The Nones: Are the Faithful Fleeing the Church?

"People walking up to ya
Singing Glory Hallelujah
And they’re trying to sock it to ya
In the name of the Lord."
(From the song The Games People Play)


Pillars of Creation-Hubble/NASA

TWW has some good news for the SBC. We think we’ve found some of your missing members. Calvinistas, we have further good news. They may not even be “unregenerate.” In fact, these people may be just plumb fed up with church!

As most of our readers know, we have started an E Church, sometimes called by a few of us as “Almost Church”. Wade, Deb and myself have become increasingly aware of a number of folks who have left organized churches for many reasons. Some of these include spiritual and emotional abuse, cover up of sexual abuse/pedophilia, disagreement with church emphasis on secondary issues, and a rise in authoritarian behavior on the part of church leaders.

The Rise of the Nones

However, in our blogging communities, we have discovered that many of these people have not deserted the faith, merely the institutional church. And now, it appears, we have some statistics to back up our gut observations. TIME Magazine, 3/12/12, featured an article by Amy Sullivan called “The Rise of the Nones.” The following information is taken from the article.

The “Not Church” Church
The author introduces the reader to a group of people who call themselves, “Not Church.” They gather on Sundays to discuss spiritual issues, pray, serve the poor and help each other. In fact, they have an unofficial chaplain, Erin Dunigan, who was ordained by the Presbyterian Church as an “evangelist.” Apparently, the Presbyterian Church is out in front of this issue and is willing to try some unconventional methods to reach non-churchgoing believers. Most people who are involved with this ad hoc group would consider themselves renegades from what they term “organized religion.” But what is startling, according to Dunigan, is the attendees who long ago gave up on the church are the ones who are most willing to help lead this group!

Thought-Provoking Statistics
The TIME article states: “Since 1990, the number of people who claim they have no religious affiliation has doubled to 16% of the US population. But, only 4% of the population identify themselves as atheists or agnostics.”

Interestingly, the Church and Culture blog here also addressed this issue today.
“The widely discussed American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), released in 2009, marked an alarming increase in “nones” – nearly doubling from 8% to 15%. This made those who claim no religion at all the third largest defined constituency in the United States, eclipsed only by Catholics and Baptists. Further, “nones” were the only religious bloc to rise in percentage in every single state, thus constituting the only true national trend.” Church and Culture referred to the American Religious Identification Survey, 2008, here for their statistics.

An Important Find- A Participation Crash, Not a Loss of Faith
 Now, let’s revisit the TIME piece. They quote from a 2009 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life which explored the religious beliefs of all participants, even the unaffiliated. What they found was astonishing. “40% of those unaffiliated were fairy religious (belief in God, prayer, etc.) and expressed the desired to find the right religious home!”

The Time piece highlighted a new book Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass link.
Here is a quote about the book from Amazon.

“Some contend that we're undergoing yet another evangelical revival; others suggest that Christian belief and practice is eroding entirely as traditional forms of faith are replaced by new ethical, and areligious, choices. But Bass argues compellingly that we are, instead, at a critical stage in a completely new spiritual awakening, a vast interreligious progression toward individual and cultural transformation, and a wholly new kind of post-religious faith.

According to TIME, Bass claims that the last decade has seen the scandal of the pedophile priests along with the increasing “entanglement” of faith and politics. She believes that this is driving people away from organized religion. This has led to what she terms a “participation crash”. Apparently even megachurches are seeing drop in participation.”

TWW would like to add our own observations to the fray. 
In 2009, we highlighted another TIME Magazine article called “10 Ideas Changing the World Now” link.
Here is what we wrote. “Interestingly, "The New Calvinism" is number 3 on the list. We believe it made the top 10 because Neo-Calvinistic ministers are organizing themselves into alliances and coalitions and systematically promoting their theological viewpoints on a large scale. Why do we care?

According to Bass, people are fleeing “fierce theological fights.” We believe that the following factors figure prominently on this trend. All of these received major play in the last two decades.

  • The rise of hardcore Neo-Calvinism (Calvinistas)
  • An increasingly rightward shift in the SBC
  • An emphasis on authoritarianism,
  • Strict complementarianism/patriarchy
  • Young earth creationism
  • Rigid eschatological “theories”
  • Disciplinary actions for silly reasons (a questioning spirit)
  • Political activism and church/political party alliances
  • Isolation within mega-churches
  • The rise of the prosperity gospel
  • Membership covenants and discipline contracts
  • Distrust of science

How many people are potentially religious “nones?”

Let’s do a little calculating. Several sources say the US population today is about 313 million. 80% of those are aged 15 and above which gives us 250 million adults. 16% of those 250 million equal 40 million “nones.” 40% of 40 million is 16 million.

There are approximately 16 million people in the United States who still hold onto faith but are not affiliated with the formal church!!! Folks, this number has doubled since 1990!

Whatever the church is doing, it is driving away those who care about the faith but have grown to dislike the organized church. In fact, the “Nones” now outnumber the membership of SBC. Imagine what another decade will bring us!

It would seem to us that there needs to be a lot of soul searching about the direction of the American church. Yet it appears to us that churches and leaders are digging in their heels, choosing to emphasize secondary issues and rigid theology (we are not discussing the basics of the faith here.) If current trends continue, today’s post-evangelical church will be remembered not for evangelizing the world but for creating the largest new religious group “the nones.” 

In the meantime, we will continue with E Church@Wartburg. We were a bit startled by the numbers of people who have visited us at that venue. I think we now know why. The way things are going, there is going to be a growing need for an "Almost Church."

Lydia's Corner: Jeremiah 26:1-27:22 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 Psalm 85:1-13 Proverbs 25:16

 



Comments

The Nones: Are the Faithful Fleeing the Church? — 185 Comments

  1. As a pastor this is greatly troubling to me. I appreciate what you ladies are doing here. There is a part of me that struggles with the idea of a mostly anonymous E-church, but I am thankful that those who are have been hurt by organized church have places like this to worship and hear solid biblical preaching. So thanks for what you do!

  2. Hi Dee & Deb,

    Saw these stats on FB today:

    Domestic Missionaries Greatly Needed

    I don’t know much about the Navigators, but wow!

    We also have decided to forgo organized church while we try to move back home. Our kids are tired of trying new Sunday School, youth ministries, and meeting strangers (as are we). We are tired of being pressured to join groups after one visit. And we are tired of the guilt we feel. So, we gave ourselves permission to just breath.
    The thing is, my faith is more alive and more personal now than it has ever been in organized church.

  3. Mark
    Did you know that Wade’s church has offered counseling? Also, what makes you think that EChurch is mostly anonymous? There are many who attend churches, happy masks firmly applied and pretend all is well. People open up more when they feel safe. You might be surprised what we deal with behind the scenes.

  4. From Dr. Jon (Dee’s husband)

    The “Rise of the Nones” article in Time magazine (3/12/2012) points out that it is the “nones” (no religious affiliation) who are the fastest growing religious group in the U.S., estimated to now represent 16% of the population.

    What caught my eye is that “40% of the unaffiliated people were fairly religious” and that “many said they were still hoping eventually to find the right religious home”. Contrary to common belief, the “nones” group is not comprised of atheists or agnostics. The article goes on to say that many of these people are “not rejecting God”, but are “rejecting organized religion” for being too “rigid” and “dogmatic”. But there are probably other reasons for not affiliating with the organized church.

    I suspect that some of the people in the “nones” group have had intensely negative experiences within organized religion where they have been badly hurt or abused.

    In response to the tragedy of child prostitution in the secular world, how encouraging it is to learn of Christian ministries that have arisen within the organized church to help these children on the the rough road back toward healing. But how disturbing it is to learn that many children have been used as sex objects within the organized church (Catholic and Baptist pedophile scandals), and that some of those very churches have made every effort to cover up their sin. It’s bad enough to drive many seekers away from organized religion.

    Where are those people now? Are some of them “nones”? I suspect so.

    As the Time magazine article points out, some of the “nones’ are joining “small worship communities”. I think the Wartburg Watch blog, and the EChurch@Wartburg medium may provide another means of reaching this large and growing group of “lost, let-down, and looking” with a message of Christ’s hope, no strings attached.

  5. Anon,

    I linked to the Church of Sex article in our recent post on the Driscolls’ appearance on The View.

  6. Dr. Jon (and Dee & Deb):

    I fit that ‘demographic’ (man, I hate doing that). I grew up in church – and was sexually abused (not by pastor, although I have found out that he tried to get the at-risk teenage girls in the congregation to sleep with him, and had multiple affairs with women in his congregation).

    I walked away from church when I was 16 with no intent of looking back. When I was 36, I returned to church, thinking I had found the ‘real deal’. The pastor turned out to be a serial sexual predator preying on abused women who came to him for marriage counseling.

    I walked away again and have no interest in being part of any organized church again. I have begun hanging out with a fellowship group, but they are starting to feel like ‘church’ and I am taking a break to re-evaluate….

  7. Jeannette

    I am so sorry for your experience with formal churches. It breaks my heart to think of it. I am praying for you. Welcome to the blog.

