Who Are the Dones? (#484)

jpackardSome are calling it the rise of the dones, the number of people who have given up on the traditional congregation and are finding community and mission beyond it in more relational ways. Meet the man behind the research. In a recent trip to Colorado Wayne sat down with Dr. Josh Packard, a professor of sociology at the University of Northern Colorado and the author of Church Refugees will be released on June 1. In research about church behavior, he stumbled across a broad group of people who didn't leave the traditional congregation to abandon their faith but to live more freely in Jesus through being more proactive about building community and finding mission in the world. This is Part One of their conversation covering how they discovered what they are calling "The Dones" and that they are generally high-capacity Christ-followers who found the congregational model too stifling.

Podcast Links:
Josh Packard's Website
Pre-order Josh's book Church RefugeesDownload the first chapter of Church Refugees
Holy Soup Blog on The Rise of the DonesThe De-churching Project
Webinar About Josh's Book
Our previous podcast about Josh's work: Nones, Dones And a Wider Conversation
Our latest update from Kenya
Add your voice to our question/comment line: (805) 539-6980 or Skype us at "TheGodJourney"


  1. Thanks, Wayne for the opportunity to join you in this discussion. I’ll be following along with the comments here, and am looking forward to the conversation.

  2. Wayne and Josh – thank you for this conversation. We put ourselves in a vulnerable position when we speak openly about issues that are so personal to so many. I had a hard time staying with this podcast because it was focused so much on ways to continue manipulating people to stay with the IC, when so many have realized that Christ and Paul and maybe others clearly preached against man forming religions. Maybe this will be addressed in the next half of the podcast. I also am surprised that Josh said that none of those he interviewed had a problem with pastoral authority. That doesn’t seem possible in the world that I know.

    • Thanks, Richard. I was probably speaking a bit too broadly there (sometimes we sociologists have a tendency to do that). What I meant was that it was really rare for us to encounter Dones who were bitter or angry at the people in the institutions. Of course, there were some who were, but for the most part, our respondents had come down on deciding that institutional church is a flawed system full of well intentioned people. Also, frankly, many of our respondents were simply too busy being the church be angry at churches. When I say they were fine with pastoral authority, I mean they were fine with the concept of pastoral authority, not always the execution.

      Thanks for the comments and conversation.

      • Josh – I think that all who are of The Body of Christ will agree that “that institutional church is a flawed system full of well intentioned people.” I hesitate to comment on other concerns because they may be addressed in part 2.
        Your research and story are very interesting. Thank you for sharing and graciously receiving and responding to commentary.

  3. Very interesting podcast. I enjoyed it.

    When both of you were talking about high capacity people leaving. I am wondering if that is like me where I absolutely gave my all to be spiritual. Like I wasn’t just a bench sitter. I really wanted to live the life 110%. I made myself very vulnerable and I believe I put myself in danger by doing that. I bought into everything but there are so many problems with that.

    What pastors teach isn’t necessarily truth. It is their interpretation. Also they want people to be emotionally moved. What person in ministry wouldn’t want the person they are ministering to to be moved emotionally. Unfortunately it is on any other person’s place to be toying with peoples emotions. Even with good intentions. Plus there can be lots of unsafe people in a church and when you are making yourself vulnerable around them it can be dangerous.

    I feel like what the pastor teaches the church about God is extremely important because if he is teaching that God is angry or judgmental, etc.. then I think the people will be that way toward each other. I believe that people will treat others the way that they believe God treats them. So if I see a legalistic church, I will stay away from the people. I feel like I don’t want to be around Christians because of the judging and rejection they can dish out. Its all love and kisses and sunshine till you do something they think isn’t “christian”. Then you are treated with disdain and eventually rejection.

    That’s what I have found anyway. I know God is the most loving father there is. He is not like people who mess up and hurt each other. So when I see the bipolar teaching about God it is a huge beware sign because I know people are probably acting out of morality and not relationship regardless of what they speak with their mouths. The church I was in was so focused on the people loving God not talking much about God loving the people. Also they rarely talked about how out of the love God gives you could love others. It was a major moralistic performance trap. I did not see genuine love there.


    • Yes spot on Holly. Sad stuff and I am sorry you were hurt as many of us have been.

      Looking back at my old digs the people there are definitely bipolar! Mmmm could be the new hypocritical.

