What to Do About the Dones (#485)

churchrefugeesNow that research has identified a group of passionate Christians who are no longer participating in traditional congregations, what does that mean for the future of the church? Will existing congregations find innovative ways to address the concerns of those who consider leaving? Will the church take on new expressions? Or both? Wayne continues his conversation with Dr. Josh Packard, Professor of Sociology at the University of Northern Colorado and the author of a new book, Church Refugees, which will be released on June 1. His book and the conversation it spawns can provide us an opportunity to recognize the church in all the ways she takes shape, or just divide us into separate tribes each thinking ourselves superior to others. Let's pray it's the former.

Podcast Links:
Part I of Wayne's Conversation with Josh
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 latest update from Kenya
Add your voice to our question/comment line: (805) 539-6980 or Skype us at "TheGodJourney"


  1. Great podcast! I’m looking forward to reading Josh’s book. I appreciated the gracious tone of the conversation from both Josh and Wayne. I am currently in the agonizing space somewhere between an “innie” and an “outie.” I’ve spent the last 40 years serving in just about every role in the institutional church, and I can identify with some portion of every story I hear from a “done.” I’ll be glad when I come to the place where I no longer stare at the ceiling at 3 A.M. thinking about the implications of becoming a full-fledged “outie.” I’m not so worried about my own spiritual health, since I am well grounded in my faith and have lots of connections with other believers. My biggest concern is for the pastors and support staff who are financially dependent on the machine. The slow bleed of the “dones” leaving local congregations is the stuff of nightmares for these folks.

    • I am grateful for the approach. When I have had discussions with people regarding how the IC is well intended but the desire to grow at all expenses is hurting the faithful and even pushing away the very people it is trying to attract, the response is often a shrug of the shoulders and a “that happens in every church.” The apathy toward people leaving is what saddens me the most. I think this might shed light that this isn’t your “I’m not getting my way so I’m leaving,” kind of movement and it might provide a needed wake-up call to the IC. I know that there is a belief that the system can’t change to house this knew spirit, but I guess I believe that there are enough innovative and creative people in God’s kingdom to find a way. My hope is that this is not seen as the death knell of the IC but an exciting opportunity to redirect energies and passion to a life in Christ and the IC can be a facilitator of that passion and spirit rather than a container. I watched this TedTalk and it inspired me. If the leadership in the IC could grasp their role the way this conductor has grasped how he needs to communicate and approach his orchestra members, I think the IC can be a thriving and powerful force of inspiration.

    • Life that is new, life that is tranformed or born again always transcends from struggle. The hints given to us from Jesus, being born again and picking up our cross and following him communicates to us a struggle that presents itself as we transition from one paridym of life to another. The struggle of thought and emotions that are partnered with difficult questions and scenarios that might or might not exist in the new life to which we are headed. We know that for the new to come we must leave and be willing to die to the state or precption of things in which we currently now function. The presence of this struggle is the reality of truth and beauty that lie in the occupation of new life. A life that is achieved by pressing through the birth canal of pressure and struggle and the willingness to die to the old in order to live in the new.

      Your struggle is beauty in the making.

  2. Very interesting research. I would like to understand their “sample” population a little better because it seems somewhat skewed toward the institutional church. One thing I found odd was the comment that “dones” had no problem with “accountability” from church leaders and yet it was impossible to have relationship in a judgmental environment. It seems contradictory.

    The issue of “accountability” came up in the Moody interview as well. It seems pervasive that this is an important aspect or function of the “church”. If one is not part of an institutional church and we see the church as a greater whole or body of Christ how and where does accountability fit in? I shudder to think of asking someone in the institutional church, why isn’t it enough to rely on the Holy Spirit to convict us? It seems that false doctrine is something only someone on the “inside” can discern. The underlying ?? condemnation of us “outsiders” is that we are only answerable to ourselves (at least from their perspective).

    A friend commented to me that “church (IT) is a hospital for sinners”. Interesting analogy.

    Would appreciate any thoughts on this. Keep up the good work.

