Today’s blog post is inspired by Done with Church, but Not with God | Holy Soup.
Last week I posted a half-written-by-me/half curated post about the buzz surrounding the done with church movement — if it can be called a “movement”. I had a hunch it might get a few more hits than my normal posts. But I have honestly been quite surprised by how much traffic that one post has generated to my blog in the last several days.
In fact, it has helped rejuvenate an archived episode of the Fire On Your Head podcast I did with Stephen Crosby last year on whether church attendance is necessary for the Christian walk. It has already proven to be my second-most listened-to or downloaded episode of the podcast ever.
But one thing that didn’t surprise me at all, and in fact is something I expected, was the negative comments it has received on social media. In fact, I still wonder if some people had even read the article before commenting on it. It has also been shared and re-shared and ‘amened’ by people who loved it.
But it definitely has struck a nerve on both ends of the spectrum.
I mentioned and linked to a post by Thom Shultz in passing in the content of last week’s blog, but just today I saw he has posted a review on his site for the upcoming book Church Refugees by sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope.
I plan on reading it when it comes out, but to my pleasant surprise Shultz zeroed in on a few things that not only I’ve been saying on the blog, but I have also been accused of both indirectly and personally by people I’ve never met.
Ah, the benefits of social media. Let me count the ways…
In the review for this book, Shultz writes
That’s what’s interesting about the Dones. They’re not running away from God. Many of them say they’re now running better toward God. So, why is that? What is driving them away from the institutional church? The sociologists discovered several recurring themes after interviewing the Dones.
The research reveals that the Dones craved the sense of community that a congregation could provide. But instead of community they found judgment. The authors describe Elizabeth who longed for community. But she said, “Today things are so divided and judgmental, especially around superficial issues, that I can’t go into a church and pretend anymore to be someone I’m not.”
The problem with these statements, is like I said in the other post and have found myself repeating over and over is that NOT all those who are “done” are offended or hurt by the church and leaving it in reaction to some bad experience. To say otherwise is just a generalized over-simplification on the part of those who don’t bother to find out why people become “dones” in the first place.
He also goes on to say,
Some church people have judged the Dones as guilty of “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” as mentioned in Hebrews 10:25. But many Dones say they’re not forsaking assembling. They’re just not assembling in that place with the steeple on top. They’re getting together organically with others to share their faith journey. One described a weekly mealtime with fellow believers: “A bunch of people coming together around a common meal to talk about life. It’s nothing like church. We all talk, and we all listen.”
Boy, how true this is!
True Fellowship is Not Mere Attendance of a Weekly Event
I don’t normally do this for blog posts, but if you can bear with me, I’m going to post some comments I’ve seen on Facebook in the last few days of people falling into this exact trap of assuming I must be hurt and that’s my motive for not going to church. Never mind that I have not really even become a “done”, but I value organic community, and fell into this lifestyle out of necessity, not out of reaction to something I did or didn’t like.
Beneath the quotes I’ll either copy and paste the response (but in a bloggified way) or write my own response here if I didn’t already on Facebook or a comment wasn’t exactly addressed to me personally but I want to put it below.
I prefer channeling my energy into writing on my blog instead of getting into debates on the internet, so here it goes:
Regarding the post, one Facebook commenter said,
“The “done movement” seems to be carnal. Dead to self seems to be not a priority.
It’s true that baby Christians should be cautious about their surroundings. The mature Christian isn’t effected by the environment, a mature Christian Loves those in need of a Shepherd.
Being light in darkness means exactly what it says. It doesn’t say be a light in total pitch black, black hole darkness.”
Do you notice that implicit in such a comment is that a so called “MATURE” Christian will never leave but loves those in need of a Shepherd. But yet people who make remarks like this don’t seem to acknowledge this does not automatically preclude sitting in a pew once per week under a steeple. One can and should shepherd other weaker believers during the other 6 days of the week. Discipleship is not church attendance. And neither is discipleship the pastor’s job, but everybody’s job.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Discipleship is not merely church attendance.” quote=”Discipleship is not merely church attendance.” theme=”style6″]
“We don’t go to church to get entertained, and we go to church to give. Paul said to the Corinthians, if you’re hungry eat at home.
I guess you could say he was talking about food only. But then you’ll miss the larger picture.
Jesus said they’ll know you’re my disciples if you have love one for another. It’s hard to do that sitting in your briefs surfing the net looking for complex theological issues to discuss.”
Notice the language “go to church”, which betrays the idea that the Body of Christ followers themselves ARE the church, a building made without hands. Also notice the condescending remark that dones are just people who sit in their underwear having theological arguments on the internet. Do I jump in here and go on about what I’m doing in Peru and how we’ve been seeing our neighbors get saved?