      I bless them anyhow on their journey, as I now see the cracks in their group getting wider and wider, the fruits shrivelling up and falling away. Let the light shine in…………

      • Hi Aunt M,

        I am moving across the country as soon as I sell my house. I am excited to start fresh in a new area and am happy that I won’t be going to a church building and should be able to just be around whoever.

        I found out my realtor who I really connected with is a christian. So now I am hoping this doesn’t turn bad. She mentioned her church to my husband when she showed him some homes and he told her we are not looking to attend a church.

        Part of me says yay she’s a christian, but a bigger part says oh no, she’s a christian… Let the games begin…

  4. Something was said in this podcast that reminded me of a quote I just heard yesterday: “People don’t care what you know unless they know that you care”. I really enjoyed the podcast. I know for me the basic reason I left the institution was because I didn’t meet with God in the meetings anymore. Oh I could in my mind by myself, but I could do that at home by myself. The sermons were boring and predicable ( especially the jokes), and seemed to be void of God. The worship still had life for a time, but even that seemed like the life of God was missing. I then started to find life after the meetings. I found “my church” after the meeting with my friends, my 2 or 3 gathered together. I started to notice more and more people just hanging out in the foyer talking and skipping the meetings all together. I think Holly has it right when she said it became a moralistic performance trap void of love. Maybe with “church” becoming more about business and performance communion with our Father is greatly hindered. It seems to me most of the institutions have meetings that are more apostolic meetings and not a church meetings. An apostolic meeting would be 1 person talking and all else listening to the learning. We all love this if it truly is a message from our heavenly Father sent by a person to his beloved. Those meetings are never boring, and always life giving, and all of them in the NT were for a limited period of time. When pastors & teachers have to keep a business running & conform to those guidelines for the business they loose their freedom in Christ. Could you imagine having a family gathering with Dad standing up in the living room giving a message once or twice a week, and the rest of the family just sitting on the couch quietly listening. Wouldn’t it be much more normal and family like if everyone in the family listening and talking to each other, and all have a chance to participate. I believe God does, at times of his choosing, reveal new beginnings to His church. When He does it seems obvious to some and a blessing to all, which will bring life, light & love in Jesus.

    • Thanks, Dana. I love that quote. I do care very deeply about this issue. I know that as academics we’re supposed to be white coat, lab scientists, but on this issue, Ashleigh and I both care very much. I don’t think that’s clouded our methodology or analysis, but we are both deeply concerned about the lives of people who are making some very tough choices.

  5. We’ll learn a lot int his conversation, most of all about our use of words like accountability. I don’t think Josh meant accountability in the same way we have used it in our discussions, or as was even used in the Moody podcast. One of the great ways to learn to communicate here is to understand the words as they are being used, not as we might want to react to our use of them in someone else’s mouth. Many of us have come from places that used this concept abusively, others from places that use them more generously and mutually. We’ll have more time to discuss some of this later. I find the research fascinating and Josh so engaging because it is an honest look at a phenomenon that is just now becoming known among some groups of people. A wider conversation that enhances our understanding of each other can only be more helpful at this point…

  6. Yes – yes – and yes to your question to Wayne at about 15:00. I did not leave due to burn out but because of the lack of maturity of the leadership team and their need to be “in control”.

    You may want to read the 12 Steps/Traditions of AA (and maybe even attend some open meetings!) – as Rachel Held Evans said recently – the best churches look more like recovery groups (my paraphrase) – and as Dallas Willard has said – “Any successful plan for spiritual formation, whether for the individual or group, will in fact be significantly similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous program.” Page 85, Renovation of the Heart

    I appreciate the institutional structure of AA because the structure is flat: principles over personalities, leadership is clearly earned (not based on degrees or a “calling” different from the folks in the pews – no pews! no pulpit!), one primary purpose, one primary calling, non-professional, principles over personalities, no opinion on outside issues (staying out of politics!), no requests for money!

    No doubt there are things wrong with 12 step meetings – but the structure is what I am after…in fact, I see more disciples of Christ at these meetings than at any church I have ever attended (btw – I go to open AA meetings not because I have an addiction to alcohol but because I love the fellowship!)

    I’ll stay tuned and listen in – and maybe read your book – however, your affiliation with the people at Group makes my yuk meter go off – I have read some of their stuff and watched their videos and in my opinion – it feels like another marketing ploy despite, what I believe to be, some good ideas and no doubt good intentions…

    • Joy, I’m so glad this resonated with you. I’m also glad you didn’t stick it out so long that you got burned out (or burned through). The AA metaphor is a good one. I think a lot of people would agree with those ideas. Finally, I hear your reservation about Group, but just for the sake of meeting each other halfway to have a conversation, you might consider that much of what is in this book really irritates their traditional audience. I think they took a pretty big risk publishing this when they could have easily played it safe and produced more VBS curriculum. Just some food for thought.

