#1: Trust in Large Institutions (including the Church) is Declining All Across the Board

I recently came across an article by Carey Nieuwhof entitled “Five Real Reasons Young People Are Deconstructing Their Faith.” (Written by Joe Terrell)I encourage you to read the article before reading my response. I will be responding to each of the five reasons Nieuwof outlined in 5 separate blog post. I would love for this to be a conversation with you. So please comment below or email me. We all need a safe place to process what is going on in our lives and our faith.

Make no mistake that many young people (Millenials) are deconstructing their faith and at the same time, many are leaving the church. I know the conversations I have had with people in the last five years who are deconstructing their faith, it’s not just Millenials, but many Gen X and Gen Z people as well. It is important for us to ask whey are people deconstructing their faith?

Carrie Nieuwhof hits on five reasons why young people are deconstructing their faith. The first reason he states: Trust in large institutions is declining all across the board. He writess:

The four primary institutional pillars of modern society – Government, Business, Media, and Church – are more likely to be viewed as corrupt, ineffective, and self-serving than trustworthy, effective, and selfless.

When I read this statement it made me sad that many people put the church in the same category as business, media and government, especially when it comes to a lack of trust. Put simply, we the church have a trust issue. In the last three decades (or more) the church has increasingly algined itself with people in power (both conservative and progressive churches) and has built the church to be more like a business needing to compensate salaries, building bigger buildings, execute big events (including Sunday mornings), and maintain a clean public perception (marketing). When an institution becomes too dependent on power, money, and perception, the institution will do whatever it takes to protect itself, even in the face of sexual misconduct, abuse, and moral/ethical failings. When a church leadership is unwilling to face these allegations head on with complete transparency it’s no wonder there is a lack of trust. Let’s be clear, the distrust in the church is not because of what the “world” has done to it, but it’s what the church have done to itself.

A charismatic pastor at a church I was attending had some major ethical failures around finances and lying. Many people had been wounded as a result of his lack of poor leadership (me included) as he was unwilling to change, even though he said he would change. Yet the board decided to protect the pastor because he was such a good carasmatic preacher. As a result, they refused to hold him accountable. Understandably, many people left the church, wounded and hurt. There was little care or concern given to those who left. It was better to keep the pastor than to heal the wounded.

Another aspect of the distrust is the amount of money churches spend on salaries, buildings, the event of Sunday morning, and big events. Many see that this money can be better spent in helping the poor, pursue justice, and given to help the community in real tangible ways. I have heard countless times how people are tired of the lights and show of Sunday morning services.

I recently talked to a former pastor from a large church(Gen Xer) who shared with me the frustration with the amount of money spent on church events. He said that the outcome of all the money, time, energy, and resources spent on trying to reach people and disciple people through these big events had little impact on people’s lives. Therefore, it no longer made sense to spend all that money and time when all people really wanted was a table, a cup of coffee, a lunch, to share their life ask questions and be listened to. Unable to change the programing of the church, he left.

I agree with Nieuwhof in that this is one of the reasons people are deconstructing their faith. They no longer trust the institution of the church, how it has been built (on power, money, and perception), and what it now represents in society. The church should be the place people can trust with their lives. But if people cannot trust the church’ leadership and their decisions, then why would they trust the church with their deepest questions and doubts?

I would love to hear from you:

Questions to consider if you are deconstructing:

  • How has the church failed you and if you could tell the church something, what would you say?
  • Why do you feel the need to leave the church to deconstruct your faith? Is it not safe there to ask questions and voice doubts? Have you seen or heard how others have been treated?
  • Who in your life do you trust the most to help you process your doubts? You need a safe person in your life who will not judge, condemn, or give their opinion, but to just listen.
  • How can a church become more trustworthy?

Questions to consider if you are a church or Jesus follower:

  • Are you, your church, a safe person or place for people to process their doubts and questions? If you aren’t sure, consider who and how many people are coming to you seeking help.
  • How can you, your church, provide a safe place for people who are deconstructing their faith? Think more than just programs or another “class.”
  • How can a church become more trustworthy?

I would love to know your thoughts either through the comments below or you can email me at philsteiner77@gmail.com.

  • If you are in a church and you have a heart for people who are leaving and deconstructing their faith and you aren’t sure what to do, please contact me.
  • If you are in the process of deconstructing your faith and you are not sure who you can go to, I would love to hear from you. Please email me.


3 thoughts on “#1: Trust in Large Institutions (including the Church) is Declining All Across the Board

  1. Can millennials deconstruct, or is it when it comes time to work out their inherited faith, they look at the fig tree and don’t like the fruit they see…

    Over history, church has been a unifying structure and the flip side of that unity coin has been power & tribalism.

    Us over the other; anti-shalom

    This trip through the Easter season I wonder if it really isn’t the cross or the empty tomb that is the point.

    Maybe it’s the table.

    Maybe salvation is the incarnation; God with us. The cross is the empire disrupting the table. The empty tomb is the incarnation again, Elohim steps back into history again.

    The anointed one doesn’t go back to Calvary to declare victory, he goes to the table in the upper room.

    So a faith built on individual salvation, always girded for battle, is destined cause collateral damage.

    Maybe instead of church we just need a bigger table with a heaping plate of shalom.


    1. Hi Marvin,
      These are GREAT thoughts and I tend to agree with a lot of it.

      I think for Millennials it is a combination of both deconstruction and working our their inherited faith. Yet, these millennials are now in their 30s. So they have experienced life.

      I LOVE the table metaphor and the reality of what that means, especially in our world today.

      Yes! “A faith built on individual salvation (which I still hold to), always girded for battle, is destined to cause collateral damage.” – love this!!


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