I am so confused by our Christian culture. All throughout high school we teach our young people about purity and abstinence. We challenge them to remain virgins until they are married. Then we send them off to college and encourage them not to get married until they are finished with their schooling. As a result, most of our young people are either committing fornication as they wait until graduation to marry, or they are getting addicted to internet pornography.

Friends, the numbers don’t lie. In July 2009, Mark Regnerus reported in Christianity Today that over 90 percent of American adults experience sexual intercourse before marrying. Look at that number again—over 90 percent. Simply put, most young people are not waiting for marriage.

So here’s my question: Why are Christians encouraging their children to wait to get married? I recognize this article will be extremely unpopular with some people, because we have allowed our culture to redefine what is “normal.” The average age for American males to marry is 29.2 years old. The average age for women to get married is 27.1 years old.

Here’s what that means: our young men are hitting puberty around age 14 and then they are putting off marriage for about 15 years. Is this smart and is it in accordance with God’s Word? What are we really teaching our young people about the beauty of marriage and commitment when we say, “You need to finish college first and be financially secure.”

The Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Notice what it does not say. God’s inspired Word does not say “He who is in college should finish college before getting married.” It also doesn’t say, “He who is sexually mature should commit fornication with individuals or become addicted to pornography instead of marrying.”

For 18 years our young people hear preachers point out that the church is the bride of Christ. Then they run off to college and young people are given the unspoken message that college should come before a spouse. As a result, the marriage rate in America is at an all time low with fewer than half of all American households being made up of married couples. According to Barna research, in the past 35 years, the number of independent female households has increased by 65% and the number of independent make households has increased by 120%! In other words, our children are waiting so long to marry, that in many cases they never say “I do.”

And yet again, God’s inspired Word says, He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). God instituted marriage. It is good. He did not institute college. He did not institute sowing your wild oats. And He certainly did not institute loving the world or the things in the world.

Here’s what I see as I travel across this nation. Because of this relaxed view on marriage, our young men are postponing growing up. Many are still playing video games well into their 30s. Parents encourage this behavior by giving their children everything they want and shielding their children from any type of economic struggles. They also allow their adult children to remain immature and pursue pleasure-filled lives.

Add to this the narcissistic nature of the current young generation. Many put off marriage until they find the “perfect” spouse, believing himself or herself to be perfect as well—making marriage a measure of success and status rather than a covenant before God. As such, they become more comfortable with sexual guilt and continue to delay marriage.

To support the conflicting message we are sending to young people, parents often point out that people who marry young are likely to struggle financially and they are more likely to get divorced. Please understand that it is not age that causes a divorce. Surely New Testament Christian parents are teaching their children about the seriousness of marriage before they leave home! And maybe, just maybe, those financial struggles will cause growth and lead to stronger marriages and stronger relationships to God. Are we sending our children a mixed message? My children have heard me say many times to their mother that I wish I had married her younger so I would have more years to be married to her.

As a result of our schizophrenic approach to marriage, Christians are marrying less and having fewer children. And as a result the church continues to decline. It would be one thing if putting off marriage made a major difference in divorce statistics—but the reality is many young people develop independent attitudes and have trouble compromising if they have been out on their own for a decade.

So what is the answer? Should we be preaching abstinence more often to our young people? Should we have more retreats on purity in our youth programs? I don’t think these are the answers.

I believe maybe we should reevaluate the priority we are placing on marriage. I believe we should not be discouraging our young people to marry at an earlier age if they are mature and understand the commitment they are making. I believe we need to be teaching our young people that marriage is the second most important decision they will ever make (more important that college), and demonstrate the magnitude of this covenant in our own marriages. I believe we need to stop allowing our culture to dictate what is consider “normal” about an institution that God Himself started.