  7. I like what Wayne said right at the start: that often in conversation we find ourselves comparing the best of the way ‘we’ do it to the worst of the way ‘they’ do things. It got me thinking of some of the things I’m most grateful for from congregations I’ve been in.

    When you take away the building, the stage, the music, the programs: there are people who have been kind to me, opened their homes, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. They made me feel welcome – not like the official welcomers to make you feel a part of the group – but welcome in their own lives. It’s things like that, which you couldn’t ask of people, that have led me to affection and gratefulness to God.

    It got me thinking of the narrow gate… congregations of people in a service make for a pretty wide gate, but through the cracks, in between human plans and agendas, God has some really wonderful gifts… Earlier this year, a friend asked if I wanted to come along to an all-day Christian meeting on Saturday: during the lunch break I came across two people singing amazing grace with a guitar. I went over to them and joined in, and we sang some of our favorite worship songs together for a while – it was really good 🙂 … and then the ‘official’ worship started again, and we had to stop.

    Thinking back, there have been so many other times like that … moments which still mean something to me, which led to affection for people: they are clearly a gift from God, and never came about because of any person’s agenda.

    Ironically, things that happened through lots of moments like that, where God was clearly at work, made me disengaged from a lot of the other stuff… you look at where 95% of work is invested in churches to produce newsletters, programs, services, maintain church grounds, keep finances going … they’re supposed to be valuable things because we put all this work into making them happen… but it’s not those things which I’m grateful for or remember fondly in the long run.

  8. I’ve really appreciated this conversation [and looking forward to part 2!] and the one with Kathy Escobar. It is really valuable to listen to those who have the same heart to follow Jesus and to love one another but are standing in different places, and, like all of us are on different journeys – but with the same Father calling us on.
    For me it leaves me with a deeper challenge to hear, day by day, what Father is saying to me and watching for where He moves. It reduces the risk of being a “Follower” of any man made thing – including “TheGodJourney.com”

  9. I take note of how much talk there is about what IC’s do, or have done, what we should do, what we have been frustrated to be able to do inside of IC’s, what we become “free” to do outside of IC’s, and so on. Often when I hear about people getting serious about their commitment to Jesus, it has to do with doing more for him combined with varying forms of greater obedience.

    I’m not saying you aren’t saying this, but it seems to me people get frustrated with not experiencing/living the “relational knowing OF God”. Many of the leaders seem focused on propagating a system of belief inside of which there is a lot of things that need to be done, from behaviour modification to acts of service which are contained in executing programs and sustaining the machine of the system. (How many of these leaders know the knowing of God and how to lead others in their journey’s of the knowing of God and then sharing our journey’s with each other, and in the world. Non believers have journey’s as well albeit not yet “in Christ”, but certainly with him, as he is involved with all of his creation.

    Our souls are starved for deepening interactional developing relationship(s). Wayne did a good job of communicating what knowing of God looks like in his transition series, and to me it was obvious that even the language of relationship is not precise or programatic or formulaic. Learning communication in relationship evolves more than it is learned.

    Lastly, as relates to our lives outside the IC, we are so conditioned in systematic living that we have a lot of unlearning, or detoxing to do. One of the main things to be aware of, is the temptation, or default position of, assessing our current lives by the standards and cues the system employs to determine how our “relationship with God” is. So often we are focused on results more than process.

    All too often it is hard to see and hear God inside the fog and noise of religious activity.

    • Excellent points, Tom. Thanks for taking the time to write all of that out. This perspective really helps me as I try to communicate and converse about these issues.

  10. Leaving the IC was the best the thing that ever happened to my family. This is an area of discussion that should be explored- how does leaving the IC affect families? In my case, my husband/I and our relationship strengthened. We are better off! We have had more meaningful discussions with my kids.
    We had the time to spend with each other and grow. We are more willing to be vulnerable and learn from each other and our mistakes. This is what happened to us and for the better.

    The other aspect is, did leaving the IC decrease or increase your giving/serving others? For us, our giving increased because there was no one telling us what we should do with our money. It has become a time of trusting the Holy Spirit and letting Him guide us. This actually has been an exciting venture for it leaves our Father to know what and who needs His gifts/money.

