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Why Has Generation X Left the Church?

I was so lost I should have died
But You have brought me to Your side
To be led by Your staff and rod
And to be call a lamb of God
–from Paris and Lamb of God

photo from tambako the jaguar via flickr

Why Has Generation X Left the Church? photo from tambako the jaguar via flickr

Richard Beck, an associate professor of experimental psychology at Abilene Christian University, has a blog, and today he has a post about how Facebook killed the church.

In case you’re late to the party, a large portion of Generation X (by broadest definition those born between 1961-81) pretty much left the church a long time ago. It appears that Generation Y is leaving it in even greater droves. There was a popular Christian song many years ago: My House is full, but my fields are empty. Who will work for me today?

I’m not so sure it’s relevant anymore, because the House of  God, um, not so full. So, what happened?

Beck, who writes a compelling essay, believes social computing is to blame. He says Gen X and Gen Y will blame leaving the church on things like shallowness and hypocrisy, but writes that the church’s main draw is social connection and affiliation. He says Generation Y (Millennials) (and Gen Xers) don’t have to go to church to stay connected. Basically, we just have to jump on Facebook – where not only our virtual friends exist, but our actual friends, too.

I think Beck has it partly right, but here’s what I’m thinking. Facebook and Twitter can be just as lonely as church. How many burdens can you share in 140 characters? How much community can you have via status updates? And, what about Jesus? The irresistable Son of God?

After I left a comment on Beck’s post, in which I mentioned Jesus, I went back and hit CONTROL F and then typed “JESUS” in the dialogue box that appeared to see how many times the word was mentioned in the essay or in the 18 or so comments that followed. The only time it appears is in my comment.

Interesting, how often Jesus is left out of these conversations.

Do you think “social computing” is why Generation X has left the church?

Here is a link to a sweet Oklahoma boy singing Lamb of God Bluegrass style.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. rose

    good question and no its not necessarily social media. abortion began and was carried out on my generation, we graduated into NAFTA job losses, the wars in the gulf — our stories haven’t even been told yet in the church, it took a massive rebellion during this election to force baby boomers to hear us. I am a generation x-er and many I have met that are outside church know their bible. interesting fact is that baby boomers were more pretrib than generation x and they have largely believed that Jesus would return due to 1948 which is their birth era,, so the Messiah’s return was based on their generation by deduction! My generation is going… what on earth are we going to be leaving behind for the next generation? you wanna keep the millennials, may God open the ears of baby boomers to Gen x and the real problems in the churches such as 501c3 incorporation — things are going to have to change.

    • Jennifer

      Fascinating thoughts, Rose. I’d like to hear more about the Boomer/pre-trib stuff. What do you mean by 501c3 incorporation. Are you saying churches should be taxed? I wonder if that’s coming…someday.

  2. GenXpert

    I think Gen X and Gen Y are more inclusive than previous generations and a lot of churchs are extremely judgmental. I think people are looking for a way to live a spiritual life – not a way to not live a non-spiritual life. Churchs that are all about pointing their fingers at those they define as “sinners” are not going to sit well with Gen X and Gen Y. Jesus didn’t discriminate, how can we justify it?

  3. jen

    @SEEK THE QUESTION – What you’ve added to this conversation is invaluable. I did not see that on his Web site, but I did feel like I as missing something. Great feedback – you never dominate the convo!

  4. Cari

    If facebook killed (replaced) the church, then the church, like facebook, was only a shallow, superficial, social gathering place. We don’t need that church.

  5. seekthequestion

    Hopefully I’m not dominating the conversation. Just noticed something in the bio on his home page:

    “…many of the essays you will find here are theological experiments, exploratory and provisional essays that do not necessarily represent my views on matters of faith or ethics.”

    I encourage everyone hear to read him on occasion, especially when you’re up for a deep conversation. The guy gets Christianity in a postmodern culture.

  6. seekthequestion

    It looks like Dr. Beck accomplished his goal, which is to push his readers a bit further than we’re accustomed, then watch us wrestle with the implications.

    Not to minimize his opinions, but since my wife was his grad assistant and we went to church with him, I can tell you that his post stems from an honest question. It is also meant to get us to raise our awareness of what some are saying–that social media is undermining “true” community.

    In other words, knowing Richard, if what he accomplishes is us coming up with legitimate reasons why facebook is NOT killing the church, then he will have accomplished his goal.

  7. Understanding Alice

    I think that’s it though. Without a relationship with Jesus, there really isn’t much point to church as there are other more attractive social pass times available. Church at its best is a social expression of life with Jesus and the love of God.


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