10 Reasons The "Done With Church" Fill Me With Hope
Hope for Dones (and Nones)
The Rise of the Nones and the Exodus of the Dones have created a lot of tension and heated confrontation. It has been a heart breaking transition.
But it also fills me with hope!
A lot of the issues needed to are being brought into the light and hope flourishes in the light!
My Discouragement With Church
I’ve been discouraged with church for about three decades. As a teenager, I believed that I could grow up and inspire change. As a thirty something working with migrant workers, I was so overwhelmed with the apathy among church-goers that I became physically ill. Then as I approached forty I decided I just needed to find different churches. And guess what? SSDD (Same shit different denomination)
The big problem is that I think Jesus is really awesome but I don’t think American church culture represents him well at all. I love telling people about how much God freely loves us, empowers us and wants to give us meaning, purpose, and hope as we walk with him through this messy world. It’s pretty much my life goal.
The Rise of the Nones and the exodus of the Nones
But in the last decade people have been leaving the church in droves. The young adults were the first to quit buying in to American church culture. They look at all the mess and say, either: you can’t know, or that their beliefs aren’t contained in any one group. This movement has been referred to as the “rise of the nones” the group of young people who say their religion is “none”. At the same time, a whole lot of the once committed workers and leaders are leaving church too: the people my age who believe in God but not what the American institution has become. The second group is starting to be commonly referred to as the “dones” because they are done with church.
I have a ton of hope for both groups. I think they are both rejecting things that need to be rejected. In this post, I’m focusing on the people who still have faith, they are just “done with church”.
Church Culture’s Defensive Response to “Dones”
In my discouragement with church, I did what every good Christian does in situations of complete despair. I asked Google! I started looking for articles about other people who were fed up with American church culture. I found a ton of articles for people who have given up on church but not on God. The sad thing was that all but one of the articles were defensive attacks on the people who are leaving churches.
The absolutely crazy thing is that at the same time, I was in a small group bible study about healing from dysfunctional relationships. Every single thing we talked about in dysfunctional family relationships applied to the churches response to the people who left. (Google gaslighting and you’ll see what I mean.) The responses are generally defensive victim blaming and rarely, give a voice to the person who has been severely hurt. It seems even more insidiously awful when it is a whole group of people who left and they are all being blamed.
I was looking for encouragement and what I found was that a lot of the big dogs in the online arena had already beat me to the punch. They knew exactly what people like me would be looking for and they made sure to stuff the internet with articles telling us we are wrong.
It was hurtful and discouraging…at first…but I prayed A LOT and I remembered that defensiveness never comes from a place of confidence and power. The defenders are victims too and they’ve been abandoned. While, I don’t think that makes the things they say ok, it does help the things they say bounce off a little more.
So, after months of wrestling with this, through prayer, discussions, ranting, reading the bible, more ranting, and journaling (ranting on paper), I’ve come up with some incredible encouragements for people who are done with church but not with God. (or who like me think religion sucks, but Jesus is freaking awesome!)
My top ten encouragements for people who are done with church but not with God:
1. You are being the light!
The things that you are upset about are real issues. Misogyny, racism, hatred of the LGBTQ+ community, intellectual dishonesty, political power grabbing, and abuse of power, etc., are all real problems that hurt a lot of people. They need to be addressed and the mass exodus from churches has brought all of these issues to the forefront.
Jesus called his followers to be the light of the world.(Mt. 5:14) You know what the job of light is? Exposing darkness! Sin, shame, and abuse thrive in darkness. When they are brought out into the open, they are dealt with. Even abuse that is happening in church!!
So good job leavers! Good for you for being DONE with all that hurtful stuff that isn’t representing Jesus at all!
2. Jesus also stood against the things you are standing against.
He HATED hypocrisy and abuse. He told his followers that when they were persecuted for standing up for righteousness (like standing against the list of wrongs in number 1) we would be blessed and totally in the kingdom of God…doing his work. Jesus went on to say that people would say all kinds of horrible things about us when we follow him and he’d be with us, bless us and reward us. Then he reminded his followers that this persecution is how religious people respond to standing for what is true and right. (Matthew 5:10-12)
So, as much as it hurts, attacks from religious people are actually a sign that you are doing the right thing! (Not the only sign, so don’t be getting crazy…)
3. There is healing for you!
Spiritual abuse is extremely hard to overcome because it is so intensely part of how you see the world. Wounds to your soul are harder to identify and wrestle through. Spiritual abuse leaves its victims feeling like they are controlled by a weakness deep within them that can’t even be clearly defined. It’s as if your abuser were God, which means the whole system of the universe has rejected you. It is a deep hurt that should not be taken lightly. But it’s also NOT from God. He longs to heal and show you something different. That abuse is from broken, power hungry people who use people’s need for connection to build kingdoms for themselves. They are seeking to control the uncontrollable. Manipulating people makes them feel that they have that power. Recognizing the reality of what happened is half the battle. Building community with other survivors is the other half. I completely believe that God can help with that, but if you aren’t ready, I also know that we were made for connection and just finding other people to share your hurt with helps.
4. You are meant for meaningful connection!
The fact that we are so done with the fakeness is because our souls are screaming for real connection with other believers. The church was always meant to be a community of united believers. This community of united believers is now leaving flawed institutions which have been hurting a lot of people. We absolutely need each other. We need encouragement, connection, and help. We are supposed to work with other believers like a body, each one contributing and helping. We are supposed to empower each other to grow in the crazy-awesome love that God gives us. We are supposed to work together to help each other use all of our gifts, talents, possessions, experiences, and skills to share that love with as many people as possible. We need to be in a community to do that. We don’t need to be in a building, have a written vision statement, or agree on every single aspect of faith.