For WAY more on that, I encourage you to check out a podcast from several months ago, The Holy Spirit Flows Through Intimacy and Community [Stream it right now in a new window. Download mp3] where I attempt to document a few key moments in the book of Acts where monumental things happened to and through Christ followers when they were NOT meeting the temple of their day, but often times in people’s homes. I mean come on, did you really think the Holy Ghost came down in the upper room of the temple?
The latter commenter continues,
The fruits of the spirit aren’t chastity, sobriety, piety, modesty, thrift, quietness, and suffering.
You can do all of those internally, and never ever impact another person’s life.
The only reason we’re not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, is to be an example of a body of really really different, radically different people, who found one thing in common and that’s lifting up the name of Jesus. People who reject the local church and somehow think they can justify it by being a part of the universal Church are delusional, selfish, and just plain don’t get it.
Again who said we’ve forsaken assembling together? We do, just not under a steeple. For example in my context, we eat together in Oikos. We spend time together. A lot of the people in our community are literally neighbors of ours, and many of us living in the same building. We do formal and informal things together.
Again, I’m using myself and our context as a point of reference, but if people would take a minute or two to visit other articles on our site or the ‘what we do in Peru’ tab, they’d know Lili and I are far from delusional and selfish. At least I believe so. People who think we’re selfish and delusional for not doing the system’s way of ‘church’ have no idea how much harder it is to do the kind of disciple making we’re doing in extremely close proximity.
The Church Is Not Building One Attends. It’s Something Believers ARE
Real discipleship is very inconvenient to the flesh. Church attendance is much easier. So please, don’t tell me it’s some kind of hang up or that I don’t like other people so I upped and left. Even though what we’re doing is rewarding, it’s also extremely difficult and I don’t imagine a pew warmer can really relate. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Not attending a once-a-week meeting does not mean one has removed themselves from the Body of Christ. Being a Christian is not church attendance. It’s relationship with Christ and community with other members of His body, which, one does not have just sitting in a pew once per week looking at the back of someone else’s head.
Like I quoted Dan in my original post, people just don’t make an effort to even find out WHY people tire of show. It’s a bait and switch to call “local church” the global Body and say if someone doesn’t attend a local church they are “extricating themselves” from the Body of Christ, which is something that can’t even be done.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”If the family is not a house, then neither is the church a building.” quote=”If the family is not a house, then neither is the church a building.” theme=”style2″]
“The way God has chosen that the fruits of the spirit be manifest in our lives is by rubbing up against people that (sic) require longsuffering, patience, mercy, temperance, Kindness, etc. These aren’t going to happen outside of the assembling of ourselves together.”
To this I say, again, we do this all the time down here in Peru, without attending a meeting once per week and looking at the back of someone else’s head while a professional worship band plays music and a professional expositor teaches the Bible. If this post is the first time you’ve ever read something on my blog or listened to my podcast, allow me to tell you I long for the ENTIRE Body of believers to be on fire, radical disciple-makers, and this by default goes against a lot of the spectator version of Christianity that takes place only once per week.
Not all who leave have been hurt
Nobody has actually hurt me as is believed of me quite often. I’ve been a missionary here in Peru for the last six years and the disciple-making movement I’m a part of for the last 4 just so happen to NOT meet in a service holding facility with a steeple on top because we’ve not had the resources to date to have our own building. I kinda discovered “house church” a little by accident, and instead of taking a passionate position “against” the local church, or “for” the house church movement, I feel like I have a perspective that can help bring clarity to discussions about this, because as is often the case, people assume if I’m doing what I’m doing the way I’m doing it, then I must be doing it out of reaction to or against something.
Far from it.
Since we don’t have our own building, we meet in our homes. I go into considerable detail in the podcast in the link with Stephen Crosby about HOW exactly we live life on life down here and make disciples who are making disciples.
I’ve actually never been more fruitful in my entire ministry as I am now that we’ve led about a dozen of our neighbours (as in the people who live on our street/block) to Christ in the last year and have been meeting in our homes and having regular Bible study and having times of 1 Corinthians 12-14 fellowship. It’s quite refreshing!
Some of us are just letting the love of Christ dictate the form or structure needed for discipleship, and as a result, a weekly show doesn’t seem to fit in the scheme of things.
In closing, I do agree with Shultz’ concluding statement,
There’s a lot more to learn. The organized church, if it wants to retain some of its prime people, would do well to listen to them.
That last statement is the key for me, because not only do people seem to not realize I myself am not a so-called “done”, I’m not afraid for their spiritual well-being just because they don’t attend a service holding facility’s weekly event.
And if anything, I’ve repeatedly seen people who aren’t willing to listen but are quick to voice their judgments.
Let’s have a conversation about this instead of a one-way monologue at each other. What do you say?