Postmodern Leavers

One of the books that I am currently reading is Generation Ex-Christian, Why young adults are leaving the faith…and how to bring them back, by Drew Dyck. I highly recommend this book to all pastors and young adult leaders.

In one passage, the author discusses some lessons he’s learned in talking to postmodern leavers. These are young adults that have grown up Christian, but have left the faith, instead choosing to adopt a post-modern mindset. These are lessons that he says that he learned through trial and error.

1. Tell your story

In the postmodern culture there is distrust for meta-narratives. A meta-narrative is and overarching story that everyone is expected to fit into. Christianity is an example of this. We believe that the gospel applies to everyone, but postmodernists do not. While they are skeptical meta-narratives, postmodernists hold the personal experience sacred. This gives us an opportunity to share Jesus through our testimony. The common trap is to use our testimonies as a sermon. Postmodern leavers are familiar with church, and can smell a canned testimony coming a mile away. We have to be willing to be honest about our struggles and our triumphs in order to create an atmosphere of honesty. Tell them what Jesus did for you, and the process He brought you through, but include defeat as well as victories

2. Re-enchant the gospel

Postmodern leavers often have a very stale grasp on the word of God. They have reduced it to a handful of threadbare arguments. It is up to us to present the gospel as a beautiful and vibrant story of love. In order to do this, we need to know more about the scriptures than they do! The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ parables, and the accounts of Jesus’ relationships with believers and non-believers all give us plenty of opportunities to share the love of God while at the same time presenting the word in a fresh way. Remember that these are former church kids, and they are familiar with the process of salvation. They need to be reminded of the love of Jesus, which, hopefully will lead to a renewal of salvation. We must be passionate about our relationship, before they will take notice.

3. Build trust

Trust or the lack thereof, is a crucial issue in the minds of many leavers. Many have been hurt through experiences that have happened in church. The C.S. Lewis quote that I blogged before this article, is used by the author to make his point. The image that many postmodernists hold of Christians is one of ambivalence. In short, they think that we don’t care about them as people that we just want to convert them so that we can fulfill some type of cosmic quota. The old saying that my grandfather used many times was, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This statement has never been more applicable. We have to be willing to reach out in compassion and build a bond of trust with postmodernists. They know how to argue against every one of our tenets, but they can’t argue against love. Examine the teachings of Jesus and you will find a consistent principle of love. This love is the simple thing that has been chosen to confound the wise.

4. Invite them to serve

Postmoderns prefer to discover truth through experience rather than reason. Most also have a strong social conscience and a willingness to serve the poor and oppressed. This gives us a perfect opportunity to use their strengths and at the same time help them to rediscover Jesus. Traditional evangelism has placed belief before belonging, but when it comes to serving the world this order doesn’t have to be set in stone. We understand that it is important to protect and honor the doctrines set  forth by the bible, but Jesus made the statement “Follow me”. He took 12 men, who knew nothing of Him or His doctrine, and asked them to follow Him until the truth was revealed to them. Postmodernists are perfectly suited to be plugged into the service ministries of your church. If your church doesn’t have service ministries, start some. Help them re-discover the love of Jesus, by being the love of Jesus to others. Not only will they be doing a great ministry, but they will also feel more connected to your congregation and therefore more open to instruction

Jesus did all of these. He told beautiful parables, and communicated the truth in vibrant and passionate ways. He invited people to follow Him, and learn from experience. He built relationships and forged bonds of trust with his followers. Culture may have changed, but the relevance of our Savior never will. Post-moderns don’t have to be written off as unsalvageable. We don’t have to just resort to praying for them in secret, hoping that they have an epiphany about God’s love. These strategies are also good for helping to ensure that our young adults stay in church! We can be proactive in our quest to regain the lost.´

— Joel Gray, Director of Resources & Training