This is a Special Feature-Length Post. It’s more in-depth than usual, but worth the read. Feel free to read it in parts.
Millions of Young Adults Today Are Having Failing Spiritual Health – You Don’t Have To Be One of The Numbers.
I live in a country where (according to the last CENSUS data), ALL the traditional Christian denominations are seeing their youth numbers decrease. More notably, the youth account for 40 percent of those who are now shunning ALL religious affiliation.
That means in my country, the fastest growing religion among young men and women like me is “no religion“.
You may call it unfair, but I deduce from that data, not simply a growing disenchantment with religion, but an increasing neglect of the spiritual life (which then leads to dissociation from religion).
Why? As far as I can see, the vast majority of people aren’t quitting church to become atheists. The majority will tell you that they find everything associated with religion boring, or onerous or weird, or displeasing in some way.
Young Adults Lead the Nones
The people with no affiliation are called “Nones”. In October last year, in a report entitled “Nones” on the Rise, the U.S. based research body, the Pew Forum, disclosed that:
One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.
Take a look at the chart below and decide for yourself whether you agree with my analysis. I contend that while there are many young adults who have turned away from belief in God and religion with deliberate intent (the outright atheists or conscious agnostic for example), the vast majority are just people who have been so unintentional about their spiritual life for so long that eventually they see very little, to no value in it.
My Problem with Nones
The bible calls Atheist fools. Still, they seem to me to be a whole lot smarter than Nones. Why? They recognized that they had to take a position. They had to come down somewhere in this God/Human debate. They couldn’t just sleep and eat and wait for a sign or something.
Agnostics are noncommittal and it’s not hard to see why, with all the craziness we here about “God” from all different angles. They need to go further, but they’re still better than Nones.
Nones are upsetting. Nones deny by their actions things they don’t have the courage to deny in their minds and their hearts. They have an idea that they can know, see, feel, taste, and touch more – much more! Yet, they shrink back from it. Why?
- Too much effort.
- Too much to lose.
- Not interesting or exciting enough.
- Too much controversy.
- No support from friends.
- Just not something pressing.
Sadly, when it comes to being unaffiliated, young adults – you and I, lead the way.
Whoever you are, I want to challenge you to BECOME INTENTIONAL (or to STAY intentional) about what you do with the idea/truth/reality that God exists and that you have a spirit that’s meant to interact with Him.
I want to share with you 10 things that I submit are truths regarding this area of your life. I hope they will challenge you to value your Spirit and to demonstrate that value in how you treat it.
Want to Value Your Spirit? 10 Things to Remember:
1.It’s your duty to find ALL of yourself.
There are MANY sides and aspects to you. You are more than just your athletic, academic or professional self. You are not a full person, nor are you living a full life whenever you ignore a major part of your being.
Note Well: I am not saying that you should “get” “find” or “begin” a spiritual life. Newsflash: you already have a spirit and therefore, a spiritual life! My challenge to you is to “value,” “improve,” and “develop” it.
Sadly this is not a mainstream message. Even today the words of Martin Luther King Jr. ring true:
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
2. If God exists – that is a very BIG deal.
When I was younger I would sometimes try to think about what it means that God has no beginning and no end. I would literally get headaches. Very little has changed in that regard to this day.
Where did we come from (the origins of man)? Where we are going (life after death)? How should we treat our planet and the people who live in it? It is all affected by what we believe about God.
While we may not be able to grasp the full magnitude of God – the implications of his existence are just too grand for us to ignore him.
3. This world may not be all.
Haven’t you ever felt as though there is something inside you that nothing you have ever seen, smelt, tasted, touched, been touched by, experienced or enjoyed has ever been able to fully and completely satisfy? I feel that way sometimes.
Could it be that there is something inside us that we cannot satisfy as much as we try because it cannot be satisfied by anything in this world. The great author and thinker C.S. Lewis puts it beautifully:
A man’s physical hunger does not prove that that man will get any bread: he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating, and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist.”19
In other words, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. 20
(Full citation over at DesiringGod.org).
4. Really valuing your spirit IS more than just say-so.
- You get around them: You make sure the house is cleared and the TV is working in time for every episode. You call your friend and reserve time in your schedule for him/her. You try to learn everything about the girl/guy you’re into.
- You protect them: You’d share your own meal with your friend or sweetheart and if you had your way no one would ever cut your favorite program after 1 or 2 seasons.
- You seek their best: In every discussion about the best show on TV – you can’t help but jump in and mention your show. Whenever your girl/guy or friend has a project or presentation you’re there to proofread, critique and pray.
