Do you ever miss being a Christian?”
“No,” replied Anthony B. Pinn comfortably.
In an online story by The ChristianPost, Leonardo Blair relates the deconversion of a professor of humanities and religion at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
Deconversion is a strange-sounding new word to Christians. We’re familiar with conversion. But deconversion? It’s defined as a loss of faith or leaving one’s religion for another religion, or no religion at all.
Professor Pinn professes “no longer being a Christian doesn’t mean that I’m without ritual, without community, that I’m without relationship or without a sense of awe. I continue to have a sense of awe, but it’s secular. I walk outside and I’m baffled by the beauty. I think about life even from an evolutionary perspective and it creates a sense of awe that we are here.”
Pinn reports that his deconversion wasn’t an “aha! moment,” but a “slow build” over a period of years.
Pinn’s loss of faith is reflected in a recently released study by the Pew Research Center that said the number of those who identify as Christians has dropped to 65 percent. And the number of those who identify as “religiously unaffiliated,” which includes atheists, agnostics, and people who don’t identify with any religion, has swelled to 26 percent of the population. That’s a drop of 12% of those identifying as Christians in the last 10 years. The change, Pew noted, was particularly high among young adults.
Blair writes in the Post that “millions of Americans who were once committed Christians have continued to increasingly disengage with their religion in recent decades, and churches have been struggling with the culture shift in which there are no absolute answers.”
While not as dramatic in terms of denying the existence of God and turning to humanism, the problem of deconversion is increasingly growing among the fellowship of churches of Christ in the past decade. It is been troubling to personally see young people who’ve grown up in Christian homes turning away from “the faith once delivered unto the saints.”
While this trend is perplexing, it’s important to realize that it’s not new. The apostle Paul spoke of those in the first century who once were believers but had “made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim. 1:9). He also spoke of Demas who had forsaken him and the Lord because he “loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). And he even warned the Ephesian elders that some spiritual shepherds would arise “speaking perverse things,” distorting the truth, and would “draw away disciples after them” (Ax 20:28-30).
In his parable of the Seed and Sower, Jesus reminds us that tribulation, persecution, the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches can choke out the Word. And of course, some are not properly grounded in the first place. Their faith is not deeply rooted in Truth and so they fall away.
Of course, this offers little comfort to those who’ve seen young people in their families and church families “depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits” (1 Tim. 4:1).
It reminds us not to take our young people for granted just because they’ve grown up in Christian homes. To recognize that each person’s faith is personal and individual. It cannot be inherited or inborn. Faith comes through the seed of God’s Word. It must be nurtured and nourished. Spiritually cultivated. Watered. And fertilized.
Furthermore, it’s important to teach new converts not only what we believe, but why we believe it. To provide answers to difficult questions. To patiently deal with doubts. To establish the authority of the Bible. To speak the Truth in love. To ground them in the Truth of God’s Word instead of the traditions of our church. And to fortify their faith in Christ rather than American customs.
All of this points to the Truth of the second part of Jesus’ Great Commission– “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20).
Conversion does NOT end with baptism. It really just begins. Discipleship is not an event, but an ongoing process.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
I would love to hear from my readers regarding this issue. Why do you think we’re seeing so many deconversions today? And what can we do to minimize it?