This fall I was at a pastor's retreat where the speaker was discussing the nature of the church. He opened his series of talks telling a story about a friend and fellow church-goer. In a recent conversation, his friend who was fed up with the church said, "I'm not a none, I haven't gone, but I'm done."
A little context to what he was saying might help.
"I'm not a none." The term "none" refers to someone who has no religious affiliation. This is an ever-increasing category amongst millennials. Essentially, his friend was saying that he wasn't giving up on his faith in Jesus.
"I haven't gone." I haven't left the church, at least not yet. Given the last part of the quote, it sounds like he might already have one foot out the door.
"I'm done." I'm done with the church. He had become so frustrated and fed up with the church he could see no reason to stay engaged.
Over the last decade or so, a new category of Christians has emerged -- those who haven't ditched their faith in Jesus, but have ditched the connection to a local church.
As a pastor, I'm sympathetic to those in this situation. I have seen up close and personal my fair share of dysfunction in the church. I fully understand the reasons why people say they are "done" with the local church. However, the longer I'm a pastor, the more and more my love for the church grows. And at the same time, my conviction of the role of the local church in the life of a Christian grows deeper and deeper.
With the start of a new year, we typically set resolutions, evaluate our priorities, desire to be more disciplined, and make lifestyle changes in hopes of becoming a better version of ourselves. When it comes to doing a similar thing for our spiritual lives, we have to evaluate our involvement in a spiritual community. And while I'm sympathetic to the reason people might give up on the church, I also know that God is very much at work in and through the local church. And by walking away, you aren't giving God the opportunity to redeem and restore the role of the church in your life. The reason I challenge people to reconsider the place of the church in their life is because I have seen God do just that.
At our church in this past year alone, we have seen numerous people who have been away from church for a while, or who have been carrying baggage from a different church visit our church and say, "This is exactly what I've needed or been missing."
(I don't mean to imply that we have it all figured out or don't have our own set of issues, we do. However, we are working really hard to make the church a hospital and home, a place where broken people can belong.)
Equally necessary to reengaging with the church if you've been away for a while, is getting involved if you've been sitting on the sidelines. Church was never meant to be a spectator sport. The New Testament assumption isn't that you attend church, but that you are significantly involved in the life of the church.
So as we start 2018, I'm wondering how God is leading you? I'm wondering whether or not He's prompting you to engage in spiritual community and not journey through life alone? I'm wondering whether you’re open to His leading or are resisting it? If you have reason to be fed up with the church, I'm also wondering if God might be saying, “Give it another shot. You never know what you might find."
Happy 2018! I hope you see tremendous spiritual growth this year.