the Kingdom of God. There is no theology for political action, no theology for business action, no theology for social activity. What would a young man do then?
The silence and the refusal of the churches to preach and teach a comprehensive worldview creates a tension; and our young men resolve the tension by leaving the church and going to the world. It is not necessarily “backsliding,” it is not necessarily “apostasy.” It is a perfectly logical response to the deficiencies in our churches’ preaching and teaching.
This hasn’t always been the case. Two or three centuries ago our churches in this land had more young men than women. Some communities had to import French Huguenot or Swedish Lutheran brides for their sons. The churches had a relevant message that kept the young men in. America was postmillennial.The American church had a message of victory, a message that this country was a City on a Hill, and by its example God would change the world for Christ. Whether they were rafters and cowboys in the wilderness, or store clerks and builders in the cities of the East, Christian boys heard the same message from their preachers: “We are a nation created by God to be Christian and to exhibit God’s glory. We have a Manifest Destiny to create a godly society that will be admired and imitated by the nations of the world. Christ has established His Kingdom on this earth centuries ago, and everything you do—your job, your family, your entertainment even—is expanding the Kingdom of Christ on this earth.” Pastors preached the civil liberties of the Law of God and then donned the uniform to lead the boys in battle for those liberties. Men like Cotton Mather preached on political and economic issues (Fair Dealings Between Debtor and Creditor is one example); and the civil government was constantly under scrutiny and criticism from the pulpits. The churches did not wait for their boys to go out and find worthy causes. The churches led the boys in those worthy causes in their crusade to redeem the world for Christ. The choice for a young man in those days wasn’t “church vs. secular calling.” There was no “secular calling.” Everything was under the Lordship of Christ, and therefore every single aspect of the life of society was to be taught upon, preached upon, and discussed from the pulpits.
And young men stayed in the churches, and built Christian families, and expanded the Kingdom of God, and built the Christian culture that we today thank God for. And young Christian women did not stay single for a long time.
That should tell us how we can take our young men back. As long as we have a female church with a female message, our young men will prefer to stay away from it. You only get what you preach. The loss of our sons to the enemy is a curse, and it is our fault we have let our churches truncate the message to irrelevance. Today’s gender demographic in our churches is a product of today’s irrelevant message in the churches. You know a society by its men. If they are gone, then the society has ceased to be relevant to the real world. The demographics of irrelevance is God’s curse upon a generation that refused to hear the call of the victory of Christ’s Kingdom in history and on earth.
So next Sunday go to your church and look around. Do you see young unmarried women and no single young men? If you do, you should be alarmed. You should go to your pastor and confront him about his message. A society with no young men is a dead society, no matter what activities it has every Sunday.