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.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
Passages Subscriber Access Only
Recent deaths, appointments, and other transitions in the Christian world.
Current IssueThe Science of Sinning Less
The Science of Sinning Less Subscriber Access Only
What new research reveals about self-control and willpower.
RecommendedFranklin Graham’s Global Fallout, from Canada to Japan
Franklin Graham’s Global Fallout, from Canada to Japan
Vancouver pastor: How the church can model civil discourse amid controversy.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickChristians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria
Christians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria
When disease vectors are also victims.
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.