  3. Bev,

    Having come from a Catholic background, I once had this conversation with a friend of mine who is a ‘IC’ guy, and he said that we shouldn’t need a priest as an intermediary to confess our sins, we should go straight to God, but yet, he is a big proponent of accountability groups, where you confess your sins to one another. There seems to be a disconnect there, no? Is he just against the way one denomination does it, or is he simply not telling the truth? Just my opinion here, but accountability seems to be a key for church members to ‘bond’ with one another, so that they need eachother, and continue to need the ‘Church’.

    • I understand the concept of bonding with other “sinners” but what a minefield. I think often we are not aware of some of our actions being perceived as sin by someone else. If our failings are pointed out to us when not ready it only makes things worse and can get pretty ugly. It’s why I think that still small voice moves in such a healing way vs relying on some other human’s perception. Even when we try to do all things with kindness it’s about 2 human beings communicating.

      Wayne’s example of listening to God is like reading your incoming emails. (hope I’m too far off here) but when you see one come in from someone you love you jump on it. You are watching and waiting for it. My point is how can you get any closer than listening to the Holy Spirit that resides inside us and studying the Bible? My Catholic friends feel that repenting out loud is necessary. Penitence.

      Question for you Ron. Do you feel more forgiveness when confessing in an accountability group? Don’t you have to feel convicted of your sin before you are able to “share”? I don’t quite “get” going through a human channel to make me more accountable before God.

      Thanks for your response.

      • Bev,

        I don’t know if I feel more forgiveness, necessarily, but I hope my sharing encourages openness from the rest of the group. You have people sharing at different levels, and inevitably you have an imbalance of power. I would be less apt to share with someone who is less apt to share with me.

        At least in the Catholic sacrament of Confession, you don’t go to a priest expecting the priest to confess their sins to you after you confessed to them, confession is for your benefit. And there is an inherent element of trust that you may not have in an accountability group, especially if there is a falling out.

        Hope that helps.

  4. I’m pretty sure this accountability issue is going to be the subject of an entire podcast soon. It’s one of those terms that mean different things to different people, so just using the term still doesn’t guarantee we’re talking about the same thing. Josh tried to clarify a bit on the last podcast comment section what he meant by not having a problem with accountability to pastors. That’s just his research and it wasn’t a random sampling, that’s coming later. It was talking to those who are “done” and learning from them what they are thinking to help identify the characteristics of this group. Soon we’ll have numbers as to what percentage of Christians fit the “done” profile. My yuck meter goes off when I hear “accountability group,” but I treasure the honest discovery, vulnerability, of close brothers and sisters carrying each other in the faith out of love, not out of a “gotcha!” spirit at all. People might call that an accountability group. I don’t. I think accountability belongs to God alone, but as we grow in friendship with others and know they love and car about us, it will open the door to deeper levels of honesty both in sharing and in others sharing what they see in me that is healing and redemptive. Some might call that accountability. I call it love…

    • Thank you for your insight. The conversation on accountability is so important. Misunderstanding and misuse of 1 Cor 5: 1-8 has done so much damage. Stumbling blocks for those inside the church and absolute turning away by others. So what is meant by accountability. How does Matthew 7 temper 1Cor 5. I look forward to the podcast.

    • If I read Josh’s statement correctly, he meant the respondents were supportive of the concept of accountabitlity to pastors, not necessarily how it was actually carried out. And that the respondents major issues were with the church as instituition, but not the church as people. Is that correct?

    • The word “accountability” has often been code for control and lack of trust. I would be considered a “done” but enjoy a wonderful fellowship with some great people. The experience of mutual commitment and love seems to have an inherent accountability, even though the word is never used!

      • Larry,

        The word “accountability” has often been code for control and lack of trust. I would be considered a “done” but enjoy a wonderful fellowship with some great people. The experience of mutual commitment and love seems to have an inherent accountability, even though the word is never used!

        Couldn’t agree with you more. “mutual commitment and love has an inherent accountability”. It’s so clear this is so but I’m trying to see the beneficial side of these “accountability” groups. I guess AA has been very successful. This seems pretty different than getting together to vent or/and repent.

        Looking forward to the podcast on “accountability”.

        • Bev, I doubt AA would see themselves as an accountability group, especially the helpful ones. They would see themselves more of a support group and an equipping group. They are less concerned with keeping you straight than coming alongside and giving people something more to live for than the next drink. There will be bore on the accountability conversation on this week’s podcast…

          • Thanks Wayne I sure didn’t mean to lump AA and accountability groups in the same camp but don’t you think “accountability” groups see themselves doing basically what you described AA as doing? I mean if you asked them their purpose for meeting?

