I have never been through a proper deconstruction process, I can only assume it’s because I have an analytic mind and I find myself analyzing my beliefs in real time. So, maybe I’m alway deconstructing. I’m no super Christian though. I struggle with the tension between culture and scripture. The best I can do, like anyone else, like you, is pray, search the scriptures and attempt to know the heart of God.
I have often examined the conditions (who, what, where and why) of my conversion, and I thank God, they contained no red flags. A camp counselor, Chuck Winters, prayed with me on a bench in the game room. The simplicity of that moment sticks with me. I had great (not perfect) youth pastors who didn’t just tell me what to do to make God happy, they instructed me on how to feed myself, how to become fruitful in the faith and how to love others. In my younger days I swayed between being Pharisaical and grace filled, trying to find balance between being an obedient follower of Christ and a loving human being, sometimes failing on both counts. So many people, as teenagers, have had toxic experiences with the church, with overbearing Christian parents and judgmental youth pastors. I have seen and heard awful preaching and altar calls and probably shared in some of that and I regret those moments where I let hyper spirituality lead me rather than the Holy Spirit.
After 30 years of ministering to youth, I have paid closer attention to my own way of calling kids to Christ and how to disciple them. I’m hyper aware at camps to make sure kids aren’t being manipulated into a commitment that the Holy Spirit has not led them to make.
We should take time to examine our commitments, our behavior and our beliefs (2 Corinthians 13:5) keeping in mind the scriptures rather than the culture. The culture is always changing and always skewing against God. My concern for anyone in deconstruction mode is that the baby Jesus is being thrown out with the bathwater. Some people come out stronger and healthier after deconstruction but many come out hollow because instead of examining their faith in light of the scriptures they use their personal experiences, personal preferences (what’s easier) or even personal politics exclusively.
Many students and adults make the mistake of judging their faith by their feelings which often leads to a premature rejection of faith. In other words, if the main thought in deconstruction is, “the faith I believe in can’t be good if it makes me make hard choices or puts any stress on me.” then this is bad deconstruction. The life of a follower of Jesus is hard and the path of a disciple is filled with stressful moments.
As youth workers, we shouldn’t add to the already stressful life of a teenagers with the pressure to perform or preach difficult topics without thoughtful discussion to help them understand it better and, maybe, we should ask, “Are they going to deconstruct this later in life and is it worth adding back when reconstruction begins?” when it comes to certain kinds of programming.
I don’t believe in blind faith. I don’t believe everyone should be in lockstep with their denomination. I also don’t believe we should cast away wisdom for cultural popularity. Somewhere in-between their is a proper place to drop the thoughts or practices that make your faith unfruitful.
I am currently using this video/podcast with Preston and Jackie Hill Perry to discuss deconstruction and friends who leave the faith with my Sunday School class. I am showing the video in 15 minute increments and have written up some small group questions (below) to use with it. Yes, there’s a lot there , more than enough questions for one study so feel free to break it up into multiple studies, in person and online.
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Show Video (first 15 minutes)
Small Group Questions
Do you know people who once followed Jesus but no longer follow him?
What reasons, if any, did they give you for quitting?
Is not going to church the same as quitting Jesus. In the video, the Perry’s mention Adam and Eve,
Read Genesis 3:1-7
Do you believe the devil still uses this tactic to cause us to disobey God today? How so?
What do thing about this observation,
You will always be bound and constrained by something, the question is, is it a good thing or a bad thing?
If you feel like faith is constricting, could the thing you are trade it in for be worse? How so?
Can you be a slave to self-betterment or becoming “your authentic self”
Read Romans 6:15-16
What does it mean to be a slave to righteousness? What is the result?
What does it mean to be a slave to sin? What is the result?
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
What are the three types of soil conditions that keep people from experiencing a life giving faith?
What is the best kind of soil for someone to experience life giving faith (hears, understands, produces fruit)
Which kind of soil do you think most contributes to people leaving the faith?
What do you think about this quote from the video,
“If you have been called out of darkness the more you hear about God the more you love him but if you are still in darkness, the more you hear about God makes you run from him more.
Trying to live the Christian life, apart from having a relationship with the Lord, and the power of the Holy Spirit is a burden.”
Read I John 3:5-7
What does it mean to “keep on sinning”? And how is that different from I sin because I am human?
How important is it that we not be quick to judge others’ faith or someone’s relationship with God?
What do you think about this quote:
“To play the Holy Spirit in someone’s life is an example of not trusting God.”
If someone you know has left the faith, what is the best way to minister to them? (pray for them)
Close in prayer until next week.