Quitting Church

quittingI just finished Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to do about It by Julia Duin.  While she makes several good points, I’m not entirely convinced.

Those quitting church, in this book, are mostly quitting evangelical and charismatic churches.  She laments the “glory days” of theJesus Movement in the late 60’s and early 70’s as a time when America was rife with religious life.

I think there is a good bit of nostalgia in that; though the valid point is that the Jesus Movement was full of ways for people to passionately connect with God through church.  Nowadays, one could argue, real passion is too often lacking in churches of all kinds.

Duin offers some excelletn insights into various groups that evangelical churches are missing the mark with: singles, women, and people older than 40.

There’s one thing I can’t quite shake, though, with all the talk of faithful disciples walking away from church.  Too often the reasons given boil down variously to “I just wasn’t getting anything out of church – there was nothing there for me.”

I happen to think that peopel who think of themselves as mature Christ-follwoers don’t get to play that card.  Disciples must grow to be mature enough to see and understand church as about serving God, not the services provided for me.

Then again, home churches are a thread Duin weaves throughout this book.  Mature disciples, if they are truly mature, know that maintaining maturity requires community.  The Church they are quitting may be the institutional Church, but any serious Christian knows there is no such thing as a healthy Lne Ranger Christian.

Finally, I recommend Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity for the Rest of Us to any and all Church Quitters. There are increasing numbers of smaller congregations, mainline and not, that are finding and creating meaningful community as the Body of Christ.bass

7 thoughts on “Quitting Church

  1. Amen Steve!

    “Church is not ultimately about attending large gatherings….Church is people….People who live a certain way in the world.”

    -Rob Bell from Jesus wants to Save Christians-

  2. Isn’t it funny how we try to put God in a box and pin His ways of working down? For our grandparents (or great-grandparents) it might have been brush-arbor meetings and the Cokesbury hymnal. For us it seems to be turning out to be the Jesus movement (and for some of us the charismatic movement). Remember high-school camp where we sat outside (right before lights-out) and sang “Pass It On” etc.? Or the tabernacle at Lakeview? (You may have been there since I have.) Nostalgia. But if that was where we got stuck it would be sad.
    Y’know, I think the reason I don’t get my knickers in a twist about people quitting church is NOT ultimately because I’m no longer a “church professional.” I think the main reason is, I quit believing that the state of the Faith (or the state of the Church) is my responsibility. Please don’t have a heart attack. What I mean is, that my responsibility is to live for Christ in the world … and to fully engage myself in discipleship … and to recognize it has not been given to me to run things. This is NOT the same as people blowing off their honest-to-goodness responsibilities (at least, I hope it’s not!).
    It may sound that I’ve gotten an attitude “it’s all about me” but the truth is that I have realized that it’s really NOT about me.
    I know those of you who are actively engaged in the ministry as a profession (is there any better way to put that delicate phrase?) have to be also actively engaged in matters such as church growth and church finances. I’m glad you guys are out there wrestling with such questions and concerns. However, I think if more laity would just concentrate on being fully engaged disciples, it would help the clergy deal with such questions!
    I have never disengaged from the church, but I am not nearly as active a church member as my parents were. And while I have a natural affinity for people who love Christ and want to follow Him, it seems I find those people (and bond with them) in all kinds of interesting places.
    God has been so good to me. I’m feeling very blessed today (I am always blessed but don’t always have such a sunny sense of it) … thanks to all the clergy who wrestle with the tough questions.

  3. Kim you mentioned that your responsibility is, “to live for Christ in the world … ” But the chapter on singles questions the thinking of churches in dealing with their spirtitual needs. Pastors simply refuse to discuss the sexual concerns and needs of singles in today’s world. Churches are not missing the mark with singles, they simply refuse to acknowledge that there is a “mark” at all. As Ms Duin points out, pastors value marriage for their children, but to the singles in their congregation, the pastor says that Jesus is all you need. So how are singles supposed to live when they get these mixed messages in church?

  4. I quit my church a couple years ago. I missed it so much. Now I found a new church, have been attending regularly and have an appointment with the pastor on Wed to join the new church. I needed the community as much as I need the message. This is such a better for me, wish I had made the change years ago.

  5. Steve – thanks for the info about this book. I hadn’t heard anything about it.

    Have you read Alan Jamieson’s book “A Churchless Faith?” It’s a very interesting study of people who leave church.

    Also, a slightly different topic, have you read Barbara Brown Taylor’s “Leaving Church?” Another good one, but from the perspective of an Episcopal priest who left church.

  6. No, I haven’t read Brown-Taylor’s book, but I am interested.

    Perhaps what my sticking point comes down to is the cultural predilection to equate “church” with “institution” rather than with “Body of Christ.”

    I have no problem, really, distinguishing the two, but find that in talking even to very-churched youth, “church” means the institutional church.

  7. I highly recommend “Leaving Church” – it’s a memoir and it’s excellent. It’s really her perspective as clergy expressing her love for church and her struggle with it at the same time. I think you’d like it.

    Yeah, as far as terms go, I don’t know what to do. The term church is quite problematic when it is equated with institution (as is normally the case). I wonder if it would be helpful to stop using the term in most situations. But it is clearly an important term, and I’m not 100% set on abandoning it.

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