Eschewing Church


I regularly read the group blog The Thinklings via Bloglines and today Phil “Don’t Call Me ‘Shrode'” Schroeder is polling believing Christians on why they have dropped out of attending church.Dropout of church? I think this is a good question for any of you who read Cerulean Sanctum and have either dropped out of organized church meetings or have considered doing so.

Even though I have not dropped out, for almost a year my wife and I struggled with the lack of fit we seemed to find in the churches we were visiting. At least for me, if God had not rooted us in the church we are in now, I probably would have considered starting a house church—I was that desperate. 😉

There were several reasons why I found myself on the outs with many current churches:

    1. Disparate vision – Like I wrote in today’s earlier post “Likemindedness and Life-altering Worship,” I don’t find myself encountering likeminded groups of believers much anymore. I know that I have long been somewhat of square peg in a round hole just about everywhere I’ve been in life (for anyone familiar with the book Tales of the Kingdom by David and Karen Main, I’m quintessentially “The Apprentice Juggler”), but there have always been a handful of people who were always on the same page with me. I don’t encounter that much anymore. I see some of that in the folks in the church we are in now, so I’m hopeful, but I was losing hope there for a while.

    2. Lack of a spiritual middle ground – I find a host of churches to be lacking in the Spirit. The reasons for this lack are too numerous to go into detail here, but many American churches are Christian in brain only. There’s a mental assent to Christian doctrine and morality, but there’s not a real belief that God is living and moving and speaking. As a result, I’ve tended to favor charismatic churches. But even there, the opposite problem exists in that experiencing God is everything and scholarship counts for nothing. Check your brain at the door and leave your Bible at home because cross-referencing the Scriptures against the experiences “quenches the Spirit”—or so some say.

    3. Lack of a practical middle ground – Is the church doing anything for the Kingdom or is it doing it only for itself? Insular church activities are okay, but if the poor aren’t being fed, if the people in the church don’t care when one of their own meets with the troubles of this life, their practice is like their dogma—all mental. And while being a real servant is great, real servants must also know the Scriptures and flee bad doctrine. It’s the old issue of apologetics versus service and I’m tiring of the ease at which today’s churches fall into either camp and not the middle.

    4. The Church in America is rushing toward a “remnant” status – I’m not going to say that the Church in this country is totally apostate, but I think it is rushing toward a remnant status. You see pockets of people within churches you know are in the Lord, but it’s the larger groups of people who are ever-sampling Him, yet never surrendering to Him that have me concerned. When did the our churches become the places where people don’t ever find Christ? I think our rush to seeker-sensitivity led to this permanent “almost born-again” cult mentality I see in a lot of churches. Fish or cut bait. Be in or be out, but don’t be a spiritual Mugwump. Those folks only make it miserable for committed Christians and the churches they call home.

    5. Restlessness – I’m not sure what God is doing, but a lot of hardcore Christians are restless. Is this a sign the Lord is coming soon? Perhaps. Or it could be that revival is on its way to those who hold hardest to the faith. I don’t know. What I do know is that many Christians are sitting in church on Sunday and whispering to themselves, Something’s missing. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. And like all restless people, they go searching. Some find what they are looking for once they throw off the perceived shackles of institutional church life, but then others fall through the cracks and wind up lost. Such is the nature of wandering and looking for something one doesn’t have.

Those five are my insights. They are conditions that led me to question whether or not I needed to drop out of “the traditional church assumption.” I firmly believe that anyone with the Spirit of Jesus living in them is the Church wherever they go. Whenever and wherever they meet with other Spirit-bearers, that fulfills the command of Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

If it looks like traditional church, fine. If it’s a half dozen people singing modern worship songs around a campfire in the U.P. of Michigan on a Friday night out under the starry heavens, that’s meeting, too.

I would encourage you to post here or at the Thinklings site. It is important for us to understand why today’s churches are not drawing people.

