Guest / Limited Access /
The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church

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."

About that time, I began encountering many other "leavers": a basketball buddy, a soft-spoken young woman from my church's worship team, a friend from youth group. In addition to the more vocal ex-Christians were a slew of others who had simply drifted away. Now that I'm in my early 30s, the stories of apostasy have slowed, but only slightly. Recently I learned that a former colleague in Christian publishing started a blog to share his "post-faith musings."

These anecdotes may be part of a larger trend. Among young adults in the U.S., sociologists are seeing a major shift taking place away from Christianity. A faithful response requires that we examine the exodus and ask ourselves some honest questions about why.

Sons of 'None'

Recent studies have brought the ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueSinging For Jesus
Subscriber Access Only Singing For Jesus
One reason white America sings spirituals today.
Current IssueContemplative Activist
Subscriber Access Only
Contemplative Activist
Ann Voskamp’s rural Canadian life may seem picture perfect. But with her new book, the intensely shy writer could spark a social movement among North American Christians.
RecommendedSpeak Truth to Trump
Speak Truth to Trump
Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump's blatant immorality.
TrendingWhy Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump
Why Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump
In the face of a candidate’s antics, ‘America’s Pastor’ speaks out.
Editor's PickThe Year of Living Hopelessly
The Year of Living Hopelessly
2016 tempted us toward nihilism. We don’t have to go there.
Christianity Today
The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church
hide thisNovember November

In the Magazine

November 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.