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Generation Ex-Christian

Young people are leaving the church in droves. For those of us who work with students, this is hardly breaking news. All of us have stories we could share about young people who were “on fire” for God that, for whatever reason, abandoned their faith. Personally, I will never forget seeing a former classmate from Biola University walk by hand-in-hand with another man just one year after my graduation. I was shocked! He not only left Christianity (from what I could tell), he went headlong into the gay lifestyle.

Church attendance is a good indicator of this trend. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those raised in the church will disengage by twenty-nine years old. While it may be typical for young people to walk away from the faith during the college years and then return upon child rearing, the signs are that this generation (as a whole) is not coming back. As a Christian high school teacher, it’s disconcerting to think that four out of every five students I teach (statistically speaking) will be completely disengaged from their faith within a decade of graduation. The Facebook profiles of many former students tell it all.

Why are young people leaving the faith? This question has been explored profusely over the past few years. Amazingly, there has been no full-length book that deals with this phenomenon in depth. Until now. That’s right, there is finally a book coming out for those of us who care about ex-Christians. Author Drew Dyck has hit a homerun with his soon-to-be-released book “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith…And how to Bring Them Back” (forthcoming, Moody Publishers).

The reason I know about Generation Ex-Christian is because I had the privilege of writing the foreword. Drew contacted me after reading my book Apologetics for a New Generation. He sensed that we have a similar passion for the emerging generation, and he was absolutely right!

This is a book filled with research. For example, Drew points out that 65 percent of American young people report making a commitment to Jesus at some point in their lives (p. 30). And yet he also includes myriads of personal stories of ex-Christians that he personally interviewed. As soon as he put out the word that he was writing a book on former Christians he was contacted by a former basketball buddy, former youth group friends, and even some strangers. Many welcomed the opportunity to share their stories. This rare combination of research and personal stories make the book and enjoyable and quick read.

Drew resists the urge to offer simplistic solutions. But he does offer practical insights. In fact, he lists a host of different reasons why some people walk away—intellectual doubts, moral failure, suffering, relational disconnection, and more. And yet he offers unique tips about how to reach out to people who may fall into each group. For example, when reaching out to postmodern leavers, Drew suggests we tell our stories (but not in the traditional “testimony” way), re-enchant the gospel in a creative and beautiful way, build trust, and invite them to serve.

I was honored to write the foreword for Generation Ex-Christian because it’s a groundbreaking book. My hope and prayer is that many people will pick up a copy and put it to practice. If so, we can help turn the tide of Christians leaving the faith.


Thank you for this well-written and informative review. I will be looking for this book.

I know so many of my generation (I'm 26) who have walked away from faith and it is so sad to me. Thanks for this resource, perhaps it will help me to talk to my friends!

My experience is when times get tough, the only entity/person that you can turn to is God. I strayed from my faith when I was 18 yrs. because it looked so exciting and not so restrictive. I did not understand the relational part of being a christain. When I came back at 23 yrs., it was because I knew it was the only peaceful and sustainable way to live in this world. All else is fleeting, temporary, unneccessary, and unsatisfying in the long run. God has given me hope so many times when things happened that were beyond my control. His way is the only way - all else pales in comparison.
Right now I begin a new chapter in my life as a widow. It is scary, but I know who is with me and am excited about what God wants me to do going forward. There is no other life to live than to be with Jesus!
Thank you for your testimony and your life Drew Dyck. May you be encouraged to forge ahead with all the writing and communication skills God has given you.
Love Judy Hempel

Some time ago I reviewed a Barna Survey reagarding this very issue. His conclusions were basically the same or similar to Dyck's. At an earlier time I had also reviewed another Barna survey regarding the amazingly similar statistics regarding Christian and non-Christian people. The divorce statistics were almost identical, the infidelity statistics were virtually the same, the incidence of money problems were almost exactly the same, etc., etc..

I believe a little deeper study would revewl the real reason this is happening among our young people. For years and years they have been "dragged to church" by their parents who have told them over and over how much good it will do them. Sunday after Sunday, these kids have seen their parents put on their Sunday smiles and Christian demeanor from the time they arrive at the church to the time they leave. They see that same demeanor disappear almost the moment they leave church each week.

Kids aren't dumb! They automatically think back to the arguments, fights, and other very 'non-Christian' behavior they see exhibited not only in their homes throughout the week, but even in the car on their way to and from Church. It doesn't take long for them to clearly understand that all of this Christian stuff sure hasn't done their parents any good, so why should they want anything to do with it considering the evidence that is all around them day after day after day?

I would suggest that the real cause for kids leaving the church in droves has very little to do with "intellectual doubts, moral failure, suffering, relational disconnection, and more" and a whole lot to do with the influence and model of their parents in their lives long before they left that home!

It isn't the kids we need to be working on and with. It's their parents!!! Just getting most of those parents really saved would be a marvelous start.

In Him,

Wayne Marley

"Church attendance is a good indicator of this trend. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those raised in the church will disengage by twenty-nine years old."

I think there was another recent survey (Barna or someone else, not sure) asking Christians what they like about church. "The service" came in dead last, with only one person in twenty admitting to enjoying the church service itself.

What normal person actually likes going to church? Most people do it either out of a sense of guilt or to connect with friends. But if commitment to the modern church service format is being used to gauge people's faith, no wonder the numbers look bad.

As Mr. Marley notes, youth can tell that much of what is going on is at church is superficial and pretence anyway. They can forge much more meaningful — dare I say "Christian" — relationships away from church. As a bonus, leaving church means missing all those bi-monthly unbiblical squirm-in-your-seat sermons on tithing.

It's very simple. Institutionalized Religion blows. Let me explain.
I grew up in the fire and brimstone, finger shaking, he's way over there somewhere church. Tradition was more important than the individual, so now we are surprised when the individual walks.
And I also walked for a good part of my life. Thank god for his grace, that he didn't walk from me.
The only reason folks walk, or are confused, is because they haven't met him yet. I mean really met him. Not just know about him. God, Jesus, and the holy spirit, are the coolest dudes anyone will ever meet.

I m very agree with this post my point of view about church is almost the same.

I will read the book and see how i found it

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Sean McDowell is a teacher, author, speaker, husband and father. He is an avid fan of college basketball, ping-pong, and his favorite superhero is the Amazing Spiderman.