13 thoughts on “Eschewing Church

  1. Chaille Brindley

    Hi Dan,

    I think that many churches are getting people to visit or come to an event. But they don’t stay. Even those who are members don’t get really plugged in. Community is a word that is frequently used by churches but seldom seen in reality.

    About finding the middle ground, you’re right. Many preachers/teachers end up in one theological ditch or the other. Living on the road between the ditches can be hard.

    I for one have asked the Lord to release me on numerous occassion from my current church. It’s one of the biggest pentecostal churches in the area. Even after a recent split and leadership change, I distinctly heard the Holy Spirit tell me to stay put.

    Personally, I prefer home churches. I used to regularly fellowship with one. Actually, I’m still a part of it. The home church has sent me out to the institutional church to be a prophetic example and encourager. It’s people who have a different perspective that are needed in the big churhes now more than ever. We have a hard assignment, but it is critical. While God may have given up on the institutions, He has not given up on the people in them.

    Chaille Brindley

  2. Jennifer

    Hi, Dan! I found your blog via Teresa’s Restoration Station. I’m in Southwestern Ohio, too!

    This is a great post, and a great topic. I absolutely agree with what you’re saying. For the record, my church is all about community – doing life together – and we truly practice what we preach. It has taken a while for me to get used to. Church doesn’t end when we leave the service on Sunday. We are learning to live our lives together, and that means showing the ‘real you’ to other people, which can be scary.

    Anyway…glad I found you!

  3. Julana

    I personally am not happy with the inroads political conservatism has made into the church. I feel so many conservative Christians have a higher allegiance to their political stances than to their Christian beliefs. They wouldn’t recognize the claims of social justice if they walked up and shook their hand.

    I grew up in the Mennonite subculture, taking for granted that Christian views frequently, substantively, differ from those of mainstream culture.

    It is difficult to finding good teaching alongside good practice.

    We have been attending several churches, but also felt it difficult to fit in, for several years.

  4. Scott

    What I do know is that many Christians are sitting in church on Sunday and whispering to themselves, Something’s missing. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

    O how I’ve felt this way in the past. Currently my wife and I are part of a church in which we fit extremely well – but it’s the only church that I’ve ever felt that way about. And we’ll probably have to move on soon.

    I recently read the following quote by Martin Luther, “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” I think it’s profoundly relevant for our churches today and being a real people of grace.

  5. frostykaiser

    What is a church? Is it a building to enter or an event to attend? It may very well be our consumer culture that is slowly taking life away from the church body. In many ways we come to see, hear and feel the presence of God; taking in, but not pouring out. We go to find God, but forget that He is always with us.

    If a church lacks spirit and truth, bring it with you. Be restless, but don�t leave; stay to fill the holes.

  6. Dan,

    Thanks for pointing this site and the particular post out to me.

    I did put my small story up over there. I do think there is a growing movement away from the church. There are several home churches starting my area. This is an issue I have been dealing with for well over a year now, though not so verbally.

  7. Dan,

    Thanks for pointing this site and the particular post out to me.

    I did put my small story up over there. I do think there is a growing movement away from the church. There are several home churches starting my area. This is an issue I have been dealing with for well over a year now, though not so verbally.

  8. Kevin


    I am coming over from the link at Thinklings. Enjoyed the post. Thanks.

    You started by saying, I probably would have considered starting a house church—I was that desperate. 😉

    I assume from others things of yours I’ve read and your wink that you would much rather be in home church if you could pull it off. I have not read enough to be sure, though.

    I am so baffled on this subject. It’s pretty rough. Having home churched for 10 glorious and bloody years, I know the upsides and downsides, and it doesn’t matter. Church where the people are spectators is unprofitable.

    When Ezra and Nehemiah restored the wall, they didn’t actually do all the work. I don’t think that’s true of the modern implementation of “pastor”.

    After 5 years, I am returning to a steepled church because I am having such terrible luck finding fellowship in Columbus. I even have some fond hopes for my time there, but so many people treat it as if I were the lost sheep returning to the fold. It’s hard not to overreact. These 5 years have not been lost, and I have not been walking in rebellion. A lot of pain, but not rebellion.

