Michael Spencer's second cause for the imminent collapse of evangelical Christianity-
"We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures."
Speaking very generally and based on my personal observation, it does seem as though American Christians have struggled to see their faith perpetuated from one generation to the next. I have been involved with various levels of ministry to youth since I was a teenager myself and it has been discouraging to watch the unfortunate paths many "Christian" kids have chosen. Why is this so? To Spencer's point, we (the Church) have failed to obey the clear mandate of Scripture in Deuteronomy 6 (and re-asserted in Ephesians 6)-
Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Scripture puts forth an intense, all day, every day approach to discipling our young people. This involves a thorough approach to exposing our children to God's truth and the living out of the same. Very simply and bluntly- most "evangelical" churches in America have failed to obey Scripture in this area of the spiritual formation of their young people. Frankly, most forms of "Christianity" in America have come up short on this front. I grew up Roman Catholic where particular focus on discipling youth and "passing on the faith" was practically non existent. The culture of busyness has so infiltrated our lives that discipleship has been reduced to going to church once a week Sunday morning and youth group Wednesday night. Too many expect these few activities to be some kind of fulfillment of their children's spiritual development needs while ignoring all the time given to events and activities that accomplish very little (if anything) in the area of spiritual formation. If you are sending your child to a public school, realize there will be 9000 hours of class time between kindergarten and eighth grade when they are NOT receiving biblical instruction and mentoring, and most likely worse, they are being taught an anti-Christian worldview. I know this is a sensitive subject because so many Christians send their kids to public schools, however I would be remiss to ignore one of the chief reasons our children are not growing spiritually strong and grounded. Indeed, the lack of consistent exposure to biblical truth and living is probably the main reason the Christian faith has not been successufully perpetuated from generation to generation in recent years. Every parent has to examine what strategy they are using to fulfill Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6.
A word about "youth ministry" as Spencer takes a bit of a pot shot at the money evangelicals have purportedly spent on youth ministers and the like- I see the church in it's best and most effective form as a parish. That is, the Church does her best to assist each family in the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 by creating an environment has a thorough-going, holistic discipleship culture. Personally, I came to Redeemer because the vision of the founding members was for a "parish-type" ministry as I have described. How is this accomplished? For us, we have worked to develop a Christian school and provide a youth ministry that complements the discipleship work of the family and the school. We have a youth pastor who is interested in assisting parents in discipleship, not taking over the responsibility for them. There is a trifecta, if you will, of cooperation that promotes spiritual growth and stability in our children- the family, church, and school. Members are not required to send their kids to our school or youth group events, but these ministries exist to be aids to living out Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6. There is not one way alone to be faithful to God's mandate regarding our children, but we must all realize how very labor intensive it is- it will take much more than going to a few church activities each week.
On a personal note, for what it's worth, I am very thankful for this trifecta (family,church, school) in the life of my family. It is my responsibility to oversee the spiritual training and formation of my children (while realizing only God's Holy Spirit does the work of regeneration and sanctification). However, I am in NO WAY abrogating that responsibility by allowing other members of our covenant body (the Church) have discipleship access to my children through various interactions at Sunday school, youth group meetings and events, and school. Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 contain a mandate dually exacted by the corporate body and individual families, not one or the other. The Church body and individual families are in partnership striving toward the same goal of obedience to Scripture in training our children. Leaving discipleship almost entirely to a youth pastor or youth sponsor would be a failure to obey God's Word. At the same time, ignoring the corporate gifting God has given the church body in favor of a "family only" approach also fails to utilize all the tools God has given us to grow in Christ and also tends to deny the communal nature of Christianity itself.
Spencer's underlying point is we have failed to properly indoctrinate our children so they are stable and firm in orthodox/biblical Christianity by doing more to entertain and captivate our youth. It seems that Spencer is generally right again on this point. However you choose to live out Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6, please recognize it is not an option that we may follow if we like. Failure to take this training mandate seriously is one of the main reasons evangelicalism finds itself on the verge of extinction.