Young adults are leaving the local church in extraordinary numbers. We all have friends who decided that the snooze button was their answer to the Sunday morning dilemma.
Drew Dyck[i] is the author of ‘Generation Ex-Christian’. In Christianity Today he wrote:
Some striking mile markers appear on the road through young adulthood: leaving for college, getting the first job and apartment, starting a career, getting married—and, for many people today, walking away from the Christian faith.
A few years ago, shortly after college, I was in my studio apartment with a friend and fellow pastor's kid. After some small talk over dinner, he announced, "I'm not a Christian anymore. I don't know what happened. I just left it."
An image flashed into my mind from the last time I had seen him. It was at a Promise Keepers rally. I remembered watching him worship, eyes pinched shut with one slender arm skyward.
How did his family react to his decision? I asked. His eyes turned to the ground. "Growing up I had an uncle who wasn't a Christian, and we prayed for him all the time," he said wistfully. "I'm sure they pray for me like that." [ii]
This trend begs the question; “Where has the good seed landed?” Why have many people not had a healthy outcome after years in church? Drew Dyck believes: “A faithful response requires that we examine the exodus and ask ourselves some honest questions about why.” [iii]
Several factors emerge that we can point to if we want to assign blame:
· Irrelevance of church experience to daily lives
· Hypocrisy choking out youthful optimism
· Intellectual doubts lacking intelligent response
· Tired of guilty conscience and helpless to address sinful lifestyle patterns
· Belief that the church is small-minded about addressing problems
· Lack of care expressed to new believers and those outside the church
· Consumerism of churchgoers looking for goods and services instead of being good servants
· Shallow discipleship focused on self-realization more than encountering the living Christ
Drew Dyck continues:
Most leavers had been exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculated them against authentic faith. When sociologist Christian Smith and his fellow researchers examined the spiritual lives of American teenagers, they found most teens practicing a religion best called "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism," which casts God as a distant Creator who blesses people who are "good, nice, and fair." Its central goal is to help believers "be happy and feel good about oneself."
Where did teenagers learn this faith? Unfortunately, it’s one taught, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, at every age level in many churches. It’s in the air that many churchgoers breathe, from seeker-friendly worship services to low-commitment small groups. When this naive and coldly utilitarian view of God crashes on the hard rocks of reality, we shouldn’t be surprised to see people of any age walk away. [iv]