  8. Sophia – I would not recommend The Navigators… if you have questions, you might want to ask Stephy at Stuff Christian Culture Likes. She can fill you in.

  9. Jennette Altes,

    I echo what Dee shared – I am so sorry for what you have experienced in church. I hope you will hang out with us for a while. We are here for each other.

  10. Dr. Jon,

    Thank you for your important comment. TWW’s third anniversary is just one week away. I remember when Dee and I got our very first comment. We were thrilled! Thanks for supporting us in our blogging efforts. :-)

  11. I suppose one could classify my wife and me as “nones.”

    As I mentioned on another thread, five summers ago we left the organized church completely, and haven’t been back. After 30+ years of pouring our hearts, souls, tears, and cash into the beast, only to get told “we weren’t quite good enough”, our Bullcrap-O-Meter (patent pending) finally pegged in the red, and we beat feet.

    That said, we still love Jesus passionately and try to serve him as best we can. We simply refuse to let what men did to us kill that faith. To do so would be giving those grinning peckerwoods a level of control over our lives we didn’t request and that they don’t deserve.

  12. I’ve briefly mentioned elsewhere that I’m the mom of a 9 year old boy with autism, and that after trying a number of times to attend church as a family we gave up. It’s too hard for anyone -us or the rest of the congregation- to get anything of value from church (as it is usually set up) when we bring our son. Now my husband and daughter go to a local Anglican church and my son and I stay home. I don’t fault these churches, but I ache to have my son considered a full (and valuable) member of Christ’s church.

    The thing is, we’re hardly unique anymore; the autism statistics continue to rise steeply. I’ve heard some really troubling stories of churches rejecting families and their autistic children. It’s going to become a bigger and bigger issue as those autism numbers continue to climb. So there is a small but growing percentage of “nones” that are so because their children have no place in church, as it is done today.

  13. Mark ,

    (on Mon, Mar 12 2012 at 07:28 pm)

    Could you comment (with much franknes) why, as a pastor, this is greatly troubling to you?

  14. Dee and Deb,

    The scary thing is I think a lot of people who leave formal church drift into the hands of the Driscolls and Mahaneys because initially it seems like these really awesome places to go that are more like family setting than formal church. Then BAM! It ends up being their worst nightmare! I would love to know how many people from SGM/MH got burned the second time through them?

  15. I second (or is it third?) concerns about the Navigators. Back in my young days I knew quite a few people connected with them, and it always struck me as an exhausting way to be a Christian — it had no appeal to me at all. There was a huge emphasis on both evangelism and the daily Quiet Time as legal necessities for every saved person, plus they all seemed to be involved with a heavy Bible memorization programme. Now of course these are all positive things in and of themselves, but there was something about the flavour of their approach that didn’t sit right with me (I was only a young Christian myself at the time, so my ability to analyze the situation was limited) And all the ‘former navigators’ I know seem to have the same approach to life — for every issue you trot out a proof text response, and that’s the end of the matter. To disagree with the application of that scripture, or to want to nuance it in some way is to argue with the bible!

    Now this is just my impression from the particular people I have known, so I don’t want to paint the whole movement — but they seem to me to be very black and white thinkers, and for a technicolour person like me that all sounds very stark, shallow and joyless

  16. Jeannette,
    Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share some of your bad experiences with the organized church. What you experienced has nothing to do with Christ’s body. You have been terribly “let down” by certain shamelessly abusive people who happened to lurk inside your church.
    Like Dee and Deb, I am so sorry for what has been done to you.
    The real and living God offers you (and me) a yoke which is easy and a burden which is light.
    Anything else is counterfeit.
    I think you may find a fresh view of Christ’s body here at Wartburg.
    Welcome.

  17. “The scary thing is I think a lot of people who leave formal church drift into the hands of the Driscolls and Mahaneys because initially it seems like these really awesome places to go that are more like family setting than formal church. Then BAM! It ends up being their worst nightmare! I would love to know how many people from SGM/MH got burned the second time through them?”

    Robin,

    MH was exactly that for me…I experienced crap at another church years ago…that was extremely legalistic and so the facade of freedom at MH was exactly as you described. Luckily I had a really good church experience in between the two that allowed me to see the problems very quickly!

  18. Wouldn’t it be an interesting twist if some of the “nones” at home churches and other “small worship communities” maybe tried using a format like EChurch@Wartburg at a few of their gatherings?

  19. Rene-

    I can totally relate…I have a child with Autism. We had a local church spend a lot of effort to get us to attend, with the promise of help and assistance for my wife, so we could sit in on the sermons.

    We tried it-but within a week, we were getting snide remarks about his behaviour and the woman who had spent so much time trying to quell our concerns, basically told us that she could see that my child was being healed of autism. Not helpful at all, just made us feel like crap when he had a meltdown in sunday school.

    The final straw was after 3 weeks, they were trying to guilt trip my wife into volunteering as a Sunday school teacher. For those who don’t know, overseeing a child with Autism is a 24/7 job, in which you are constantly saving their life and trying to help them navigate life.

    In other words, you are always exhausted…and then to feel like a recruitment project..arrgh-my wife swore she would never go back to church (and she hasn’t)…this was long before I lost my faith…

  20. @ Eagle,

    Thanks for your kind reply.

    “As an agnostic I continue to look at Christianity as a place for the perfect.”

    I keep on hoping to find a church for deeply imperfect people – our family will fit right in! One church that I would *love* to worship at (if only it wasn’t a twenty hour drive away) is Fresh Wind Christian Fellowship (their mission statement is available at http://www.bradjersak.com/essence.pdf ). From the outset they felt that the pillars of their church were to be the disabled, children, the poor, and prodigals. All of these groups are active participants in their ministry. I imagine church is pretty chaotic there! :)

    There are also some traditional churches that are working hard to retrofit their programming for people with autism and other special needs – in some ways, I would imagine that this is a much more difficult task than starting from scratch with a church that actively embraces disability. I am cheering for them, though. So, there really ARE places for us oddballs and injured folk. It takes some looking to find them, though. In the meantime, I’m so grateful for EChurch@Wartburg.

    Hey Eagle – are you the author of the YouTube channel that you’ve linked to your name here? I watched the “Jack Chick Black Tracts Rack” video and almost died. Comedy gold!

  21. @ Doubtful

    That breaks my heart. I guess that church you went to gets points for trying to be inclusive, but… sigh. I don’t think churches usually count the cost when they try to include families with kids who have complex special needs. They generally have NO CLUE what they are trying to take on, and there is no hope of a one-size-fits-all approach working with these dear children. And then it backfires on families that are already fragile.

    I am so sorry that this happened to you and your dear family. Hey, would you let your wife know that I’m right there with her?

  22. Thanks Rene….I’m with you, I don’t expect most churches to be equipped and it’s not anyone’s fault-it is very difficult because what works with normal children is not what works with an autistic child.

    I was just frustrated, because they got my wife’s hopes up, only to make her feel worse in the end. It seemed like, as soon as they actually had to try and walk in her shoes, they became impatient with her and my son. Again, please do not promise help if you are not willing or equipped to help….we would not have been offended in the least. We understand how hard it is to oversee a young autistic child.

  23. Dee and Deb,

    Wow–Your 3rd Year Anniversary!! Congrats! Let me be one of the first of many who will congratulate you both. I am sure that this has been a growing and stretching experience and now here you are.

    Keep at it! There are more worlds to explore. :)

    All the best!

    Barb Orlowski, D.Min.
    Website: Church Exiters
    Book: Spiritual Abuse Recovery

  24. @ Deb & Dee – Thanks. I will be hanging around…

    @ Eagle – :-) Thanks. I remember about a year after I walked away from the last cult- I mean church I was a leader at, I threw away thousands of dollars worth or audio recording (CD & cassette) of ‘pastor’s’ sermons, along with some DVDs and a whole box full of books by his favorite celebrity pastor – and a stack of notebooks full of sermon notes… it felt scary – rebellious – but a friend helped me carry it to the dumpster and once I tipped it all in – it was like I felt a weight lift…. ;-)

  25. @ Sophia

    We gave ourselves a “year” to not talk about church (even the internal pressure of “but, we’re supposed to go” and well meaning friends saying that it’s “biblical” and home church is not an option – why???). Not that we didn’t process, but that it was okay to rest, heal, be hurt, be angry, ask why, pray, and trust that God will meet us where we are at. It’s been over a year, and we can breathe now, and KNOW that our faith is not in question. Let me encourage you to breathe!!

  26. John
    Once again, I am appalled at the response of the church to so many people. Jesus thought that the prostitutes and the tax collectors were good enough.” On the other hand, he did not think well of the religious leaders for placing burdens on the people and strutting around like they were something special. Seems an awful lot like today. Funny how human nature doesn’t change.

  27. Rene
    Once again, the church wants people to come but only if they “behave”in a certain manner. The church wants numbers not individuals. So, the seek to make the experience “cool” for the masses and do not care about the ones who don’t quite fit in. Some churches are involved in handicapped ministry. My daughter helped start one in a church in Alabama. They found ways for parents of children with severe autism and serious handicaps (I do mean serious) to enjoy church wither with their kids or with a carefully trained staff caring for the kids. I wish more churches would do this.It seems like something Jesus would do.