            I have to admit I have had nothing to do with accountability groups or know anyone who has. I think AA is a tremendous organization.

            My point is I think most Christians who perpetrate “accountability” are genuinely trying to do the “right” thing but don’t realize how their intent to help has been twisted to fit an organizational scheme. Looking forward to the podcast!

          • I agree, Bev. Most have good intentions, but it is still a focus on the flesh because it is dealing with sin through accountability and not the transformation of grace. So sad. Two thousand years after the cross and we’re still making the Galatian mistake of trying to win over sin through self-effort. And when we do it to others it is particularly destructive.

  5. Been listening and Love This!! It is so much my heart and journey. I had realized the whole ‘graduation from church thing” also. I’m now in my 4th church, having dreams of going into Pastoral ministry after getting my MDiv. and now am realizing that God is taking me on a larger “God-Journey” as many of you are on. God has been taken me on this journey since a girl in Catholic grade school, then to a church plant, a non-denom/baptist, a Denomination that I was licensed in and now in a another church that is non-denom/charismatic. I do feel God has led every step, but now I am trying to learn to live out all of this as I learn to live in the light of Jesus’ love.. I’d love to find ways to share this message with others, and connect with others on the journey. Feel free to reach out and connect. Thanks, Robin

  6. God provides community. I babysit for my grandchildren frequently. One of them is 4 years old and the first thing she says to me when she walks in is:”let’s read the children’s bible!” The as I start reading she always says, “tell me about it, don’t read.” She likes to talk about it. We have a lively dialogue about God loving us. It keeps me thinking about how to convey God’s love and grace. It is one of the most dynamic fellowships I have ever had. We have amazing discussions! My husband enjoys these dialogues. The conversation carries over to her parents. Family is a great place for community.
    Another place I have community is in the virtual community. I used to call myself un-denominational. My journey has taken me from mainstream IC to a non-denomination(sneaky label!) to organic church to simple church to where we are now. I have met a lot of people (that fall into the ‘Done’ category) online. This has been fun. We may not agree on certain scriptures but we respect one another as growing Christians.
    I do have relationships with people who left a group we belonged to for a long time. Some of them are ‘dones’and some of them started or attend offshoots. The conversations with those who are ‘done’ is rich, meaningful and healing. I still know people in the original group but it is more difficult to have a relationship because of the way that group is set up. I still am thankful for them.
    Has anyone ever been to Willow Creek? It’s auditorium is huge! The cash it must take to keep that going! It is close by. It ran into some competition when another mega opened nearby. People who went there regularly and left to the other mega said they left it for more “meat”.

    • That’s a gorgeous anecdote about your grandchild. I love the “don’t read it, tell me about it.” Made me smile. And that it opens the way for spontaneous conversations about faith amongst other family members. I am encouraged by stories like this. There’s a feeling of peace, of “rightness,” and the sense that this is how life was meant to be in such moments.

  7. PS would love to hear more about the accountability thing. When Josh mentioned it I took it to mean
    ‘submitting to someone’. We submit to policemen when they are directing traffic or an usher when being seated, or as a teacher who is an expert on a certain subject etc. We all do that. The ‘dones’ are not rebellious people at all IMHO. I think ‘dones’ are looking at church as being something more, a relationship with God directly and with others who have a relationship with God. I agree that we are accountable to God solely. We have direct access. We submit to one another regardless of position and passing judgment how another serves God is none of our business.

    • Ginny,

      I actually believe the ‘dones,’ in the highest sense of the word, have more of a call and a responsibility than those who simply make ‘Sunday Church’ their obligation, and then live like they want the other 160-odd hours a week. It is a 24/7/365 commitment, much like a career where you are ‘on-call’.

      I never know, for example, when I will enter into a conversation or opportunity to share my Christian faith. I certainly don’t go out looking for one or try to force one. But I don’t limit that opportunity to a day, or a time, or a place. I believe, as an ‘IC’ member, the tendency is to do that, or at least, look down upon the people that are encountered outside of the four walls, as merely an ‘opportunity’ or a notch on one’s belt, to get them into the ‘IC’ as well, or get them ‘converted’, or what have you.

