Is Deconstructing My Faith Our Only Option?

The church of Jesus Christ can be a terrible let down.

Everyone from immature or backslidden believers, false teachers, outright wolves, and misguided yet well-intentioned souls can create pain and sorrow in the lives of other Christians.

Everything from boredom to legalism, deception to downright abuse can occur to dishearten even a long-term Christian. And one option when this pain comes is to deconstruct our faith, denounce all we once held dear, walk away from Christ altogether or at least, reimagine what following Him looks like – usually apart from a traditional faith community.

The media adores deconstructionists.

They make for provocative interviews.

They often raise great questions and highlight areas where some parts of the church require attention, correction, or repentance.

Unfortunately, they can also present escape into deconstruction as the only viable, self-respecting option for people facing pain or disappointment in the church.

Deconstructionists are easy poster children for people with agendas, but we should be careful about treating them as anything other than eternal souls loved by God, struggling with life’s great questions.

How to Respond When People Deconstruct Their Faith

Jesus loves people who are deconstructing their faith. His love doesn’t stop because they are asking questions or seeking other answers or denouncing biblical teaching. And neither should ours.

To approach those engaging in deconstruction with judgment or condemnation is to represent ourselves and our insecurity, not our God.

But, those of us who have experienced pain in the church – hardship, disappointment, betrayal, false teaching, deception, and even abuse – but have chosen to remain – should also speak up about the path we’ve chosen and why.

I have experienced deep wounds from other Christians. Not just once, but many times in the over fifty-five years I’ve been a believer.

Like the pastor who violated the sanctity of private counseling sessions and shared my personal struggles publicly during a church conflict.

Or the time I led a church youth group, built it into a sizable ministry, created a job for a youth group leader and was then informed by the church elders that I would be ineligible for the job because I’m a woman.

Or the spiritual director I turned to for support during a devastating time in my life who only wanted to talk about himself and ask me to advise him about his problems with the same person who hurt me.

I’ve experienced church splits, divisions over music, leaders hiding moral failure, and relentless debates over women’s roles. I’ve witnessed people hurt one another over small differences like the order of service and great divides like we’ve seen in this last presidential election.

I’ve been exhausted, worn out, and dragged down by prolonged church debates, foot-dragging over minor changes, covert sexism, racism, and nationalism, and by people using Bible verses to clobber one another emotionally. I’ve seen brutal legalism and rabid licentiousness each devastate individuals and congregations.

Why do some people stay in the church after being let down?

Have I been tempted to deconstruct my faith? Absolutely. And yet, as I approach the age of sixty, here I stand – for today, anyway, by grace. Continuing in the faith I received on my knees as a child when I responded to the altar call in a televised Billy Graham Crusade.

Have I considered other faiths? Of course. Have I ever considered walking away from faith all together? Maybe once. Has it ever crossed my mind to give up on local churches and just take my spiritual life virtual? It has.

What makes the difference between someone who witnesses or experiences wounds, disappointments, and disagreements in the church who chooses to deconstruct her faith and one who remains engaged?

If I were to believe those telling their deconstructing stories, it may be because I haven’t examined my faith or that my social construct is built around a particular faith community and it would cost me too much to walk away.

Perhaps I’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy or I have an unenlightened approach to God and to Scripture. Some would guess I am unaware of science, changes in sociology, or out of touch with today’s headlines because I’ve immersed myself so far into Christian culture, I can’t find my way out.

Others would wager I am more committed to religion or denomination than I am to Christ, I’ve been deceived by the devil, or I carry on a lazy faith. Some would speculate that I have a low IQ, haven’t really read my Bible, or am rigid and judgmental by nature.

Obviously, I don’t believe they would be right on any of those counts.

I can’t speak for those who walk away from Christ or from a biblically grounded expression of faith. I can’t speak for those deconstructing their faith. I can only say what I’ve done when devastating experiences tested either my understanding of God or my relationship with the Christian community.

