There’s a huge movement underfoot in America. It’s often referred to as “deconstruction.” By that, I mean that a person decides to release themselves from the boundaries, and in fact much of the identity, which they held previously. Often it includes leaving behind once-honored traditions and values, and the related expectations, connected to one’s childhood and formative years. It is a deliberate shucking off of old patterns of belief, with the hope of discovering one’s authentic self. So we can think of “faith deconstruction” – which we’re seeing a lot of right now – as a person’s transformative quest for personal liberation from all religious understandings which no longer serve them well.
We’re seeing this pattern of deconstruction now trending among people who once considered themselves to be evangelical followers of Christ. A number of Christian “celebrities” have moved in this direction. On a broader scale, the largest “Christian” adoption agency in the U.S. has decided suddenly – at least it appears “sudden” from the perspective of onlookers – to place children with same-sex couples. In fact entire congregations are being shaken by cultural and theological evolutions which are some form of faith deconstruction. Not far from home, a prominent megachurch in Nashville embraced unbiblical sexual ethics just a few years ago, and today the church’s website indicates a clear questioning of doctrinal orthodoxy in general. That trajectory may not surprise you in light of the congregation’s earlier departure from Scripture, but it’s still quite alarming.
How should we respond?
First of all, I contend that we should recognize the value of authenticity, particularly among younger adults. We who are a little older should be the first to admit that some of this deconstruction we have brought on ourselves, by creating religious communities which have in fact not been honest and transparent – particularly when it comes to telling the truth about our own sin. All too often we’ve created church climates which give the impression that “we all have our act together – see how nice we look!” This has bred a spirit of pharisaic self-righteousness, which has been a huge turn-off to Gen Y and beyond. We should repent of that hypocrisy, and fast. (Isn’t it interesting how reversing a negative trend “out there” usually starts with reversing course in my own heart?)
Secondly, I think that we should come to terms with how poorly we have carried out, in many cases, the process of discipleship. Our easy-believism is catching up with us, friends. We have downplayed repentance, and we have assumed that thirty minutes a week of listening to a teacher explain the Bible is sufficient preparation for a young person who’s going out into a world where the pervasive ideologies exalt everything other than Christ. Said another way, the culture has discipled our young people better than we have discipled them. We need to own this, I believe, and make immediate changes to the ways in which we attempt to accomplish lifelong Christian discipleship among the body of Christ.
Thirdly, my hope is that we will humble ourselves to the point where people – all people – will feel free to be part of our fellowship, even if they’re walking through our doors will all kinds of serious faith struggles. People are drowning in grief and shame. People are starving for affirmation. People are bombarded with broken relationships, and broken dreams. People are suffering from a national crisis in mental healthcare. This is no time for the church to communicate any sense of moral superiority or any hint of “us four, no more,” but this is the time for the church to open wide her arms. Surely that is the way of Jesus for such a time as this.
Fourth and last, I’m urging you to put your arm around somebody younger. Tell them you believe in them. Tell them you’re on their team, and praying for them. (And actually pray for them, regularly.) Tell them that you’d love to be their friend through the ups and downs of life. Remind them over and over again that our strength is in our Savior and His gospel, and not in us. Live out the precepts of the Word before their eyes. Your steady encouragement of a younger person – whether they’re far from God or not – may be more life-giving than you could ever imagine! Ask God to break your heart, and then give it a chance.
Part of our own faith journey includes wrestling through our own doubts and fears. (Don’t even tell me you have no doubts. I know better.) What a great time to be honest about that! What a great time to invite others into the places where our faith is still under construction! What a great time to get real with each other, for God’s glory!
Perhaps real is the way to revival.