      I have people in my life of little or no faith, that I sometimes feel I am making more compromises with them in my life than they are in theirs. And sure, you have to guard against that at times, lest you fall. But, we can’t look at ourselves as a ‘done’ and say we are ‘better than’ simply because we are not using the ‘IC’ as a crutch anymore. Yet, we have to resist because brought back into a system by other well-meaning people who have our best interest at heart, but not the best method.

  8. Thanks for the very interesting podcasts with Josh. I especially liked the distinction he made between a congregation that seeks to draw individuals into joining what they are doing as opposed to a congregation that comes along side to encourage individuals with what God is already doing in and through their lives. It seems like the unfortunate tendency is for a congregation to usurp the roll of Christ in the life of an individual rather than point to Christ.

    Four years ago, on a visit to Southern California, I had the opportunity to share a meal with three men in their 70’s who had been very involved as leaders with a fast-growing congregation that grew out of the “Jesus Movement” in the 1960’s. What started as a small, exciting, Christ-centered, relational community almost 50 years ago quickly grew to more than 1,000 believers. In a matter of several years, though, the group experienced the same type of conflict and division that almost always eventually occurs.

    When I asked the men what happened, they said that, sadly, “the ministry” became more important than Christ. Looking back, they could see that more and more, the emphasis was placed on whether or not one supported “the ministry”. How easy it is for a congregation to inadvertently usurp the place of Jesus in the lives of individuals. I say that as one who currently attends a small Sunday morning congregation.

    There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. I am thankful for groups that encourage individuals to depend on Christ and not on the group.

  9. I had a thought yesterday about “dones”. I keep hearing about how some remain focused on Jesus and others kind of “fall away” and perhaps they never really knew God.

    But what I am wondering about is the “they’s” that I keep hearing about. Are they really “Godless” now? Like how far do you go to say that one is saved or not saved. I don’t want to open up a can of worms about salvation, but who’s to say that someone who stops going to church and just starts living a “normal” life without evangelizing, etc.. is going straight to hell? If that’s not who “they” are, then what? They become alcoholics and drug addicts? Does that mean that type of person isn’t saved? Like I’m just wondering where the line is drawn?

    I feel like we as a country have become so church and discipline focused, that if we someone who is not doing those things that we’ve defined as evidence of salvation, they are immediately looked at as questionable. Yet someone who is good at “spiritual giftings” they put on a pedestal. These types I see mostly as attention seeking or prideful or they are put on a pedestal and the church loves them! I think Jesus was pretty clear about titles. I heard a speaker talking about love and you just wouldn’t rightly have two children and constantly say how one is so anointed and talk the one up all the time while the second one is just part of the family and is barely noticed. It would be cruel. Yet churches love to say how they are a family while praising the performance of some. I think that naturally happens around groups of people, there becomes a pecking order. But I want nothing to do with it.

    Another huge part of my change in belief regarding church and Christians. They always talk about how good and loving God is, but there was an your either in or your out attitude. Your good or your bad. Your okay or your not okay. It is hurtful and abusive, the amount of exclusion there is. Who needs that kind of senseless pressure in their lives? It’s all built around fear and no one would say it this way but it is fear that this angry God will throw someone in hell. Like it’s my job to save you from God through Jesus. Turn or burn.

    I do believe someone can choose to reject Jesus, but I would bet a lot of times — the Jesus that they are rejecting is the one they see through Christians that are rejecting and dishonoring them or they are rejecting the hateful, violent, vengeful version of God the christian is trying to force on them. I wonder if most Christians with what they believe about God would let their daughter date God. Like if she said — but Dad He loves me? What would that love represent if it lined up with their current beliefs about God’s love?