  28. Eagle
    I have read a few things by this blogger-The Christian monist. You are right. We should link to it.

  29. doubtful
    Once again, the American church pushes the American ideal. Lots of nice people, with perfect kids (preferably lots of them) giving lots of money to build a big church with really good coffee. Jesus would have spent his time, out in the community, talking with those who were outside the “church.” My guess is that he would have not only welcomed your child but given parents who sacrifice daily on behalf of their children a hug. He never liked the fancy, proud, look at me kind of churches and people.The way the church could distinguish itself as being part of the kingdom would be to reach out to a family with a child who struggles and build a program around them. Radical, isn’t it?

  30. Robin
    Many SBC churches are going the movie theater route.Wait until you see how they mimic Driscoll, et al as they expand to the north.

  31. Doubtful
    You said “I don’t expect most churches to be equipped and it’s not anyone’s fault-it is very difficult because what works with normal children is not what works with an autistic child.”
    I disagree. In fact, I believe that this is precisely what Jesus would do. He would lavish resources on such children and cut out the fancy coffee bar.

  32. Jeanette

    You bought all the stuff your were supposed to buy. That is part of the program. Jesus did not hawk “resources.” One of my pastors wrote a book. he has donated all the proceeds to the church benevolence fund. Wonder where all that money went. Ed Young Jr claims the right for all of his “intellectual” (a reach if you ask me) property, and he hawks it at the church.

  33. Dee,

    The anonymity of an E-church was an assumption on my part and maybe an unfair or uninformed one? I have just found TWW and as I said, very excited about what you guys are doing.

    In response to elastigirl the reason I find people leaving the church in mass exodus troubling is because I LOVE the church. I have given my life to it and believe with all my heart that church can work. However, I am not naive to the fact that for many people and in many places it is not working. Also I understand that the church is WAY more than a building and a “organized program.”

    But I do believe there are great things that can happen when a group of people come physically together each week to worship and fellowship and serve alongside each other, and while I know that people sadly get hurt in church, and am very appreciative for people like Dee, Deb, and Wade doing what they do to provide healing, it still saddens me that for 16 million people, a physical weekly gathering is not an option.

  34. Queen Momma
    Good for you. When Sophia said she wouldn’t be returning to their “church”, she was told she was “out of fellowship” because she didn’t immediately join another church. These guys are rewriting the Bible. Of course, here at TWW we are advocating that folks, in light of the current state of affairs, should NOT join a church until they have attended for a good long time. Too many people (I am an example) have willy nilly joined a church without carefully investigating it over a long period of time. Last time I checked, Jesus did not say “You sins are forgiven now go to Temple.”

  35. Mark:

    Would you agree that right now only about half of the 16 million attend our SBC churches. It is truly a shame, but there has to be many reasons they are not showing up or even known where they are.

  36. Mark
    My guess is that your are the sort of pastor who is kind and loving and not an authority freak. May people like you multiply.

    Do you know how hard it is for people to find such a church and pastor? I am blessed because I have had, on average, wonderful pastors and churches. But, I had two churches and pastors who were very difficult (one was Ed Young Jr). My other church has been the subject of many posts. I am grateful for the experience of a bad church because I now understand what many people go through. In fact, I am amazed that more do not lose their faith.

    As for the 16 million out there, they are an indictment on today’s church. Like I said in the post, this generation may be known not for their evangelistic efforts but for spawning the largest group of unaffiliated people in history.

  37. mot
    Even the leaders of the SBC admit that the number is half of the 16 million (some even say less). I am one of the casualties but I do attend another church (not SBC). But I would venture to guess that a fair number of “nones” attended SBC churches and I would like to see some stats gathered on what “nones” used to be.

  38. dee:

    I personally do not believe the CR helped the SBC as far as its numbers. The long fight is still going on just about something different than the many so called “liberals” that had to be removed to purify the convention. Definitely being sarcastic about the purification.

  39. Absolutely mot, I would tend to say even less than half of the 16 million are attending.

    dee

    It is definitely my intention to be a loving and kind pastor, and I do not believe I have any authority. I believe I am gifted/called to pastor /shepherd and preach the Word. My position in the church places me above no one and every person in our church is just as important and just as “called” as I am.

  40. Mark:

    Thanks for the reply, and the SBC would be a much better place with more pastors that have your view of ministry!

  41. HAROLD CAMPING taught for more than a decade that believers should leave the Church. Anticipating E-Church, he taught that all one needed spiritually could be provided by Family Radio – the original E-Church.
    If you have quit the local church you have Harold Camping’s full support.

    (Harold is no longer on the airways but Family Radio continues to believe that God has abandoned the local church [May of 1988] and believers should not be attending. They no longer state this publicly however.)

  42. FYI, Mark Dever, who’s held in some disrepute at TWW due to his befriending of C.J. Mahaney, has been instrumental within the SBC to be honest about their numbers. He’s pushed that publicly for a few years now.

  43. Mark,

    You sound a lot like Wade Burleson. I can almost guarantee that if you will be true to your word your ministry will be blessed. Please continue with your humble attitude and let us know how it impacts your church. :-)

  44. Dee, Deb,

    This is a bit wordy and too long but I’ve been thinking a lot since reading the post & comments.

    I’m thinking three things…

    That living outside a gathered group of believers can push us to be creative in realizing the sacredness in all of life and can keep us wary of the power trip, elitism and cliquishness that can be encountered in a gathered group which has become merely institutional. Also…

    The reign of Christ in the present reality of His Kingdom certainly implies there is no neutral ground or area untouched by Him. All Christians are always in active worship and service of God. We are doing this whether in politics, culture, sports, business, school, or just out and about in our daily lives, whatever brand of activity. Finally…

    The Church, gathered or scattered, is still the Church. Your Wartburg E-Church is a prime example, for me, of the Church seen in the ordinary. Thank you guys so very much.

  45. * The rise of hardcore Neo-Calvinism (Calvinistas)
    * An increasingly rightward shift in the SBC
    * An emphasis on authoritarianism,
    * Strict complementarianism/patriarchy
    * Young earth creationism
    * Rigid eschatological “theories”
    * Disciplinary actions for silly reasons (a questioning spirit)
    * Political activism and church/political party alliances
    * Isolation within mega-churches
    * The rise of the prosperity gospel
    * Membership covenants and discipline contracts
    * Distrust of science…

    A lot of these bullet points are related. And not only related, but bear a strong resemblance to Classic Communists:

    Purity of Ideology — “Ees Party Line, Comrade!”

    And “Participation Crash” also echoes the rise & fall of the USSR; except there and then, the only way out of 24/7/365 Enthusiastic Participation was vodka and lots of it.

  46. HUG:

    I see the “Purity of Ideology — “Ees Party Line, Comrade!” playing itself out in my neck of the woods and it is very divisive.

  47. I’ve read a couple of articles from SBC leaders on this subject, one by Thom Ranier. I must say I am disappointed in what he wrote in that he does not recognize those who are faithful Christians who have left the church, but unbelievers, backsliders who have left the church.

    Until we as a denomination realize that there are legitimately hurt people out there who are faithful Christians, love Christ, just don’t love the church because of a deep pain that the church has caused. Until we as a denomination or a set of churches are willing to take the blame, there will be no healing from the church for those who are known in the media as “the nones.” I apologize for what the churches in our particular denomination of the SBC has done. I also apologize for the excuses they seem to be making which is just excuses and not dealing with the actual problem. Seems we are really good at doing that.

  48. Paul Burleson,

    So glad you had a chance to read this post!

    Beginning tomorrow we are going to do a series of topics on the reasons we believe some Christians are leaving the organized church. To kick it off, I plan to focus on John Piper’s recent affirmation that Christianity has a ‘masculine feel’, and I will be linking to Wade’s excellent post in which he discussed this.

    In a future post, we will be discussing gender issues, and I will be linking to some of your excellent writings on that topic.

    It is so reassuring to have a conservative pastor who has devoted his life to the ministry looking over our shoulders and chiming in affirmatively. Your support means so much to us!

  49. Purity of Ideology is perhaps the best description of these kinds of movements. And the similarity to Communism – think of the big name megapastors who hang out and slap each other on the backs, while being completely oblivious to what’s going on among their followers. Much like the Politburo in Soviet Russia. And if such pastors surround themselves with ‘Yes-men’ elders, it’s similar to the way that USSR industrial Area Managers lied about their production results so that they wouldn’t get hammered by the Big Reds at the top.

    Maybe the guy who got fired from Mars Hill is the Calvinista equivalent of Leon Trotsky.

  50. Jimmy
    Oh cut the baloney. You know that this is NOT the same thing. Or, perhaps you would prefer to ignore the “nones” because they won’t do it your way?

  51. Jimmy
    We disagree with Dever on a number of issues. We never said he is always wrong about everything. You aren’t either.

  52. Debbie K:

    I have often wondered if there would be true healing in the SBC if the “liberals” and “conservatives” could sincerely repent of the hurt each has done to the other and to the denomination.