5. There is tremendous hope for the people you care about who were hurt by church culture
I have talked to a ton of broken parents who are heart broken that their kids abandoned the faith they were brought up with. There is a common thread among almost every parent I talked to. They didn’t feel adequate to teach their children about faith and trusted the church to do it. Now that these children are grown, the parents feel betrayed.
The good news is that these young adults rejected the b.s. system that made parents feel like they couldn’t teach their own kids about faith. GREAT! We should all reject that.
You can find the answers. You can have real discussions with your adult children. Truth is not scared of questions. Faith doesn’t have to come from figuring every single thing out (that’s arrogant and actually the opposite of faith).
If your kids left the faith they grew up with. LISTEN to why they left and ask them to seek better answers with you.I think the “nones” have a ton of valid points. I also guarantee that you will do a better job reaching their hearts than a system which felt like only trained professionals, or “called” set apart leaders could do it.
(I’d love to talk with you more about this. I realize the stories are all over the place. I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg on this issue.)
6. We forgot what our main “weapon” is
The early Christians rocked the Roman world and forever changed the way humans are valued. One of many ways this mixed group of Jews and Gentiles, and people from all walks of life changed the world was by caring for the people that had been literally thrown away by Roman society. In ancient times, people could leave servants, slaves, and children to die by exposure with no consequence, not even disapproval from peers. It was an accepted practice. The early believers went and found these orphans and sick slaves, pooled their resources and cared for them. It shocked the culture around them. They took note that those “crazy Christians” will care about anybody. Those crazy Christians changed the world through loving each other and loving people that had literally been discarded. It’s hard for us to imagine discarding people as being socially acceptable in large part because of the influence of Christianity on modern society.
Sadly, I believe that because we have lost that focus, we are currently seeing a rise in human trafficking and abuse. There is now a whole segment of our young population referred to as “throwaways” because they have been pushed out of their homes and unreported. It’s a tragedy. It’s the kind of thing the church would be effectively fighting if we hadn’t forgotten what our main call is.
The discontent. The constant feeling that we should be doing more. I completely believe it is because we ARE SUPPOSED to be doing more. Not more arguing about theology, more changing the world through God’s love. So…yeah. It’s fine to be done with all the stuff that isn’t faith expressing itself through love. (Gal 5:6)
7. Most people still in church are looking for change as well.
I stayed in Southern Baptist churches for twenty years. I was convinced that I was making changes from within. Only after moving to Rhode Island (where there aren’t a lot of SB’s!) did I realize how little my voice had been valued in that system. Like me, I believe there are many people in the broken systems trying to fix the them. A lot of them look at us as brave. I sometimes get messages from leaders in different church systems. They tell me that they feel trapped and they think I’m brave. So…you aren’t being attacked by as many people as you think. There are a lot of people sitting quietly in the system secretly siding with you.
8. It was always supposed to be about communities!!!!
The word that has been translated “church” in our English bibles comes from the Greek word ekklesia. It means a group of people who have been “called out”. It was a common Greek term for a gathering of the ekkletoi. In the Roman culture, the ekkletoi were the freed citizens. A herald called them together to discuss public affairs. These gatherings were called ekklesia.
Jesus said through his death and resurrection, he was going to build his own ekklesia: A group of his followers gathered together to usher in God’s kingdom. That’s an amazing picture of this powerful beautiful awesome thing that we have been called to. Every time you read “church” in your English bible, remember it is THIS! It is not the politics, the programs, the style of music, or any of that other stuff. It is each of us who have been called out as citizens of God’s kingdom. We are called to get together and figure out how to spread this incredibly awesome kingdom. The buildings, the programs, bi-laws, all of the other stuff, those things are all tools* we can use if they are working, but they aren’t the ekklesia.
*(They are products of American church culture and therefore what we think of when we say “church”.)
9. Jesus said that his ekklesia was going to prosper!
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said that he would build his church and the gates of Hades would not stand against it. Y’all this is amazing!
Gates are what keep people in! Jesus didn’t use the term “hell”. He used the term Hades…You know the realm of the dead from ancient Greek and Roman mythology: A place where dead souls were trapped. The exact meaning has been lost in hundreds of years of translation and theological debates. But what is still clear is freaking amazing. Jesus said he was going to build his own “called out group of free people” and the forces that keep dead souls trapped would not be able to stand against us!!!!
Think about all the crap you’ve seen that is trapping people right now. Jesus has given us the power to stand against all of it!!!!
10. We can support each other here!
I am desperate for accountability and encouragement from other “dones”! I want a safe place where I can talk about my doubts, discouragement, deep hurt, bitterness, temptations, and fears. I want our real human experiences to build connections that empower us. I want us to work together to bring hope and healing to our bitter divided society.
I would like to invite you to join me in an online community that does just that. If you are interested, please message me. I am starting a closed FB group for us where we can freely share and encourage each other.
I’m working on the rules for this group here: Rules for our FB community and I’d love your input!
You really do fill me with hope! I’m glad we are on this tough journey together. I know we’ve all got scars from the battle that we didn’t expect and were never prepared for but I am so glad we are standing for something better!