Posted tagged ‘“nones”’

Conversing with Church Runaways

July 16, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 July 16, 2017

                             

Josh Packard wrote a book a couple of years ago entitled Church Refugees. A sociologist, Packard had noticed that there had been a good bit of research and writing about the “Nones”, those people who select “No Religious Affiliation” when they are filling out a personal information sheet; but there hadn’t been that much study conducted that dealt with the “Dones”, those people who had been involved in a church and left it to go…nowhere!

It doesn’t take me very long to recall a number of “Dones” that have been involved in a church that I’ve pastored. Packard labels the “Dones” as “church refugees”, meaning that they have left where they were a part but aren’t quite sure where they will land. There is a vey good chance that where they land will not be in “churchland!”

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who would classify herself as a church runaway. I deeply respect this person, and value the conversations I’ve had with her. She exited the church of her upbringing mainly because of the judgmental posture of some of the church people she had known for years. They assaulted the experience of community that she longed for. She observed inconsistency in their words and actions and finally exited by whichever door was closest and never looked back.

The thing is…I can not argue her reasoning! She’s right! Church people often ration out grace and pour out judgment. Grace is too fluid and judgment is very clear, so judgment becomes the “go to.”

Some of the neatest, most incredible people I know are intimately involved in churches…and some of the meanest, most vindictive people I know are involved in churches. The blessing of the church is that everyone is welcome (At least that’s what the marquee says!); and the curse of the church is that it will accept people that no one else would put up with!

And it’s not like the church at one time had it all together and then lost its way! 1 Corinthians deals with a dysfunctional congregation that needed an outside consultant to come in and do a full body analysis! Spain didn’t join the American Colonists in their Revolutionary War fight against England because Americans were “too Protestant!” In other words, they did not belong to the one true church. On the other hand, in the early 1800’s very few Protestants celebrated Christmas in America because it was “too Catholic!” Churches have been prone to pointing their fingers at other churches and shaking their heads in contempt.

And so many churches are no longer seen as being safe locations but places that are caustic. And we have no one to blame but ourselves!

Here’s the interesting, and perhaps disturbing, thing! I feel much more comfortable having a conversation with my church runaway friend than I do with a lot of people who sit in pews each Sunday morning. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it is a bit unsettling!

Pool Hall Faith Conversations

November 12, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       November 12, 2013

 

 

      Last night about sixty people from six different churches from our community met on the second floor of a brewery restaurant to talk about faith questions. Pool tables adorned our meeting area, although we all withheld the urge to “break ‘em!”

We talked about four questions that dealt with our understandings of worship, how we experience Jesus, what would we do if we didn’t have church, and thoughts about the growing population of people who classify themselves as “nones”- people who have exited the church as a place to experience God.

Lutherans stood alongside Methodists, who stood next to Presbyterians, who rubbed elbows with Mennonites, who smiled at Baptists. Each question began with two of the pastors giving brief thoughts on it, and then the people went at it in smaller groups. Each new question was preceded with a reshuffling of the humanity present based on what kind of shoe they were wearing, where they lived, how they licked their ice cream cone…etc.

I stood with my Sprite next to a colleague with his wine and we talked about faith. No one got upset, or tried to make others “come over to the truth.” All of us realized that none of us have all the answers, and the one who thinks he has all the answers is the one to beware of.

We listened with our ears, disagreed without coming to blows, and pondered questions about our faith that we too often don’t think about.

There was a hint of “Baptist suspicion” in a few that I met. When I see some things that have been done by Baptists (Westboro Baptist), however, I understand the hesitancy. In one of my answers to a question I mentioned the need for the church to promote an environment where questions can be asked that don’t necessarily have answers. A young man came up to me afterwards and told me he was taken back by the comment. I asked why, and he said from his experience with a Baptist church in his past questions weren’t welcomed.

People hung around after the eighty-minute session had ended and continued talking. Carol and I left an hour later, glad we had been a part of it.

Although I have no intentions of exiting the American Baptist Churches, I do find it rewarding to enter into faith conversations with my brothers and sisters of other churches. I think it is more threatening to our faith journeys to discourage dialogue than it is to discuss our beliefs.

Many might disagree with me…but that’s okay! I have never promoted the idea that I have all of the answers.