  53. Debbie K,

    Couldn’t agree more!

    Incredibly, Al Mohler believes the solution is to elect a black SBC president.

  54. Nick
    We reviewed his book in 2009.
    Link

    We liked it very much. Excuse the formatting. We used to use a very simple format back then and it didn’t translate well into this new format.

  55. wow – interesting reading. While I certainly have had my share of run-ins with various ‘church’ situations, I guess I take a different tack. I blame not the institutional church itself, but the people in it. People are people, people with power tend to be corrupt, and unless a person is truly seeking God (about a 5% chance for any given Christian one meets) they will succumb.

    As a result, I trust no more and no less ANY form of church – be it institutional or house or random gathering of believers. And so I have no more or less reason ostensibly to go to an institutional church than I would some other kind of meeting, likewise I am no less averse to going to an institutional church than I am some other kind of meeting.

    With the exception that I am more likely to know what to expect in a kind of church I am already familiar with.

    But I would add this. I have found that in general, being in fellowship with other Christians, despite all the issues that crop up, is better than going it alone. There will always be a subset anywhere one goes that is ‘real’. That is trying to follow God and die to self etc. And so I generally seek those folks out and ignore the rest.

    I am, however, a bit more averse to ‘joining’ a church than I once was. Seems to me once one ‘joins’, then the folks that like to control people find you out and try to use that commitment against you. But again, that’s not so much ‘church’ as it is ‘people’.

    Overall, despite all its flaws, the church in the world is far better than not. I would not be a Christian today but for the Church. We are Christians. We are the salt of the Earth. And We are the people that abuse Christ’s grace, and the people that bring it to the world. We should gather together. And that will take some form. And somebody somewhere will abuse that, because there are wolves in sheep’s clothing everywhere.

    One can only escape it by living in isolation. And that, scripturally, is not an option.

    Zeta

  56. I truly think that neo-reformed churches will struggle with membership for all of your stated reasons, Dee and Deb. Truly, the neo-Calvinists make it very difficult for themselves via their doctrinal beliefs. The second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself”. I find that this is very difficult to do when leadership holds itself (leadership which answers only to itself) to different moral standards than they do their congregants. Some people will fall for this and follow this…but not many. Especially now when information that refutes, such as this site and others, is so readily available.

  57. Orion’s belt,
    I must disagree. I think that foundational doctrinal beliefs do play a big part in how hyper-authoritarian one can expect church leadership to be. Calvinists, by virtue of simply following through on their basic doctrinal assumptions, will be much more prone to abuses of leadership than, say, Armenians (not that I’m supporting them, necessarily, it’s just that the doctrine makes a huge difference). Calvinism, by definition, requires pastors who “stand in God’s stead” (C.J. Maheny) because certain divinely enlightened men MUST act as the enforcers of “good”, which the totally depraved masses, due to the fundamental nature of that depravity, can never hope to grasp or understand. This kind of attitude implies a moral and spiritual superiority of leadership…this, in turn, cannot but eventually, in my opinion, lead to spiritual abuse.

  58. Argo
    SGM is a living proof of some standards being different for leaders than followers. Can you imagine telling your SGM church that you were leaving, joining another denomination’s church and would be planning to come back in a few months with all forgiven?

  59. Orion’s Belt,
    Sorry…I re-read your post. I don’t think I responded to your post properly…that is, I offered a rebuttal to a premise that you were not, in fact, making. Sorry about that…your post involved house vs. institutional church, not denominations or theological statements.

  60. Dee,
    Not at all. I do not accept SGM’s theological interpretations; their “sound doctrine”, and therefore, could not align myself with the entirety of their statement of faith. For that alone I would never make membership. Add to that the fact that returning would necessitate agreement with the board and their findings on CJ. I will not and do not. No…I am persona non grata (sp?) over there. Fine with me. It’s be a struggle, but I’m glad to be going through it. God is teaching me great things; they greatest is how to love people.

  61. I’m proud to say that I’m a former SBC “none”. :)

    My husband and I were both FIRMLY rooted in the SBC – churches, schools, and colleges. Now we, along with our 4 children, are former SBC “nones”.

    There’s 6 right there.

  62. Hugs to you two on your third anniversary as bloggers. You have done much good!

    (Written after a good but tiring day working in Kiev. Off to Riga, Latvia in the morning and into Estonia by the evening. Not back in North America until after Easter.)

  63. Argo
    Well, you have joined the rest of us “personas non gratas” (is that how to make it plural?) Can you imagine if Deb and I moseyed on into an SGM church? We did it a couple of years ago before we were more known. I think we would be shot on sight.

  64. Bill
    Now how does a blogger get to be a world traveler? Deb and I are taking notes! Many of my father’s family came from the Ukraine and some from the Moscow area. Well, now let’s hit you up for a favor. Can we reprint your post on The Gospel Coalition? It was excellent!

  65. Dee, Deb,

    In light of someone having made a statement that he perceived that Christianity has a ‘masculine feel’ about it, I hope the both of you know I use the word “guys” as the NT generally uses the word “man.” That would be in a gender-neutral sense. LOL

  66. I see the “Purity of Ideology — “Ees Party Line, Comrade!” playing itself out in my neck of the woods and it is very divisive. — Mot

    That’s an obvious result when you mix “The One True Way” and “The Universe Cannot Have Two Centers.”

    On the contrary, in the devil’s theology, the important thing is to be absolutely right and to prove that everybody else is absolutely wrong. This does not exactly make for peace and unity among men…
    – Thomas Merton, “The Moral Theology of the Devil”

  67. And all the ‘former navigators’ I know seem to have the same approach to life — for every issue you trot out a proof text response, and that’s the end of the matter. To disagree with the application of that scripture, or to want to nuance it in some way is to argue with the bible! — Lynne Tait

    And the wall in the mind slams down, after which there is only the Thoughtstopper, repeated over and over — “IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN! AL’LAH’U AKBAR! AL’LAH’U AKBAR! AL’LAH’U AKBAR!”

  68. Paul
    I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. “Guys” in Bostonian is gender neutral! Example, “How ah youse guys today?”

  69. Incredibly, Al Mohler believes the solution is to elect a black SBC president. — Deb

    We talking The Anti-Obama or Token from South Park?

  70. In light of someone having made a statement that he perceived that Christianity has a ‘masculine feel’ about it, I hope the both of you know I use the word “guys” as the NT generally uses the word “man.” That would be in a gender-neutral sense. LOL — Paul Burleson

    In classic English, mixed or indeterminate gender defaults to male. Obviously, this was long before Newspeak’s “Global Replace String ‘man’ with String ‘person’”…

  71. And the similarity to Communism – think of the big name megapastors who hang out and slap each other on the backs, while being completely oblivious to what’s going on among their followers. Much like the Politburo in Soviet Russia. — Anne

    Remember that Pope John Paul II approached Communism as a Christian Heresy. A heresy that took “woe to the rich” and “justice for the poor” in isolation, added an Apocalyptic Cult angle (“Comes The Revolution”), and firewalled it to the max.

  72. HAROLD CAMPING’S doctrine ( “DepartOut”) has been very attractive to people who have been upset with their church. He just provided a convenient theology upon which they could base their behavior. They could then leave the local church and say that God had called them out.

    They are the original “nones.”

    Harold then enabled them to be involved in Bible studies by the internet or radio. You didn’t have to interact with other believers.

    It was diabolically clever. You’re upset with your church? Harold gave you a reason to leave.

  73. Dee,

    Imbi and I are over hear doing video interviews of a number of customers of one of our large US clients. And we get to visit with Imbi’s relatives in Estonia while on this trip.

    You are most welcome to reblog any of my stuff that you deem worthwhile. :-)

  74. Pingback: None of the above Christians « GraceWorks.ca UNITED STATES

  75. Bill

    Great to hear from you! We LOVE the friendships that are being established on the Internet . Blessings!

  76. Good post.

    Add to your list of contributing factors, at least for me:

    – Bible Idolatry
    – Concert-like “worship”

    That’s why after years in the SBC I’m happy to be back in the (gasp!) Episcopal Church .

  77. Hi, Mark.

    “…I LOVE the church. I have given my life to it and believe with all my heart that church can work…

    …But I do believe there are great things that can happen when a group of people come physically together each week to worship and fellowship and serve alongside each other…”

    I appreciate your response. I’m beyond exasperated with the cognitive dissonance I feel re: “church”, and so desire to probe the subject.

    When you say “…and believe with all my heart that church can work”, what does that mean? What does “church that can work” look like?

  78. Deb -

    Don’t you think Mohler and Dever need to do a little more than wake up to what is going on with CJ and SGM? They and the SBC are aligning themselves with all kinds of extra-biblical rules and regulations. (Pretty sure I know the answer :) )

    This is a great article! I think many pastors don’t want change or to see a need for change because they are very concerned about the “traditional” church. They like “traditions” and the security that traditions bring. It’s interesting to me that many people who like “tradition” also tend toward legalism which leads to authoritarianism (in an effort to keep things the way they are because I/we are happy and comfy this way). Now I like traditions as much as anyone, but to have traditions that don’t align with what Jesus wanted in and for His church is wrong (IMO), and it leads to more hurt for people who come to a church seeking refuge and hope.

