They left church behind. Now they outnumber those
Why have they turned their backs on a community of believers?
What is it about today’s church that keeps them away?
Over the last year, while working on a major documentary film
that examines America’s state of faith and the condition of the
church, I’ve talked with hundreds of people. Many of these are
de-churched. They’re done with the organized church. In some cases,
they’re wounded. In other cases, they’re simply disinterested.
Last week I interviewed Tony, a father of four young children,
who left his church a year ago. He no longer attends any church. Or
small group. Or Bible study. He hasn’t abandoned his faith in
Jesus. He’s just done with what Jesus’ church has become.
In some ways, he knows too much. He spent 10 years in
professional ministry, some of it in a couple of America’s
well-known large churches. “I’m over the concerts and speeches and
the contrived effort to call a gathering of 3,000 people a family,”
“What I value now is proximity,” he wrote in his
blog. “The only leaders I care to hear are those willing to
know me and be known. Not in some official capacity over Starbucks
with their church credit card in hand. But with a friend, a person
living honestly in their own right with no agenda or ‘line’ to
keep-but possessing the strength of character to have their own
voice, doubts and convictions.”
Tony worries about the hidden curriculum of pastoral leaders who
intentionally keep a professional distance from their church
members, who avoid forming real relationships. Tony fears the
unintended take-away: maybe that’s how God operates too. Unwilling
to know and be known.
Tony is like a lot of de-churched people. He simply doesn’t find
value in participating in church as we know it. “I’m detoxing and
looking for what remains that is real, that is love, and that is
My interview with Tony was sobering. And disturbing. But also
encouraging. Because what Tony yearns for . . . is something the
church of Jesus can be. If we choose to. He’s not looking for
perfection or polish or pious professionalism. He’s looking for
real people who are willing to admit they don’t have it all
together, but realize we’re all in this together. Humbly, fumbly,
looking to follow the One who is perfect.
We need Tony-and the millions like him.