Chapter 1.
My Faith Is Not My Parents' Faith

Joe chuckled at the question, but we could tell it made him uneasy. Up until this point in our interview, the conversation was lighthearted. Joe bragged about his children, his wife, and his family in East Tennessee. He's a clean-cut, corporate guy, but we were surprised to hear he wanted to be a rock star as a young adult. Apparently his father didn't take too kindly to his vain attempts for a rock 'n' roll mane. Today he helps to lead music for his church's praise and worship team. Joy, love, and passion exude from him; his commitment to his church is readily apparent.

Such was not always the case in Joe's life. Joe was a church dropout for many years. Asking him about this segment of his life clearly evoked difficult memories.

"I truly believe I had a genuine conversion experience when I was eleven, but when I went to college, I wanted to be as far from my church as possible."

We asked him what happened.

"I was a shy child and teenager, never dabbling in anything too horribly rebellious. In fact, I was very much an introvert—that is, until I turned eighteen."

"What was the turning point?"

Joe continued, "I guess since the church was never a critical element of my life, it was easier to leave. When I woke up to my own personality as a young adult, I wanted nothing more than to pursue the world and its pleasures. I went from a quiet child to a rebellious adult seeking sin to its greatest degrees."

"What did your parents say and do when you made this decision?"

Essentially This

Students are not fleeing the church because of deep desires for personal freedom.

Joe choked up. "They always asked me to return to church. I went through so many struggles, yet I never viewed my local church as an option for help. Quite frankly, the church wasn't the same for me as it was for them."

We interrupted his stream of comments and focused on this element of his church. We asked, "Why was your church different for you?"

"I guess I never saw how my faith and my church connected. I knew I was saved. I knew I was sinning. I felt convicted about living this lifestyle. But I didn't see how it all tied in to the church."

"I guess I never saw how my faith and my church connected."

Joe is like so many who drop out of the church. We heard a myriad of reasons and excuses for leaving the church, but one predominant theme was that eighteen- to twenty-two-year-olds did not see their faith like their parents' faith. The church connection was somehow lost with the younger generation.

We heard Joe talk at length about his parents, how they continued to love him and reach out to him during this time in his life. But their reason for going back to church was simply, "You need to get back in church."

This line of conviction and argumentation perhaps worked with older generations, but it does not resonate with the latest generation of young adults. This generation likes to talk about faith. Many believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have faith. Religious matters do not scare them. Most maintain some level of interest in spiritual topics. But unless this generation fuses faith and church, they will see no reason to stay in church. Frankly, the faith of their parents is not reason enough for them to claim it as their own.

Our research revealed what many pastors and church leaders already know anecdotally: the youngest generation doesn't necessarily leave their faith; rather they leave their church. This finding was both encouraging and frightening. On the one hand, the eighteen- to twenty-two-year-old age group maintains at least some level of receptivity to issues of spirituality. On the other hand, they disconnect this spirituality from their church. They aren't dropping their faith. But they are dropping the church.

The Myth of Freedom

A credit card company advertises their "freedom card." While we think it perverse that a company would advertise a vehicle for debt as freedom, we will use it as an illustration anyway. In the commercials they use an old Rolling Stones tune that goes, "I'm free to do what I want ... any old time." Now that you have the song stuck in your head, we want to discuss a myth about high school students and church. The myth: young church dropouts leave the fellowship because of their desire for personal freedom. The truth is the opposite.

Let's debunk this myth up front. Most students in high school do not plan to leave the church. In fact, our research reveals that an overwhelming majority (80 percent) of high school students do not plan to leave their church once they graduate. Conversely, only 20 percent of high school students have plans to leave their local church once they are out of their parents' nest.

This finding contradicts what is commonly believed within the church: college students do not attend church because they are sowing their wild oats and enjoying newfound freedom away from home. It's simply not true. By and large, high school students do not have a deep desire to leave the church.

We talked to a high school senior who decided to leave his small town to go to a flight school in Florida. We asked him about his decision and how he felt about it.

"I'm excited about getting an opportunity to fulfill my dreams of becoming a pilot," he said, "but I do have some reservations."

"Like what?"

"Well, I'll miss my family, of course. But I'll also miss all the people at my church. I've had a great time getting to learn all the sound equipment and helping out during the service. I'll definitely miss doing that every week."

This student went on to tell us how his church had trained him starting in junior high to be one of the main people on the sound crew. He took ownership in what he did for the church. He knew that he contributed to what the church was trying to accomplish. He knew that he was a critical component of the body of believers. The fact that he was not able to continue contributing to his home church on a regular basis pained him.