    What about our relationships with Him and others around us when we leave the IC? I would have to say it becomes more personal and engaging with the FAther and others (both believers and unbelievers). He is then able to delight in us by showing us new things, meeting new people and giving us gifts, such as the fruit of the Spirit. It is an amazing thing to see what is in store for us each day. I am more aware on the areas of sin that keeps me from experiencing more of the freedom of Christ and I think this is where people don’t understand something- Christ is not about making one feel guilty and bad all the time. He delights in the freedom of the believer! He delights in growth; gives us water and sunshine to fully bloom into His love. He does not condemn or shame like the IC. He urges us on to be like Him but with love and compassion. Maybe many in the IC have an appearance of love,, but the institution stifles and keeps anything from growing fully. There will always have to be someone who is IN CHARGE and this leads to a hierarchy.

    I still have some lingering doubts of His grace to us and that was the reason I had to leave because I was being suck dry. I was afraid to lose it and walk away from my faith. I have no animosity towards those in church, but I do get angry at the pastors/elders who abuse and falsely teach that we are to be beholden to the IC. And I think it is ok to be angry- Christ was angry at the temple priests for this very reason. The problem is, is hate and that I do not have towards the church.

  11. Enjoyed this discussion and looking forward to the next! I did not leave the group we were with because of burn-out. I love believers! We left because, yes, we had learned some amazing skills and saw God work in us in our individual lives, but could not break through the glass ceiling that God was calling us to do. The sky is not the limit!
    In short, the worse feeling in the world is being ‘herded’.

  12. Enjoyed this podcast very much! Especially feeling like I can hear a heartbeat…one gaining strength and volume!! I like your hunger Josh! And I love being a part of this family…Looking forward to the rest of the conversation!

  13. Wow this was fun. This is exactly what happened to us. We were a bunch of people wandering around our local mega church wanting to do more and not finding an outlet for our passions.
    So we left and made up our own thing. LOL We are in our 7th year and can hardly bear the view it is so beyond us. The beauty, love and real Life that we have found outside of conformity structures continues to take our collective breath away. To become a grownup in the faith of Jesus has been painful and wonderful. When we were inside the structures we had no idea it could be like this. No idea. Surely true intimacy and Love are like that, beyond our abilities to “box” and “label”, too big to be contained. And we live in the buckle of the Bible Belt.

    • That’s an amazing story, Joni. We’re always trying to learn more about what people do when they leave the IC. I’d love to hear more about what the last 7 years have looked like.

      • Well Josh, if you limited me to one word for the last 7 years it would be Wild. Honestly wild and wooly. Initially as we fell out, one of us (5 women) was a christian counselor for the mega church.
        They decided to cut her position and have the pastors do all the counseling. Even though she was booked solid for months. So the need for what we now call Spiritual direction or soul care is great and we wanted to journey with people through their stuck spots. So we found a little office space to rent and bought books that were being helpful to us and applied for 501 3 C. In our first month of deciding to cliff jump I bought 5 copies of The Shack before Easter 2008. And we had 30 people sign up for a living room type gathering and discussion of The Shack. I think it was 6 months that we were this thing we thought we were. LOL Every time (and I am not exaggerating you can ask Wayne) we wanted a definition and structure it was like Father was saying no you don’t need it. So it shocks everyone honestly that people still give money and time to something that has no clear definition. No institutional structure other than an Administrator and a very part time office helper. Budget($50,000) has shifted because we have officially closed the bookstore in the space we rent (from a friend). The bookstore cost too much and no one wanted to volunteer to run it. We take in on average about $3000 a month to do what we want to do. Just this year the board voted to offer everything as gift. So we don’t charge now for anything that we put on ourselves. Now we have random soul care groups. Which I would describe as AA like but the focus is deep sharing about the spiritual journey. There are no rules except (these are from Parker Palmer) no fixing no saving no setting straight or advising each other. We us art as a tool for the journey, it has great healing capacity and it has become sweet community time. Are main down side ( if we have to judge things) is very few of our husbands or men come to our events. I know if we did weekly meals they would be there but we opted for art classes they are less fattening. LOL So God built this sand box which we come and play and invite our friends to come and play. People have come and played for awhile and moved on. Some have gone back to IC and fall out again. We are becoming known for our Love for one another and for anyone who walks through the door. So we are kind’ve a bridge place for seekers and done’s and burned out people. You can check out our web site (http://tbcconversations.org) and get a flavor of how we are but meeting us in person and having a conversation is the best way. We have no hierarchy but we have leaders. We are having so much fun with our freedom to be who Christ is forming that there is zero desire for our core to go back to IC. Honestly our time spent being Christ to the community is so fulfilling very few of us are looking for anything to replace IC. Many folks do both. They hang out with us and continue the IC thing on Sunday and beyond. New people come and find it all a bit weird but compelling. And then we all walk around and watch the gifts come forth. Its ridiculous honestly. None of us had ANY idea following Jesus could be like this. I am not saying its been without conflict, pain or messiness. But its been extremely authentic and a deep sense of belonging has emerged. It seems like we are Jesus with skin on. Who can ask for more than that.
        The other thing that I hear people say is ” I have grown more spiritually in the last 7 years than all the years spent in IC”. And have experienced more transformation in the last 7 years. As we have lived more loved our desire for others to experience living loved has expanded beyond our hearts capacity.That is not to say we want to run out into the street and start yelling at people to wake up you’ve fallen asleep. Its like we woke up, found the Grand Canyon in our back yards and we just love for people to come and see the canyon for free. It has grown in being invitational and relational first and foremost.
        Ok I should stop. This may be more than you wanted or not what you wanted at all.
        I love this conversation. Thank you for showing up and doing this podcast with my friend Wayne.