    • Amen. I’m hearing you sister! Some people manage to find faith and an authentic ongoing and life giving experience of the spirit within the IC. They are able to take what is good and delete the damaging. They remain soft and loving. I fear too much of my religious life I disrespected those I “evangelised,” misrepresented God because I wasn’t being renewed and taught by a growing relationship with the spirit of God within me, ministered to others while that internal spiritual tank was empty, dogmatically plugging the party line. I was arrogant, elitist, patronising and a poor listener. And probably a host of other adjectives. A total Pharisee. I have some concept of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that now. It is an uncomfortable revelation. Or religious people cathart to me (usually a vitriolic stream of judgement) assuming I am still operating from the same religious paradigm. Makes me wonder if religion has got worse or was I actually that inwardly tortured, empty, and awful? I fear it is the latter. I think now that it is a kind of hell for those trapped in it and those who recieve the fruits of it.

      • Exactly Sharon! I was out evangelizing and judging everything that moved… Ugh! I was so blind to it. So glad I am a different person now and hopefully now I can turn up the love! Yes — about being on the receiving end! It really stinks! Was I really that insecure and pushy?? Yike!

  10. Just listened to part 2 podcast with Josh Packard. Interesting discussion, I love the thought of leaving the congressional setting as being similar to graduating. You’ve given me a bassis to build on, be happy for me and let me grow in new ways. Love me and follow my growth. I still love you. Just because we aren’t in the same building once a week hasn’t changed that for me, and hopefully not for you either. If it did change it for either of us we should probably be more worried about how we love then where we meet. For me my years in the congressional setting gave me a good basis to build on. Unfortunately as time went on the other demands of that institution weren’t really where I felt the Father was asking me to focus my efforts. Still love those people though, and really love the freedom I have now to be part of God’s church in other ways.

  11. I’ve heard pastors and attenders of institutional congregations say that going to church will not make you a Christian. However, it seems not going will make you less of one.

    As far as a ‘label’ goes, it seems no matter how we try to identify those who no longer attend an IC, it will just serve pit ‘us’ against ‘them’. Any name I have tried to think of makes one seem superior to the other.

  12. Quote Josh : “I have hope for the institution, because the history of the church in America is one of innovation, it is not one of decline as we see in Europe …” I guess Josh is talking about the institution “Catholic church” in Europe ? I do agree that there isn’t lots of life in a catholic service, and it’s even more “difficult” when the church building is more than 800 years old. But I am not sure that because the “church” has re-invented itself over and over these last centuries in America, that there is more (or less) hope.
    I have been part of “both sites” in Belgium and France : I was born Catholic and became Evangelical. But from where I am now : I see more judgment from my protestant friends towards my catholic friends, than the other way. There is a bigger longing for family-ship outside any structure from my catholic friends (with protestants), than that there is with my protestant/evangelical/pentecostal friends. (I know what I’m talking about, because I myself was much more judgmental first when I became evangelical !) Thank God I’m on a journey too, and I have now a wonderful friendship with my catholic friends, that often goes much further than with my brothers and sisters when I was going every week to my evangelical service.

    • Gert,
      I noticed this too as a former Catholic. Many Protestants and Ex-Catholics I have been around bash the Catholic Church for what they don’t seem to understand. I can’t always explain it either to them, but we have to get to a place where we stop throwing stones and let people journey where they are. Just on Mother’s Day, my Catholic family was talking about a neice who doesn’t go to Catholic church anymore because she doesn’t find God there. Some couldn’t understand that and wanted to find ways to get her back to church, but that is not the answer. You need to figure out where you find God, is it in an organized group of people or somewhere else, or maybe a bit of both. We so much want to have black and white answers for a God who is so much bigger than we can even imagine. My mom find God in the Catholic Church and God Bless her. It wasn’t were He kept me, He took me on another journey, which is different He knit each one of us in our mothers womb and knows exactly what we need. Let people be free I say to find Jesus in whatever way they need to. He points us all to the Father of Love and Light. I hope I can write a book about whole thing someday too, but everytime I try I get unglued even more. 🙂 Journey On Friends.

  13. I read something in Ephesians 2 this morning that took me by surprise, and I really liked it. It’s hard to explain in the comments here, but it reminded me of some of the topics that have come up in the last couple of podcasts and I really liked it:

    Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called the “uncircumcision” by those who call themselves the “circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

    For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

    Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

    I loved that description of God making peace… not something we can fake, but when He actually does reconcile people…

  14. I wasn’t “done” with the church when I decided to leave. Funnily enough, my husband and teenaged kids were increasingly dragging their feet about going to church. I bought the audiobook of “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” on Amazon in order to encourage them back into the fold. Needless to say it was not what I expected! After finishing it the first time I was dazed because I couldn’t think of an opposing argument in support of the institution I had been a staunch defender of all my adult life. So I listened two more times trying find some flaw but couldn’t. It was a painfully accurate depiction of modern church life. I realised my husband and kids were not being difficult, they were just more honest. I was just ticking boxes and being socially appropriate.

