Deconstructing the Church

Deconstructing the Church May 14, 2022

Photo by Harry Smith:…/photo-of-old-church-building…/

When I went through my deconstruction, the temptation was just to stay away from people and just do my own thing. But eventually, we remembered we are a part of a bigger group people and something in us didn’t let us just keep it to ourself.

Since I stepped outside of organized religion, after being a pastor for 20 years, I was able to see more clearly what I left.  My experience was with the Evangelical Church in the United States, and I do believe it is the worst, but that doesn’t make the other branches and sects innocent.

If you read this honestly and decide it doesn’t apply to your church, then this blog is not about you and there’s no need to tell me that.  If you happen to have a church without any of these issues, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address the ones that do and have compassion for them.

My opinion is that organized religion needs to be deconstructed completely and that we need to start over. It’s time for the garage sale!

These are the main reasons why:

1. 70% of the money it takes from people goes to salaries, buildings and the “show.”

In the times where inflation is high and gas prices are escalating, it doesn’t make sense to send 10% of our money to an organization that pays most of it for a place to meet and a person to supervise our spirituality.  It is true that we are codependent in this process and somewhat addicted to the “show” that is produced every week, but that doesn’t mean it is a necessary or ordained process.

Every single thing that happens in a traditional church setting can be obtained outside the walls for free. It feels good to go to church because it is designed to make us feel good. We must admit that we are addicted to it is not necessary when we clearly understand the alternatives.

2. It proposes to heal our trauma, but generally doesn’t, sometimes it makes it worse.

The organized church has always had good intentions. It observed that there are hurting people, and proposed to provide a system to help them. It wanted to help them and it tried to help them, but in most cases, because it was an organization, it was unable to help them.

I realize that small groups of people can help each other by being there for each other and listening. But there is little time for grief in a typical church. Most of the time and money goes to salaries and buildings and putting on the show.

More often than not, the clergy that are supervising the process, have their own trauma that remains unaddressed because of the nature of their position. It’s just a pretty bad system for healing trauma.

3. It promotes toxic doctrine like “original sin.”

After we raised children, and especially when we saw our grandchildren, it was hard to believe in the doctrine of original sin anymore. When we saw them take their first breath, it was an obvious illustration of what we saw in Genesis when God called the original creation. “Good!”.  The church needs to deeply examine these toxic beliefs like original sin that often originated after the fact as we went throughout history.

4. It’s an organization and the organization always comes first, the individual gets overlooked 

Often churches started in a home, much like the early churches in the first century. But, it doesn’t take much growth for these groups to become organizations. Once a group is an organization, the organization usually comes first. It has to recruit members, retain those members, and somehow maintain control.

This makes many things much harder, including growing spiritually, healing our  trauma, and thriving in community.

5. It creates an addiction, and benefits from the addictive nature of humans.

I understand why people like to go to church. The service is designed to make you like it. It is designed and rehearsed and performed so that you will experience certain emotions and want to come back. The sermon, musical performances, flow and order of service, and the environmental settings are all carefully planned to elicit a response.

Hillsong was the epitome of this type of effort and copied by thousands and thousands of churches. But even if the church is a more traditional type service or mass, it still is designed carefully to touch us in a certain way.  When we don’t feel it on Monday, we want to come back.

6. It accepts offerings (payment) for services available for free.

People tell me that they don’t get charged to come to church. But, the average churchgoer gives about $1,000 a year to their religious organizations.  Most of the services we receive from the church are available elsewhere. Just because we have created ceremonies and given them special names doesn’t mean that we can’t do them outside of church for free.

Sermons, teaching, music, small groups, community action, etc. can all be found somewhere else for free.

7. It habitually uses fear as a motivator, them attempts to control.

The fear we feel when we step outside of organized religion should tell us something about what has been happening inside the walls.  Religious groups consistently use messages and fear to motivate us to accept their control. It has been demonstrated time and time again, over and over, that all organizations need to do to gain control to introduce something to be afraid of.

When we weren’t sure what we should be afraid of, we invented the idea of Satan and demons and later transferred that to the communists and other groups.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be wise about how we love our lives, but fanning the flames of fear to gain control is immoral.

8. It markets itself under the cloak of evangelism.

We should be honest about this area. Because the church is organization, it routinely has to recruit new members when others leave. We  like to think of this nobly as evangelism, but honestly it is more often just a marketing technique. It studies the culture to see what the culture wants and then it tries to market itself to that culture.

It would help the church a lot to just admit that this is what they’re doing.

9. Many churches have damaging doctrines like purity culture, that ultimately are traumatizing to women.  

Purity culture is probably one of the best examples of when the church was afraid that something would happen and hastily developed an approach that was extremely hurtful to its female members. Most of them survived but not without some unnecessary baggage.

Before we let our fear get the best of us again, maybe we should consult the people it affects most and not let a young adult male lead the effort.

10. Many churches exclude women, LGBTQ+, and are still mostly segregated.

This fact that this basic flaw that has never been resolved demonstrates the church has other motives than serving and loving people. These political agendas and doctoral dogmas that hurt people have kept the church segregated and separated the people that need each other the most.

It’s simply needs to end or the church should not continue to exist.

11. It generally does little for children except to entertain them while they are being indoctrinated.

In my opinion, things like confirmation are only another program in our fear and control game plans. Before children are capable of developing their own beliefs, we indoctrinate then and try to lock them in to our system, believing that we are the most right.

This says so much about our proclivity towards fear and our tenancy towards control. Since leaving organized religion, it has been the joy of my life to journey with my adult children and explore different beliefs and philosophies and discuss various ideas and approaches to life.

Whenever we draw a line around our beliefs and assume we arrived, we assume we have to replicate this to the people we have direct influence over.  Propagating our current dogma religiously really only guarantees that we will stop growing and gaining new understanding which comes along with a natural evolution.

The natural cop out to this dilemma is to assume that we can change the church from the inside.  Even though we have creative ways to do church services now, the church in general has remained basically unchanged for the last 1500 years.  I know we went through a reformation 500 years ago where we changed some of our beliefs and reformed some practices, but the basic functions and practice of the church remain the same.

It is hard to remodel a house while you’re living in. It. Walls have to be torn down. It’s deeper than just patching some drywall. It needs to be deconstructed before it can be recreated into something that works for the 21st century.

Someone challenged us to take a year off and assess the situation. That was 3 years ago. We miss very little about organized religion.  But, I don’t think it’s just individuals that need to take some time off, the organization called the church needs to deconstruct also.

This is the only chance we have to save it.

Be where you are, be who you are.

Karl Forehand



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