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.