How to Bring Back Young Adults Who Have Left the Faith
- Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Drew Dyck's recent book, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith… and How to Bring Them Back, (Moody Publishers, 2010).
Many young adults who grew up praying to Jesus and participating in church are tragically abandoning Christianity. Some walk away deliberately after deciding that they no longer believe; others drift away from the faith as they focus on pursuits that seem more exciting to them. But no matter how far young adults go from Christ, there’s hope for them to return to faith if Christians like you reach out to them.
Here’s how to bring back young adults who have left Christianity:
Reach postmoderns. Some people who’ve left the faith adhere to a postmodern philosophy, in which they value experience over rationality as a way of discovering truth, and believe that truth is different for each individual, according to that person’s experience. Postmoderns think that moral absolutes are dangerous, because those absolute beliefs may be forced on other people. You can reach out to postmoderns best by telling them your personal story of how you began a relationship with Jesus what that relationship means in your everyday life. If you honestly share your struggles and doubts when telling your story, postmoderns will see that you’re similar to them in some ways and can relate to your story of faith. When discussing the Gospel with postmoderns, describe its stories about Jesus creatively and passionately, to help postmoderns consider the Gospel in fresh ways. Build trust with postmoderns by befriending them before you talk with them about faith; make sure they know that you truly love and accept them as people unconditionally. Since postmoderns often have strong social consciences, invite them to join you to do volunteer work on community service projects and let them see how your faith motivates you to serve.
Reach recoilers. Recoilers are people who have left Christianity because of the emotional pain they’ve endured and associated with God somehow. They may have been abused by a professing Christian or victimized by Christians who committed sins such as gossip or greed that hurt them as a result. When reaching out to recoilers, dispense with arguments about Christianity and instead focus on listening to their stories of what they’ve suffered and how they feel about it. Empathize with their pain and, after you earn their trust, help them think biblically about their pain and delineate the difference between God and the people who hurt them in God’s name. Once you’ve established trusting friendships with recoilers, you can share how Jesus suffered in this fallen world, cares deeply about what they’ve gone through, and can redeem the injustices that they’ve suffered if they place their trust in Him.
Reach moderns. The worldview that moderns adhere to doesn’t have room for belief in anything beyond the physical world, so moderns don’t believe in the existence of souls or anything supernatural. Moderns search for truth through scientific investigation rather than spiritual revelation. So don’t try to reach moderns through arguments based on premises they don’t share, such as by quoting the Bible when they don’t believe that sacred scripture has authority. Instead, help them see the hopelessness of their worldview and pique their curiosity about truth that’s not limited to just what they can see and understand. When moderns ask questions about your faith, it’s crucial for you to be able to give them thoughtful, biblical answers. If you don’t know how to answer a particular question, say that you’ll study the issue and then follow up with them to discuss it after you do. Stay focused on the essentials of Christianity – Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – rather than getting drawn into debates about peripheral issues and contentious topics such as believer’s baptism versus infant baptism. Let moderns see how your own quest for truth enriches your life.
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