From our data we can infer anecdotally that one substantial reason many do not plan to leave is because their church is taking an active role in their lives. In other words, the church is essential to them because they know that they are essential to the church, even at a young age.

The myth of freedom is debunked. Churches should not place all the blame on the students for exiting the church. While students are certainly accountable for their own actions, the church also has the responsibility to make students a valued part of ministry. The church always has an array of responsibilities in need of filling—sound and lighting, greeters, preschool workers, and parking attendants, among many other tasks. Give them a note card with pertinent information on it and let them make the church announcements. Allow them to pray during the service. Train those that are more spiritually mature to teach in small groups of elementary school children. An essential church uses all believers in the church for service, including students. These students are not looking for freedom; they desire responsibility. Put them to the task and watch them grow.

Not Losing My Religion

As a Southern colloquialism, "losing my religion" does not refer to a departure from one's faith but rather a loss of civility and lack of control over anger. We title this section "Not Losing My Religion" because church dropouts are neither angry at the church nor casting off their religion. They are not losing their religion, but quietly and without emotion they exit the local church.

In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus teaches through the parable of the sower. This passage illustrates how seeds of equal value fall on different types of soil. The main emphasis of this portion of Scripture is not the sowing action or the seeds but rather the condition of the soil. Two types of soil exist: productive and unproductive. The unproductive seeds are scattered in thorns, fall on rocky soil, and are strewn about every place except in the good soil. What makes the seed productive is the type of soil in which it lies. We fear this study exposes that there are many young, scattered seeds resting everywhere but on productive soil. As a result the church must refocus to become part of the Lord's eternal and bountiful harvest.

We found the results of this part of our research surprising. Most dropouts are not leaving because they no longer want to identify with organized religion. Dropouts do not all question their faith. Few are angry with or have stopped believing in God. These dropouts don't completely depart from their faith. They rather part ways with the church. In fact, only 16 percent of dropouts reported that they left their church because they no longer wanted to identify with organized religion. So let's now examine which parts of the church are sources of disillusionment for the younger generation.

The most glaring issue of estrangement for eighteen- to twenty-two-year-olds is the interminable gap between their personal beliefs and their church's stated beliefs. In other words, the church's stated external beliefs, covenant, or confession goes against the personal and internal belief structure of these younger adults. Only 53 percent of all young adult churchgoers state that they are in line with the beliefs of their church. The dropout crisis isn't found in the style, venue, programs, or location of the church. This crisis is much deeper; it runs to the core of the doctrinal truths of the church. Only half of our young adults agree with the church's teachings.

To be blunt, God has converted our children, but we have failed to disciple them. Our children grow up in the church and experience all the programs and fellowship, but they do not engage the truths of Scripture. When they go to college or find a new social network, the church's role is replaced. They have no need to maintain what they perceive as their parents' social circle now that they have their own.

The mere fact that half of our current young adult population within our churches do not personally align with the doctrinal teachings of the church should sound the alarm for the need to increase our discipleship efforts. With such a divide between the church and the individual, it comes as no surprise that young adults leave the church in masses.

The dropouts are not mad. Many still claim their faith. They can still have a positive view of their pastor and church. They aren't losing their religion. Most just see no reason to stay; the church is not essential to them. It is just another social venue with which they have little in common. Dropouts feel this way because many within the church assumed that they would stay. Their parents assumed that the teachings of the church would be well received via religious osmosis. But the Great Commission explicitly commands us to teach and disciple. Neglecting this element of the gospel imperative creates an atmosphere of spiritual and doctrinal atrophy resulting in a nonessential church.

UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute recently reported through their research that students may be less likely to attend religious services while in college, but this lack of attendance does not mean that they are wrestling with their faith. In fact, after three years of college, students are more engaged in a spiritual quest than they were as freshmen. But during this same time period, college students attend church much less frequently. Among incoming freshmen, 43.7 percent said they frequently attend religious services, but by the end of their junior year attendance was down to 25.4 percent.

During college, interest in religious matters goes up, yet attendance in church falls precipitously. Interest in religion clearly does not equate to believing in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. But the church is not capturing and engaging these students' spiritual interests. In fact, the church is doing the opposite. We're losing them because the church is uninteresting to them.

The major source of disillusionment within the church stems not from the expected differences of worship style wars, time slots, day of worship, or even geographic location of the church. While some do leave for these oft-stated reasons, the major loss originates from the lack of discipleship within our churches.