    If this comment doesn’t show that I am dreadfully confused, then nothing could. Saints I deeply respect consider me clearly wrong for even wanting home church. On the other hand, I feel like a traitor to my own beliefs by for attending a steeple church. It’s hard even to talk about because most people who think about home church, think about a pastorate in the living room, which is a deep misunderstanding of what home church means.

    Oh well, one step at a time. Today, the Lord has me in this church.

  9. Lots of great responses here!


    Thanks for stopping by! Hope you like it here.

    It is hard to stay put, but I think that is a better answer than constantly starting new churches in a country that has 330,000 of them by one account. Gotta revive the dead bones.


    Yes, politics is a big issue and a divisive one. We’ve allied ourselves too closely with politics and we will pay for this in the long run.


    A merciful church will draw everyone!


    You, me, them—each person is the Church and we take the Church with us wherever we go. That said, without solid fellowship with solid believers, we become Lone Rangers and that never creates the synergy needed to get really big work done for God. A likeminded group is always better. Even Paul went out with others on his missionary journeys.

    MC Hendrick,

    Thanks for being a regular reader and for always contributing good things to the conversation!


    Actually, I would prefer NOT to be in a home church. I think that home churches lack the size needed to take on some of the bigger works for God. But I am not against them! I think the fact that so many are cropping up shows that too many people are missing something from their regular churches.

  10. Pam Hogeweide

    Hi Dan,
    Yes, the winds of changing are blowing and God knows I don’t like wind in my face. There is certainly a holy discontment brewing in people’s spirits – not out of rebellion but a deep, unresolved hunger for the Real Thing.

    I wonder, what is God’s dream for the church today? Jesus, our Wonderful Bridegroom, what does He desire for us in that passionate heart of His that took Him to the cross that He might have us?

    I, too, here in Portland, OR am wrestling with the same angst you are. My husband and I have been dedicated believers for decades.

    Sunday morning just doesn’t cut it.

    What is the church meant to be? What is the church – it’s people, not a building, it’s ordinary people like me ands you.

    Bless ya Dan for blogging about such things. God is up to something!


  11. Kevin

    I think that home churches lack the size
    Great answer. I agree that the ability to do the important things really matters.

    So, do you think that church as a preaching/listening station really works? Do you think that churches should have more people ministering? Do you think the ministry should be more than preaching?

    I don’t need to ever meet in a living room again. I do need to meet in a meaningful way, though. Listening to a preacher should make up about 30% of all Sunday morning church meetings by my measure. Preaching is meaningful and beautiful, but we could do with a lot less of it, if we had other forms of ministry.

  12. Boltono

    Jesus leads some of us out of everything unto himself in ways that the “church-ettes” don’t comprehend. Don’t judge them for that..just get on and don’t be “desperate”, and receive the splendid and amazing things God has to give you beyond your (and my) tiny mind can comprehend. All goes…but God is there. Bit like death really! No prob.

  13. Sue

    I agree and have experienced the same restlessness myself. Here are a few reasons I think we’re in this state:

    1) Christians don’t know their own history and therefore have no idea what emense good Christianity has brought to the world, or what we sorely need to repent from (for ex. Jew hatred passed down from virtually all Church Fathers)

    2) Seeker friendly and mega church movements water down and pervert the gospel, making church entertainment driven not service driven.

    3) The Protestant reformation, while in many ways positive for its day and time, didn’t go far enough. It also created more problems e.g., (a) today there are 37k+ Protestant denominations and (b) Luther’s vile hatred of Jews led to Germans agreeing to, ignoring, or participating in the Holocaust.

    4) Christians think they have the authority to interpret scripture without regard to context or constraint of any kind, making it “all about them”, and nothing to do with the original authors or hearers.

    5) lack of Awe and reverence: making the “Holy One of Israel” and His Messiah our own personal buddy.

    6 Sexual immorality, being sanctioned by many in the church today, is based upon ignorance of God’s Word and how it applies to us.

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