    I did have a wonderful experience of institutional church life as a teenager and I guess I kept hoping my kids would get to experience it. The pastor of that church was a good example of what Josh is suggesting might lure the “dones” back to the fold. He was more of a friend or for me a father figure. A teacher and a mentor. Interestingly he started an all age Sunday School. The whole church broke up into small bible study groups before church but each group was a spread of ages from the elderly down to the very young. As a teenager I loved it! Everyone was encouraged to share their thoughts. It was more like a conversation than a study and I was lucky enough to be in the Pastors group. He was a quiet, gentle, thoughtful man who was happy to go with the flow. We had bi-annual family camps and pot-luck lunches after church once a month. I was born into a big, not particularly wealthy family. Often my mum would go to pay for camps and the pastor would say there was no need. That the camp was already paid for, but we never learned who paid and it was never made a big deal of.

    His wife (a music teacher) worked out that my brother, sisters and I could sing and she rounded us up like a quartet of ducklings and helped us explore that gift. We had never thought to sing in public and found we enjoyed it. Life at home was sometimes hard and church was a sanctuary in which I felt safe and loved. I credit this church experience, my grandmother, and Christian holiday camps with helping me to enter adulthood somewhat sane.

    This Pastor was older when he entered the ministry. He had been a bank manager. He had been a missionary in Papua New Guinea for many years and intended to return which he did when his 4 children completed high school. I don’t think he was an ambitious man. A few years ago I rang him up to thank him and tell him of my happy memories. I commented that I had teenaged children and that I had never been part of a church like it again. He remembered me well though it was about 30 years on! Humbly he said that he couldn’t take the credit. He said that that period in the church’s life had been a very special move of the spirit. A season. Not a formula, or a personality, or a certain approach. And he said that season passed and he hasn’t experienced the like since although he is still, in his 80s, a passionate churchgoer and pastured other churches. Is it possible that today the spirit wants to do something new and the church isn’t getting far because it’s trying to force new wine into an old wine skin? The old wine skin bursts and the whole thing just falls apart.

    I’m sorry this is so long and meandering. It is such a deep topic that Josh is exploring and difficult to cover my thoughts in one post.

    • Hi Sharon, thanks for sharing. It’s hard putting these thoughts & experiences to writing sometimes; it’s probably only the tip of the iceberg too 🙂

    • oops! I meant he “pastored” other churches not “pastured.” But the mental picture of a minister “pasturing” his church does make me giggle.

  15. I’m a bit skeptical of those media reports because it it well-known they have an anti-God, atheistic agenda. And polls can be misleading as they often reflect a very small subset of the entire population, that supports whatever agenda the polltakers are trying to get across.

    Something Dr. Packard accomplished through his study, that was mentioned in the podcast, was that he let his findings determine his conclusions, not the other way around.

  16. Bill OReilly is talking about it too:


    “”Truth is if you are a person of faith, the media generally thinks you are a loon. The prevailing wisdom, especially among young Americans, is whatever is good for me is good, period; the overall good be damned. Pardon the pun,” he continued.


    Listening to the media really confuses the issues. They look for secular reasons why people leave churches.There has always been an attitude towards Christians. What is the attitude towards the manifested love of God?

  17. I understand your concerns about the media. I am only saying that this subject is being talked about lately which may be a good thing. I listen to NPR daily and do not find it to be anti-God, atheistic, misleading nor confusing but that is not the subject of this podcast.

  18. Just keep in mind that the “Nones” conversation is a very different one from the “Dones” conversation. They are talking about two different groups of people. The Pew Research is a very reputable organization that is just seeking the facts without a dog in the hunt either. How the media skews it, however, must always be taken lightly. Always check out the numbers, not how the media interprets them. The decline of some of those numbers for the Nones is of most concern to Catholicism and mainline denominations, not so much more evangelical gatherings, which have grown in the last eight years even if the overall percentage has declined slightly.