    I also think that some pastors fear for their jobs (income) and are overcome with all kinds of fear of man and temptation in keeping their income flowing. I can understand this, though it is not good for any church. Another thing that happens with paid elders/pastors is that they lose touch with what life is like for the everyday man and woman out trying to earn a living and those not insulated within the church walls. They can say they understand all they want, but . . . . I’m not buying that Driscoll, Dever, Mahaney, Piper, Mohler, or anyone who has been paid staff in a church for more than four or five years knows or remembers what it is like to be in the world but not of it. Yet, they are the ones telling the rest of the Church what “real” church should look like.

  79. So . . . my comment doesn’t mean I dislike all elders and pastors. It’s just meant to be thought provoking :)

  80. Jimmy:

    You said:”It was diabolically clever. You’re upset with your church? Harold gave you a reason to leave.”

    You make it sound so simplistic. You also make it sound like it is always the person’s that is leavings fault.

    Am I misinterpreting what you are saying?

  81. Mot, I’m not sure what you’re asking. I was pointing out that Harold Camping attracted people who were upset about their local church and were looking for a reason to stop going to church. Harold provided one.

  82. BTW, I certainly do think church attendance is down in these United States.

    But I believe the reasons why are quite complex not easily or accurately defined by a post.

    Who among us hasn’t been discouraged by our church? I certainly have.

  83. Bridget2,

    I don’t dislike all paid pastors/ministers either, and I realize they have to provide for themselves and their families too. I know some of them are genuine, Christ-honoring servants who work hard. But I have long been disgusted with enormous salaries being paid to pastors and other church staff and their ability to live a life of luxury and comfort. I remember the days of pastors living in tiny houses or a very modest parsonage. I haven’t seen much of that in the last 15 years.

    It amazes me what a small or very moderate sized church pays their pastor – and pays the pastor’s wife to play the piano or serve as the “minister of music”. And the housing allowance. And the pastor’s travel fund. And the pastor’s discretionary fund. And so on. When you add it all up, it’s a really good living.

    It doesn’t seem right for them to make well above what the average person/family in their congregation earns. Those average (or poor) folks work hard too. Many of them are eking out a living for themselves and their families working 2 or 3 jobs. There is no bubble or insulation from the real world whatsoever.

    What you’re saying resonates with me. I think it would become very easy to forget the pressures and hardships of the real world when you’ve made a career in ministry and that is your livelihood and your perspective. When the world of church and ministry and a great salary with benefits is the lens by which you see things, it’s much different that what many of us see and experience in the world.

  84. Mot
    Jimmy, a frequent commenter here, believes that almost everyone who has a bad experience at a church is a whiner. He also subscribes to the wonders of Neo-Calvinism, including John Piper and CJ Mahaney. Why he hangs around with us is a mystery. Perhaps it is because deep down inside, he finds us fascinating as well as glamorous.

  85. mot
    Oh Jimmy is a true believer alright and probably feels he is spreading the gospel to us renegades.

  86. Dee said; “Why he hangs around with us is a mystery. Perhaps it is because deep down inside, he finds us fascinating as well as glamorous.” well said – grin

  87. Eagle
    Have you seen an episode of GCB yet? It stars Kristen Chenoweth (of Broadway fame) as a good Christian Dallasite in which good Christian is an oxymoron.I read about it in Christianity Today and let me tell you, it sure strikes at the heart of certain circles.I can’t tell you what B stands for because this is a good Christian blog (which is also GCB) but google GCB.

  88. Jimmy
    Permit me an observation. You do not seem the type of person to let others into your heart to cause damage. In fact, your tough exterior is way to avoid personal pain. Many people are not put together quite like you and so feel pain deeply.

  89. Eagle asked: “JIMMY!! Are you a Mahaney fanboy?!?!”

    No, actually I’m a Wade Burleson fanboy.

  90. Jimmy said,
    “Harold then enabled them to be involved in Bible studies by the internet or radio. You didn’t have to interact with other believers.”

    My current church has gone the same way, without really intending it. The pastor/teachers began putting not only the sermon, but the Sunday school classes and midweek studies on the Internet. This was to help those who might miss a session, or any who might just be browsing, BUT, to make it work it was necessary to change the format to lecture only, followed by questions and answers. More and more, these questions have been reduced to just one or two, hurriedly as time runs out. Soooo… Less interaction with other believers even while in physical proximity. I stopped attending before I really identified why. Interactions before or after the Sunday service tend to be frustratingly, almost hopelessly superficial with all but a few. Ironically, there are many ways we had MORE fellowship with other believers when we were in the church of nones for about 5 years.

  91. Dee, I think our ability to rationalize and justify our behaviors is quite astounding. We are less than honest with ourselves. Wouldn’t you agree?

  92. As for “exterior toughness,” I think it’s a perspective on humanity in God’s world.
    Probably most of your readers are familiar with Chuck Swindoll’s quote on attitude.

    “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

  93. Jimmy, you appear to be tougher than nails. So am I. Perhaps the main difference between us is my wife and I reached a tipping point that you haven’t yet … and God willing, never will.

    After thirty years of faithful service, we went through toward the end was maddening, devastating, and underhanded enough it made me want to lay aside my calm Christian manner, drag up my old Southern bar-brawler past, and kick the snot out of a few deserving fellows.

    We didn’t need anyone’s permission to leave. We simply did.

  94. Dee~

    It’s amazing how much of what you guys write about fits my experience, even though I’ve never been of the Baptist persuasion. :-)

    The last church I was a member of / leader in – and left, was non-affiliated but man was it authoritarian. But not in immediately obvious ways. And yes, he had his own bookstore – part of what I did there was design the covers for his audio & video teaching series (which I also edited and mastered).

    Having been removed from it for a while (5 years), it is easier to see things than it was while I was still inside. There was – and still is – such a climate of fear. If you leave, you will: be easily deceived, be unprotected, lose your healing, get divorced, make God mad at you, hurt the other sheep….. and the list would vary depending on the person. There were so many rules… but we were ‘free’, they proclaimed. Sigh.

    The day I stepped down from leadership and resigned my membership, the pastor had me in his office for 2 1/2 hours trying to scare me into staying. This was the one who was preying sexually on the abused women who came for marriage counseling. He never once acknowledged what he did – he was the victim, you see. And one of the breaking points was his demand that the leaders throw his latest victim under the bus – someone who was a close friend. When I refused, I got in trouble.

    Leaving that place was one of the most scary and freeing things I’ve ever done. So, the SBC and Calvinistas are not the only place the stuff is going on….

  95. Jimmy
    Just because I rationalize things, just because I have mixed motives, just because I am functionally a sinner, does not mean that it isn’t a work of the Spirit.

  96. John

    The Rise of The Fellowship of the Wounded! Yeah! Thanks for your insight. I wholeheartedly agree.

  97. Jeannette
    You said “the SBC and Calvinistas are not the only place the stuff is going on….” Amen, sister, preach it. We have theology jammed down our throats as if the “proper theology’ will prevent problems. Let me tell you, the SBC and the NeoCals all believe that they are 100% correct in their theology. However, all of these theologies lead to pain. It is said the devil is a great theologian and still the devil. It is the hyper-authoritarian, patriarchal, sheep/shepherd, leader/follower designation that causes trouble, no matter the theology. Throw in the unspoken belief that pastors and elders are automatically above reproach and you have the makings of abuse.

    I am so sorry for your pain. How far we have strayed from the Loving Shepherd who cared for the poor and the downtrodden and gave heartburn to the Pharisees.

  98. Paul Burleson said:
    “In light of someone having made a statement that he perceived that Christianity has a ‘masculine feel’ about it, I hope the both of you know I use the word “guys” as the NT generally uses the word “man.” That would be in a gender-neutral sense. LOL”

    Paul, I sometimes use the word “GUYS” in a gender-neutral sense, too.

  99. Jimmy -

    Hey, dude (since you’re a 23 year-old surfer :) ), your total depravity belief doesn’t mix well when the Holy Spirit is your Helper! He helps us do what is right and good. Have you seen anyone harmed by the E-church? They will know us by our love. You can weigh a ministry by it’s fruit.

    Calvinista churches will dismiss suffering as necessary and overlook wrongs “they” have done to others as an opportunity for others to suffer and, therefore, be sanctified. They don’t often look at their fruit (the wounded). They even look at their dwindling flocks and use that to prove that God is in the work because He is pruning and “they” are suffering for the sake of the “Gospel.” Heaven forbid that they really look at what is going on in their churches and think about it logically (with that God given brain that is intended for logic). Our brains can do good just like our hands and feet can do good!

    God created us for GOOD works, not total depravity, dude :)

  100. John Robinson, I liked your post. BTW my wife and I recently left a church we had attended for 26 years. I have significant ambivalence about the leaving.

  101. Bridget2
    You said:”Calvinista churches will dismiss suffering as necessary and overlook wrongs “they” have done to others as an opportunity for others to suffer and, therefore, be sanctified. They don’t often look at their fruit (the wounded). They even look at their dwindling flocks and use that to prove that God is in the work because He is pruning and “they” are suffering for the sake of the “Gospel.”

