Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith … and How to Bring Them Back

ex-christianLast week my book-of-the-week was right up my alley. In the last 7 years or so of my ministry God has steadily enlarged my heart for those who are far from Him. This volume dealt with an unfortunately rapidly-growing segment of those far from God… those who once believed. Of course this raises all the ancient arguments about whether or not said individuals ever really believed, in the first place. But for the sake of everything that follows we will assume that they are not just leaving more than just a building. They are leaving their faith.

After almost 20 years in youth ministry and now in a ministry that deals especially with those who are far from God, I think Drew deals with the reality very even-handedly. Sadly I think his numbers are correct. I also agree with his conclusions that unless we find a way to solve this problem, anything we do will be equal to or less than putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

Because we live in a sound bite culture I like to reflect on books I read in similar fashion. Here are some of the biggest takeaways for me:

  • not every young adult has the same issue(s)
  • there isn’t a singular solution to the problem… one size does not fit all
  • listening to people is not optional
  • loving people as they are is not optional
  • BE one of the reasons they stay
  • I must live out a faith that is vibrant & reasoned

My only (very slight) difference of opinion came with something that the author almost admits to. It would seem that some of these interviews were done with people whom the author was not previously acquainted (i.e. the story about the Meetup Atheists Group in the bar). My only charge to those of us that currently are attempting to follow Jesus is that we would already be in relationships with people who have left the faith. Then out of and into those relationships have opportunities to administer the strength of the gospel. As God gives us these kinds of friendships, may we be part of the solution.

2 thoughts on “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith … and How to Bring Them Back

  1. Hey Rob — thanks for sharing.

    As a 20-something, I can tell you that my heart is breaking for people who have stepped away from the faith as well. There are times I look around and wonder if ANYONE in their 20’s loves Jesus anymore.

    In Italy, I asked some people why they didn’t go to church anymore. A lot of people in Italy are nominal Catholics. They believe they are born Catholic but because the Church does not fit their lifestyle, they don’t attend mass. More people are getting divorced, which the Church sees as a sin. Why go to a place where you already feel the judgment? People are in need of seeing REAL FAITH. The messy, everyday REAL FAITH. The second chances God gives us. The grace combined with truth.

    I haven’t read this book but here are my insights about my generation (not just those leaving the faith):
    ~THANK YOU to the older generation who DO reach out to us — WE NEED YOU! We need encouragement to keep going in the faith.
    ~It is tough to be in your 20’s. A lot of the people in my generation are getting married later. Most people who are older than us do not know what it is like to be in your 20’s, single, and following Jesus (or in some cases just TRYING to do the RIGHT THING — so much temptation… not necessarily MORE than previous generations, but we sure are a generation of NOISE and DISTRACTIONS…).
    ~Psalm 68.6a: God sets the lonely in families. Chances are if you live by people in their 20’s, some of them have moved to an area where they do NOT have family. My challenge to people who would read this is to invite them to your Christmas dinner, over for lunch… please SHARE LIFE with them! Some of my best memories in my 20’s so far has been hanging out with different families.
    ~Please don’t give up on us. We need Jesus. We need to see REAL faith.

    Thanks again for this post. Very insightful and challenging.

  2. Rob, Thanks for the review.

    I perused this book some time back, as I do with many similar books, having been in ministry and apologetics for many years. However since I seriously “liberalized” my faith (and never thought of it as “losing my faith” though the “object” of it changed a lot), I have a whole different view of people’s doubting, re-thinking, maturing. I didn’t do it deeply until 40-45, having been fully immersed and heavily educated.

    As you say, situations vary a lot, and some youth may indeed lose most of their spiritual orientation (become “far from God”) at least for a time. But, frankly it saddens ME that many of my family, friends, and authors like Drew Dyck believe that changing most, or even some of one’s “orthodox” beliefs to something more universally spiritual or philosophical equates to “losing one’s faith” (or salvation), moving away from God, becoming lost, etc. Worse yet, the big majority of my deeply Christian family and friends and new ones I meet will barely discuss such things with me, though I am gracious and a good listener (while relentlessly logical and highly knowledgeable, and willing to express it, too). I can only conclude this generally springs from two things: 1)if someone seems to have very thoughtfully, knowledgeably become unorthodox or disbelieving they are thought unable to be turned back (cf. Heb. 6, probably reflecting something like this)–hopeless. 2)They are dearly afraid of having certain lingering doubts or uncertainties aroused in themselves by someone who sought out answers extensively, knew the Bible well and lived by it, loving Jesus for years (about 27 adult years, plus childhood, in my case). Dyck may be ignorant of the fact that there are many people like me, intentionally and thoughtfully apostate but not hurting for lack of faith, meaning, a hopeful, love-guided worldview, etc. Possible, but not likely. However, I HAVE found that many like me do largely stay quiet so many believers get a faulty impression that drifting away from church or orthodox beliefs means a person is left without a sustaining faith or reliable system or values and morals. From an “outside” view now, and only from this perspective, I can see just how insulated and distorted is the view of the world and of “spiritual reality” I had, and many Evangelicals have, built up.

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