Why are many young adults leaving the church? Religion should be a deep relationship

Blake Tousignant walks outside of the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists. Sunday, March 20, 2021. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)
Blake Tousignant walks outside of the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists. Sunday, March 20, 2021. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)

Written by Rhonda Grakov

We all feel it in our bones. The Seventh-day Adventist Church (especially in North America and Europe) is aging. Why? Because as youth and young adults, we are forgetting that Christianity is about a dynamic, life-changing relationship, not a set of dry, brittle traditions. We seem to know intuitively that if we want friends, we must take time for them. And, we certainly seem willing to pour energy, creativity and precious hours into pursuing our romantic interests. 

However, when it comes to the deepest, most long-lasting (think eternal) relationship a person could ever have — one with our Creator, God and Savior — we are suddenly struck with total amnesia about what makes a relationship tick. Worse yet, I think we even forget that it is a relationship at all. 

My friends, the time has come to change things. No matter what the authority figures in our childhoods did or didn’t model to us, we are adults now. We need to take ownership of our connection with Jesus and do whatever it takes to make sure it is the healthiest relationship of our lives. It will take daily time, thought and effort. But that’s what any worthwhile relationship requires, right? 

Without the intentional cultivation of a friendship, it will wither away and eventually disappear from our lives. We’ve all had this happen with other humans but somehow forget that a divine-human relationship works the exact same way. God will never let us slip out of His love and care, but we might let Him slip out of ours — and a one-sided friendship isn’t a friendship anymore. 

This is the reason so many of our peers are also slipping out of church. A threadbare relationship cannot be sustained simply by maintaining the exterior trappings of a healthy one. 

Christianity is a deeply personal faith, one that requires participation from the inside out, and one in which Jesus permeates the deepest, murkiest corners of the human heart. By God’s grace, plus our cooperation, churchgoing must become a matter of the heart, not merely of habit. If we do not esteem our friendship with God highly enough to invest time in it every day, what makes us think that a church service once a week will keep us by His side? 

When we as young adults start treating our religion more like a relationship, going to church will cease being the issue it is.

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