    That was the best darn explanation I have read in awhile. You’re hired!

  102. Bridget said — “They don’t often look at their fruit (the wounded). They even look at their dwindling flocks and use that to prove that God is in the work because He is pruning and “they” are suffering for the sake of the “Gospel.”

    Exactly my experience. In the midst of patently plain dysfunction and the void created by those who left (the majority of a once full church), the pastor explained to me that it was because they (the pastors) refused to take any road other than the high road, implying that most people simply don’t have the level of commitment and integrity that they themselves have. It was self-congratulations.

  103. Elastigirl -

    It is sad what these leaders are doing and justifiying in the name of Jesus. All the while they are beating everyone down with doctrine that claims we can do nothing good and we are depraved. Jesus did not tell us that at all. We all need to stop believing that lie and mix our faith with works and the Helper!

  104. Clay
    More and more people are returning to the liturgical churches. Had my previous church not interfered, I would have been Anglican to day. I also like your two suggestions to my list.

  105. In response to Nick Mitchell…

    “How does everyone feel about Frank Viola? Anyone read Pagan Christianity?”

    In fact, I liked it so much that I posted a book review on Frank Viola’s provocative book on TWW on Tue, Dec 29 2009. You can find the review in the Archives section of this blog for December 2009.

    I suspect that many Christians attending home churches would consider themselves “nones”.

  106. Bridget — I’ve never been in a remotely Calvinist environment, so no depravity here. But lots of control and authoritarian stuff (post shepherding movement mindset). And ultra confrontation over so many things — always took me by surprise. I was always trying to do things just right — both for my own satisfaction and to avoid being scolded. I could never anticipate the pastors, the rules were so nonintuitive. And rules seemingly pulled out of a hat at times, as if it was common sense and the fact that I wasn’t aware was due to my own idiocy.

    By the time we were done, I was so nervous — wracked with anxiety that I wasn’t doing it right (it being every aspect of how I lived my life). Took at least 3 years to calm down and rid myself of that auto reflex.

  107. @ Eagle – I can’t remember who (sorry), but I did hear some TV pastor say, once, that God wanted the unsaved to have abortions as it reduced the number of those who opposed the ‘church’. I wish I could remember who it was – not famous, just a brief blip – I was in shock and disgusted….

    And I did get in a bit of an argument with a Calvinist online a while back because he told me that molestation was ordained of God. I told him that a God who would ordain that in my life (or anyone’s life) did not deserve to be worshiped. He got very upset and didn’t understand that that did not mean that I had turned from God – only his definition….

    @ Dee – Sadly, in the 7 churches (13 ministers) I have been involved with (we moved a lot when I was a kid), three that I know of were sexual predators. I know that not all churches are like that, but I have not been involved in one that did not turn ugly in one way or another. It has been a bumpy road, but I have/am learning to separate God from all the religious bs….

  108. I even hope one day that we stop calling it “church” and start calling it the 501C3 Institutionalized Religious Corporation. Stop compromising the true teachings of Christ and I might come back, but that requires a resurrection from the dead.

  109. Eagle: You know what this kind of talk reminds me of? Reminds me of bullies I once knew (they weren’t picking on me, someone else was the victim). When I told them they needed to stop what they were doing, they said “We’re bullying him for his own good. He needs to toughen up.”

  110. elastigirl

    It was this burden of legalism that Jesus addressed with the Pharisees. He spoke compassionately of those who were desperately trying to follow Pharisee rules since they were the ones who appeared to hold the key to salvation.And the Pharisees allowed this perception to persist until Jesus started calling them white washed tombs.
    Jesus focused on the heart, not the outside.I think that is why so many people are attracted by legalistic groups, including the Calvinista theology. You see, if you just believe thusly and do exactly as they say, no problemo on the heaven thing. People prefer rules because they are easy to follow. Now, changing the heart, that’s a different story. And that is why Jesus conquered the grave. So, even when I fail, which is regularly, I have peace in His grace. So many people want to make it grace+… There is no plus.

  111. Eagle
    You strike at the heart of the matter. Calvinistas theology, carried to extreme can lead to some of these pronouncements. If God hated us, He would not have died for us. He loves us very much and does not spend His time figuring out ways to punish us. he doesn’t have to. We seem to do a good job of that ourselves. God is a light in this dark world and when I look at Him, I see love and freedom along with ultimate redemption of both me and this world.

    Far too many of these folks see a God who cannot wait to punish folks. I have a simple question. Why the Midwest which has more Christian per capita? Why not Amsterdam, Las Vegas, etc in which few people care about God? Is Piper saying that the more people believe in God, the more He is apt to get mad and send tornados? I don’t buy it.

  112. Eagle

    As you walk the crowds, remember, secular reason has not solved any of our problems not has it defined why the reasoning of brilliant men cannot solve the issues of poverty, hunger, violence, etc. For me, there is a core problem that Christianity seems to address far better than any philosophy. There is a problem with man that no amount of reason can overcome.

    Ask this why men cannot seem to overcome these problems of those you meet. And if they say religion is to blame, they will be guilty of the same sort of broad brush many Christians are. I will be fascinated to see what you learn. And you are right. I would never picket.I might walk around and ask questions. I’ve been doing that since I was 4 and I drove my mother nuts. God has given us free will to choose our path.

  113. Jeannette
    I am glad that you were able to separate the faith from the people. Too many people see the sins of those in church and choose to believe that Jesus is not real. For me, I see the sins of the church and realize just how much we needed Jesus. For me, He is the only one who offers an ultimate solution.

  114. Run of the Mill

    You said “start calling it the 501C3 Institutionalized Religious Corporation.” That is the best comment of the month!! Well said. I will use that comment frequently in the years to come. Now I am off to read your blog.

  115. Anne
    I actually believe that there are some church leaders who were beat up as kids and have found the ultimate revenge-authority.And the victims cannot punch them out because “it is not Christian.”

  116. Dee:

    I agree. What is it about being a Pastor and believing no one can question you or the elders or deacons?

  117. Dee:

    I found the following on how the SBC has changed:”The Patterson-Pressler coalition insists that the pastor is the unquestioned ruler of the church. W. A. Criswell said, “Lay leadership of the church is unbiblical when it weakens the pastor’s authority as ruler of the church . . . a laity-led church will be a weak church anywhere on God’s earth. The pastor is ruler of the church.” In 1988 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution affirming that the pastor was the ruler of the church.

    This new emphasis on pastoral authority marks a departure from the traditional Baptist teaching on the priesthood of every believer.”

    In our SBC churches today, I believe we are seeing the “fruit” of this scary mindset that these pastor’s have been taught to have.

  118. mot
    Not all pastors, only the ones who are insecure.In fact, I have a theory, totally unproven at this point, that many authoritarian pastors were bullied as children.

  119. Another practically a “none” here, formerly SBC.

    I was a zealous active SBC’r for about 30 years. You name it, I taught it or did it.

    So when I got an old “Baptist Doctrine” diploma through the Discipleship training program, I still had my old books from Training Union. I took them to my SS teacher who was signing off as I finished a course. I showed him what the changes were. I showed him where we had given up congregational governance for the pastor as rule. I showed him where we had given up the priesthood of THE believer for the vague timeless truths. I showed him where we had given up electing people to committees at our church and then letting the committee choose its chairperson and gone to appointing committees under the chair of a deacon.

    The result was being humiliated, castigated, and finally called heretic from the pulpit.

    God in His grace moved me suddenly geographically to where there were no SBC churches. I landed in a liturgical church, shell shocked and in need of healing. I’m still healing 14 years later, still serving HIM but most definitely not in an SBC church.

    I won’t join. Don’t want to be an official member anywhere again….I refuse to bow in allegiance to anyone but Jesus Christ.

    I’ve tried going back to the SBC when we moved again. I found I had been labelled troublemaker.

    I also found that when I became SBC in 1967, women were expected to learn and then to serve. Now I find that we are chided if we dare to ask a question, or state an opinion, or expect to be treated as fully adult.

    None? You betcha. Simple label Christian is enough for me.

  120. I’ve briefly mentioned elsewhere that I’m the mom of a 9 year old boy with autism, and that after trying a number of times to attend church as a family we gave up. It’s too hard for anyone -us or the rest of the congregation- to get anything of value from church (as it is usually set up) when we bring our son. Now my husband and daughter go to a local Anglican church and my son and I stay home. I don’t fault these churches, but I ache to have my son considered a full (and valuable) member of Christ’s church.

    From Rene: “The thing is, we’re hardly unique anymore; the autism statistics continue to rise steeply. I’ve heard some really troubling stories of churches rejecting families and their autistic children. It’s going to become a bigger and bigger issue as those autism numbers continue to climb. So there is a small but growing percentage of “nones” that are so because their children have no place in church, as it is done today.”

    Rene, I have a child with autism, and our church–fortunately and unfortunately–is an exception to what you talk about. I say “fortunately” because we’re fortunate enough to be accepted by the church we attend, and our son’s youth group has made a place for him. I say “unfortunately” because it’s unfortunate that more churches are not like that.