No doubt, some dropouts leave regardless of the health of the church. Some exit because they renounce their religion, which we address in the next section. Some are angry. Some are looking for a different spin on church. But the vast majority do not lose their religion. They simply lose the church.

Back to the Basics

Sarah was one of our younger interviewees. She was nineteen, and she was actively involved in her local church. She was a greeter in her church. She regularly helped teach the children in Sunday school. And she was typically the first to sign on for mission trips. In fact, the orange T-shirt she was wearing had the church logo on the front and "I love my church!" printed on the back.

We had to ask, "Why do you love your church so much?"

"It's where I was saved and where I grow to be more Christlike."

Basic enough.

Sarah didn't leave her church after her eighteenth birthday. She moved out of her parents' house into a local apartment and is attending the college in her city. But she did not drop out of her church.

What was so essential about her church? It looks like any other church. They have the same struggles as most other churches. They don't have a coffee shop or a dynamic contemporary service. The pastor is not a well-known national religious figure. Sarah's church was essential in her life because Christ was essential in her life.

Our research indicates that a lot of teens and young adults could become active like Sarah. But before they reach that point, the church needs to get back to the basics with them. The church cannot assume that the teens coming with their parents and friends every week are Christians. Indeed, one of the biggest mission fields may be those sitting in your church every week. And the sad reality is that many leave the church because they were not believers in the first place.

Looking for more but not finding it in church. As we wrote this chapter, an Associated Press/MTV poll was released on teen happiness. Surprisingly, for those in the thirteen to twenty-four age range, a high correlation exists between spirituality and happiness. In other words, teens and young adults who are on a spiritual journey are happier than those that are not. In fact, 44 percent of those interviewed stated that religion is very important to them.

This receptivity to spiritual matters is encouraging. The sad news is that most are not Christians. Seven out of ten thirteen- to twenty-four-year-olds in this survey state that while their religion is vital to their lives, other religions and belief systems are probably true as well. Our nation's youth are looking for more in life, but they are not finding it. The spiritual journey makes them happy, but this journey does not lead them to the ultimate fulfillment found in Jesus Christ.

While the above survey includes teens inside and outside of church and focuses on a vague sense of spirituality, our researchers wanted to know how an evangelical church becomes essential in the lives of the younger generation. We see that this generation is seeking something spiritual. What must the church do to connect with them? Perhaps Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research says it best: "Teens are looking for more from a youth ministry than a holding tank with pizza. They look for a church that teaches them how to live life. As they enter young adulthood, church involvement that has made a difference in their lives gives them a powerful reason to keep attending."

Be encouraged at the receptivity of this age group. But in order to retain them, the church must dig deeper. We must give them something that sticks. The glue that holds them to church isn't a whiz-bang program or an exciting service; the glue is the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

When past experiences collide with future opportunities. Matt smiled when we asked him about his church. You could tell he was dedicated to and loved the people at his place of worship.

"But I wasn't always like this," he said matter-of-factly. Matt worked long hours at a manufacturing plant. His daily commute could easily stretch into an hour one way, depending on traffic.

"When Charlie came along," Matt said, speaking of his pre-school-age son, "I wanted to spend all my spare time with him."

"So you sacrificed your time at church to do so?"

"Exactly," he replied.

"When were you convicted to come back?"

"My wife and I just knew that after a couple of years we still had this void in our lives. We weren't going to be good parents feeling the way we did."

"Going back helped fill that void?"

"No, realizing I was neglecting the call of God was the bigger issue. Going back to church wasn't enough. I needed to be the man for my family that God was calling me to be."

"How did you come to this realization?"

Matt looked around the room as he gathered his thoughts. "I don't place any blame on my former church, but I was never challenged personally at the church where I grew up. While I take full responsibility for my actions, I just wish that people had invested more in me personally."

Matt is now a lay leader in his church. His current church challenges him, and he is part of a mentoring group for those working through a call to ministry. He preaches occasionally on Sunday nights. Matt now feels the church is essential to his life. While he still struggles with his work schedule and balancing family life (and who doesn't), the church is a key component of helping him do that.

Like Matt, young adults often drop out of church when they enter into a new phase of life. Going to college, getting a promotion, getting married, or having a child demands more time from an individual. These new opportunities and life changes require an internal evaluation of where and how time will be managed in the future. Since twenty-eight-hour days do not exist (and many of us wish they did), time slots must be shuffled to accommodate the new opportunity or life change. If the church is not an essential component of their life, then the time dedication to a local body of believers is often one of the first to go.

The past experiences of the church with the dropout may not be negative. Churches should not assume that people are leaving acrimoniously. Most do not leave with bitterness. Their past experiences may even be positive. They just view their current opportunity or time constraints as more important than their ties to their local church.

Give me a break! As mentioned in the introduction, the number one reason young adults leave the church is because they simply wanted a break from church. Ingrained in the minds of our youth is the deep-rooted belief that taking a sabbatical from church is permitted and even refreshing.

Church is not a chore, nor should it be viewed as such. Lost somewhere is the idea that we are to grow discipled warriors for God. Church can be fun; fellowship is many times viewed as one of the essential purposes of the church. But our churches should produce and grow disciplined, God-glorifying people, not callow Christians.

Taking a break from church is synonymous with taking a break from God. The two are inexplicably tied—Christ the bridegroom, the church His bride (see Eph. 5:31-33). Regardless of any reason, many of our youth believe that this hiatus from church is worthwhile. And we shouldn't react with disdain but rather with a loving heart that shows them how critical a role church plays in the life of people. Neglecting the fellowship is just not an option (see Heb. 10:25).

At issue in many churches are the vast numbers of programs and "spots to fill." Our youth see adults in the church begrudgingly serving in areas for which they have little passion. They see their parents and others getting sucked into the vacuum of church service. But if we show these young adults that serving the church is more about using their God-given gifts and less about filling a spot in a program, they are less likely to want a break from church.

The people of the church. The Rainer household is a competitive one. My (Sam's) wife, Erin, can almost beat me in tennis ... almost. But it still drives me crazy. Within the family are graduates from the University of Alabama (my father and coauthor, Thom), the University of South Carolina (Sam), and the University of Kentucky (my younger brother, Art). SEC football reigns supreme in the fall, and we've learned not to call one another after bad defeats. I clearly remember from my childhood how Dad wore our carpet thin pacing during every Alabama football game. Each of his three sons still dislike the Auburn Tigers to this day due to his influence.

Competition was the norm in a household of three boys. So when my two younger brothers devised a Tournament of Champions for my bachelor party, it was no-holds-barred for the group of guys involved. The competition consisted of go-carts, laser tag, air hockey, putt-putt, and pop-a-shot. A scoring matrix was derived for each game, and a detailed list of rules and regulations was distributed. The camouflage and face paint scared the younger children in the arcade. The competition was intense.

Despite the intensity it was a good time to catch up on life's events. I had not seen some of my high school friends in a while so I asked them about their churches and what they were doing in their local body. One of my good friends, Jon, reluctantly answered that he had not attended church in some time. I was somewhat taken aback because Jon was raised in the church and had attended a Christian school. He proclaimed to be born again. I asked Jon why he had stopped attending his local church. He curtly responded with some measure of guilt, "I just don't feel connected to the people anymore."

"I just don't feel connected to the people anymore."

I thought, if Jon (and others like him) could be as intense about his involvement with the local church as he is with our silly Tournament of Champions, then the church would be alive with evangelical energy. Unfortunately though, too many within this young adult age bracket are rapidly leaving the church.

The entire Tournament of Champions crew was in their early to mid-twenties. And this age group had intensity and energy that could be directed at ministries within the church. Our research shows that one of the greatest needs within the young adult generation is building relationships and connecting with one another. Additionally, this group is searching for the truth, and they do not want to be mollycoddled on Sunday morning. They are seeking a challenge. And they value the journey of finding things out for themselves. My friend Jon loves a challenge, and he is one who truly wants to make a difference in other people's lives.

Jon's view of the disconnectedness of church is similar to that of many within our study. The disparity between the dropouts and those who stayed is large. It may sound like common sense, but many times common sense is overlooked. Dropouts left because they felt disconnected from the people of the church; those who stayed did so because they felt connected.

There is a clear correlation between how young adults perceive the people of the church and whether they drop out. In other words, young adults connect to churches where the people are open, positive, and caring. Conversely, young adults drop out of churches where the people are indifferent or critical. The chart following demonstrates this unmistakable divide between the perceptions of the dropouts and those who stayed.

Percent of 18 to 22 year olds who maintain the below impressions about their church
Those who stayed Those who dropped out
Caring 74%% 39%
Welcoming 71% 36%
Authentic 67% 30%
Inspirational 56% 20%
Insincere 19% 41%
Judgmental 24% 51%

Each church believes it is the most friendly, caring, and authentic church in town. In reality, it could be the case. But many churches are not perceived as such by the eighteen- to twenty-two-year-old crowd.

An essential church is an authentic church. While young adults want to be welcomed and loved just like anyone else, they also desire authenticity. This generation was born into a marketed world. Streams of commercials, billboards, Web sites, and reality TV are normative in the lives of the wireless generation. They've never seen a rotary dial telephone; they might not even own a landline telephone (Sam and his wife do not). They see through phoniness because it's plastered everywhere they go. They can sniff out artificialness with hound dog accuracy. Whether it's an image, a lifestyle, or a product, they are constantly being sold something.

Taking this same approach with your church is bound to backfire. Churches should not attempt to "sell" this generation on church. They want their church to be authentic and real. They want the truth, even if they disagree with it. They want to know where you stand. They may not like it at first, but they will respect you. And being real always garners respect in the eyes of young adults. An essential church captures this authenticity. An essential church does not attempt to be something it is not. Fanciness may attract a crowd for a while, but assimilation will never occur unless a church is truly authentic, transparent, and real.

The church should be greatly encouraged by the fact that young adults are ready for reality. And we should be training and discipling them, placing them in pertinent leadership roles and holding them accountable. When the bar is set high and excellence is demanded, the church will then attract and keep those who truly seek to assimilate and make a difference in ministry.

But remember that we are not competing for the souls of the lost. Rather, we are in battle. We battle the powers of darkness over the eternity of someone's soul. The apostle Paul states in Philippians 4:1 that we are called to stand firm. An essential church keeps a united front, everyone standing shoulder to shoulder, swords in hand, warriors ready to face the enemy. The body of believers needs those who will champion the gospel message, those who will share their faith unwaveringly, and those willing to stand firm.

There are many hills upon which to die. The people of an essential church say they will only die for the fundamentals of the faith. They are a real people, focused on the primacy of the gospel message. They are authentic but willing to change the modes, means, and methods of how they share the unchanging truth of Jesus Christ.

An essential church does not compete for sanctuary fillers. An essential church battles the dark powers for the hearts and minds of the lost.

The church needs relevant and exciting energy to reach those who do not know Christ. While a person of any age can certainly display such characteristics, an entire younger generation is walking away from the church because they feel their contributions are not appreciated or welcomed. Churches that recapture this young adult group will certainly see an increase in those who desire to be champions for Christ, winning an entire generation for Jesus.

The pastor of the church. One surprising aspect of our research was the critical role that a pastor plays with those under eighteen. And the major connecting point between this age group and the pastor is the sermon.

Meredith is a chirpy twenty-two-year-old with a big smile. Though she just moved to a different town, she told us about her pastor in the church where she grew up and his influence on her when she was in high school.

"I really loved the way he connected with all of us," she said.

"How did he connect with you? Was it a cutting-edge kind of church?"

"No, actually, it was a traditional church in a midsize town. You could say we were one of those churches that hasn't changed much since the 1960s. But the pastor knew how to get to our level in his sermons."

We asked, "What did he do in his sermons to connect so well with the high school group?"

"He literally got on our level." She smiled. "He would come down from behind the behemoth wood pulpit and talk directly to us as students."

"He would dedicate portions of his sermons to the youth and address them specifically?"

"Yes, he did. It wasn't every sermon, but I remember his doing it a lot."

"And this connected with you guys?"

She laughed. "Well, we would roll our eyes at times, but inside I think most everyone appreciated the fact that he did that. Looking back on it now and talking about it actually makes me miss that church!"

"Sounds like your pastor made a big impact on you and others through his sermons."

"Yes, he did. There's no doubt about it."

Our research plainly shows that the better a pastor connects with the students of the church through his sermons, the more likely they are to stay in the church. And the sermon disconnect may be larger than you realize. Illustrated in the chart below is the breakdown of dropouts and the pastor's sermons.

Perceptions of the pastor's sermons for those under 18
Dropouts Stayed
The pastor's sermons were engaging. 48% 65%
The pastor's sermons were relevant to me. 42% 63%

The temptation for the pastor to write a sermon for the adult audience is understandable. It is also understandable that many churches leave connecting with the students up to the youth pastor or student minister. But our research illuminates the need for pastors to reach out intentionally to the under-twenty-two age bracket. So the surprising insight here shouldn't be all that surprising: biblical truth must be conveyed to all age groups in the church, not just the adults. It is the pastor's responsibility to communicate this truth in his sermons, even if it means taking a portion of the sermon time to address specific age groups during the service.

Many churches have children's sermons. Why not also speak directly to the youth? In most churches this age group typically sits together. Instead of bemoaning their lack of interest in sermons geared toward adults, engage them with sermons geared specifically for them. Don't assume that their faith is like that of their parents. Be relevant to them on their level. After all, the pastor of the church is also their pastor. They are smart enough to figure that out. If the pastor is not connecting with them, this generation will see it for what it is—a disconnect. Why are we shocked when they leave the church and then cite this disconnect problem as a reason for their departure?

The parents of the church. Not only do the people and pastor of the church have an influence over the student age group, but the parents also play a critical role in the assimilation of teens and college-age young adults. The combined power of parents with the pastor and others in the church can make a big difference in the life of someone under twenty-two.

Parents who attend church with their children help assimilate them in their church. As we will discuss in chapter 4, however, this attendance must be accompanied by spiritual guidance from the parents. We realize that not all students who attend church have Christian parents. Those stable families that intentionally make church a focal point are to be considered a huge blessing to the children and to the church. In fact, 20 percent more students stay in churches where parents are authentic in their faith.

A recent Associated Press poll revealed the importance of the parent connection. Spending time with family was rated as the top answer to an open-ended survey in which thirteen- to twenty-four-year-olds were asked what makes them happy. The old excuse that teens and young adults just aren't interested in church, or that they are simply rebelling against their parents, doesn't hold water. Though teens may express outwardly a resistance to family time or going to church, inwardly they crave the stability and love that a family and local body of believers bring.

The goal is to be authentic. One of the reasons I (Sam) didn't stray from the church or rebel too much from my family was that my mother and father never crammed church down my throat, yet they still expected me to attend with the family. The balance is a tough one to make, but they managed to keep that balance most of the time. Additionally, my dad was a pastor, but he was the same person at home as he was at church. While tempers get lost and family members annoy one another, I knew that both he and my mom didn't put on a church face every Sunday and Wednesday. They were open, honest, and sincere with their struggles. They encouraged their three sons to act the same, following their example. I never felt the pressure to be the perfect pastor's kid; rather, my parents allowed me the freedom to develop my own personality and sense of self-awareness.

Now that I am a pastor, on occasion I will step into the pulpit and tell my church that I lost my temper in a road rage fit or that my morning didn't go exactly as planned. A church is not the assembly of perfect people; church is the assembly of authentic people worshipping a perfect Savior. Parents in an essential church lay it all on the Lord's altar. Their children see their example. Though life may not be perfect, though the world may throw some nasty curveballs, parents in an essential church lovingly guide and discipline their children to be active participants in their church without playing the "perfect church life" game.

The essential church and the essential gospel. When a drought hits a region of the country, crops don't grow and yards get crispy fried. Everything gets dusty and dry except for the few areas where the water remains—beside the dripping faucet, up against the house where the sun doesn't hit, and along the creek. The grass doesn't grow for weeks on end and is beyond brown, an eerie color that makes for conspicuous stripes in rural backyards where lateral lines crisscross in septic systems.

The signs of a more intense drought are occurring in our great country. It has been going for some time; it is a drought in our churches. This drought stretches from coast to coast. With many people—particularly young adults—leaving the church every week, the church needs to get back to the basics.

We must pray for a pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Our society needs water, but it has abandoned the fountain of living water and dug cisterns for itself—a double evil because the Lord is abandoned and people resort to their own pursuits (see Jer. 2:13). The powers of darkness are bringing the heat and causing extreme spiritual droughts.

But a fountain of living water is available from a well that quenches eternally the dryness of desiccated, sinful flesh. Our anhydrous lives can become soaked in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The damage brought by the drought can be reversed. Planted seeds dormant in dusty soil can germinate in the true light.

The church needs sowers, pray-ers, and warriors. Churches need people unafraid of gospel boldness. Churches need pastors willing to live out an evangelistic fervor, modeling a soul-winning attitude for their congregation. Churches need a body of believers unafraid to ask the Holy Spirit to wake up their community. Churches need natural, God-given unity in denominational politics, not a coerced and forced uniformity. Churches need accountability in all aspects of our Christian lives. We need a fresh crop of humble seminarians willing to take the country churches of six and lead them to become the country churches of twenty-five. Churches need a renewed focus on the total reliance of our sovereign God. Churches need a throng of Christians willing to lay down their lives for their fellow brothers and sisters. Churches need more backyard missionaries. We need more multicultural churches, and we need churches that are essential to the lives of their people.