Nones, Dones And a Wider Conversation (#463)

Where have all the people gone? Pew Research announced a couple of years ago about the rise of the "Nones", those who no longer claim any religious affiliation. Now, there's a growing conversation about the rise of the "Dones", those who are leaving traditional Sunday morning congregations to find more authentic expressions of community. Research shows that these maintain a deep passion for God, but that it is unlikely that they will ever return. Brad joins Wayne as they talk about the research here as Wayne had an opportunity to speak with the lead researcher on this project. The research does not bode well for the future of traditional congregations.

Podcast Links:
The Rise of the Dones
Dr. Josh Packard's research on The De-Churching of America
The latest update from Kenya
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  1. Great question about how much a hurt a person has to endure to make leaving okay.

    I participated in Josh’s survey and I had served as a church elder and I know that I’m not alone in the people he talked to who had previously been very involved in a church. The findings also coincide with what I’ve long believed, which is that this group of people that are leaving the church cuts across all demographics–old, middle-aged and young, male and female, white, black, Hispanic, etc.

  2. Love this podcast. I love the discussion about being a spectator because that is one of many things that really bothers me. I do think that people leaving the institution / institutional ways isn’t coincidence though. I believe God’s hand is in this to bring about the grace message and you cannot put new wine in old wine skins. I think the Institution has been growing cold in their legalism. People are waking up!

  3. Thanks for the podcast Wayne and Brad, and hope you and your families had a Happy Thanksgiving.

    I mentioned in my endorsement for ‘Finding Church’ on that I have been on the fringes of institutional churches all my life, never really having made a real commitment to the organization. Based on that, it probably qualifies me more as a ‘none’ than a ‘done’, but most importantly, outside of the ‘box’ for sure.

    I have followed several prominent pastors in my life, and what both had in common is not their hearts for Jesus, but their backgrounds in real estate. That’s when I figured the jig was up, when it came to the ‘megachurch’.

    Having darkened the doors of the facility of the first of the two pastors for a time, I made enough of an impression to be invited as a VIP to a special service on Father’s Day. Accepting the invitation, I was then asked to make a $10,000 commitment. Needless to say, it was the last time I attended this particular church.

    I attempted to personally correspond with the second pastor after being touched by several of his teachings/sermons, and after one or two attempts, never got a reply. I do get an ‘annual appeal’ letter from him though, having supported his ministry financially for a time.

  4. The situation for me (and maybe others) seems to be:

    1. I wasn’t growing spiritually.

    2. I wasn’t seeing others grow spiritually or new people truly finding Jesus. On rare occasions, someone would make a verbal commitment, but this didn’t seem to have any deep impact as they were subjugated with rules after a few weeks which only pushed them away.

    3. The congregational teachings seem to severally limit God’s grace to others in favor of trying to keep it contained in the box and force others to come on Sunday morning to receive it. Those outside are upheld as unwilling to receive God’s grace because they won’t do it by that congregation’s terms. Many have either had to reject those “outside” or stand with them and be rejected by those “inside.” As more people become alienated for trying to stand with the outcasts and show them Jesus, “the church” loses members.

    It seems these problems have always been around, but now people are becoming more free in Christ to actually pursue him and others. This seems to be coupled with the information age where people have instantaneous access to some of the top theological minds in the world and can see if a leader is speaking truth when he does the “Bible says” thing. Previously, most had to just believe whatever was said on Sunday morning (regardless of how it may contradict other parts of the Bible) or go so far as to obtain an education in Greek and Hebrew to figure it out. It seems those who have always been limited from questioning within a congregation can now search for those answers privately from other sources. Previously they were manipulated to feel guilty by being told they are divisive/doubtful for bringing these questions up to their “church family.” These type questions were the very thing that helped me grow exponentially in Christ by seeing a clearer picture of who he really is. In turn, finding some of these answers drove me away from an institution who refused to even consider they could be wrong.

