Generation EX-Christian by Drew Dyck is a book that addresses the question, “Why young adults are leaving the faith?” but also deals with the question, “How to bring them back?” The author spent a lot of times dialoguing and trying to understand the mindset of the average person that leaves the faith. He uses real examples from the people that he has interviewed (changing the names and details to protect people’s privacy)
The book is timely. Especially with the fact that 70% of youth leave the church by the time they are twenty-two years old. The Barna Group even estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are twenty-nine years old. (p.17)
Drew Dyck describes 6 different types of people (lost sheep) that leave our churches. Each section is divided into three parts in which the person and mentality is described and then suggestions are made on how to reach out and reconnect with them.
1. The Postmodern
Postmodernism believes that there is no such thing as objective truth, reality, value, reason, and so on. It holds that there is a different truth” for each person. Experience –not rationality –is the key to finding that truth. (p.27)
Reaching Out to the Postmodern:
Talking to leavers with a postmodern worldview can be frustrating because they place experience above reason. Dyck suggests talking about YOUR experience. When telling your story, Dyke points out, “It’s especially crucial to avoid slipping into the traditional ‘testimony’ rut. Remember, you are speaking with people who have likely heard dozens of testimonies. They know the formula well and they can tell when you’re adapting your experience to fit the mold. They will be far more impressed with transparency. Be honest with them about your struggles and even your doubts.” (p.36) Avoid arguing for the legitimacy of the gospel based on reason and science. (p.37) The important thing is to build trust.
Dyck writes, “Postmoderns prefer to discover truth through experience rather than reason… and they also have a strong social conscience and willingness to serve the poor and oppressed,” he goes on to write, “You can honor these admirable characteristics by inviting them to participate in service projects with you and other Christians.” (p.39)
Recoilers are those who have had a negative experience in the church. They are the ones who have, “suffered abuse and vowed that they would never take the chance to be victimized again.” (p.49) They are people who, “feel directly hurt or disappointed by God… and sometimes hold God responsible for experiences as disparate as extended spiritual dryness to misfortune in life.” (p.59)
Reaching out to the Recoilers: It’s important to let them tell their story. Dyck quotes Psychologist Gunnoe, “First, you have to send the message that you’re there for that person emotionally. ‘I will cry with you… I will curse with you,’ only then can you hope to talk through other things.” Empathy –not arguments –is what they truly need at this point. (p.65) It’s also important to eventually enable them to delineate between God and the people that hurt them. Finally, Dyck points out, “We have rich truths to offer the recoilers in our lives… the Bible is a deep well for the abused and broken.” (p.67)
3. Modern Leavers
This describes the Atheist. They leave the faith for intellectual reasons. Dyck points out, “Unlike the postmodern leavers… they love linear thinking, objective truth and the Western tradition of rational thought.” (p.74)
Reaching out to the Modern Leaver: The frustrating part of dialoguing with the Modern Leavers is that you don’t have a common line of argument. You can’t really argue from the Bible, because they reject it as the ultimate truth source. The Modern Leaver often loves to debate. Dyke points out, “Your job isn’t to straighten out all their opinions; it’s to light the path back to Christ.”
When someone rejects Christianity it’s perfectly valid to ask the to consider if the alternative is more satisfying. (p.97) It’s also appropriate to launch out with apologetics (C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel). Dyck points out, “These aren’t people who are shy about truth claims… they just have different truth claims… so lay yours out with conviction.” (p.100)
This encompasses (but not limited to) the modern day Wicca Movement. According to Barna 55% of Americans have never even heard of Wicca and yet it’s growing at a staggering rate… doubling every thirty months! (p.110)
Wicca is derived from the word witchcraft and is a neo-pagan earth based religion. Dyck points out, “Wiccans worship a goddess and a god, practice magic, worship nature, and engage in seasonal rituals… they believe in a unifying energy present in nature that can be manipulated through magic to bring personal rewards such as love, financial blessing, and general happiness… they deny a transcendent deity; the goddess and god are merely manifestations of nature’s energy… Wiccans regard themselves as divine, and freely refer to themselves as gods or goddesses as well.” (p.111)
Reaching the Neo-Pagans: Wiccans often have negative feelings toward Christians because we have repeatedly twisted and misrepresented their beliefs. Dyck points out, “the first step in defusing these negative feelings is to demonstrate a familiarity with their basic beliefs.” (p.121) We also need to demonstrate care for the environment. Finally in addition to praying for them, it’s important to share spiritual experiences. Those who leave the faith for the neo-pagan religions often complain that Christianity is a dry and boring religion.
This category basically describes the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. This is the person who rebels for hedonistic motives. Moral Compromise plays a real strong role in the Rebel.
Reaching the Rebel: Dyck points out that, “decrying their sin is not only futile, but can be counterproductive.” (p.146) Instead, it’s important to speak to them about their relationship with God. Other suggestions include giving them a cause. Ray Rayborn, the founder of Young Life once said, “It’s a sin to bore a kid with the gospel.” Also look for “Moments of Heightened Receptivity,” in which we demonstrate he freedom and joy that comes from serving God…but above all it’s important to PRAY.
These are what Dyck calls, “Slow motion leavers,” they don’t, “exit in sudden spasms of skepticism or rebellion… instead they leave gradually…” (p.159)
Reaching the Drifter: Dyck points out that sometimes the biggest danger to Christianity is Christians. We need to raise the bar and expose them to the demands and challenges of the Gospel. Too often we expect too little of one another when Jesus demanded it ALL! Deep down inside we all want to be challenged to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
The book was an easy read. It was especially engaging because it told the story of real people. I saw the book as a personal challenge for me to get out and actively live out and demonstrate the good news of Jesus Christ. I especially liked the fact that the book didn’t just describe the problem, but gave some solutions in reaching out to the people that have left the faith.
FTC Disclaimer. I received this book free in exchange for a unbiased review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”