Why is Deconstruction Such a "Thing" Today?

a mothers love for her adult kids apostasy christian no more church hurt confidence in god deconstructing faith deconversion family estrangement god's got this Feb 06, 2024

In a conference I led for Lifeway Christian Resources back in November, I asked this question:


And then I attempted to answer it by sharing what Carey Neiuwhof thinks. (For when you quote Carey Nieuwhof in a conference filled with church women, you are sure to sound smart.) In his article Neiuwhof gives us 5 observations about the culture that has created the atmosphere for deconstruction.

#1: Trust in Large Institutions is Declining All Across the Board–its cool to be against big corporation, big government, big educational and religious institutions. 

I have to confess that I am sympathetic toward their thinking regarding these things. I’m of the mind that corporate America is hurting us, that big government has grown past it’s ability to be held in check by the idea of checks and balances and without accountability it is doing more harm than good; and that the educational system that prepared WWII babies to live their best lives is not the same system that prepares millennial babies to live theirs. I have to confess also that living in a role that gave me full access to the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of a growing large church has me wondering if we ought to rethink how we do church as well. 

But before you lump me into the category of those deconstructing their faith, and we get distracted by a sideline argument, let’s move on.

#2: We live in a more diverse, accessible, mobile world (Internet). 

With ready access to the internet, we literally have libraries of information, philosophy and knowledge at our fingertips. And not all of those resources are as legitimate as they might claim to be.

Take the History channel for instance. I’ve heard several former new agers testify that when they watched programs about aliens on the history channel, what they saw became an open door to pursue new age thought.

It’s easier than ever to study apologetics, read volumes on the “other way of thinking” and learn everything you ever wanted to know about other world religions. With sites such as medium and quorum where people write endless commentaries on everything you can quickly follow a rabbit trail and end up like Alice in Wonderland did when she went down the rabbit hole.

Social media influence is powerful! Once you start questioning your faith you can quickly find others who’ve done the same and some who are making their living podcasting, you tubing and posting reels about the very things you are questioning and with their encouragement it makes it easier to leave what you once thought you loved–behind.

 Let me also add that with the explosion of social media, people are more connected than ever, and at the same time, less connected than ever. —

#3: High-performing Christians are burning out. (Or being exposed)--so sad, but in this day and age counterfeits and imposters are being exposed. When I was in seminary, we watched a documentary about a young man who made a farce of the pentecostal tent revival movement. He preached to large crowds with passionm then mocked the people who attended, and gathered with his friends drinking and smoking as they counted the offering that was collected.

  Pretending, going through the motions and using Christian ministry as a smoke screen for misbehavior has always gone on, but today it’s more prevalent with social media, and it is tearing away at peoples’ confidence in the Christian faith. 

  Too much self and too little humility is making it hard to respect those in the spotlight. And when they fall, their fall takes lots of others with them.

#4: The prideful prioritization of conformity over unity–the demise of many denominations is the need to conform to the image of the current faction in charge. This divides and slings off people who either cared a whole lot about what their denomination meant to them, or people who were looking for validation for the diversion they were taking in their own faith journey. 

  All but the Assemblies of God denominations are declining at a rapid pace. What’s up with that?! 

Perhaps the day of cooperation that grew strong because we decided to rally around the primary doctrines we agree on are over. Unfortunately, some of the leaders in denominations with cooperative programs have decided that they want to be defined more by what they believe than by how well they work together. (Church attendance is taking a sharp decline as well.)


#5: The Acceptance of Political Idolatry and Conspiracy Theories in Christian Communities–and I would add to this Christian patriotism. Too often people leading the church forget that we are citizens first of a heavenly kingdom that transcends time and space; and instead of being a people who put their trust in God, begin to lead the people to put their trust in government.

Note this from an article I found in Christianity Today (written October 23, 2023): 

"Donald Trump’s presidency accelerated the decline of church attendance in America. While the number of people going to church was already going down steadily, data from Harvard University’s Cooperative Election Study shows an “exogeneous shock” in 2016, according to political scientist Ryan Burge, who specializes in the study of religious data.

'For every action there is a reaction,' Burge told CT. 'Donald Trump is the action. His election caused all these ripple effects in American society, and you can see it in the pews.'

