What to do when your friends leave the faith

The challenge of someone you love leaving Christianity.

Hannah Dilanchyan, Opinions Editor

Friendships are everything. The people you love influence you and challenge you. Some of the deepest friendships come from the people with shared faith—the bond of shared morals and a love for Christ deepens any friendship and relationship. 

There is something heartbreaking about a friend who leaves the faith. It hurts to watch them walk away from the path of life. According to a research conducted by Barna, 1 in 3 regular church attendees ceased going to church since the COVID-19 pandemic. When influential figures like Joshua Harris announce that they left the faith or well-known leaders falter like Ravi Zacharias whose scandals shook the Christian world, it becomes difficult to feel encouraged.

The term ‘deconstruction’ has been used to describe people who grew up in the church and decided to take time away from—or entirely leave—Christianity to examine their beliefs. Deconstruction stems from many different avenues. The Gospel Coalition highlights a few reasons that cause Christians to enter a phase of deconstruction, such as church hurt, poor teaching, a desire to sin and a desire to fit into secular spaces. While it is challenging to watch friends leave the faith, it is important to not let that hinder your relationship with them. 

WHAT TO DO

While a friend leaving the faith is ultimately out of your control—it rests between them and God—there are ways to continue friendship and discussion with them. 

Pray for them. Do not stop lifting them up in prayer to God—who is able to do all things. Luke 1:37 explains that God is not limited. If one who is truly saved strays from Christ, He will leave the 99 to get the one, like Jesus’ parable says in Matthew 18

Maintain a genuine relationship with them. Just because they may change their religious views—whether permanently or temporarily—do not underestimate your influence in their life. Christianity Today writes that God “asks us simply to represent Jesus in all of our relationships—leavers included—and then to trust in God’s sovereignty. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, ‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.’”  

Remain humble. While there are a myriad of reasons someone may leave the church, anything from spiritual abuse to change of leadership, it is important to keep a posture of humility and grace with them. Listen to them, learn from them and have hard conversations with them.

Phillippians 2 tells believers the importance of persistent humility. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Having a friend leave the faith is hard—but it does not mean their story is over. God is working in the background and he already knows their entire story. It is your job to pray for them, love them and be there for them.

 

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