“Many people are looking at the evangelical church and finding it lacking.”

So says Ed Seltzer, church growth guru and director of LifeWay Research. His survey of 900 adults, ages 18-29, found that 72% thought the church is full of hypocrites, and that 86% think you don’t have to go to church to have a relationship with God. “Younger adults like Jesus, but not the church.”

Where did the evangelical church go wrong? Seltzer says that “for the last 50 years, we have said the primary way to reach lost people is to invite them to church.”

“We tell people, ‘just pray this prayer to receive Christ,'” he commented. “Just praying this prayer is not what you do. A large percentage of people praying that prayer are not being regenerated. We think we’ll tell them the rest later. … Getting people in classes to make them disciples doesn’t work.”

Seltzer says that if we aren’t serious about how we exercise our faith, about how we turn unbelievers into disciples, the people we do recruit are likewise casual about how they treat the church.

As for teens 15-17, Seltzer finds that our habit of keeping them entertained is exactly the opposite approach to what it needed.

“They are saying the church is not worth their lives, and they are tired of playing church. People don’t want to give their lives to something that doesn’t change them and doesn’t change the world.”

The other factors for keeping teens in church is that both parents stay married and attending church, that they have at least one other adult in the church make a significant investment of time in their life, and that the sermons are relevant to their life.


Information for this report came from an Oklahoma Baptist Messenger article about Seltzer speaking at a conference in Moore, OK.