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Preston and Jackie Hill Perry on How To Respond When Friends Leave Christianity

Jackie said that the parable of the sower helps her to understand the nature of faith, and she read Jesus’ explanation of the parable in Matthew 13:19-23. “I like this parable,” she said, “because to me it gives a lot of context to the inner, like the outward, I guess, stressors on people who receive the Word and how that impacts them differently and how they respond.” 

She pointed out the parable shows that two of the reasons why people fall away from following God are suffering and worldliness. But when people deconstruct, those are probably not going to be the reasons they give.

The couple explored the role that underlying motives, versus purely intellectual reasons, play in people rejecting Christianity. The two disagreed at times, but one point both agreed on is there can be a temptation for people to abandon their faith because they want to follow their own desires. It is easy to perceive Christianity as restrictive, but Jackie observed, “Simply because we’re human, you will always be bound and constrained by something. The question must be, is it a good thing?”

“I do think there comes a time when Jesus causes us to choose between him and the things that our hearts desire,” said Preston, who noted that our communities can have a lot of influence on what we believe.

How to Relate to Friends Who Have Deconstructed

Both Jackie Hill Perry and Preston Perry emphasized the importance of having wisdom and compassion when relating to people who have deconstructed. They also discouraged their listeners from trying to know for sure if people were or are true Christians.

“We are trying to low-key play God when somebody walks away,” said Preston, referring to people who try to determine if others were ever truly Christians. “Because we like putting people in categories,” Jackie agreed. 

She suggested it might be possible to know if someone is a true believer, observing that there are Scriptures that speak to this idea. Even so, she said that arriving at an answer would have to involve wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Often people come to a conclusion about someone’s salvation “and we don’t even have a relationship with them to discern correctly.” 

The Perrys encouraged listeners that one of the most important steps they can take for friends who have deconstructed is to pray for them, a point Preston stressed repeatedly. He also emphasized the need for compassion. 

“When someone walks away from the faith,” said Preston, “I do think it should be a great level of compassion for someone because either they walked away for a short time, and I believe if they belong to the Lord, the Lord is going to draw them back to himself…But for the person who has kind of like, you know, lived this life pretending or not really sure if they belong to the Lord, and they really didn’t, you have to think about how stressful and how burdensome that was for that person to try to live a life that’s impossible to live apart from the Holy Spirit.” He pointed out that following Jesus is difficult enough even when someone is living out of the power of the Holy Spirit