    I’ve also read a few disturbing stories about the treatment of people with autism in the church. I have heard of a book, Autism and Your Church, which is designed to help the church meet the needs of those who have autism. I have not read it but our youth minister has a copy. In fact, not too long ago, he said to me, everywhere I go, I tell them about your son (and he means that in a good way).

    I wish there were more people like our youth minister, because the number of people with autism IS rising. These people are an example of “the least of these” whom Jesus commanded us to serve.

  121. Well, I guess our household has joined the “nones” over the past couple of years. I grew up an MK and have a degreee in theology, and my wife has been a believer since her first year of college. We both read greek. So we haven’t lost faith, and we’re probably a little better informed than the average churchgoer. But a combination of a lack of depth of teaching and some hurtful experiences and quite a few outright stupid and hurtful things done to us and others has led us to take a break for a while and keep our eye out for something better. One thing all of the bad experiences had in common was that the hurt and stupidy came almost always from the leadership, rarely from the average attender. It also doesn’t help that we live in a town where for most people being a Christian is inextricably bound up with ultra-right-wing politics.

  122. “Eagle: Have you seen an episode of GCB yet? It stars Kristen Chenoweth (of Broadway fame) as a good Christian Dallasite in which good Christian is an oxymoron.I read about it in Christianity Today and let me tell you, it sure strikes at the heart of certain circles.I can’t tell you what B stands for because this is a good Christian blog (which is also GCB) but google GCB.”

    In the first episode, there is a Church of Christ minister who plays an extra in the first scene. Here’s an article about his experience:

    http://www.reporternews.com/news/2012/mar/02/leaping-lizards-abilene-minister-had-no-idea-he/

  123. Elastigirl -

    I really am sorry that the church you were part of wasn’t working well and you were wounded as a result. I just hope most of us can separate what Christ has done on our behalf from the sinful men (who act as if they are not) who are leading churches as one (or a few) man shows. It just isn’t what Jesus and the other Apostles promoted in the NT.

    I am sad to report that many of the Calvanista (SGM for example) started out IN the shepherding movement then moved to a more reformed theology. So this group, in particular, is like a double whammy — authoritarian combined with total depravity — ugh! It works really well to keep peope controlled; you’re totally depraved so you OBVIOUSlLY need the pastor to have authority over you and stand in the stead of God to help you see your sin. We also see other groups like the SBC, as noted above by someone, and MH/Acts 29 churches becoming more authoritarian, and let’s not forget Piper and his “masculine” gospel.

  124. Eagle
    Mahaney teaches total depravity because he wants to be in with the Reformed crowd from whom he derives personal recognition, speaking engagements and book deals. Also, they protect their own so he gets to move to Louisville and continues to be adored by Calvinistas. Mahaney is a trend jumper and crushes anyone who gets in his way. That is the explanation of Tomczak who was not supportive of Calvinista techology.

  125. Tina
    I was hesitant about mentioning the show but CT did a good story on it. Frankly, I saw some of that stuff myself. They are playing off the community of Highland Park.

  126. Eagle -

    Don’t forget that leaders are merely men and will mess up like the rest of us. Congregations need to stop looking at their leaders as some God-appointed priest whose purpose is to fix me, or help fix me. People tend to rely on the leaders, and they take on the responsibility, of sanctifying us instead of ALL of us together maturing into the Spotless Bride of Christ by the help and leading of the Holy Spirit (this is Jesus’ plan).

    God does not hate man. Why would he become a man in the flesh and die on a cross if he hated us so much? Jesus came to show us what God is like, “When you see me you have seen the Father.” Look at what Jesus did during his lifetime if you want a picture of God. Don’t look at celeb pastors. Be a Berean :)

  127. John
    The church has made a serious mistake in tying conservative politics to the faith.I heard a commentator last night saying that Gingrich is supported by evangelicals. How does one define an evangelical? Osteen? Driscoll? Young? Robertson?There is growing evidence that such affiliations are one reason that people leave the church. Do you know how many churches have candidates come to the church, bring them in the pulpit and then lay hands on them and pray for them?

    John, you represent a growing group of people that we at TWW suspected was alive and well, tired of business as usual and still faithful. So many of these megas, such as Driscoll, claim to want to reach out to the unsaved. In the meantime they are running off the faithful. If this trend continues, the nones will be the predominate “religious” group in the US.I now have a hard time answering “what religious denomination?” Although I currently attend a Bible church, I don’t want to answer “evangelical” because churches like Mars Hill and Joel Osteen’s church would consider themselves as such. I guess I am generic Protestant and am leaning towards “none.”

  128. Linda
    What a fascinating story. So much so that I am considering doing a post on “testimonies of the nones.” I think we have hit on underreported phenomena. Although I did join my current church a few years back, both my husband and i will not officially “join” another church should we switch, at least for years (I’ll be dead by that time anyway:)) Good night. A heretic for asking questions about church polity. I am so sorry.

  129. Dee,

    From what I can gather about these “New American Anglicans”, for the most part they might as well be baptists or non-denoms (you can get the boy out of the SBC but’s it sure is another thing to get the SBC out of the boy). Heck, I’ve even seen one using Beth Moore bible studies in their ladies’ groups (not there is anything wrong with that). It wouldn’t surprise me if a number of the newer parish priests attended SBC seminaries. Most, not all of the new Anglican churches, left the ECUSA as a result of the sex and women-in-the-priesthood wars. My guess is they are discovering that they have exchanged one set of touchy issues for a whole new set.

    Best wishes in your search for a church. You might try visiting some Episcopal churches in the triangle.

    And God bless you and Deb in your work here.

  130. Clay wrote

    My guess is they are discovering that they have exchanged one set of touchy issues for a whole new set.

    I tend to agree and at this point would rather go to a church that’s part of TEC. (Being Lutheran with Anglican sympathies, though *not* allied with the ideas of Peter Akinola and others, though at one time, I agreed with them…)

  131. I’ve been wondering about the feasibility of trying a house church model in our situation – bringing the church to the boy with autism, rather than taking the boy with autism to the church. It scares the pants off me, frankly. Intimacy, accountability, and a commitment to hospitality on that level makes me hyperventilate. So. I may need to pray about that. Ha!

    Anyhow. The point of this comment is that, as I looked around for books on house church, I found this:

    Dee, you said, “I now have a hard time answering ‘what religious denomination?’ ”

    Tell you what my wife and I did. We stole (or as we used to say back in our hippie days, “liberated” *G*) the term “Christ follower” from a writer friend of mine, Mike Duran. I don’t know if Mike coined it himself, but we like it. A lot.

  132. René,

    I have never heard of the book you cited, but I’d love to read it! It came out in 2005, and here is the book’s description over at Amazon:

    “Many Christians believe that male dominance is dictated by the Bible. In his provocative new book, Del Birkey challenges this oft-held assumption, critiquing the debilitating battle between Scripture and tradition. Patriarchy is the inevitable theological result of the biblical Fall, Birkey argues, leading to devaluation of and violence against women worldwide. As a fallen system, patriarchy cannot be a legitimate component of biblical Christianity. Filled with compelling historical and scriptural evidence, The Fall of Patriarchy is a must-read for everyone who has decried the scandal of patriarchal power in Christian ministry today.”

  133. John R.

    I love your suggestion “Christ follower”. As a matter of fact, when I signed up for Facebook (long before we started blogging) I put my religion as “Follower of Jesus Christ”. Glad we’re on the same page!

  134. Dee–thanks!

    The sad thing is that there are so many of us “nones”!

    The good thing for me was that it forced me to really go deeper in studying Scripture and theology and church practice.

    I now serve in another denomination as Bible teacher and love it.

    I have friends still in the local church where I was wounded–and sadly see them still being wounded.

    I have some friends who left it when the pastor ordered them to cut off contact with their gay son, dying of aids, unless he repented. They chose to leave that church, but are fearful of trying again in another church. They still love and serve the Lord outside the church walls. More “nones”.

    Here’s the good thing: as a “none” I am so free to share Jesus with my neighbors. They don’t see me as trying to “bag” them for the local church so they are very open to learning of Christ.

  135. Dee — you said,

    “The church has made a serious mistake in tying conservative politics to the faith. I heard a commentator last night saying that Gingrich is supported by evangelicals. How does one define an evangelical?”

    I’ll take a stab at it.

    Evangelical: (1) Mean-spirited (either masked with a kind look and a noble far away look in the eyes, or totally unmasked) towards anyone and anything that doesn’t fit the assumed mold; (2) political power; (3) a member of an organization who willingly forsakes critical thinking and believes what the organization tells them to believe; (4) pertaining to an organization and its members whose leaders believe they are entitled to all the donations that were as well as those that weren’t, and who believe it is not morally wrong for others to pay their share of the tax burden, all because they simply exist.

    For all these reasons and more, I will never consider myself or refer to myself as evangelical, or christian for that matter. I’ve already seen how I lose my credibility with other people as a decent and fair human being by referring to myself as such.

    Incredibily ridiculous.

