I have been reading recently about a new category of people in our society when it comes to religious participation. Beyond the nones (those who have no religion) a new growing category is the dones (those who still have faith but are done with going to church).
Interestingly I have also met a number of these dones recently, including a builder whose family no longer goes to church after being involved in too many church conflicts and some couples who have gotten over the same old experience of church week in week out that doesn’t really connect with them anymore. Apparently driving the emergence of those who still have faith but are done with church includes these kind of factors as well as feeling used in the weekly grind of ‘putting on church’, unchallenging sermons, a lack of real relationships and just the busyness of modern life. So a couple of comments…
1. Church can suck. Undoubtedly we in church leadership and the institution itself get so much wrong. Yes it can feel strange that we put so much effort and volunteer hours into putting on a service. Yes we can say insensitive things or use church jargon or favour certain people. We just get a lot wrong. Leadership is tough and particularly in a church setting where people are passionate about their faith, noses are going to get out of joint. So yes, to the dones, we need to listen better, show more wisdom and look at ways to do/be church and community better.
2. The local church needs you. In all of its flaws, the local church still is the hope of the world, and if we believe in the images of church painted in the New Testament, you are a vital part. You are a living stone God uses to dwell in, a member of the family, a valuable part of the body. The church can’t be a visible expression of the kingdom of God if everyone opts out. Yes we may find new ways of doing evangelism, discipleship and fellowship outside of the local church, but I still believe in the overwhelming benefits of committing to a local church community. And it needs you to play your part, help the weaker members, use your gifts, welcome spiritual seekers into community.
3. You need the local church. While you may be the exception that breaks the rule, you cannot walk the Christian faith well, alone. I personally love the local church because it is where I get to corporately worship God, have a regular spot in my busy week where I hear the scriptures and learn how to apply our faith. I like the fact that a diverse, odd, broken group of people come together to do some life together. You may not experience church like this, but you still need the local church. Without a local church, faith grows cold, motivation to connect with God will wane and the world may end up shaping you more than you shape the world.
These are just a few thoughts and I am sure it is more complex for many of the increasing numbers of people who are done with church. But I would say that many of the characteristics God wants to develop in you can only grow from being in a church, no matter who much it may disappoint you, hurt you or leave you feeling uninspired. And the flip side is that so many of the true joys of life come from doing life together. Hang in there!