Bad Instruction Can Lead to Deconstruction
Entrepreneur Robert Ringer gave the following advice to an audience of college students, “Question everything, even if it represents generations of conventional wisdom.” In other words, don’t automatically accept prevailing thoughts or the status quo. Test it out for yourself.
Many who grew up in the church are doing that these days. They are calling into question what they learned about God, the church, and several other issues. In response, some now reject what they once held true. This process is called deconstruction.
Deconstruction is destructive when it leads people away from God and the truth of His word. Yet all deconstruction is not bad. Jesus led many to deconstruct some of what they believed, then helped them reconstruct their thoughts and lives with His teaching. For example, in His sermon on the mount, Jesus says “You have heard it said” followed by “but I say to you” at least five times about five different issues. This “deconstruct to reconstruct” model has drawn many closer to God and given them a more accurate picture of who He is.
Although there are several reasons people deconstruct their faith, one of the most overlooked is the bad teaching they have received.
Here are three examples of bad instruction that can lead to deconstruction:
When we emphasize morals more than the gospel.
We hear a lot in our churches about how the culture is getting away from Biblical standards, godliness, and Judeo-Christian values. Words like “should”, “ought”, and “must” are frequently used.
When we talk more about morals than the gospel, people may get the impression that Christianity is a list of laws to be obeyed. It leads to legalism, the very thing Jesus and Paul preached against. This can lead to emptiness and burnout for believers as well as some missing the point of the gospel altogether.
While it is important to communicate God’s standards, we need to remember that the law, a moral code, or even “Judeo-Christian values” never saved anyone. As Paul states in Romans 3:20-22:
“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”
The primary goal is not to persuade people to adopt our behavior, but to embrace our Savior through faith. Only He can rescue us from sin and provides the power to change through the Holy Spirit.
When we emphasize a checklist of “to do’s” rather than cultivating a relationship.
Growing up in church, we were given a list of “to do’s”. These were written on our offering envelope (Bible Brought, Tithe Given, Lesson Studied, Invited Guest, etc.) For years I thought being a good Christian was measured by how many checks you had each week. This led to burnout and frustration, plus I missed the point of the exercise. These were designed to deepen my relationship with God rather than trying to seek His approval by getting “gold stars” by my name on His chart in heaven.
We need to make sure we don’t fall in a similar trap in church today. Often the measurement of being an upstanding member of a church is your attendance record, number of volunteer hours, amount of tithe, etc. While there is nothing wrong with these per se, they don’t replace learning to worship, trust, and obey God in every aspect of your life. This is the goal of discipleship. Teaching people to know and walk with God helps to foster their growth much more than getting them to jump through a few hoops to be seen as good church citizens.
A great place to start this process is with your own evangelism efforts. When sharing the gospel with someone, make it clear that you are introducing them to a person rather than a set of doctrines, rules, or a philosophy. None of those can save, only Christ can. In addition, when telling them how to be saved, emphasis that you are inviting them to trust a person, Jesus Christ. Many that have trusted in the fact that they said a prayer, walked an aisle, raised a hand, or signed a card later walk away because they never truly trusted Christ Himself.
When we misrepresent God.
Remember when Job’s friends told him what God was thinking about his suffering? They basically said, “Job, he’s punishing you for your sin”, which was not true at all. Then God showed up, spoke for Himself, and they repented.
Sometimes believers and churches do the same thing. From trying to pinpoint the reason why someone is suffering (like Job’s situation) to making pronouncements that are not Biblical (“God will never allow you to have more on you than you can bear”), we can misrepresent God in such a way that may contribute to someone questioning their faith later.
In areas where the Bible is silent and/or we are not sure of the answer or reason for a given set of circumstances, it is best to heed James’s advice to be “quick to listen and slow to speak.”
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