Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You Lost Me.

Recently, I picked up a book "You Lost Me. Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church... And Rethinking Faith".

I'll tell you why I picked it up.

Living as a young adult innately requires self-examination. We are constantly shedding our beliefs/values/patterns of living and integrating new as we transition from childhood to adulthood. To top it all off, we live in a culture of dramatic and rapid change - technology, science, economics, and immediate access to information. Navigation is not simple; it can be downright confusing.

Though I cannot begin to adequately explain the book in a concise manner, here's the gist. The Barna Group is a research group based in California that examines the "intersections between faith and culture." Their lastest book, written by David Kinnaman, examines the disconnect of young adults and the church at present. He names us "Mosiacs" - those born between the years 1884-2002.

They group young adults with Christian backgrounds into three categories: Nomads, Prodigals, and Exiles.  (However, they also emphasize that every person's story is different and unique. These are simply broad categories formed from examining common themes and trends.)

"Nomads are described as persons who "wander or drift away from active involvement with a church or faith community."  Defining themes:
  • They still describe themselves as Christian and believe personal involvement in a Christian community is optional.
  • The importance of faith has faded.
  • Most are not angry or hostile toward Christianity.
  • Many are spiritual experimentalists.
Prodigals are those who "give up on the faith of their childhood." It doesn't suggest they'll return to faith, just that they don't consider themselves "Christian" anymore. Defining themes:
  • They feel varying levels of resentment towards Christians and Christianity.
  • They have disavowed returning to church.
  • They have moved on from Christianity.
  • Their regrets, if any, usually center on their parents.
  • They feel as if they have broken out of constraints. They experience leaving at freedom.
Exiles are those who "feel stuck between the comfortable, predicable world of church and the 'real world' they feel called to influence." The author compares exiles to Daniel - those attempting to be faithful to their faith heritage while trying to live in "Babylon" (new culture). Defining themes:
  • Not inclined to be separate from "the world." They long for spirital loves to be connected, to be whole, and to make sense.
  • They are skeptical of institutions but are not wholly disengaged from them.
  • Young exiles sense God moving outside the walls of the church.
  • They are not disallusioned with tradition; they are frustrated with slick or shallow expressions of faith.
  • They have not found faith to be instructive to their calling or gifts.
  • They struggle when other Christians question their motives.
So where do you classify yourself?

I would probably call myself an exile. Throughout college and after, I have struggled to navigate connection with a faith community in a meaningful way. As a kid and teen, I was fully engaged in the Philly suburb independent church my Dad pastored for ten years. I had a head full of hope and was bred for leadership, ministry, and community. It still runs through my veins, but today's image of my faith different, more fragmented than 6 years ago when I graduated high school. I went to a pretty liberal Mennonite University, traveled to the Middle East for several months, learned to walk with my brother when he came out, started seriously dating a dashingly handsome and charming Mennonite, and I became a nurse (... going to church on a consistent basis? ha!).  

I am wary of the church in many ways. These days, I ask more questions than I give answers. The world we live and work in looks so different from the church at times that it's hard to reconcile the two. So when I read a few pages from this book, I was pulled in because it's hard research of exactly what my generation is feeling and thinking and doing about church today.

I'm curious to hear about other people's thoughts on this book, so if you need something interesting to read and talk about, do it! I'm all ears.

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