  136. elastigirl – amen to everything in your most recent post, though I do refer to myself as “Christian.” (Not as “*a* Christian,” though, because of its use in evangelical/charismatic church lingo and the implications thereof.)

  137. Eagle,

    I gotta agree with Dee on the goddess who inhabits the temple of reason. Let me be blunt. The goddess is every bit as brutal and cruel as the worst of the Church despots in history. Jefferson, Madison, Adams & Franklin all recognized this long ago when they proposed he American experiment.

    Let me be even blunter still, the luminaries who’ll grace the event you linked to above have nowhere near the intellectual moxie those guys did (the founders).

  138. elastigirl,

    Relative to his bid for the oval office, Gingrich reminds me of an old tenured perv trying trying to get into a nubile undergrad’s thong. He knows that her complaints to the administration will come to naught (one of the perks of tenure), and that she’s really just playing hard to get (in his mind).

  139. “linda
    Cut off contact with a dying son? Oh good night. Cruelty, absolute, utter cruelty.”

    Amen. This is SO in contrast with a couple I heard about who have a gay son. They have done everything possible to keep communication lines open with him . . . to the point of going to gay bars with him.

    Would I do that? I don’t know. But I can’t fault them for trying the best they know how to show God’s love to him.

  140. Eagle: it kind of bugs me that the organizers of that rally think they are all about “reason.”

    I personally believe that faith and reason can happily coexist (within the same person, no less), but I guess I’m in the minority there? (With the way things are now; it wasn’t always so…)

  141. Tina
    The older I get, the more I seem to mellow. Jesus cared enough about us to trade His heavenly existence to live amongst us. He who knew no sin, lived among sin and subsequent pain to reach to us. He hung around prostitutes and tax collectors and went to dinner with them. He even hung around a Samaritan woman, the dregs of society according to the self-righteous Pharisees.I think I would chase my kid to the ends of the earth so that he knew I loved him. I would even expose myself to highly uncomfortable situations. In the end, it is his choice but I wouldn’t let him leave this planet until he knew how much I cared.

    I wonder if that pastor knew how much Jesus had to put up with by coming for likes of him? Does he think Jesus would have been glad to hang around him? Hmmm.. I better quit. I am on a rant.

  142. numo,

    No way are you a minority of one here at TWW. My beliefs and mores are about as contradictory as one can get. I am an equal opportunity offender. I tend to alienate both evangelicals & secular trend followers.

  143. Muff
    Neither you or Numo have ever alienated me. In fact, I enjoy reading both of your comments.

  144. Dee,

    You have steel in your spine. I like that. I think you would be just like Ashley Judd (upcoming tv show) if it came down to protecting your children. There is no ferocity equal to that of a mother defending her young.

  145. Dee, I found your article and your blog as a result of a search for info on Time magazine’s “Nones” article, which I read about at the end of an article on Steve Simms’ blog entitled “Meeting God’s Gathering (Ekklesia) Instead of Religion’s Church.” Thanks for writing this. The number of believers leaving the church continues to grow every year! Your “E Church” sounds very interesting. I plan to check it out along with some of your other articles. You may want to check out the website of an organization that was established specifically for believers who have left the church. The name of the organization is The Association of Born-again Church Dropouts (The ABCD), and its website is http://www.bornagainchurchdropouts.org.

  146. Tom
    How great is this? I had no idea such an group existed! I hope you see this comment. i will send it via your email as well. i would love for you to do a post for us. I know many of our readers would love to hear about your group. Thank you so much for commenting.

  147. “Relative to his bid for the oval office, Gingrich reminds me of an old tenured perv trying trying to get into a nubile undergrad’s thong. He knows that her complaints to the administration will come to naught (one of the perks of tenure), and that she’s really just playing hard to get (in his mind).”

    LOL! So true. He is the conservative Bill Clinton.

  148. Dee,
    Thanks for responding to my comment. I didn’t receive any emails from you, so I re-checked and discovered that I accidentally gave you the wrong email address. Sorry about that! Perhaps we should correspond further via email. The ABCD’s website has only been online since last summer. That may be why you haven’t heard about it yet. I look forward to hearing from you and talking further.

  149. Let me make this clear to a guys like Jimmy,

    The Church is not a building! It is not a 501 3 C Non Profit Corporation! It is not an organization! It is not a denomination! The Church is the people! Ekkelsia “called out ones”. We are the temple of God, not some pile of sticks on top a pile of dirt.

  150. I am so glad to have found this. My spirit is refreshed to learn that my thoughts are shared and I am not condemned by not attending regular “church services”.

  151. Bridget2,

    HowDee,

    ” (SGM for example) started out IN the shepherding movement then moved to a more reformed theology. So this group, in particular, is like a double whammy — authoritarian combined with total depravity — ugh! It works really well to keep peope controlled; you’re totally depraved so you OBVIOUSlLY need the pastor to have authority over you and stand in the stead of God to help you see your sin.”

    …Remembering my history, SGM started out as a weekly 2 hour charismatic worship and teaching time (TAG). There were no shepherds. There were no wolves. There was no known abuse by any in leadership at that time (early 70′). This was the top of the Jesus movement/catholic renewal. The secret was the yielding to the Holy Spirit, and the scriptures, in all that was done. Apparently, the problems did not surface until GOB/PDI. aka -the fellowship of believers at TAG (Take And Give) became a ‘church’ (Gathering Of Believers), then the shepherding happened…then PDI/SGM, when the Holy Spirit was shown the door, (and ‘they’ interpreted scripture for the people) and the plaze gotz real dark…

    hmmm…

    …do you see a pattern here?

    Sopy ;~)

  152. “A Positive Experience”

    HowDee YaAll,

    “…this generation may be known not for their evangelistic efforts but for spawning the largest group of unaffiliated people in history.” -Dee

    “…it still saddens me that for 16 million people, a physical weekly gathering is not an option.” -Mark

    “If you find that the church’s problems are causing you to feel differently about your christian faith (shakin’ your faith?) – your walk with Jesus – then that’s quite likely a sign that you have confused the real gospel (the good news of what Jesus has done for us) with something else (the role that your church (or past church) play(s) in your life as a christian.” -Kris, SGMsurvivors

       As new christian, I remember being invited  into a small group of christians who met on Saturday nite for bible study, prayer, and fellowship, young folk like myself, by a co-worker who shared Christ with me during our off-hours. He later introduced me to Campus Crusade & the Navigator’s books & materials. He also introduced me to the NASB, NIV, Weust, Phillips, the Greek & Hebrew text, and the use of a concordance, which later lead to countless translations and a few thousand volumes in Logos.  I had a positive experience. I was invited to a positive bible believing church, encouraged to pray daily, ( shown how) and plenty of personal bible study (shown how), shown the importance of having the scriptures as a mental ready reference, ‘soze to walk and share ma faith’. (shown how)  Succinctly,  I was taught to “think”; and as Wm. Tyndale  would have wanted fer dis here ‘plowboy’: to read the scriptures for himself. Bravo, Mr. Tyndale!

      Initially for “getting into the Bible” we used the Navigator’s Designed for Discipleship DFD study books. I was encouraged to commit to memory large portions of scripture beyond the Navigator’s “Topical Memory System”. I had great success. The scripture committed to memory, has come in very handy over the years. Never was there any pressure placed on me. If I could not complete the material, we simply went over it next time we met. Being real was more important to this brother! This went on for some time.  What a blessing this time and opportunity was for my life! Christ was real, up-front, and personal. For me, Christ still is today. If the Apostle Paul’s goal was to be met…(Finish the race!) I would say I was armor plated by the effort. I have seen many christians I know bite the dust, or throw in the towel, but with a strong foundation in the fundamentals of the christian faith, the knowledge of the scriptures, and the means and the tools to use them given to me, I just seem to have taken a lickin’ but keeps on a’ tickin’…the seed fallin’ on good soil.

    The rest is -well…, a crowbar would do you no good…

    YaHoooo!

    Jesus is just stuck with me, plain n’ simple! I think he is happy, I know I certainly am!

    Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world!

    hahahahahahaha

    Sopy ;~)
    ___
    Bonus: Faith + Hope + Love. –”You gave me hope, you made me whole, at the cross you took my place, you showed me grace at the cross where you died for me: And his glory appears like the light from the sun, age to age, He shines  –look to the skies, hear the angels cry, singing: Holy Is The Lord!”
    Hillsong United – “Age to Age” (His Glory Appears)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAian48rpRA&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  153. I actually read this article in a doctor’s office today and it made me feel better about myself. I fell out with organized religion years ago and felt like an outcast ever since. I did not like what was presented to me back then. Thomas Paine once wrote he was against all tyranny, whether it was the King of England or even the Church. We’ve been enslaved for centuries. I no longer want to be a slave. I’m proud to not be affiliated with any one church.

  154. Trent Storm,

    Thanks for letting us know that our post on The Nones helped you. Unless things change drastically, the Nones tribe will increase substantially. Christians are not going to put up with the nonsense we cover here. Liberty, not legalism!

  155. Pingback: Is the Church Really to Blame for the “Nones”? UNITED STATES