“Deconstruction” is a word that every follower of Jesus needs to familiarize themselves with. Quickly. It is a word that is increasingly used by current and former professing Christians to describe their current process of wrestling with, examining, and often discarding the faith they grew up with.
“Deconstruction is the process of systematically dissecting and often rejecting the beliefs you grew up with.”
The term has become even more popular in the evangelical realm as more and more “celebrity Christians”, who enjoyed wide influence and massive platforms through social media, have cited deconstruction as their first step towards walking away from the faith altogether. The secular culture broadly is of course more than happy to “assist” these struggling believers with resources and a community that can help them process their deconstruction. We see this phenomenon most clearly on the campuses of secular universities and deconstruction is becoming increasingly more and more popular among young adults (age 18-22). Significantly, this is also the age range leaving the church in droves. All of these conditions create a generational crisis that the church must confront in the years ahead. But should the church’s answer to deconstruction be?
An Answer to Deconstruction
If the church is going to prepare the next generation to stand firm when the temptation to deconstruct is placed before them discipleship must be placed at the forefront of life in both the church and the home.
The only proper response to deconstruction is discipleship.
Lifeway Research released a survey recently that showed that some 70% of 18-22-year-olds will leave the church. Most of them will not return. Of course, this age range is particularly vulnerable to the appeal of deconstructing their faith. Why? Largely the church has left them unprepared and undiscipled. Entertained? Maybe. But discipled? Usually, not. And what are these students subjected to?
Isolation and indoctrination. (For more on this check out my sermon “Attempted Deconstruction” from a series on the Book of Daniel) This age range is usually made up of college students, many of whom move out of the home for the first time, are removed from their community of faith, and are intentionally discipled with a secular worldview on most university campuses.
The challenge of “assisted deconstruction” for the next generation is a very real one. It may be one of the great discipleship challenges of our time. But the church alone, cannot bear the full weight of discipleship. Discipleship must begin in the home. Specifically, it must begin with the parents in the home modelling healthy Gospel habits. What are those habits? Time in the Word. Time in prayer. Regularly gathering with the local church. The data confirms what we already know: Parents have a tremendous impact on shaping the future faithfulness of their children in the future through their faithfulness in the present. If we spend little time in the Word, we should not be surprised when our children do not grow up to value time in the Word. If we rarely pray with our children, we should not be surprised when they do not spend time in prayer. And if we are sporadic and inconsistent in how frequently we attend church, we should not be surprised when our children leave the church as soon as they are able to. As a matter of fact, consistent church attendance or lack thereof is one of the most pivotal factors in whether a child attends church as an adult.
According to data collected by Baptist Press, if a father does not go to church, even if his wife does, only 1 child in 50 will become a regular worshiper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of what the mother does, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will attend church as adults. Summary: If parents attend church infrequently it is very unlikely that their children will attend at all when the leave the house.
What is the proper answer to the deconstruction phenomenon? Discipleship. And it must begin in the home and be aided by the local church.
An Alternative to Deconstruction
Wrestling with doubts about your faith is not a sin. It is a part of the journey of the Christian life. Rejecting or walking away from the faith of our childhood is also not inherently a bad thing IF those beliefs that are rejected were unbiblical beliefs in the first place. The issue is not questioning our faith or our upbringing or our doctrinal positions. Actually, that is often quite healthy. The question is how we wrestle with our faith and what we are using as our guide to a “true north”. Deconstruction is a subjective process. It asks you to examine your faith and long-held beliefs and then ask how you feel about them. Determining truth based on your subjective feelings on any matter is rarely beneficial. So let me offer a better way.
Personal Reformation is the process of examining your faith by holding it up to the light of Scripture and asking: Is this belief biblical? Is it objectively true based on what the Scripture teaches? Most Christians I know, myself includes, have wrestled with their faith and wound up rejecting certain beliefs and embracing new ones. This is a process that continues throughout our lives as Christians.
So if you are questioning your faith right now, don’t settle for deconstruction. Pursue personal reformation.