  14. What struck me here was the growth I heard in Wayne as a Podcast presenter and Christian brother. This is a subject you are passionate about and particularly well informed. And yet you listened so well! And you processed what you heard and asked thoughtful follow-up questions.You are laid back and in the moment. Gentle and loving which I think is more powerful in the end than being right.Open with what appears to me to be a genuine interest in what others have to say even if their views are not 100% yours. I don’t perceive your inner dialogue to be drowning out or hijacking the flow of conversation. The result is an intriguing, unfolding, relaxed conversation rather than a stilted, uncomfortable interview. This encourages me that theire is spiritual growth outside of religious organisations.

  15. So what does a ‘Done’ do? That’s the big question at first but as time goes on you realize that God is not ‘done’ with you. You begin to see that the long suits you had when you were an ‘innie’ still belong to you
    and you are freer to go where ever you are nudged in your heart to go. I think where people get stuck is that they think of it as a sunset rather than a dawn. There are more outies than innies in the group we were with so there are plenty of people to encourage. So many people feel condemned and alone for “walking outside the umbrella of the household” when they should feel they are no longer in the shadows but in the brilliant sonlight. That means we take our pay daily-Mat 6:33-34 style!

  16. One of the things that has always impressed me about the life of Jesus is that almost all of his human encounters happened outside of events he controlled. He didn’t organize a meeting or outreach and invited others to it, but found himself in their world as he simply moved through his own. Engaging people where they are most comfortable seems the best environment for the kingdom to spread. When we create our own meetings and control all the environment, aren’t we missing the most amazing places where God wants to put himself in the world. I love the stories I’m hearing of people making space for people to discover Father’s affection that are not conformity based, whether it is a bookstore/coffee shop in Edmund, OK (thanks for sharing, Joni), an Irish pub in Santa Paula, CA, lunch with a co-worker, or an open-hearted home where people can find open-hearted conversations.

    Where are you finding community beyond the congregational walls and ways to express his kingdom in the world?

    • This has been an interesting question to think about. i hear others talk about their great endeavours outside institutional religious life and can feel a wee bit ineffective. But there has been growth personally and communally. I don’t run any programs, but I have been much more “available” to those around me than I ever was when attending a church building. And I think it is a healthier “available.” I struggle to put it all into words as some do. By healthier I think for me it all starts with an experience of God and a better understanding of who he is. So there is a well of strength and love from which to draw when I encounter people now. Religious, family, social and professional life somehow ended up giving me this overburdened sense of having to fix everyone. And they left precious little time to hear Gods still small voice. I sense His presence much more now. I don’t feel the same pressure to perform or achieve. I feel more relaxed and loving, listen to people more and speak less. I’m not doing stuff on my own now and I just have more space in my life to respond to what comes at me. And there has been quite a lot in the last few years. I spend my time with my immediate and extended family and my teenaged childrens’ friends and some online friendships. I feel myself becoming more patient, less judgemental, quicker to let hurts go. Interpersonally I am more aware of boundary violations too and learning to deal gently but firmly with them because I know being all things to all people in the end only sidetracks their journey with God. I’ve had the privilege of walking with a number of family and friends through some very painful life experiences in what I think has been a much healthier, life giving way. Over and over hurting people say thanks for listening and not judging. I’ve even been able to share what I understand of God and his way with them. Personally there have been some very difficult challenges in the last couple of years some of which are ongoing. It has been wonderful to feel the presence of God with me through these times and to be able to find some rest in Him. it feels good to be able to love and smile and listen more. When I went to church I did what I thought was expected of me or felt incredibly guilty when I didn’t. Now its like I’m not alone. God is with me. We do things together. Met a lady I hardly know the other day in the supermarket who talked for at least an hour about her adult daughter and grandchildren being abused by her son in law. There are so many hurting people out there and so few who have time or energy to bear witness to their pain. People I know and meet locally are so wrapped up in their own lives and busyness and problems they have little left over to give. It would be nice to have a spiritual mentor or even just a good local friend but maybe if I did it would detract from my walk with God. I am wondering now if what many of us have dreamed of as “good fellowship” is actually dependency.

