I guess Friday is now for leavers. Might make for depressing Fridays 🙂

Let me introduce you to Kristie (name has been altered to protect her identity). Please read her letter expressing why she walked away from the faith at 20 years old. 

My name is Kristie and I live in Dallas, Texas. I am twenty years old and have grown up in a very strict Southern Baptist home. I’ve been on my own now for several months and have since decided to quit going to church. This choice was a difficult one for me and I had to do a lot of soul searching. What provoked all of this “soul searching” was something my Sunday school class was studying. We were reading through a book that talks about other religions and basically how it was either our way or the highway. I asked the hypothetical question, “What about the twelve year old boy who is of the age of accountability as far as right and wrong goes, who lives on the other side of the world and has been raised Muslim by his family. One day he meets a Christian missionary who attempts to introduce him to Jesus and he rejects the offer since it goes against everything he has ever been taught to believe. What is his destiny? Will he be sent to hell if he is not “saved?” I was told then that God is big enough to take care of that situation. I said that was not a good enough answer for me and that I would not accept that. I said I would not worship a god who would send that little boy to hell. That is unfair, unloving, and unjust. The exact opposite of what I had been taught that God was. This is what made me start questioning several things I had been taught. I been looking through old notes from sermons I had written down and was astonished that I had blindly let these people put the ideas in my head that God and the Bible were “absolute truth”. I began doing some thinking on my own and my closest family and friends began telling me that I was rebelling against God or that I was “backslidden”. I have become an outcast amongst people who said they would always love me and who preach never ending forgiveness. I have been hurt by these people who still mean so much to me, but over all I am much happier of the person I have become. I am no longer narrow-minded, judgmental, or unaccepting of people. I have become more kind and loving of others that I interact with simply because I don’t carry the attitude that if they don’t believe the same way I do that they will go to hell or that it is my duty to bombard and offend them with my believes by trying to witness to them. I let people be who they are and accept them for that. . . . Like I said before, most of my family and friends are Southern Baptist or are believers. I am not exactly sure where I stand on the existence of God. What I do know is that I do not agree and no longer choose to believe all of the things that I have been raised to believe.


Kristie here is an interesting case. Her expressions of faith before she walked away definitely fits the bill of a nominal Christian who has never really explored the faith. Like the previous “leaver” we evaluated, Kristie asks a really good question concerning the destiny of the unevangelized. But unlike the previous “leaver,” those who answered Kristie’s question did a relatively good job. It would seem that “God is big enough to take care of that situation” is an accurate and acceptable way of dealing with the issue due to honest ignorance. I probably would have said the same thing. I may have gone into it a little deeper, letting Kristie know that all those who are in hell will be there by choice and that if this boy did make it to heaven, he did so based upon the atoning work of Christ made necessesary due to his sinful condition. I am just glad they did not crumble due to our culture’s offense of the exclusivity of Christ and say, “This young boy will most certianly be in heaven because God is a God of love.”  Either way, from her response above, I don’t think it would have gone far. Kristie was prepared for disbelief.

Once again, we have a 20 year old who grew up in the church and is just now dealing with these pivotal questions of doctrine for the first time. I am not saying that if this issue and others like it would have been dealt with earlier in her life she would be a committed believer today. In fact, I think she may have left much earlier. But the point is that she believed that she was a Christian up until this point in her life. I wonder what being a Christian meant to her.

I am glad that these people in Kristie’s Sunday School did not make lite of the truth by assuring Kristie of something that they did not know. More importantly, I am glad Kristie left based upon her doctrinal issues (ultimately the exclusivity of Christianity and the existence of God). That may sound strange, but we must understand that doctrine is the foundation of our faith. We cannot simply allow people to hang out in church, comfortable in their disagreement with vital issues that have defined historic Christianity for two-thousand years. This does not do them any good. Had Kristie stayed in the Church, hiding her unbelief, yet trying to maintain a form of godliness, she could have fooled herself and those around her about her position before God and her standing in the church, but she would have been among those on the last day who suprisingly respond to the Lord’s condemnation, “Lord, Lord, didn’t I . . .” (Matt. 7:22-23). Now that she has left for the right reasons, I believe that she and the church are better off.

