(If you missed last week’s post, I recommend checking it out here before continuing!)
Well, as David Kinnaman puts it, “we have allowed our technology to outdistance our theology.” We now turn to Google above friends or trusted advisors (if we even have any). Kinnaman writes, “Young people are looking to their devices to make sense of the world around them. They are using the screens in their pockets as their counselors, their entertainers, their instructors, and even their sex educators, among many other digital-Sherpa roles.”
And, in true millennial fashion, I would say adamantly that it’s not our fault!
Instead, as David points out, the issue is discipleship. The main reason why people drop out of church or fall away from the faith is insufficient discipleship. When the true troubles and worries of this life rear their ugly, painful heads, many exiles tend to go the way of culture rather than the way of Christ.
And there are different levels of “exile” today. One of the most helpful aspects of Kinnaman’s latest work is the stratification of exile and the corresponding definition.
- Resilient Disciple
- Habitual Churchgoers (my personal favorite designation)
You can read the book to find out the definition of each grouping, but they are very helpful and it would be interesting for the Barna Group (Kinnaman’s research firm) to create an online assessment individuals could take, based on the data, to determine the category in which you’d fit!
So what can you do about all of this?
Kinnaman is careful to explain that this is an explanation of lots of research and not a guide on how to reach young people. (By the way, that kind of language–reaching young people–will typically send exiles running the other direction!) But, if you must reverse engineer this from a particular end point, the Faith for Exiles book might be helpful.
As to top predicators of resilient Christians, the research reveals four big factors:
- Feeling connected to a community of Christians
- Understanding the church as a place where you feel you belong
- Feeling loved and valued in your church
- Feeling connected to people who are older
As you can see, people feeling connected, like they belong, and valued will more than likely result in resilient disciples.
Therefore, the organizational/institutional local church might do well to direct its resources to making all people feel connected, creating a place where they belong (no matter what they believe), showing love and value to all people, and providing environments where people can connect intergenerationally.
Along with being awakened to our current reality straight from the horse’s mouth, Faith for Exiles creates some great language to describe the current state of the church in America. For example, concepts like brand Jesus, insulating tribalism, empowered atheism, cultural indoctrination, among others are helpful language to get a grasp on how the experience of the local church is viewed in the eyes of many today, especially younger generations.
To be fair, Faith for Exiles is not your typical page-turner, but for anyone interested in what’s really going on in the hearts and minds of those leaving the church over the past several years, it’s an incredible resource…and one you might need to refrain from defending yourself against if you are going to make a difference moving forward.
And I highly recommend it!