Politically moderate and left-leaning evangelicals appear most impacted. A growing number seem to have felt estranged from their congregations in the Trump era. The rate of self-identified Democrats giving up on church in their 20s–50s doubled from the end of Barack Obama’s presidency to the end of Trump’s, according to Burge. And the dramatic change came in 2016. At the same time, more Republicans started identifying as evangelical but not attending any worship services.

The growing consensus of social scientists is that political identities are currently much, much stronger than religious commitments."



Carey Nieuwhof isn’t wrong: Deconstruction has most definitely been fueled by these 5 things:

  1. Distrust of large institutions
  2. Our diverse, accessible, mobile world.
  3. Hi-profile Christians who are failing big (he said “burning out.”) 
  4. Prideful prioritization of conformity over unity.
  5. Acceptance of political idolatry and conspiracy theories.

But ultimately people deconstruct for 2 reasons:

  1. Emotional reasons (hurt/abuse/trauma)
  2. Cognitive reasons (their new definition of truth vs claims of Christianity)

Emotional reasons have to do with—being let down by failures of leaders and disappointment at the hands of other believers. Negative experiences with members of the congregation. Being hurt by the people in a place where you were supposed to be safe. And an overall sense of judgment and condemnation within the culture of the church.

Cognitive reasons have to do with—perceived problems with the Bible; embracing Darwinian evolution; influence of hedonism, and churches not knowing what to do with the sexual revolution and gender dysphoria.

How big is the problem?

This is the question Jim Davis and Michael Graham asked in their book The Great DeChurching: Who’s Leaving, Why are they going, and what will it take to bring them back? 

They share in the introduction of their book that they set out to prove or disprove this thesis: “We are currently in the middle of the largest and fastest religious shift in the history of our country.” 

The data they collected from a random group of 1043 American adults overwhelmingly supported the thesis. Listen to what they said, 

“Before now the largest religious shift in church attendance in the US occurred during the 25 year period after the Civil War. From 1870-1895, church attendance more than doubled as people resumed their postwar lives. That religious shift pales in comparison to what we are seeing today, only instead of going back to church, people today are leaving church. About 15% of American adults living today (around 40 million people) have effectively stopped going to church, and most of this dechurching has happened in the past 25 years.” 

This represents the largest concentrated change in church attendance in American history. Some people might ask: Is this the great apostasy?  For America, it just might be…

I Timothy 4:1–The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

2 Timothy 4:3-4–For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Other verses related to apostasy and how awful it is…

Hebrews 3:12–possible to happen to those who are active in the church

Luke 8:13–those who receive but never are rooted

Hebrews 6:4-6–dire warning…impossible to return

2 Peter 2:20-22–is possible but certainly not advisable

Hebrews 10:26-29–a terrible thing to do

2 Peter 2:1–false teachers

I don’t know if this is the great apostasy Scripture warns us of, or if it isn’t, but it is confirming to my own faith to know that absolutely nothing catches God off guard. And either way, we love the people who’ve left the church and long to see them return. 

So a better question is this: What can we do? 

1. We can LISTEN to what our loved ones are telling us without judgment and fear.

 Judgment is what they expect, what they’ve already experienced, and what they are escaping. 

Our fear will only diminish our believability when we claim to have the answers to life’s biggest questions. 

2. We can understand that they need healing from their hurt which will take time. And they need the same time and space to process their thoughts. 

We know very well that God calls each one of us to Himself in a personal way. We don’t come into a personal relationship with God because another person convinced us it would be good for us. Other people introduce us to Jesus. They tell us what He’s meant to them, and then they live their lives in a way that causes us to wonder if we might share in the same hope, and peace they have…but the actual transaction that occurs between a person separated by their own sin from a righteous and holy, loving and compassionate God is between them and Him.

It’s hard to give people the space they need, and it’s hard not to be afraid that we will lose them forever. It’s also hard to always respond in kind and godly, Spirit-filled ways when we are in conversation with them–especially when we’re confronted by their anger and feel personally attacked. 

BUT, if we take our misgivings, fear and heartache to Jesus we will find healing for our own souls–we will find deeper intimacy with Him–and He will create in us a confidence that can withstand their journey. 


My friends, people all around us are deconstructing their faith and God knew we would be their mothers, their fathers, sisters and brothers. He knew we would be their children, their teachers, their students, their friends. And because He knew that, He has given us everything we need to serve our role in His army during these days.

Let’s love our people well and trust our God completely! 


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