Generation Ex-Christian

In the last edition of Equip to Disciple, we included a book by Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians. We believe it contained valuable information on the rising and emergent generation, many of whom have dropped out of church. This book by Drew Dyck fits into that same kind of category. It deals with those who are turning away from the church, and in many cases are turning away from God. They are not only leaving the church, they claim to be leaving the faith.

This is an easy but disturbing book. It kept my interest as I read story after story of those who have been “deconverted,” as the book suggests. Dyck tells of those he has known who have not only left the church but the faith. He began to probe why. Then he asks, what can I or we do to try to bring them back?

Here’s the real concern, “Unlike older church dropouts, these young ‘leavers’ are unlikely to seek out alternative forms of Christian community, such as home churches and small groups. When they leave the church, many leave the faith as well.” One such young man had attended church, Promise Keepers, etc., but now he has “left the faith.” He said, “When I left the faith, I thought it would feel really bad. I assumed I’d come right back. But I didn’t feel bad. I felt nothing.” He went on to say he felt liberated and had no regrets. As I tried to talk with him, said Dyck, he wasn’t moved by the apologetics of yesteryear. Those ideas were completely alien to him. He had embraced a different worldview which would not match the Christian lifestyle.

This emerging generation of young adults is steeped in the street version of postmodernism. They actually believe that truth is whatever an individual wants it to be. Of course that will differ from person to person. So many have bought into the idea of the French philosopher Jean Lyotard of “the incredulity of metanarratives.” There is no big story that pulls everything together. There is no objective truth, morality, or values.

Many interviewed by Dyck have been “hurt by people and disillusioned by God.” One young man who left the faith said, “I felt like I was converted but not to God but away from him.” Worldview becomes an important key to reaching out to many of them but as Dyck cautions, “when you talk across worldviews, your words disappear in the void.”

The book also picks up on the now familiar notion coined by Christian Smith in Soul Searching, that the average religion for the typical American teenager is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. From there the book realizes that many who have left, have never had a clear biblical understanding of and belief in the God of the Bible who is more than that.

Another factor in their drifting away was that they never really had helpful, constructive, meaningful relationships, which by the way, becomes a key in reaching out and trying to bring them back-truth in the context of relationships just as Francis Schaeffer so often reminded us.

A section on prayer highlights the important role of prayer in seeking to reclaim a leaver. One of the leavers said, “One thing I really missed initially when I left the faith was expressing gratitude through prayer.” So, I still say those prayers, just expressing thanks for the beauty of the world and the joy of relationships.” Two of the chapters are worth the reading of the book-one deals with “speaking to the modern leavers” and another focuses on the Wiccan movement. Georga Barna says that 55% of American people have never heard of the term, but it comes from witchcraft and neo-pagan, earth based religion.

This book not only speaks about our belief and understanding of the Christian faith, it will speak to our emotions as we hurt for those who have chosen to drop out, drift away, and denounce the faith. It reminds us within the faith, involved in the life and ministry of the church, and the activities of the Kingdom, of the importance of building good healthy relationships upon the truth of God.

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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