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Ed Stetzer on Deconversion: Some Thoughts on Kissing Christianity Goodbye

Third, remember that love draws in people.

Ironically and importantly, Bart stresses that what led him to identify as a Christian was the love that he saw between the members of the youth group he attended. He noticed individuals from all the different high school cliques came together at this church.

Indeed.

This should be characteristic of every Christian ministry and church. Loving people is often the first step in seeing them understand and accept the gospel. It can’t end there, but even Bart acknowledged that it started there.

In other words, Bart is right—community matters—and he is also right that it is not enough.

Fourth, after you have watched Bart’s presentation, pray for him and others.

Based on his words in this presentation, I don’t think he would mind. Though he has obviously moved on, he was very gracious toward evangelicals in his presentation—in an environment where it would be easy to do otherwise.

I’m thankful for that graciousness and I prayed for him after I watched the video. I hope you will as well.

Fifth and finally, I want to pray for Tony Campolo, John Piper, and other parents. Take a moment to be thankful for him.

When your children leave the faith, it’s hard to not take it personally, but Tony has always been a gracious man, committed to his faith and ideals. (I’ve never met Peggy, his wife, but was deeply influenced by Tony early in my ministry.) If there was ever a person who lived what he believed it was Tony Campolo.

Over 20 years ago, I spent a week with him in Philadelphia learning how to do ministry in the inner city. He was gracious and clearly loved people. He prayed with me and encouraged me to love Jesus deeply and care for people faithfully. From what I can tell, we’ve moved apart theologically in some ways, but I will always be grateful for his impact on my life.

And, the fact that his son left the faith does not necessarily relate to Tony and Peggy’s faith, any more than so many other children’s departure was because of their parents.

Where from here?

My hope is that evangelicals (like me) won’t ignore it (hence, this article), but will take wise steps so as, to the degree we can, we will strengthen the faith in our own children.

I’m not the national figure that Tony Campolo is, but my children are in the spotlight because I am in, to some degree, in the spotlight. And, if you are a pastor, so are your children. Actually, if you are a Christian, yours are too in many ways.

Answer the hard questions from your kids, disciple your family, and humbly realize that, ultimately, your children can and will make their own decisions about faith one day.

For what it is worth, I have seen much venom directed at Josh Harris. I don’t share that. I believe him to be earnest, and I believe that he has chosen a different direction. After our exchange, I prayed that God would intervene in his life, and I imagine he would not mind that.

Many ex-evangelicals are angry, for multiple reasons, and it shows in their responses. I know this article will anger some. But, the fact is, I think deconversions should cause some self-reflection among evangelicals — which, I know, ex-evangelicals believe should lead to deconversion. However, I think it should lead us to be more like Christ and less like our worst instincts … but that’s for another article.

Honestly, many will face that moment when a family member or friend leaves the faith. For me, I plan to stay in relationship, continue to be a friend or family member, stay close to Jesus in my own life, and (yes) share the good news if and when it is appropriate.

 

 

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.