I can picture Kristie as one of those who wore a “WWJD” braclet, but have no idea what Jesus actually did in order to know what to do. Christ was not one who tried to keep a following by compromising the truth. In fact, it seems that every time that the ranks around him got too large, he would say something radical to make people leave. At one point, due to the difficulty of His teachings just about everyone left. He turned to the disciples and asked, “Are you going to leave to?” Peter’s response was not one of complete understanding, but one of complete trust, “Where are we to go? You have the words of eternal life.” Let me post the passage:

John 6:65-69 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” [a difficult and exclusive statement] 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

This may sound harsh, but sometimes the church needs to let people leave so that they can see that they never really believed to begin with. What are we afraid of? Don’t get too postmodern to where you are afraid to offend people with the Gospel. It is offensive. It does draw a line in the sand. Most people will not believe. If it is for the right reasons, let them leave. You do them no favors by making their stay in hostile territory more comfortable. Yes, your numbers may go down, but in the end, your church will have much more to offer people like Kristie because of its faithfulness to representing the one true God.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    7 replies to "Why Kristie Walked Away from Christianity at 20 Years Old"

    • jude_g

      Preach it brother ! It’s so sad in this day and age that people feel they can only believe in God if He comes down to our level and can be fitted into a warm fuzzy little box-as the scriptures say -His ways are not our ways and who are we as the creation to think we know better than the creator .
      It breaks my heart when people walk away from the faith and I do understand this point of view I have many struggles with things myself ,but i know as a parent I have to say or do things for my kids that they do not understand at the time and I might appear mean or a killjoy etc but I from an adult perspective kow so much more than they do and can seethe bigger picture -so how much more does God who is not only our Heavenly Father but God and creator of the universe.
      Perhaps this is why God left us with some of the hard stuff -it’s easy to love when everything is going our way and someone spends all their time and effort trying to accomodate us and make us happy -but is this real love ? Real love and commitment is saying i don’t understand why but I trust Who ,a real understanding of Who God is keeps us on the path and loving God for who He is and not just what He can give us is what pleases Him-Hang in there guys God IS good and is loving but but He is righteous and Holy .
      Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.

    • jude_g

      quote was 1 corinthians 13:12 🙂

    • C Michael Patton

      I agree Jude. Thanks for the comments.

    • stpattykid

      I am struck by a couple of observations as I read through both Kristie’s objections and the responses to the post:

      Although the response to Kristie was correct and biblical (and uncompromising) it did little to truly address the underlying issue that Kristie brings up. She obviously interpreted the response to mean “Because God said so”, and as anybody who has ever heard that from a parent, that response is less than satisfactory. In the final analysis, it stops the conversation because the trump card “Mystery of God” is laid down. It’s cheap.

      What was not addressed was how Kristie came to her view of God and man and how she could draw the conclusion that God is unfair and unloving. Her example of the 12 year old is a compelling one and plucks at the heart strings. Her assumption of innocence is, I believe, rooted in the egalitarian notion that people are innocent until proven guilty. The very foundation of this country is built on social democratic ideas of justice and equality. And these notions have found their way into the church. In a democratic society presumption of innocence is a noble and necessary idea but does it make sense in a biblical context, in what we know about the nature of God and man? If we believe that man is depraved, than the answer is no. If we believe that God’s law is written on every human heart and he is without excuse, than again the answer is no. Was Kristie exposed to doctrines of depravity and sin? Probably not since her view of God does not allow for a just God punishing those who willfully rebel against Himself. And who’s fault is that? I submit that the church must shoulder the blame.
      We are quick to talk about God’s love but slow to talk about His wrath. And I’m not talking about those preachers who relish the idea of the lost being thrown into the lake of fire…blah, blah, blah. I’m talking about preaching about the reconciling love of God framed along side why we are in ABSOLUTE NEED of said love. I’m talking about ME as a degenerate sinner who can do nothing apart from God’s grace because I’ve tried and have failed at every turn. It should make us tremble to know how angry God is at sin. If we do not emphasize how utterly lost we are from birth, then saving grace makes no sense and God’s justice even less. I say all this because Kristie’s experience was my experience. My heart breaks at the thought of the massive numbers of people who sit in their pews, believeing themselves saved, and all the while they draw closer to damnation…all because we do not have the courage to teach the truth of God’s just judgement.
      Thanks for the time. All the best.