    I went to a service at my old congregation recently but, now that the blinders are off, saw how repulsive the message was (and would be to anyone coming there to seek Jesus). It was just heaping condemnation on those outside to justify those inside. “They sin worse than us so we’re okay” seemed to be the point of the sermon (eerily like the Pharisees and chief priests). All of this saddens me, and even though that congregation is hemorrhaging members severally, they stubbornly continue down the same path expecting different results.

    Perhaps that system is slated to fall. Hopefully those of us who have already left will be able to pick up the pieces to show those still inside a better way to Father’s heart.

  5. Thanks for this Podcast, it was awesome as usual.

    I had a situation with a broken friendship and it was too painful for me to stay at my church.
    I was really entrenched in there too. I did evangelism at train stations, I was involved with a deliverance ministry, and an Intercessory prayer group. The church and my ministries was pretty much my life. I was constantly seeking to be “used” more of God.

    When I left, I was heartbroken I had been trying everything and anything to stop the pain. None of the religious things that I had been taught worked. I even followed what a spiritual mom was telling me but I felt very hopeless and I felt like I was doomed to just live a bland life of suffering and service.

    I started hearing the grace message – Andrew Wommack and Joseph Prince. I think those were considered acceptable by my church at the time. At least a few of the women listened to Joseph Prince. I started grabbing hold of that message and the more I embraced that, believing that God was really good and really loved me, that is where I turned the corner. I went to a new church for a while. It was okay and I met some awesome people. However it still had mixture and I did feel like it was a waste to cut the 2-3 hours out of my day getting ready, traveling and sitting there (benched).

    Now I feel a greater freedom and wholeness than I’ve ever felt, but I would like to be part of something to love on others and help others etc.. So I am not quite sure how / where to find that. But for now I am involved with a small group and a ministry from that church and that is great.

    I hear things like you should go to minister to others, but it’s hard to do that when they are being fed a mixed message and lots of times are going there for their fix or are acting fake. I find it like a mine field after being hurt it’s hard to know who is being real with you.

    Anyway, love the podcast!

  6. oops didn’t see my other comment… LOL thought it failed well, now you have two I guess.

  7. Hi guys, a commenter on my blog just pointed me to your podcasts – I really enjoyed this one. I’ve also just written a post triggered by Thom Schultz’s article – you can read it here

    Thanks for your robust conversation. My husband and I used to be in church ministry, but he now facilitates “church in a circle” with a rag-tag bunch of diverse people, many of whom are recovering from drug addiction, and who have changed our lives and transformed our definitions of church. We’ve been blogging about it for the past three years. I’m so excited to see the conversation increase throughout the worldwide church.

    I hope to connect more with you through your blog, Twitter, Facebook etc. Blessings in your work,

    – Kathleen

  8. You know how in the podcast, there was a mention of going out and ‘flying’ or actually playing in the game rather than sitting on the bench and taking about it all the time? I was wondering what flying even looks like. Holly mentioned that she wants to be part of something to love and help others, but not sure where to find that — I kinda feel the same way.

    Right now I’m involved in a congregation, attending a small group, and I’m really grateful for the friendships that have come out of meeting people there … At the same time, I see quite a few strange things mixed into what are otherwise very kind, genuine people. For example, when I listen to sermons, I feel like it is a 90% to 10% mix – 90% is really heartfelt, genuine and true. However, I only ever seem to see the 10% which is tied up in a mix of guilt, manipulation, legalism, a bit like drops of paint getting stirred up in a bucket. I’ve sometimes tried to explain how I feel about this to people, but get tongue tied and they don’t really understand what I’m even trying to say. I get the idea that other people are able to see the 90% of stuff that’s genuine, so the 10% that bothers me doesn’t seem to bother them.

