More than half of my ideas for blog posts or podcast topics come from conversations with friends and colleagues. There’s always some interesting thread I can pull that I can’t stop thinking about that usually either ends up with me firing off 20 emails for podcasts guests or trying to flesh something out on paper. A recent conversation got me thinking about the root cause for so many going through a “deconstruction.”
As I’ve mentioned on the podcast before – I realize my story is more the exception than the rule. I didn’t grow up in a restrictive religious environment. It was nothing like so many of my friends who shared stories of going to massive youth gatherings held in hockey arenas where they often felt the pressure to walk to some designated area to accept Jesus into their hearts (usually by way of some pre-conceived prayer or statement). It was certainly nothing like the system of shame and guilt that so many of them were raised in. I had a loving and non-traumatic experience. My journey of deconstruction was one born of curiosity and a desire to be able to answer the most basic questions when asked why I believed a certain Christian idea. But I know that’s not the only way a journey can begin and may not even be the catalyst to most.
Many journeys begin as a result of absolute necessity.
Over the years I’ve had countless conversations and read countless emails where people have told me their stories. Stories that make your heart ache for that person and what they went through either at the hands of an institution or individual representing an institution. The church and its representatives have done a great deal of damage over the years in the name of Jesus. According to a recent Gallup poll, the result of this has been more than a 20% decline in American’s who claim membership in a house of worship within the last twenty years. In fact, this is the first time that the overall number of American’s claiming membership to a church, synagogue, or mosque has fallen below 50% in the over eight-decades. Church membership will likely continue to see the numbers dwindle as the higher percentages of members are comprised of the generations born before 1946. With each generation the numbers continue to fall with millennials at 36% and Generation Z around the same.
The younger generations who are slowly taking their place in society as our next generation of teachers, doctors, scientists, and senators are demanding the church change. They are demanding a church that allows for questions. A church that doesn’t have all the answers and isn’t afraid to admit it. A church that is authentic and not just a capitalistic cash grab with a “cool” band. A church that loves the “other,” cares for the poor, welcomes the immigrant, and loves ALL of God’s children. Period. A church that actually practices what it preaches. But if the church can’t get out of its own way and change for the better – it will continue to shrink and shrink until there’s nothing left.