John is every pastor’s dream member. He’s a life-long believer, well-studied in the Bible, gives generously and leads others passionately.
But last year he dropped out of church. He didn’t switch to the other church down the road. He dropped out completely. His departure wasn’t the result of an ugly encounter with a staff person or another member. It wasn’t triggered by any single event.
John had come to a long-considered, thoughtful decision. He said, “I’m just done. I’m done with church.”
The Rise of the ‘Done With Church’ Population
This article was recently posted on FaceBook with the question, “Any thoughts?” That simple question spawned a comment battle that was unexpected by the person who posted it. When I saw the question and article, I knew immediately that it would ruffle some feathers. I was ready for the popcorn and of course, I couldn’t help but put my 10 cents into the mix (that’s giving my 2 cents more than once).
I was disappointed there weren’t more comments that seemed relevant to the contents of the article. There were comments from some that understood the article to mean people were leaving church because they had their priorities wrong, had a bad experience with church, or were just letting go of their commitment to God. If you didn’t read the article, I’d highly suggest you do before reading any further. It will take you 60 seconds to read the article.
At Group’s recent Future of the Church conference, sociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.
There’s the crux of the issue. Dedicated attenders, having a deep relationship with God, are losing interest with the typical church experience. This could be from a variety of reasons. The article mentions that one reason is this group feels bored with the same routine. Why not change churches? If you’ve ever changed churches, you know that the typical church is considered typical for a reason. Brief greetings trying to catch up since 7 days ago, 2 or three songs, greet your neighbor, couple more songs, announcements, offering, sermon, song, cordial good byes. Lather, rinse, repeat.
While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I believe the challenge lies not with the format of church, but the content. The one-sized fits all message just doesn’t appeal to everyone occupying a seat. At times it is hard to blame the pastor. I am confident that the majority of church pastors are doing their best to provide an inspiring message teaching a thing or two. For the majority of attenders, this isn’t an issue. In fact, it is exactly what they need to stay connected.
The article is discussing those that aren’t fulfilled by the above recipe. The article is discussing a group of people emerging that want more. We want depth. We want discussion. We don’t expect to always agree. In fact, we almost look forward to disagreeing just so we can learn more. We want to take scripture apart to the point it is almost uncomfortable because it stretches our mind to think beyond a feel good life application sermon, but instead a historical lesson that takes us back two or three thousand years to understand why that particular message was so significant to the audience at the time.
But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.
Daniel 12:4 (ESV)
I’m not going to engage in a debate as to whether this passage only applies to people seeking knowledge during the tribulation period or not. That seems to be a popular Christian commentary theme. The point is that this prophecy from Daniel points to the idea that people will begin to seek more knowledge and deeper understanding of God.
If the article is accurate, which I believe it to be, how do churches keep up with this phenomenon? Perhaps the answer is to support this hunger for knowledge? Why not encourage bible studies within the church walls, even if only 3-5 people are interested? Allow and encourage attenders to engage and dig and seek and search. Establish some basic boundaries to ensure the discussions remain respectful.
The reality is that people are seeking more and evidently enough are not finding what they need so leaving their churches. Not because they have lost their relationship with God, but because they want it to be deeper. Why not encourage encourage the search instead of ignore it?