Of course, I have left some churches. I have opted not to sit under certain leaders or to commit to certain denominations because of differences I have with their teaching or with their practice. Still, I haven’t chosen to abandon my faith, reimagine my theology, or to denounce Jesus as the only way to salvation.

I’ll discuss what I have done in my next post.

As a preview let me just say I believe it has to do with acknowledging but then deconstructing my pain over my faith and believing the parts of the Bible that clearly warn the church will fall short, but that Jesus prevails.

More on that next post.

What about you?

How do you respond when celebrity Christians walk away or when you read interviews with everyday believers who are deconstructing their Christian faith and proclaiming it as freedom?

Have you experienced pain or let down in the church? How did you respond? What steps or stages did you go through and how is it that you have held on to Christ and remained engaged with His church?

Why, do you think, is it easier to publicly discuss leaving the faith then it is to discuss remaining engaged with it?

Let’s begin a conversation. Holding onto faith is not going to get any easier. Let’s learn to talk about holding on.


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14 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Julie Z Coleman says:

    I’m so glad you are addressing this topic, Lori. I’ve watched too many people walk away from God because of hurts that the Body has inflicted on them. But it was not God who hurt them. It was imperfect humans. We wouldn’t put a parent in prison because their adult child committed a crime. When people abandon God, they have their eyes on the wrong thing. Hebrews tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. While His followers can be insensitive, judgmental, even cruel, He’ll never let us down. Only in Him can we find peace. Even while we are hurting. I’m so glad you made the point of separating Jesus from His followers. He will always prevail. Amen to that!!

  2. Heather Smith says:

    I’m anxious to see the follow-up post. Thank you for sharing so candidly with us.

  3. Doris Campbell says:

    I was ‘fired’ from being a volunteer treasurer, administrator, gofer, from my last church. I’d been there 24 years with about 8 of them in the treasurer/admin job. Was not told why I was being let go, just ‘leave your keys on the desk and go home’. After some soul searching for a couple of weeks walking the beach, I logged onto the web and hit on a church (near me, same denomination). I’ve been going there ever since for going on 6 years now. There’s no back-biting, gossiping, just lots of love and shepherding by pastor and congregation. I know God is there. I am blessed. They even saw me through the lingering death of my husband and sent me a hundred cards at that time. I feel so welcome and loved there. And we pass it along to all newcomers.
    Thanks for your beautiful messages too. You have blessed me many times. Doris Campbell, Clearwater FL

  4. Deb Kreyssig says:

    For me,the benefits of Christian fellowship far outweigh the negative aspects. The Christian family is such a blessing. We need each other, especially in times such as these. We must keep in mind the wheat and the tares and also no one is without sin, even Christians. We are the body of Christ and are not meant to walk in isolation.

  5. Jim Klock says:

    Holding on vs letting go. Love this. A critical examination of our Faith is a necessary function for growth. Leto of the peripheral things and hold on to Jesus. Thanks, Lori.

  6. Gerald Crawford says:

    Having been active in Prolife ministry for 35 years (including many arrests) I understand what you have been through. Every challenge to your faith (belief), weather from within or imposed on you, is an opportunity (often painful) to solidify what you believe and why. One of the most difficult aspects of maturity is not having to respond to every criticism. I recognize you have had much opportunity to mature.