    But yeah, right now I feel as though I have stagnated. The overwhelming message I’ve got from the meetings and the small group is ‘we have to be doing something, helping someone, God can only guide a ship that’s moving’. But for all the times we’ve rebounded that message off of one another, along with all the pulling and jerking in your heart that goes along with it, it doesn’t seem to be working for any of us. To cut a long story short, all this has left me feeling incredibly guilty and impotent. I liked how Wayne and Brad said that Jesus is in the business of removing shame because I really need that right now; I’m so tired of living in it.

    Anyway, thanks Holly and John for writing, there was so much of what you said that I could relate to; but if I tried to write back on all of it, I guess this comment would be twice as long 🙂

  9. “Two or three angels
    Came near to the earth.
    They saw a fat church.
    Little black streams of people
    Came and went in continually.
    And the angels were puzzled
    To know why the people went thus,
    And why they stayed so long within.”
    ? Stephen Crane, Complete Poems of Stephen Crane

    This podcast and the related article, and associated research sure exposes how large this conversation is becoming, does it not? Something clicked when you shared that the research is showing that this is not a generational phenomena…. People of all ages are part of this move – wow… I have heard the exodus characterized as restless youth.. But it’s not the youth leaving (the youth never came for the last 20 years up here in eastern Canada) It’s the 30-55 yr olds around me.

    Had the opportunity to share this podcast and the article with a couple (they are among the most active Leaders like the article spoke about ) who have stepped out from under the program burden. They are trying to see what is next but are experiencing a total upheaval emotionally and spiritually right now. But this podcast and article blessed them – to hear that there are MANY others like them.

    I think the main thing you stressed was is that there is no “THING” ahead. It has to a relationship with Jesus, and having that flow out to others in connection.

    This was a good one guys. Thank You…. My 23 yr old son and I listened to this while building Lobster traps in the shop (Our Africa term just got delayed because of Ebola in Mali), and no offence Wayne, my son said he loves the dynamics when Brad is online too.

    “It doesn’t have to be easy. It just has to be interesting.” (Elizabeth Gilbert)

  10. Love the comment about titles (father and reverend). The only one with a title is Jesus Christ. There is one Lord and one head of the body of Christ. After Pentecost very rarely do the writers refer to him as Jesus without attaching Lord or Christ (more than 90% of the time). There is a great quote in Chapter 18 Equipping Without Subduing: (Paul referring to the antichrists in the world) “He was referring not to those who were hostile to Christ, but to those who wanted to provide a Christ-substitute, making people dependent on themselves rather than on him.”

  11. First I like the illustration of training wheels. I believe people are tired of continually being given new sets of training wheels when they just want to ride free. At least that was part of my issues.
    Second, I appreciate the comments on dones, de-churched and refugees. I am none of those. For a long time I have not known how to respond to, “So where do you go to church?” You know what is coming. So recently, I have started answering , “My Church,” from Matthew 16:18. I explain that “My Church” members are intrepid followers of Jesus Christ. It has no scheduled meetings but is located throughout the world. That usually starts an interesting conversation, without me getting as big a lecture and leaving them with questions to consider. Just an idea

    • Thanks for the comment on how you respond to “what church do you go to”. Its always been a tough one for me to know how to answer, and I don’t want to ever offend those that find life in their church structure.

  12. Hey folks, thank you for the very insightful comments here (and thanks to Wayne and Brad for the great discussion). Feel free to drop me a line or reach out to us if for any reason. If you’re among the dechurched or dones, we’d love to interview you for the project.

    Keep the conversation going!

    -Josh Packard

  13. NOTICE: I don’t want the blog comments here to devolve into anonymous ratings of how much someone liked/didn’t like the podcast, especially those who haven’t listened to it, but make judgments off the title or the description. This is a forum for people to share their thoughts and insights about the content, whether they agree or disagree. The vast majority of you do that very well, but from time to time we have a person or two who doesn’t respect the reason it exists. I have begun deleting those comments so as not to lose this as a safe place for people to share their own journeys and explore together a conversation that leads to Life.

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