So much has been written about the process of deconstruction including reconstruction. However, what has not been written on a lot is what to do after this process. Oftentimes the deconstruction process leads you out of the Church. Or, perhaps, it is the reason you left the church. In either case, I want to make the case in this article that people need to return to Church after they go through this process.
Many within progressive Christianity have left the church at some point in their deconstruction process. It has been the prevailing wisdom from many progressive leaders and writers that it is okay to be on your own, being a Christian vagabond if you will. However, very few progressive voices advocate returning to or staying connected to a local community.
Although, indeed, one does not need to attend Church in order to be a Christian. It is also true that a person can grow in their faith apart from a local community. However, I would like to challenge our thinking on the purpose of the Church and argue that there is great benefit for us in returning to the flock.
What is the purpose of the Church?
I think there is a lack of correct understanding of the nature of the Church. I think it is true of both evangelicals and progressives but both for different reasons. It begins with evangelicals who oftentimes, regardless if they believe this or not, run their churches like country clubs. They have members, and those members have power over other non-members. There are nominations for boards and committees. There is a culture of entitlement among those who donate more money over those who do not donate as much, and that oftentimes will result in abuses of power. Despite their efforts to the contrary, inevitably a hierarchy of power is created within this type of organization. I don’t have the space to go into a deep dive regarding this, but I am currently working on a book that will explain more of this in greater detail. For now, those of us who find ourselves outside of evangelicalism have experienced much of this to be true.
The problem is that many progressives see this experience as the norm. Many of them refuse to be a part of a religious organization that is run this way – and who could blame them? The problem is, this is not the way that any church should be run and it is not the way ALL churches are run. I have no stat to prove this, I just think it’s axiomatic, but I would argue that the majority of people who go to church think of it first and foremost as an organization for them. Much of my evidence for this has been my experience working and volunteering in evangelical and mainline churches over the last 25 years. How many have heard this “I’m going to go to church XYZ down the road because they have more youth programs for my children.” Or who have experienced a split because one group didn’t like some decision that the pastor made. Or how many who have been employed by the church have been fired simply because a certain type of member didn’t like something you did? 🙌
Church has largely been understood as something for “me”. This is a culture we need to move away from. The Church must be understood in the context of God and the “other”. Worship towards God and service toward others.
After Deconstruction and Reconstruction
I think many of us hesitate to go back to Church because we are afraid to be hurt again. However, is that not the case in any relationship that we are in? In any relationship, you run the risk of being criticized and even ostracized by your social group. Instead of fearing this outcome, we need to take back our lives and take control of our situation. We are in charge of what we do, there is nothing we can do about the perception that others have of us. And, who cares anyway! The Church is not a social club, and people who treat it that way need Jesus just as much as anyone else.
I have found in my own life, I spend more time ministering to self-proclaimed Christians than I do those who do not profess in Christ. It’s a demographic that is growing as, especially in evangelicalism, the church is fracturing. It’s that group of people that for whatever reason walk around as though they are entitled to certain privileges. It’s a group that is not easy to minister to, as it says in Revelation
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
If you don’t like the way things are in a community then change it! Put in the work. These are the things that are required of the Christian. It is hard work, and despite what you have been taught it’s not harps and angel butts. Expect resistance, it is a part of life. I believe going back to the community is important and I also think in the end it will be worth it.
Some Concluding Thoughts
Although the church can at times be a hurtful place, it can also be a place of great healing and growth. If you have been hurt by the church, it is important to remember that not all churches are the same. There are many healthy churches out there that are full of loving and supportive people. If you have been hurt by the church, I encourage you to keep looking until you find a church that is a safe and welcoming place for you.
Here are some tips for returning to fellowship with other believers after being hurt by the church:
- Take your time. There is no need to rush back into fellowship if you are not ready. Give yourself time to grieve and heal from the hurt you have experienced.
- Find a safe place. When you are ready to start fellowshipping again, find a church or group of believers that you feel comfortable with. This may take some time, but it is important to find a place where you feel safe and loved.
- Be honest with yourself and others. If you have been hurt by the church, it is important to be honest with yourself and others about what happened. This can be difficult, but it is important to do so in order to heal.
- Give yourself grace. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Many people have been hurt by the church, and it is okay to take some time to heal. Be patient with yourself and give yourself grace as you journey through the healing process.
I hope these tips help you as you return to fellowship with other believers after being hurt by the church. Remember, you are not alone, and there is still hope for healing.
You can purchase the book UNenlightenment HERE.