  7. Chaplain Bruce says:

    I began my faith walk under a works based salvation doctrinal model. And if that wasn’t bad enough, with all of the inevitable hypocrisy and judgementalism that frequents such graceless environments, my pastor manipulated my naive, but sincere, intentions toward God into focusing more on pastor worship and religous arrogance toward anyone that didn’t have “the truth”.
    Additinally, I was regularly prophecied to about my supposed ongoing problem of being jealous of the church leaders.
    Eventually, my faith was weakened dramatically. My family was exhausted from seeking to keep God happy.
    Sooo, I finally came to the question: Is all of this damage in my life, and in my wife and children’s lives, the result of God’s errors, or man’s?
    My wife and children all gave up their faith due to the unhealthy circumstances they equated church with.
    Yet for me, while the idea of dropping all of the church activities and over-accountability sounded glorious at that point, the answer to my question was what caused me to continue to follow Christ on a spiritual journey that lead me to the glorious liberty of a healthy, godly grace, that was based upon God’s faithfulness, rather than mine. I also learned that there were amazing, though human, pastors and brethren out there that I had previously ignored, because they didn’t have “the truth”. My understanding of God’s Church expanded as dramatically as it became more loving and honest as well.
    It has been 39 years since I was baptized, yet only 18 years since I began my grace-based personal and loving relationship with my Father in Heaven.
    I have discovered that everything under Heaven is foulable. Jesus is the only Truth out there.
    I became an Ambassador for Christ, rather than for any denomination, or ministry, or doctrinal slant.
    I’ve never been more at peace, and grateful to my Savior in all my life.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Good thoughts, looking forward to next post! Deconstruction can be good and bad. Taking a hard prayerful look at your relationship with Christ is always good for the soul! Trying to fit Jesus into our world and how we want things to be doesn’t always turn out. I think that can lead to confusion and frustration.

  9. JOHN WHITE says:

    I’ve been in this line of thinking or examination for a while. Never heard anyone call it deconstruction. You are the only person, prophet or ‘professor’ I’ve read, who states things in a clear, rational and considered manner. Mostly, you offer clear discernments with empathy and consideration, but without condemnation. God bless you greatly!

    I find “simple” faith in the gospel is essential, but not easy. Especially for anyone with an inquisitive mind. Deep investigation is generally not encouraged in some of the body I have met. Thank you so much for bringing genuine humility and honesty into the light for your readers.

  10. Karen White says:

    Having just experienced separation from our church of 20 years, I am still reeling. Deconstructing my faith is only a part of moving forward. Over the years there was “church hurt”, borne of people, not faith/lack of faith.
    I also struggle with an adult child who has been deconstructing for a few years now and it makes me afraid of his substituting false doctrine, celebrity opinions, and social media rants as supplemental helps to his scriptural understanding.
    I will boldly proclaim that Jesus is Lord, while I look at where my faith is anchored. I still trust He will put me where He can use me best, most, and successfully.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. Diane McElwain says:

    I never heard this spoken of as deconstructing of our faith. I thank you for tackling the hard things in this Christian life and being totally honest. My husband was a pastor for 25 years and we have seen almost everything. Once after a year-plus, a legalistic church who could not face real freedom in Christ, threw us out. Then I really began to see what was happening. I didn’t want to go to church for 15 years, but i did. Now at this time in my life, I find myself bored with the “same old stuff.” But my faith is stronger. There is no other way but Jesus! And if someday I can’t find a proper church to worship at, it will be my home.

  12. Joann Biewer says:

    Thirty some years ago I moved from a large city to a very small one. I have struggled trying to find churches that didn’t stubbornly stay in their old ways. Their churches are a repellent for those seeking God. We need to be more ready than ever to minister to an overflow of people that God is in the process of sending us and see how God is doing “a new thing”. I will be surprised to see very many churches actually being used. Instead it may be that every Christians home will be a church as it was in Acts.

  13. Teddi Deppner says:

    I love what you’ve said so far, Lori. I would really appreciate hearing your definition of “deconstructing our faith”. I *think* I know what you’re referring to, and in context it seems centered on having a form of Christianity that lets go of a bible-centered, biblically grounded faith. But you also talk about people who walk away from Christianity, and I’m not sure whether you are also calling them deconstructionist or whether they’re just another example of someone’s response to being hurt by the church. Could you address what “deconstruction” means to you, either in a comment or in your next post?

  14. Lori Hynson says:

    I have no intention ever of walking away from my faith because of the actions of sinful humans. But yes, I find myself listening ever more closely to the vouce and leading of Christ, and giving wider berth to those who have come to idolize politicians, nationalism, false leaders and conspiracy theories. If a church leader says something I know not to be Scriptural, I don’t follow. I love my church but if my pastor started preaching nonsense, I would not take it as Gospel truth like so many are doing now. Lots of crazy stuff coming from the pulpit these days. I’ll stick with God’s Word.