    I just got home from a day with 20 pastors discussing the “Dones” and FINDING CHURCH. What an amazing group of people and discussion. No one was wanting to punish the Dones, They were all wanting to engage a larger conversation about the church that included those in more traditional environments, and those in nonconventional ones. Many of them look to those outside the institution with some desire to join them. This is not as much an either/or, right or wrong issue as we might believe…

  19. I wonder if the reason many go to the institutional church is to simply keep up appearances and actually avoid going deeper with God. If that is the case, at least they should be honest about that. It takes courage to admit to another person that they are afraid, but what they don’t realize is that can become the beginning of true relationship, not a relinquishing of power or control, which is merely an illusion.

    • Hi Ron, your comment made me think about why I had started going to church. Aside from occasionally going when I was a kid and not enjoying it except for being able to eat at a restaurant after.

      It was because I thought that’s where God was in a sense. In my mind if you want to get close to God, that’s where you go. If you stray away from church then you “loose” Him.

      The more involved in church and ministry.. the more I was “living for God”.

      It wasn’t because of a “covering”, or so the “church” could help me out if I needed, or because I would be forsaking the fellowship, or because I need a place to tithe. I did hear about all those things in talking to people from church after I left, but it did not hold me there.

      • I am grappling right now with IC church issues. I think most people attending IC churches are sincere about their religion and believe truly that church membership is a formal necessity. For whatever their reasons may be they are there to “walk out” their relationship with God. I have been attending a bible study group for several years and only now feeling the dogmatism that eventually surfaces in an IC. I’m not sure if this is because this was a relatively young congregation and this is just the natural progression of institutions. I am thinking this is probably the case.

        The more a “church” identifies itself with it’s “being” the more it has to define who and what they are. Sadly this is when they start “twisting” (torturing) scripture. I’ve watched the evolution and the resulting dogmatism unfold. BUT I think they genuinely feel they are progressing in what Paul has put forth in his Epistles for role of the “church”. This is the very difficult thing for me I know they love God and Jesus deeply and are very sincere. Which makes it all the more scary/sad.

        They are now talking about what it means to become a “mature” Christian. Maybe this is where losing our first love comes in. You have to be “done” with this in order to stay alive.

        It’s almost like they have “over studied” the word of God. It really does strike at my very core. Is it me or is it them?

        • Hi Bev, here are my thoughts.
          If you are like myself and a few of my friends, we are “awakening” to the performance mentality that we are seeing in the IC. This is probably going to sound really bad, but.. here goes.

          When I was young, my family didn’t have much money and we lived in an old farmhouse. When we would go on vacation we would stay in a cheap motel. Now that motel to me was very fancy! It had carpeting etc.. etc.. As I got older, and I visited friends homes that had money and got my own apartment, I realize now that those cheap hotels were dives. I think it is the same thing with our relationship with the church verses Jesus.

          To put it another way which again isn’t flattering, and this probably makes more sense with guys but a guy sees someone who he thinks is beautiful and caring and wants to be around her only to realize later that he is with a prostitute. That kind of fakeness — To apply to the IC, he had one perception of what the church brings, but that perception was not based on the full beauty of Christ and his completeness in Him. It was thinking that going to church and following disciplines was his relationship with Jesus.

          I think once you realize that you are whole and complete and lacking nothing in Him, you realize you don’t need the middle man or what you thought was the way to Him. Or in some sense “was” Him. I don’t know if some people separate the church building and Jesus. Sometimes I think they believe the two are almost the same thing… Like the trinity they act like its God, the church and the bible. Instead of three persons that are one. I don’t know it’s bizarre and I feel like it is partly a cultural thing too going to church every Sunday in the United States.

          This is what my awakening has been like. It is very difficult to stay in a place that conflicts with the new beauty that has been found in Jesus and the performance mentality. If we are in Christ and on the vine and it is effortless, why are we put to endure incredible effort? I think it is because there is still the attraction to the prostitute who wants her pay.

          For me this is how I feel now. I walk into the IC and I see the cheap hotel room and not the luxurious suite i once did. But without going to the IC, inside my heart each day, I recognize the joy and passion and love of Christ that is the most real thing to me ever.


