I have contemplated, prayed, meditated over this part of my journey for several years now. I read and studied many articles, and books, some of which are: Churchless – George Barna Group, the Rise of the Nones – James Emery White, Church Refugees – Josh Packard, Exodus of the Religious Dones – Josh Packard.
I have been in deep intercession for these people, because for all tense and purposes I have found my self in this place. While I believe people who served faithfully, contributed their time, talent and resource to something that did not end they way they dreamed. So where do they go from here? What do they do with all of their spiritual experience and pursuits. Are we supposed to say well that was good while it lasted? Are we going to just ignore it like it never happened? Was is it just a bad dream?
Please understand at the outset I am NOT talking about a church, or any church in particular, but rather the church in general. The church I go to has been a huge blessing to me, the people are amazing, and the Bishop is a definite father of the faith of which I wouldn’t still be here without them.
I loved and served the church my whole life. I so desire that it succeed it’s mission to build a spiritual community for the healing of our nation. These letters are about the DONES and their relationships to and through the churches. I can’t shake my devotion and love for the church. Everyone around me is checking out, or becoming a consumer of Christianity but I still remain hopeful that she will play a major role in the end of time. My desire and hope is that we somehow gather the DONES and love them back to life by hearing their story! These letters are years and years in the making, I needed a platform to tell my story. It’s not to offend anyone, but rather to inform everyone of what I am seeing and sensing. I met with my Bishop a few months ago, and I asked him if the current consumerism of the church was going to change, and he told me definitely it was going to swing back to more spirituality, I of course was thrilled to hear.
I have come to find out that you can outgrow the modern church, when you get to that place to where you want to explore the boundaries of spirituality, there is no longer a use for you. No matter what you have contributed, you must stay within the confines of the established purpose. If you try to color outside of the lines of the establishment, you will be shunned and avoided. The church in America has always been a “What have you done for me lately?” kind of entity. What you accomplished in your past or for the organization if of no consequence or merit.
Building a long term legacy and retirement plan of spiritual things will be difficult in the modern church. I mean you walk into a church today as a new person, you really never get a glimpse of those who sacrificed yesterday for what you freely enjoy today. You might be recognized in some religious way whether through some token appreciation day, or your photo might be on a wall: but your true story will never be heard.
That’s a little of what is missing in the modern church, the sense of saintly sacrifice and history. The modern church is so edgy and relevant, there seems to be no room for ancient artifacts and history. It seems relevance has taken precedence over reverence. It’s become fresh paint, catchy slogans, and lighting, cool programs and great sound. But knowing how to have a cool service and knowing how to experience the living God in a deep way are not always the same. And to that end I begin this portion of the Dones Letters with this, ‘Thank you for your Sacrifice!’
Being an older person in the church and faithfully serving and giving my life, my hopes, and dreams, my resources, and all I have for 35 years; I feel sometimes like it must have felt when the Vietnam Veterans came home. There was no parade, no monument, no recognition of service for years and years. It is that feeling of being used, neglected and forgotten that I speak to right now.
You are the ones I have been intercession over. You are the ones that God is seeking. Those that have become an invisible reality to the church. Let me please interject; I know what it means to give all to a church and or spiritual group and come up empty. The sting of that reality happens when you decide to leave and no one calls or reaches out! The reality when people actually want you to go! In the Church Refugees book, every single person they interviewed were people that paid their tithes, served, ministry committees etc. But when they finally left the church not one single person was called. Not one single person….saying it again so you can grasp that.
Let me please interject here two thoughts:
1. The church is super great at the front door; greeting, welcoming you, embracing you into the fold and eventually placing you within the organization. But what it desperately lacks is the humility and grace to restore and reach out to those broken or struggling within the system. They 100% will embrace the sinner or the ones who are brand new. They 100% are not equipped to the deal with flawed saints.
Galatians 6:1 “If you see a brother fall into something, you which are spiritual RESTORE such a one in the spirit of meekness and humility.”
Most of the progressive modern churches have data and numbers on visitors, and transitioning visitors into members, members into servants, and servants into leadership etc. But very few keep data on the back door. They may know who has left the church, but they most likely do not know the WHY they left, therefore restoration is beyond them. I somehow feel in a strange prophetic way that those who learn from the back door will be able to transition into tomorrow.
You know the back door will be the most important door in the future. Because according to George Barna on the research of the millennials, is that only 3 of 10 will continue in the modern church system the way it is currently constructed. Meaning that only 30% of the people ages 22-37 will be in the church functioning in the next generation.
However the resources of the Dones that go out the backdoor far exceed the 70% that the church of tomorrow will miss out on. I am convinced that if the Dones had another level, or different version of church and community; the longevity of the church would be secured forever. They don’t NOT LOVE GOD! they just can’t do the form of church that it currently is in, consumerism and ministry mindedness has gotten in the way of just doing life together.
2. The DONES are extremely hard to love and reach out to! I sat down 4 years ago and wrote down the DONES that I personally know and have been in spiritual relationship with. In about 2 minutes I wrote down 55 names! These are names that shook the world at one time, not going to church, not interested, or mad about it. Moved on!
What I know about the DONES is they still have that passion for the things of God! They still believe, they miss worship, and they desperately miss the community life in it’s purest form. But I’ll say it again for those in the back can here; ‘DONES are hard to LOVE!’
So for the church to reach back out to you and hear you, it’s going to take a miracle. That miracle I am asking for is just an opportunity to hear you. There are some DONES on my list that I pray over all the time, but I can’t even get a phone call back, you reach out to them and they just can not give you any time. I see you as hurt, not finished, and wanting something but not able to trust again, and I totally get it. But I come unarmed. I have no agenda but to love and know you, to hear your story. I mean spiritual things are so far off their list. It’s frustrating, so don’t blame the church for that!
You’ve either built a barrier against spirituality in all forms, or you have moved onto something that replaces your divine community.
I feel in my heart of hearts that God isn’t through with us. I believe there is another level of community and spirituality that we can pursue together without the organized part of american church life. But I sit here in my sacred space praying for you and believing God to show me the next step.
Let me close this portion of part one of the letters to the DONES with this thought:
When you run to insulation against the abrasive judgmentalism of the the church, you run the risk of living in isolation. Whether you run from the judgemental opinions or even being totally ignored like you do not even exist you are in isolation. Isolation is a very hard place to recover from. Because you live in a forgotten place, it’s safe, but there is no life there it’s a spiritual wasteland. No exchange of spiritual energy from others.
Most times I feel like Clark Kent. I have my own sign business of which I am so grateful for, but 98% of the people that I deal with have no idea whatsoever that I am SUPERMAN! on the inside. I have no expression or group that helps me see the real me about me on a daily basis. I have become a mere mortal, along with the trappings of that boring life. I mean used to the deaf hear, blind see, and hearts are made new again! But those days seem far a few in between. It’s an unbelievably lonely and painful place. But I still have my suit! I’m ready to break it out!
I’m working through the years and years of spiritual abuse and pain from the church, but I still believe in God and fundamentally in the true church. She is my mother, the one that borned me. She gave me space to learn and grow, she fed me, she clothed me, she brought me to the Kingdom.
I am hoping some people that read these letters will feel the same way too, and we can begin to rebuild and discover what is our spiritual next. If not I will live within my own spirit and memorialize yesterday to the next generation. Work my business, worship in my own sacred space until my time of exit comes, I will yet praise him no matter who it irritates….