The De-Churched

We have the Un-Churched, those who are unaffiliated with any church.  Skye Jethani at Christianity Today starts a series on another category of people who don’t go to church:  the De-Churched.  Those who used to go to church, but, for one reason or another, don’t any longer.  Read the whole thing, but note what he has to say about that other category:

In days gone by, missional efforts were focused on presenting and demonstrating the love of Christ to non-Christians. But in the 1980s a new term was coined to describe the growing number of North Americans without any significant church background. They were called the unchurched. Untold numbers of books were written about them. Ministry conferences discussed them. Church leaders orchestrated worship services to attract them.

The shift from “evangelizing non-Christians” to “reaching the unchurched” was perceived as benign at the time, but it represented an important shift in our understanding of mission. The church was no longer just a means by which Christ’s mission would advance in the world, it was also the end of that mission. The goal wasn’t simply to introduce the unchurched to Christ, but—as the term reveals—to engage them in a relationship with the institutional church. This paved the way for the ubiquitous (but flawed) belief today that “mission” is synonymous with “church growth.” (Another post for another day.)

Well, another new term is on the rise and gaining attention among evangelicals in North America. Those without a past relationship to the church are called unchurched, but there are many with significant past church involvement who are exiting. They are the de-churched.

via Who Are the De-Churched? (Part 1) | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders.

Are any of you de-churched? Why?

How might churches get the de-churched back?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Winston Smith

    I used to be de-churched. I never stopped believing, but I decided that I didn’t need involvement with the institutional church. I suppose my conscience eventually got the better of me, and I started attending again. My spiritual life is stronger for doing so.

    More generally, the whole idea of missions is different in a Christian or post-Christian society. In places like Thailand or the Amazon the church is trying to reach people who have never heard the Gospel, or even the name of Jesus. They have only known the darkness and hopelessness of paganism, and in a way may be easier to convert than people who have become thoroughly accustomed (numbed, even) to Christianity. No one has ever had more access to the Bible and the institutional church than American Christians, but so many of them take it for granted, or know it only in a lukewarm or politicized form, that it is difficult to reach them. Many of the “de-churched” will have “been there, done that” and are jaded.

    Some de-churched, of course, may simply be reacting to a bad personal experience.

  • Winston Smith

    I used to be de-churched. I never stopped believing, but I decided that I didn’t need involvement with the institutional church. I suppose my conscience eventually got the better of me, and I started attending again. My spiritual life is stronger for doing so.

    More generally, the whole idea of missions is different in a Christian or post-Christian society. In places like Thailand or the Amazon the church is trying to reach people who have never heard the Gospel, or even the name of Jesus. They have only known the darkness and hopelessness of paganism, and in a way may be easier to convert than people who have become thoroughly accustomed (numbed, even) to Christianity. No one has ever had more access to the Bible and the institutional church than American Christians, but so many of them take it for granted, or know it only in a lukewarm or politicized form, that it is difficult to reach them. Many of the “de-churched” will have “been there, done that” and are jaded.

    Some de-churched, of course, may simply be reacting to a bad personal experience.

  • http://www.IndyOPC.org Larry

    The way the term “unchurched” used to be used embraced any who had not been to church for a set period of time, i.e., it included those now being called “dechurched.” The world, the flesh, and the devil conspire to “un-” or “de-” church people, aiming to separate them from the Lord by severing them from the means of grace. Alas, modern evangelicalism helps play into their hands by inculcating a low view of the means of grace. O Lord, please grant fresh revival and reformation!

  • http://www.IndyOPC.org Larry

    The way the term “unchurched” used to be used embraced any who had not been to church for a set period of time, i.e., it included those now being called “dechurched.” The world, the flesh, and the devil conspire to “un-” or “de-” church people, aiming to separate them from the Lord by severing them from the means of grace. Alas, modern evangelicalism helps play into their hands by inculcating a low view of the means of grace. O Lord, please grant fresh revival and reformation!

  • http://bethanylc.org Rev. C. D. Trouten

    I have grown tired of “political correctness” in the church. Thus, I call the “unchurched” by the old term: heathen. I call the “dechurched”: apostate. I do like what Larry says about the means of grace. The apostate have abandoned the Body which Jesus gives for them to eat & the Blood He pours out for them to drink for the forgiveness of their sins. If His invitation to eat & drink does not compel them to come in, I cannot imagine a salutary thing that will (though plenty of unsalutary things come to mind).

  • http://bethanylc.org Rev. C. D. Trouten

    I have grown tired of “political correctness” in the church. Thus, I call the “unchurched” by the old term: heathen. I call the “dechurched”: apostate. I do like what Larry says about the means of grace. The apostate have abandoned the Body which Jesus gives for them to eat & the Blood He pours out for them to drink for the forgiveness of their sins. If His invitation to eat & drink does not compel them to come in, I cannot imagine a salutary thing that will (though plenty of unsalutary things come to mind).

  • Steven

    It strikes me that the issue of mission comes down to the dichotomy between reaching those lost in the depths of pagan superstition wherever that may, and trying to preach a doctrine of Law and Gospel to those comfortably ensconced in a modern culture that doesn’t believe in the condemnation of the Law and therefore finds the Gospel to be without relevance. I’d use the old (Niebuhr?) quote here about a God without wrath …, but I cannot remember exactly how it goes. That notion, though, goes directly to the problem of the de- and un-churched. Too many people think they’re “good” and hold to the belief that God thinks they’re okay no matter what they do. For them God is a undemanding, positive mirror of their self perceptions and self affirmations, not one who condemns their sins (who really sins? such an outdated concept) and saves through the means of grace.

