Monday, March 22, 2010

Are You One of the De-Churched?

Over at the Out of Ur blog, there's an interesting article about a new segment of Christianity that has been labeled and is currently being discussed in seminars all over Christendom.

For a while we've known about the churched and the unchurched. The churched are the ones who've got it right and their mission is to bring the unchurched into both a saving relationship with Jesus, and a tithing relationship with the local church.

But there is now a new group: the De-Churched. These are people who were at one point involved in a local assembly, but have left the conventional structure of church and are now experiencing God in a different way.

Now, don't get all judgmental; sheathe your Sword of Rebuke. They've not abandoned the faith and they haven't forsaken the assembling of themselves together, they're just burnt out on the church machine and they're doing it a different way.

This article over at Out of Ur explores several different reasons people are leaving the church in alarming numbers. First, referencing the below video of Mark Chandler, pastor of the Village Church near Dallas, the exodus of young people is attributed to:

. . . the proclamation (explicitly or implicitly) of a false gospel of "moralistic deism." This understanding of the Christian life says that if you obey God's rules he will bless you with what you desire. This represents a form of the prosperity gospel . . . The problem arises when God's blessing doesn't come-or doesn't come in the form we want. Divorce, illness, poor grades, failed relationship-virtually any hardship has the potential to destroy one's faith in Christ and the church that represents him. So, according to Chandler, people walk away. They enter the ranks of the de-churched.

The article goes on to explore other reasons why so many of the churched are becoming the de-churched:

These Christians have simply lost confidence in the institutional structures and programmatic trappings of the church. For them the institutional church is not an aid in their faith and mission. Rather it's become a drain on time, resources, and energy. It feels like a black hole with a gravitation pull so strong that not even the light of the gospel can escape its organizational appetite.

I'd love to know your thoughts.

So, what are these de-churched people doing to express and grow their faith? In the next post we'll look at the burgeoning Simple Church movement.


Kristin said...

Help, Help! I've been de-churched!! HAHA. Nice verbage, really. Also, I think I could sit and listen to Mark Chandler for many, many YouTube videos' worth of time.

I completely understand what it is to be de-churched. I have not walked away from my faith, nor changed my belief system. I simply have seen and experienced so little Christ and so much hurt inside the church that I have deep distrust of official 'churches' now. There's too much mankind involved in the details and logistics. I do miss the fellowship of other believers and I DO believe I need to do that on a more regular basis, but I don't feel like I have found the right place to do that just yet. Each place has some aspect that I distrust.

The video finally helped me figure out what it is that bothers me so much about church services right now. They are formulaic. They are always in the same template and they use little scripture. It's gimmicky and it does not have the authenticity I would like.

In doing some recent study on Generation Y, I see some of the same sort of 'personality' needs echoed in the de-churched people that I do in Generation Y. The need for utter honesty, authenticity, and accountability are paramount in both groups. I understand why my heart cries for these things - and has for a long time. We absolutely erred when we made church only about growing membership. There is a great need for discipleship - which requires real relationships with accountability. I am not surprised in the least that the small groups are what filled this need and brought greater attention to it.

I don't know where the future of the church is heading, but I'm looking forward to the next post about Simple Church!

Pastor Kip said...

Kristin, Great comments! I completely agree - this article and the accompanying video really rang true with me too.

Elizabeth R said...

I'm not de-churched, but I've come pretty close to walking away from "traditional" church, at least. It might be horrible to say so, but so much of traditional church seems to revolve around money - or maybe it just seems that way because my church currently needs $250,000 (!!!) for a new heating & air conditioning system.

Also, so much of my church, at least, seems to revolve around serving the members of the church - there is sadly little community outreach. Now, obviously I don't begrudge anyone within the church whatever help they might need from other members, but it would be nice if we could extend the same kindnesses to non-members.

Grendel said...

Recently, i've become involved with Genesis Community Church, a new Church plant here in the valley. The experience that i have had there is not only "non-formulaic," but full of the Spirit. Case in point: whereas most pastors, in launching a church, would tend to "soft-pedal" their first sermons, our pastor has instead chosen the theme "Jesus Isn't Easy" for the first 3 sermons. These messages are something that needs to be heard, and the pastor is quite honest in his referring to them as "weeding." I believe Genesis could draw a lot of the de-churched simply because its approach is refreshing, honest, loving, and at the same time CONVICTING . . . i defy anybody to walk away untouched. I've been "de-churched" for quite a while, only peripherally involved in several churches during my self-imposed exile in Babylon, and then God steered me (and none too subtly, since He knows i'm thickheaded) in this direction. I understand a lot of the frustrations of the de-churched, and can echo many of the sentiments, but THERE'S STILL HOPE! I could go into lavish detail about things that--in my opinion--are hurting the Body of Christ as a whole, causing weakness, division, and dissension where there there should be unity, strength, and what i call "aggressive compassion" (not to be confused with "compassionate conservative," which is an oxymoron) . . . but i'll save that rant for my own blog.

As always, Kip, you provide thought-provoking material, and i'm always interested in your posts. Thanks for keeping it up.

As an aside, if anybody's interested in checking out what Genesis is all about, here's the link:

Katherine said...

Thanks for directing me to your blog. I was the farthest thing away from being dechurched until my husband entered pastoral ministry 4 years ago. That is when I became very disillusioned with the institutionalized church.

A focus on the bottom line, image and perfectionism got in the way of our desire to actually do ministry and we found ourselves "playing church."

Up until our experience in pastoral ministry, we had been administrative missionaries. We found more fulfillment serving the Lord in that capacity so my husband ended up resigning from his paid position to form a non-profit that is reaching out to a poor area of our town.

When we made the transition out of pastoral ministry, we were in such a spiritual depression we decided to join a church whose leadership shared our heart for the poor, was gospel oriented and whose goal was to cast off pretense and performance like filthy rags. If we weren't in ministry, we would have probably joined the ranks of the unchurched or found a house church.

I love the church we attend now. It has renewed my faith in the church as an institution. It's small and there is a sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit that is refreshing in its unpredictability. No Sunday is the same. There is real community and I feel loved and accepted for who I am, flaws and all. We both have grown in our relationships with the Lord and are experiencing deep healing.

Thanks for allowing this blog to be a safe place for grappling with issues facing the church today.