My heart goes out to those who are deconstructing their faith. It is a time full of questions, doubts, fear, and wonder. But I believe that as you and others journey through this time, you will discover a more vibrant faith and an authenticity that you may not have had before. So keep going! My heart also goes out to churches working to find ways to love and reach those who are leaving. So keep working! I appreciate Joe Terrell’s article on Carey Nieuwhof’s website titled: “5 Real Reasons Young People are Deconstructing Their Faith”. I have written responses to the first three reasons in my previous blog posts.
Let me say that reason #4 is a MAJOR reason why many are leaving the church. Due to recent events in our country, the pandemic, political elections, and fear, many churches have moved to conformity over unity. There is a desire to make sure everyone knows where they stand and, as a result, ask their members to make the same stand or leave.
What does this look like? Churches require their members and anyone who wants to join to agree to a rigid church doctrine without questions, doubts, or ambiguity. They seek a church where everyone looks the same, believes the same, and acts the same. As a result, there is little room to discuss different views or avenues of faith. Churches have become so rigid that they believe that their way of faith is the only way. Honestly, this is sad and does not look like the Kingdom of God in the world today.
I agree with the author that many people today are okay with and thrive in God’s mystery, uncertainty, and wonder. They are having or wanting to have challenging, vibrant, and philosophical discussions about faith and life. They don’t want to be taught from a pulpit or lectured. They want to contribute to the discussion. They want to share their struggles, thoughts, and what they are learning. They want to hear other people’s stories, struggles, and discoveries. They want to sit around a table, share a meal, and be in authentic, genuine faith communities where they won’t be judged or vilified for their questions or beliefs from a different faith background. They want to go deep, not into doctrine, but into the mystery of God, faith, and how to live life in a very complex and pluralistic society. They want to struggle with questions and mystery. They want to discuss how can I faithfully live my life with Jesus in the world today.
Think of it as a round dining table. Everyone is on the same level. Everyone is welcomed. Everyone is invited to eat together and share life. This is the most desired, a dinner table of an authentic faith community.
In short, what they don’t want:
– Someone who has all the answers and doesn’t listen.
– A rigid church doctrine they must conform to void of questions, doubts, and other streams of faith
– Another canned Bible study
What they DO want:
– Someone who will listen and is ok with mystery, ambiguity and is generous (flexible) with orthodoxy.
– An authentic community around a “table” where everyone can share their thoughts, views, beliefs, wondering, and struggles.
– A place where they can learn how other orthodox streams of faith give a different perspective on their questions and doubts. When you find truth, you find Jesus.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, last year, I had the privilege of leading a small group of millennials in a “table” discussion around the Sermon on the Mount. My role was to facilitate, provide the structure, ask questions and listen. Everyone had the opportunity to share their struggles, beliefs, and learnings. We came from different Christian faith backgrounds, and together, we discovered a more vibrant faith. But we did it together, learning from each other. I long for that community again. If you would like to be a part of a future group like this, please contact me as we did this group over Zoom. (I know we are probably all tired of Zoom now). But people joined us from all over the United States.
If you have questions and doubts about your faith, you are not alone!! It is ok to have these uncertainties and to struggle. There are more people like you in this world than you may realize. It is ok to find truth in other streams of orthodoxy, not just the one you have been taught. When you find truth you find Jesus. But I encourage you to find a small group of people on the same journey as you are and don’t do this alone. Don’t do this without holding tightly to Jesus.
If you are deconstructing your faith:
– Find or start your own table community where you can ask questions, doubt, and wonder about the mysteries of God.
– I encourage you to read authors from different streams of Christian orthodoxy (Brian Zahand, Wiliam Paul Young, etc.).
– Hold tightly to Jesus and loosely to doctrine.
If you are a church leader:
– Does your church provide a safe place for people to process their doubts and questions without giving answers?
– Do you hold loosely to the non-essentials of your faith?
– Are you Striving for diversity and unity instead of rigid conformity?
– Why would you not allow questions, doubts, or even exploring other streams of orthodoxy?