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

Preston encouraged believers to “remain an open door” for those they love who have deconstructed, meaning we should resist the urge to hammer our loved ones with truths they already know and instead show them we value them for who they are. This builds trust and makes space for those people to come to us with questions in the future. 

“One thing that Christians can be really bad at is the art of persuasion,” said Jackie, giving as an example social media users who barrage those who have deconstructed with Bible passages as though doing so is helpful. In contrast, the Apostle Paul is an example of someone who was skilled at using rhetorical devices to persuade people of what was true. Approaching others with nuance and showing care for them is better than trying to “abuse people with the text,” she said.  

Jackie did say that being an “open door” might not always work because some people might be so hardened toward Christianity that they don’t even want to be around Christians. Preston agreed, but suggested that if people do return to Christianity in the future, they’re likely to come to the “open door” friends first.

Believers should not live in fear when their friends question their faith, said Jackie. Being fearful is understandable because we don’t want the people we love to leave Jesus. “But I think what I’m starting to understand,” she said, “is that some people need to go to that place. Some people need to go to that place where they ask really hard questions about what they believe.”

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Jackie and Preston offered words of encouragement as they closed their conversation. First, Jackie addressed people listening who have left or are tempted to leave Christianity. “I want to acknowledge how hard it is to obey God and how hard this world is,” she said. “There’s a lot of suffering. And you’ve got people that have gone through unimaginable things.” These experiences can tempt some of us to believe that God is not good or that he does not love us. “May the Holy Spirit give you the power to believe what God says about himself,” she said. 

As his closing encouragement, Preston said, “When we see someone struggling with their faith and when we see someone walk away from their faith, I know it can be hurtful, but we have to understand that the same God who is in control of our life, he’s in control of everything.” If you feel helpless, said Preston, “Commit yourself to prayer, and commit yourself to crying out and seeking the Lord because, man, God is in control of it all.”

Jackie added on to this idea by mentioning that Peter actually denied Jesus three times and God knew that was going to happen. “God is not surprised by our unfaithfulness or our unbelief,” she said, “but for those who are his, he is at the right hand of the father interceding. For what? That your faith, though it may be tested, will not fail…Even if you’ve walked away from God for a long time, in the same way that Jesus said to Peter, I say to you, when you turn again, strengthen your brothers.”