      • I think that’s a big part of it, Sharon. The Dones tend to be a disproportionately high capacity group, but the vast majority of them are people just like you. They told us that following God and living out their call resulted in a million day to day things as well as the occasional big thing. By far, the most common response we got was people feeling like they just had more time and energy to show Jesus to the people around them.

        I also hear your desire for a spiritual mentor. Lots of people who have left the church have been finding those in a variety of ways (we profile some resources over at our website dechurched.net), but you should know that the desire for that relationship is very common.

        • Cool to know I’m not weird. I do find wonderful resources online. This website and Richard Rohr amongst them. It is a bit like having mentorship but without the control, the pressure to bend to someone else’s agenda or vision or belief. Online chat groups have challenged me to really think about what I believe though. My theology is changing and I listen to a lot of podcasts and read many books. I have access to the world! There are many wonderful people out there across the waters and I learn to relate better to people by eavesdropping on conversations too. I have seen online discord handled well and poorly and this has been a lesson for me. I have shared personal heartache and thought about the most compassionate online responses that have been restorative and used this with other hurting people with good results. I’m far from perfect but it’s nice to have the feeling that I am growing. I guess I have more time to think and search. I enjoyed listening to your research and your obvious enthusiasm for the quest to understand. I do think it is a valuable undertaking. Many moons ago I did a lot of research and found it fascinating and quite addictive – both the qualitative and the quantitative – so creative and yet practical too, always with the possibility of being able to move mankind forward in some way. I will check out your link – Thankyou.

  17. Well, Wayne, I don’t know if I can give a clear answer to that question, because it often happens at times and with people I least expect. I can be in communities where God’s kingdom doesn’t come to pass, and that is O.K. There are simply times I need to be longsuffering with people, as they are with me. Other times community happens almost spontaneously, as a conversation turns a corner, but not being steered by anyone. The key seems to be what I learned in the 12-Step programs…keep an open mind. ‘Church’ doesn’t only happen for a couple hours on Sunday, in fact, I believe it can happen any time of the day or week. Where two or more are gathered in God’s name…there God is. No time or space boundary given.

  18. I am finding this conversation very interesting. I sorely miss the small gatherings. They are often more personal and open – even loving. Human nature is not to open up to a hundred or a thousand strangers in humility and vulnerability, rather we put on our mask and “present” our selves as something quite different than our heart is. Also, the Bible clearly states that there are fasle brothers/sisters, false teachers/prophets, deceitful workers, etc. that we must be aware of. I had to learn spiritual warfare on my face before the Lord, I was not taught it by man. Even now when I mention that we must be discerning of spirits (1 Jn 4) I get a cock-eyed look and often a rebuke about not being loving. How is allowing enemies into a group loving? If we don’t know those around us we would be well advised to guard our hearts. Contrary-wise, when we know those around us we can open up and truly love and be loved. These large groups and mega-churches feed our flesh (look what I am a part of!), but I have found are of no use spiritually to grow and edify others – how can it be when there are masks on all the faces?
    Hope this makes some sense to some.

    • Makes perfect sense to me, Rory. You have the leaders of ‘megachurches’ with worldwide ministries claiming to do God’s work, where Jesus had but twelve disciples who weren’t all even fully committed to Him and/or His cause, and Jesus was even betrayed by one. But many are comforted by the fact of ‘bigger is better’, that if they are part of a great movement it must be correct.

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