  20. Just a quick note to express thanks Holly for the way you used words to express what many of us are seeing. It “struck a chord”….thanks. Sue

    • Thanks Sue and Bev 🙂 Didn’t know how that would be received when I put it out there.

  21. During the listening of the two podcasts with Josh, what kept coming to my mind is that I believe the resulting stats he compiled would be very similar in the business world. I do believe that most institutionalized places of religion are run within the same framework as businesses. For most businesses, I would assume there is a lot of turnover of employees, except for the top leadership.

    I would assume that businesses invite employees into the framework and goals for that particular business and when employees run into the boundaries of the leadership, with regard to the framework and goals of the business, they develop conflict and many leave for another business or start a business of their own. As well, I would assume that inside the business are pockets of relationship; but that many find them shallow and that folks at work just are not the same people they are outside work, for reasons of business conformity, rules and a quiet motive of many employees to work their way up the business ladder.

    With that said, I do not feel that Christ had any intentions of his church being in the framework of a business and because most are, the folks who go to these institutionalized gathering places, find themselves either having to conform or fighting conformity, neither of which is desired and neither of which is good.

    I would also assume that many of of who have left the institution and are getting over the initial (sometimes years) shock factor of a different path, are finding the freedom; the realness, the rawness; the openness of being the church at all times and in all places, as a resting place that we are finally being who Christ wanted us to be. And that is simply modeling his love in the world at all time and all places and letting him work though us in his timing and his methods.

    Enjoyed the podcast very much.


    • Hi Scott, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve been thinking about those same parallels between business and religion recently too. It’s weird, we have these principles in business of what it is to be a good manager. We have these ways of managing performance, and then we find it doesn’t fit with who we are and how we’re made as people… and then we try to manage each others walk with God in the same way. I really hope we can learn a better way of relating to each other in both the business context and spiritual context 🙂

    • Hi Scott & Bev,

      I’m really still at the beginnings of learning about who God is and about what man-made structures are like, so I don’t want to go too far in my comments (I’ve put my foot in my mouth before on this stuff) … That whole imagery of corralling and funneling people through man-made things to get to God, it’s ironic. It really is only through Jesus and only held together and connected to the Head that the Church can grow.

  22. Andrew, I also think that entities such as business, governments, branches of military and other organizations should be run in the business model and I would say history has proven that those models, when done in a Christlike manner, with good leadership and staff that respects and believes/follows the vision of the founders and leaders, is a successful one and one where staffs can find harmony and stability in that structure.

    But in contrast, it is clear to me that history has proven that most places of organized religion cannot be run in that business model without strife, split and hostility. Therefore, I do not believe that Christ desired for his church to organize and practice in that model, but rather for the church to be intermingled with the world, in an everyday fashion, as we love those who have placed in our areas of existence.

    As far as worship; I believe that worship can take many designs, whether it be solo, within a family structure, or a gathering, but to corral that gathering into a regular structured business-type model is a recipe for disaster and takes the focus away from Christ’s leadership and direction and onto man.

    I believe from my own experiences, that organized places of religious gatherings are like crutches for those desiring to walk with God, where folks lean on the crutches and continue to use them even when they don’t need them. Having left the organized gathering, my initial feeling, not only to myself, but my family, was like the crutches were instantly removed and we were left to stand and walk on our own. Except over time, we realized that what we were to lean on is not the man made crutches, but Christ, who says “follow me” for a daily changing adventure among the world.

    • Scott and Andrew,
      Your comments are so succinct and what I’ve been unable to articulate myself.

      This morning reading in Colossians 2 and Romans 14 I think sums it up.

      “Dones” are done with a man-made contrived system.

      “But in contrast, it is clear to me that history has proven that most places of organized religion cannot be run in that business model without strife, split and hostility. Therefore, I do not believe that Christ desired for his church to organize and practice in that model, but rather for the church to be intermingled with the world, in an everyday fashion, as we love those who have placed in our areas of existence.
      As far as worship; I believe that worship can take many designs, whether it be solo, within a family structure, or a gathering, but to corral that gathering into a regular structured business-type model is a recipe for disaster and takes the focus away from Christ’s leadership and direction and onto man.”


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