Three Types of Church Leavers


David Kinnamen wrote a very important book called, You Lost Me. In his book he points out that there are three different types of people who have left the church. He categorizes the group of leavers into three groups: nomads, prodigals and exiles.[i]

Kinnamen’s research describes the prodigal’s movement away from faith as a hard and fast one. Usually break is so harsh it leads to atheism or to the “nones” faith category. This break took place because something horrible happened in the church they went to growing up or they just got fed up with the culture of religion they quickly left the church.

The second group is the, nomad. The nomad drifted slowly from the church. The church became less and less relevant to their everyday life. The result has been a nomadic faith that is maybe all inclusive of other religions and ideologies. The nomads aren’t as mad as the prodigals they are simply indifferent.

The third group he mentions is the exile. The exiles are not like the prodigals or the nomads. They are typically young and frustrated believers who love Jesus but find the current church culture ridiculous and at times repulsive. They want a faith that matters. They want a faith that works. They want truth and grace. They want apologetics and authenticity.



One of my goals in writing my recent book is to see nomads and prodigals move into the exile category. When I was burning out in ministry I went from nomad to exile in a matter of months. The drift works like this.


The church is broken.

American Christian culture is broken.

Jesus is real.

God is real.

Bible is true.

The church is not full of ALL bad people.
I love most the people in my church.

When people truly follow Jesus they turn out pretty awesome.

So not every church is bad.

So what’s wrong?

God is real.

Jesus is real.

Bible is true.

Church isn’t all bad.

Dang it. I guess I’ll go back to church. J


Maybe we don’t need to throw out the church. Maybe there is something to redeem in her. Or maybe we just need to find a church that does things differently.



When you get to that point, you’re an exile. It’s actually kind of relieving. I don’t know about you but the bitter old person and the bitter young person both annoy me. They are always ranting about something. The only difference is the typical bitter old person is in the church ranting about the world and the bitter young person is in the world ranting about the church. I don’t want either to be me. So to land in a spot where I don’t end up bitter but better, that is a relief.

Now I have a new problem, where am I going to go to church? This Sunday at Anchor Way I will wrap up our series on Loving Jesus but Not His Girlfriend with, when to leave a church and how to find a healthy one.

Thanks for reading,



[i] Kinnamen, David. You Lost Me, Baker Books, 2001.


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