This article about “unchurching” furthers the discussion from our article “The 12 Reasons Why “Mature” Christians No Longer Go To Church”. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you see if you identify with any of the reasons why so many believers in the West are unchurching… why so many struggle to fit in a traditional, institution church setting.
Many of those who are “unchurching” state the contemporary, institutional church is a man-made construct and therefore is irrelevant. There are other reasons these believers give for unchurching, but if you will permit me, I want to tackle the issue of why some believers say they no longer need a traditional church after their formative years. Let’s look at the beginning phase of our spiritual journey to see how it might affect our perception of a church community today.
Your First Family-Church Model – Winning People to Christ.
This is like our biological family. A man and a woman (pastor and board) enter a marriage covenant (church bylaws) so they can bring children (new believers) into the world, in a safe, structured environment. The father and mother are the preeminent authority in the house (church). They are responsible to protect, provide, and train their children for least 18 years. When we are children (immature believers) we are completely dependent on the adults who provide us with a house, a bed, a bathroom, cloths, food, water, electricity etc. Since these new believers are vulnerable to deception and abuse, it is important that they submit to their parent’s loving authority. Accountability to this authority is needed during their formative years. Here are some things they will experience in this environment:
- Regular Meals and Shelter.
- Authority and Order.
- Right and Wrong.
- Discipline and Punishment.
- Protection (covering) until They are Adults.
- Their First Community Culture.
- Their First House.
When people become part of an existing family (church) as adults (mature believers) the dynamics are much different. Accommodating these “adopted grown-up believers” can sometimes be a wearisome challenge for leadership.
For the millions of believers who are “unchurching”, they often express the same kind of disillusionments and disagreements that an emerging young adult experiences with their parents and siblings at home.
Is This About Cross-Less Christians?
Critics of “unchurching believers” say those leaving church think they are too mature to stay home, but are actually too immature to lay their lives down to help around the house or start their own family. Could these “dones” be unhappy because they feel it is all about them? Are their criticisms simply a case of “Moses and Cross-less Believers”? I once heard of a survey of 1000 pastors and churches that asked; “What is the purpose of the church”? 91% of the pastors stated; “the purpose of the church was to win the lost”. Not surprisingly, 89% of the people in those congregations said, “the purpose of the church was to meet the needs of me and my family”. As you can see, leadership and their congregations often don’t see eye to eye. One leader responded to criticisms of his church by saying; “We may be doing Church wrong, but I think God likes the way we are doing it wrong better than the way you are not doing it all”
Is this a case of believers who carry a cross and follow Jesus and those who don’t? In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus said we each need to deny ourselves, take up “our” cross and follow Him.
Maybe It’s Not About Carry A Cross, But About Gifting
Some believer’s dissatisfaction with church might be connected to the fact that they no longer appreciate the dominate gifting of (dad) the lead minister. For example; if you were raised by an evangelistic pastor, you may now be drawn to a teaching pastor, or vice versa. If we reluctantly stay at home, conflict may arise as we may unknowingly try to create our leader according to our preferences. This is when we attempt to “Create Our Leaders in Our Image”.
Just what is the dominate gifting of the leaders at your church? According to Acts 2:42-47, there are 5 purposes of the Church. Rick Warren wrote about the five purposes of a church in “The Purpose Driven Church”. Your leader and your church may have one of those purposes driving their identity and mission. Some large churches try to be and do all five.
I will leave you with this diagram to look over and to ponder; Is there one aspect of the 5 purposes of the Church that has influenced your decision to stay or leave? Is the group you are a part of now doing one or more of these purposes? Does one of these purposes reignite your passion for the ministry of Jesus?