Ken Ham teams up with research specialist Britt Beemer to present this wake up call to Evangelical Christians about the alarming decline in both church attendance and belief among the younger generations. Already aware that churches are losing huge numbers with each succeeding generation, Ham and Beemer set out in search of answers to questions about when and why they are leaving. After all, without that information, there is no way to develop a realistic strategy to turn this around.
Drawing on data from a study commissioned by Ken Ham's ministry, Answers in Genesis, as well as data from other studies, Ham and Beemer came up with some startling findings. The popular notion among Christians is that young people lose their faith when they go to college, but the numbers reveal that almost half are already gone by high school. Almost 40% of children have their first doubts about their faith during middle school. Another upsetting and unexpected revelation was that Sunday School might be doing more harm than good when it comes to spiritual formation. The study uncovered facts such as that those who attended Sunday School were (albeit by a narrow margin) more likely to support abortion rights and premarital sex than those who didn't attend. Lest we think they got these results by polling only marginal church attendees, the authors explain up front that they polled only those who had attended conservative, evangelical churches that believed and preached from the Bible. Interviewees were 20 to 30 year olds, 95% of whom had attended church regularly during elementary and middle school years. So this was a pool already narrowed to omit those from liberal or non-church attending backgrounds.
The solution the authors propose is a solid grounding in apologetics including belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis. They stress the importance of dealing with the tough questions such as evolution, biblical authority, supposed biblical contradictions, where did all the different races come from, the problem of evil and suffering, and the reality of miracles. All of this is essentially about developing a biblical Christian worldview. It challenges pastors to emphasize solid teaching over entertaining music. It stresses the importance of choosing and using good resources for Sunday school and ensuring that the teachers "get it." It reminds parents that Christian formation is primarily their own responsibility, and that it includes modeling a Christian worldview in their own life.
In my opinion, the proposed solutions fall a bit short. It really doesn't take into account modern relativistic and individualistic thinking and the trend toward rejection of all authority. It doesn't tackle the huge problem caused by the large majority of Christian children being educated in government schools. In addition, it does not address the problem of doctrinal conflicts even among evangelical churches that often leave young people thinking that nobody really knows what is true.
Already Gone does a good job of revealing the problem and digging deeper to get at its roots. Many will find the suggested solutions a good place to start. But I hope that the book will instigate a much broader discussion of both the problem and potential solutions.