Article by Loren Rosser
There is an article titled “The Rise of the ‘Done with Church’ Population” that has been sweeping across Internet. The writer simply discusses the increasing trend of people who were highly active in church, including leaders, that are exiting and not coming back. Of course, this subject matter is nothing new to me, having tackled it in the four part video series I co-produced with my friends David Fredrickson and Bob Humphrey titled Church Outside the Walls. I can’t believe it’s been eight years now since we produced the final video in that series and the topic is still completely relevant. In fact, it seems there has been a sudden resurgence of interest in this subject recently. I’d like to put in my two cents about the article.
First of all, let me say, it is well written. I appreciate the author bringing up the subject because I think it’s an important one. One thing I really don’t like is the author’s use of the word “church.” But he is not alone in his usage of the word. When the Bible speaks of church it speaks of those who are called out of this world to follow Christ, period. So how can one be “done with church” unless one is done with Christ? But today, for many, church is a building where one goes to attend meetings. Attending those meeting and being involved in activities held in those locations is viewed by many as being a requirement for those who follow Christ. This concept was completely foreign to the writers of the New Testament, but sadly it is the widely accepted definition of church in our culture today.
My family and I are some of those who could be classified as those who are “done with church.” But I can’t tell you how much I hate that phrase. It completely misrepresents the reality in which we live. We are actually not done with church, but chose to embrace it. We stopped attending because we wanted Jesus plus nothing. We grew so frustrated and tired of all the added baggage. 2 Corinthians 11:3 became so real to us. “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (NASB, emphasis added.) We wanted to be able to build genuine relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ but found it was such a challenge to do so with all the meetings and agendas. Most of the things done in those settings became distractions from loving Christ and one another, rather than motivators. We actually left not because we were done with church but because we hungered for the reality of church!
We discovered that you don’t find the reality of church by trying to come up with the best way to do church. Rather, we experience the reality of church by growing in relationship with Father and loving others. As we do so, we discover the reality of church springing up all around us. Church is not a program or organization but something we are. You don’t need any man-made structures or add-ons to make you more of what you already are. We just need Jesus and some people to love. We truly believe Jesus meant what He said when He stated, “I will build my church.” And we believe His lifestyle while He walked among us showed us everything we need to know about being the church. (How many organizations did Jesus start? How did He live daily?)
The writer of the article made this statement:
- “For the church, the phenomenon sets up a growing danger. The very people on whom the church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the empty pews.”
It is so strange that the writer refers to this trend as a “growing danger.” Danger to what? The church of Jesus Christ? So Jesus didn’t mean what He said when He stated that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church? The writer sounds as if he thinks Jesus stopped building His church and left it in the hands of humans. Could it be that what is being referred to is not the church Jesus is building but man’s? I find it interesting that this statement alone contains the very reasons for which people are leaving. First of all, notice that the writer states that the people who are leaving are those who were relied on for “lay leadership, service, and financial support.” In other words, they were resources to be used to keep the machinery going. Is that really the way God views us? Do we have a loving Father who desires relationship with us or do we serve a user of people who views us as cogs needed to keep organizations running smoothly? Is our purpose to serve organizations or to love and be loved?
Also, the writer uses a phrase that is poison to me and my family, as well as many other who have left; “lay leadership.” I can’t tell you how much I despise the word “layman.” Why not just call us “second class citizens?” That phrase is in direct opposition to the priesthood of all believers that is our God-given place clearly taught in the New Testament. That disgusting word strips us of our identity in Christ. It’s usage reveals that there are humans who are better and superior to others in the body of Christ. It reveals a belief that there are those who are truly spiritual and those who are just kind of spiritual. I would rather be in a bar full of drunks where I can function in my priestly role of connecting people to God than be in an environment where I am denied my God-given function. Hierarchies and ranks in the body of Christ are a big reason why people like me have left. I venture to say the only danger that exists in people leaving is to those who have vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
The writer goes on to state that it would be “better for churches to focus on not losing people in the first place.” But there is a problem with that mindset. What if God is leading them out the door? Isn’t it kind of a bold assumption to think that people are supposed to remain in that environment? That it’s a requirement? Do seasons never change? If God is the One leading them out are you going to position yourself between Him and them? Is there some kind of secret code you’re supposed to crack to keep people hanging around? And don’t you find it the least bit strange that when they stop attending your services you view them as gone? Think hard about that one. When I grew up and moved out of my parents’ house they didn’t by any means view my relationship with them as being done. When friends of mine moved to other locations my relationship with them didn’t end. So, why is it when somebody stops attending your services you view the relationship as done? This reveals something very ugly. There really was no genuine relationship. The relationship was entirely based on expectations. You were in relationship as long as they did what you wanted them to be doing. When they stopped, so did the relationship. Guess what? That’s not love. I don’t care how many times you say in your service “We’re family!” the reality is you’re not. That’s not how families function. And did it ever occur to you that the very reason they walked out that door was they sensed this? Something deep within them was telling them they were living in a fake environment where words like “love,” “family,” and “relationship,” are tossed around but not lived.
Let me say bluntly, I do not believe people who are done with “church” are better than those who still attend. I also don’t believe there aren’t godly people who are desperately in love with Jesus in those environments. But why not just call a spade a spade? For those who choose to belong to these organizations, it’s nothing more than a matter of preference. Please don’t take this wrong way, but in truth, these are just Christian clubs. There is no sin in being a part of one. But it’s a matter of choice. And don’t confuse them as being the body of Christ. Yes, the Body of Christ may be present, but the reality of the church extends far beyond those four walls.
Also, we have been praying for years for revival. We’ve even made statements like, “Do whatever it takes Lord!” Do we think God has been ignoring us? Could it be that revival is happening but it looks nothing like we expected and God is doing whatever it takes, including tearing down many of our man-made systems?
Speaking to believers all across this country, I’ve found that many, many, of them are finding their relationship with Christ and love for one another is indeed being revived. We can either embrace what God is doing in this season or we can stand in opposition to Him. But make no mistake about it, He is building His church. He never stopped.