    • C Michael Patton

      Dude, your ability to put words together once again amazes me. Thanks for the balance and transparency in your reply Brian.

    • Threepwood

      Amen sir.
      It is amazing how many people in our adult Bible study class don’t know that God may not have willed that everyone will go to heaven. They say, “I have always gone to church, and tried to do the right thing, so that’s enough.” Literally, those words came out. Then they are shocked to hear that God’s sovereignty surpasses our own judgement of “fairness” and he deams worthy of heaven whomever he pleases. We often forget that we are all born into sin, and even small children will face judgement- but that’s why Christ came.
      This is the toughest stuff to deal with for me, but it is Scriptural. The same loving God who sacrificed his son for us also made the ground open up to swallow defiant Israelites and allowed beloved Peter to be crucified upside down. Everything is for the glory of God. Jn 9:2-3 “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
      ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'”
      I agree with you that poor Kristi probably didn’t study scripture very much, as even I have come to do only recently, and didn’t accept its divine authority. Unfortunately, it is, “our way or the highway,” and our particular religion does not have the comforting luxury that the Bahai religion (if you can call it that) offers. Through Christ we are saved and the grace of God. That’s it. Period. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph 2:8-9. (see also Jn 3:16)
      I am a Calvinist and am quite disappointed in Kristi’s friends who said that she had “backslidden.” Number one, that is not the Christian reaction that should result from her decision, and only succeeds in alienating her. Second, once you are one of God’s sheep, he will chase you forever. If you turn away, one can only suspect that you were not a serious Christian in the first place. This does not mean that Kristi can’t come to the faith later. Let us hope though, that she will see better representation of Christianity and its true nature.
      Finally, I have heard Kristi’s final thoughts before. “I am no longer narrow-minded, judgmental, or unaccepting of people. I have become more kind and loving of others that I interact with simply because I don’t carry the attitude that if they don’t believe the same way I do that they will go to hell or that it is my duty to bombard and offend them with my believes by trying to witness to them. I let people be who they are and accept them for that.�. ” I have to add one of the verses that I stumbled upon while debating the issue of passive versus active witnessing. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal 1:10. We are called to declare the name of God wherever we go, even if others call us “intolerant”, “narrow-minded”, or “unaccepting.” Yes, some of us have this image of a celestial Santa Clause who loves all and forgives all…it’s wrong. That’s the whole reason why Christ died. Atonement must be made for sin in order for God to forgive us. He is sovereign, and a jealous God. He has reasonable measured responses to sin, and can get angry. Remember that Jesus overturned the tables in the temple? Jn 2:13-17. Christ actually made a whip to drive the livestock out of the temple.
      We have to study scripture if we are to have an accurate image of God. The cry of the reformation was “Sola Scriptura!” And I cannot help but grieve over the loss of those from the church who departed only because the true image of our Lord and Savior did not fit their pre-concieved notions of how he “should be.”
      So the moral…..READ YOUR BIBLE!

      God’s mercy and love,

    • John C.T.

      It seems to me that people like “Kristie” often fall prey to several underlying issues. One is that their own faith is not “thick”; their relationship with Christ is not multidimensional in that they do not practice many of the disciplines that develop the deep spirituality that survives even in the face of (seemingly) unanswerable doubts and questions. Another issue is that the intellectual aspect of their faith is anemic and crippled and they give up too easily before finding answers to their problems. It is not the ultimate responsibility of others to answer one’s own doubts (though they have a role and some responsibility). There are answers but the “Kristies” give up long before getting their (sin is easier and much more tempting). And, with reference to her particular question, they believe (wrongly and unbiblically) that those who do not follow Jesus will be tormented for an unending amount of years. Consquently, when their serious questions get dismissive answers they believe they are faced with the awful proposition that God will torment forever kids like that 12 year old Muslim. These issues are of serious import for Arminian Calvinists since Kristie is in danger of not perservering. For TULIP Calvinists, it is not as serious a deal: in terms of salvation either she is elected and will get to heaven anyway, or she is not and was never going there in the first place, and God will hold not anyone accountable for her going to hell, though God will hold elected Christians accountable for whether and how they acted towards her (was it in a loving Christlike way even though God was sending her to hell anyway?).


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