- You invest in them: When Valentines Day (and birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and Christmas) comes around, you put your money where your mouth is to show your love.
Apply those same 4 things you do to how you should treat your spirit. If and when you value it, you will protect it, seek its best, and try to understand it well through regular engagement and you will invest in it whenever you get a chance to.
5. ‘Valuing’ your spirit is not their duty.
It happens everyday- it’s the teacher’s fault why we don’t learn, its McDonald’s fault why we’re big and fat, and it’s the government’s fault why we are poor.
While incompetent teachers may in fact hinder a student’s growth, and deep fat fried fast foods will make you fat, and poor systems of governance can and do keep many of the world’s poor poor – that is never the full story.
Often, we outsource the responsibility for intellectual growth to teachers, our heart and physical health to commercial businesses, and the comfort of our lives to Governments. You do the very same thing with your spirit when you entrust its growth, stability or health to:
- Religious groups (the church),
- Spiritual leaders (pastors),
- Chance (God giving a random sign); or
- Whatever else.
Also, FOR THE NATURAL GO-GETTERS: Don’t you find it a bit strange that in every area of your life you take the initiative to secure what is best – but in this one area everything is left to feelings, ‘whatever-happens-happens’ and chance?
6. There are many more ‘Hungry Ones’ like you.
Lucky for you, you aren’t the only person with a spirit and a desire to better value it! There are many more people – just as passionate as you are about grappling with that part of their being that says THERE MUST BE MORE THAN THIS!
You should find them.
For me, as a young adult it is a tremendous benefit to know other young adults – just like me: intelligent, good-looking, exciting, ambitious, educated, critical, career oriented, etc – others just like me who are also internally efficient, deeply spiritual and passionate about God.
How does it help?
- It gives me that “I am not crazy”
- It encourages me to persevere – “They are doing it too! So can I”
- It helps to speed-up my depth and development as I learn from others how they value their spirit.
Go find your people – it can only help.
7. Not everyone (maybe no one at all in your circle) will join you.
[pullquote align=”right”]Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. – Martin Luther King, Jr.[/pullquote] Ok – that’s probably true (and not at all encouraging), BUT, all of your friends didn’t decide to study biology – or whatever it is you studied. Some of your friends chose not to study at all – (or maybe you’re that friend, who took a different route). All your friends cannot accept the same job as you, nor will they work in the same kind of company, and probably not even to work in the same country!
In this life, many of our most critical decisions will not be in multi-player mode. Still, we will have to face them. Apply that approach to your spirituality.
8. NOTHING significant or lasting is easy to find, cultivate, or improve.
Just think: 1) true love, 2) the legacy of Michael Jackson, and 3) a long happy marriage.
Sure, there are those who are struck with great affection at first sight, some who are born with a golden voice, and some who were just lucky enough to marry an agreeable and attractive person.
Still, even the lucky must persevere in love to prove it true, even the naturally gifted must practice and rehearse all their songs (and dance steps) continually for years and, and even the most agreeable people will disagree.
Chicken Soup may take a while and a lot of energy to prepare, while Ramen Noodles – just pop some in the microwave for 3 minutes. I’ve never heard anyone suggest a bowl of Ramen Noodles for the flu though.
9. The whole world agrees that the ostrich is stupid.
Unless your beef is “there is NO, has NEVER BEEN and WILL NEVER BE any such thing as God” – then the prevalence of controversy and confusion in relation to God, faith and religion is never an excuse to stick your head in the sand.
You cannot simply ignore so critical an aspect of your being and still be a whole person.
10. You are under no obligation to accept, own or defend the ‘party line’.
Ever seen how politicians vote? All Republicans together. All JLP or PNP, or PNM or whatever the party, together. They are compelled to follow the “Party Line.”
You may feel that way too, as though you are compelled to follow what your parents, country, community, ancestors and teachers etc believe, or did NOT believe.
One of the most impacting sentence I have ever read in the bible, about 7 words, is John (7:53):
“Then each went to his own home.”
The sheer finality of the words. In the preceding verses, all the people were arguing violently about who Jesus was – some for, some against. Then came the verse: “each went to his own home.”
Do not go unthinking, blind, and without deep, conscious reflection into any path because your parents or friends did or did not. Your decisions are yours to live with.
Are you adequately valuing your spirit? Are you satisfied with your knowledge and experiences in relation to God?
This is part 6 of the 7 part series “Make 2013 a Stand Out Year.”
Read the posts in this series: