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Education & Faith

This summer as I was exiting a large amusement park near our house, in the background I could hear a popular Christian rock band from the ‘90’s playing their biggest hit.

Apparently, the park happened to be hosting a Christian music concert. The band was playing their song featured in the movie, “God’s Not Dead.” The movie focused on an evangelical student having his faith challenged by an atheistic professor. It was a takeoff on the David and Goliath story and, of course heavy-handedly, the giant was the professor.

For years evangelicals wrung their hands when their children headed off to college. But it’s simply not true that colleges and universities are the doom loop for students of faith. Last year in a study of Harvard University by Ryan Burge, he came to this conclusion: higher education had just the opposite effect of what evangelical parents worried most.

The fact is, Burge found that “people with the least education are the most likely to indicate that they have no religious affiliation.”

In the recently released book, “The Great Dechurching”, the authors point out that of the five church-wide categories of dechurched people—(1) Cultural Christians, (2) Evangelicals, (3) Exvangelicals, (4) Black/Indigenous/People of Color, and (5) Mainline Protestants and Catholics—Evangelicals had the highest average income and education.

I’m not sure if there are any bragging rights here. That’s a double-edge sword.

The Great Dechurching authors note that the American church and evangelicalism “is largely built for the nuclear family or those on that track. The young, single parent working multiple jobs to make ends meet, is going to find it harder to create the bandwidth necessary for meaningful church involvement and more likely to experience depression and shame in a church culture that creates programs that work for and elevate the nuclear family.”

The concern is that churches really only work well for people on the three-phase “success sequence”: graduate high school, work full-time, and have children after you marry. They note that “ninety-seven percent of millennials who follow this “success sequence” live above the poverty line.”

But not everyone does that…or even has the framework for that. And remember, humans are terrifically broken. The American church is by all intents and purposes not geared to accommodate that.

I think we need to remind ourselves how the apostle Paul described the church in Corinth:

Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”


I’m not saying it would be easy, but wouldn’t it be interesting if the American church deliberately reached out to the “exploited and abused”, the decidedly non-influential, the “low society” people, and offered them the same “fresh start” that us seasoned believers experienced many years ago?

Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


Did you know The Elemental Group also works extensively with faith-based non-profits? Everything from fundability assessments to strategic planning to business development to grant-writing. Take a look at our “menu of services” for both churches and non-profits at our website—an impressive scope of work along with clear, accessible pricing. Now that’s different!


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