  • Steven

    It strikes me that the issue of mission comes down to the dichotomy between reaching those lost in the depths of pagan superstition wherever that may, and trying to preach a doctrine of Law and Gospel to those comfortably ensconced in a modern culture that doesn’t believe in the condemnation of the Law and therefore finds the Gospel to be without relevance. I’d use the old (Niebuhr?) quote here about a God without wrath …, but I cannot remember exactly how it goes. That notion, though, goes directly to the problem of the de- and un-churched. Too many people think they’re “good” and hold to the belief that God thinks they’re okay no matter what they do. For them God is a undemanding, positive mirror of their self perceptions and self affirmations, not one who condemns their sins (who really sins? such an outdated concept) and saves through the means of grace.

  • Steven

    Here’s another question: How many people in the pews at too many churches are effectively un- or de-churched becauase their church or denomination no longer believes in the reality of sin and the need for Christ? I’m thinking here of the ELCA, but perhaps also the PCUSA, UCC, TEC, the UMC, and many of the other mainline liberal churches.

  • Steven

    Here’s another question: How many people in the pews at too many churches are effectively un- or de-churched becauase their church or denomination no longer believes in the reality of sin and the need for Christ? I’m thinking here of the ELCA, but perhaps also the PCUSA, UCC, TEC, the UMC, and many of the other mainline liberal churches.

  • Larry

    “Essentially, Chandler attributes the exodus of young people to the proclamation (explicitly or implicitly) of a false gospel of “moralistic deism.”

    I’d like to say “he’s on to something” and he is, but it’s kind of like saying, “finally somebody recognized the sky is blue”. Late is the hour but welcomed nonetheless. This one hits home to me personally on so many levels.

    This is a plague and I know it first hand as to myself and so many folks I know personally as family, friends, co-workers. All these are first hand personal experiences and not some statistic. And it’s not just the youth it goes deep as in my dad’s generation (68). I could literally exhaust pages of first hand accounts of this including my own. It is the reason I left the SB “church” and became an atheist. I work in the realm of science and cannot tell you how many ex-Roman Catholics, Baptist and Methodist I know personally that basically have this story, and their view of the “Christian faith” is basically been “do good and you go to heaven”. Oh they have all been taught about “grace” either grace before the fall and conversion to “do”, or after conversion to “do”, but the common theme is grace is not “forgiveness of sins” (Luther) but that “grace power” to do, infused Rome and a rose is a rose by any other name and so is infused grace by any other name in the protestant realm.

    When I’ve talked to them, and it is not too few, they are shocked to hear of Christ in the sense of forgiveness of sins, especially if you shock them with a 200 proof Gospel by saying something like, “…even if you don’t believe it…”, “…even if you don’t get better but worse…”. I could literally tell one story after another and it would be the same. I could even tell you of several stories of some SB youth in our former Calvinistic SB church in which some kids we knew personally at their teenage years wished to join the church and be baptized had to be examined before the elders. The elders asked, “do you still desire to sin”, a teen being honest actually answers that honestly, as opposed to fake sinner adults, with a sheepish “yes I still have desires to sin” (who doesn’t!, Romans 7, 1 John) and the elders “heart reading meter” said, “you are not ready to be baptized and become a Christian. Lest this be misread, this church was not some stogy church lady self righteous group (a parity that only Hollywood dreams up to express a hidden reality) but a fine swell fellow meant to express “free grace” and Christ alone (legalism comes in this way more often than not). Those teens now? Full blown atheist and agnostics entirely gone from the church.

    I know personally across all ages from teen to men older than my dad, including my dad, family, friends and co-workers who fall into this category. The Gospel has not been preached in these denominations not just in “some time” but ever. I know so many people that fall into this category it is sickening. So many times they tried “church” and just had another legalism thrown at them under the guise of “gospel” (and fake law) they’ve given up, they can’t keep up with the pietistic Jones’s, at least they are honest! It’s so bad its hard to “get through” if not impossible to them again and say, “Hey, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about but I’ve found Christ in the orthodox confessions of the Lutheran church.” Because to their ear that sounds like what they’ve heard a thousand other times. And do not make the mistake that this is the problem, which SO MANY DO, of the more gross false churches out there like Benny Hinn or even a Rick Warren, this a problem in false churches that like to cozy up to Luther for a few superficial terms like “grace alone” but over throw the Gospel in the life of the church and lack of sacraments later. These false religions are the best atheist/agnostic makers I know of. I just talked, last week literally, with such an ex-church denomination goer who for this reason no longer goes. Because it at length presented a different Jesus.

    Coming from the outside in, an atheist, I never conceived that the fight for the Gospel would be mostly in the churches (what are termed the heterodox/false churches that is). I’m constantly stunned that I get the most resistance to the Gospel by “god fearing” Christians. It’s like I told my wife, “I could smuggle in legalism and law in any given church in the heterodoxy sphere with little disguise whatsoever. But the Gospel, they are like hound dogs on guard for it.” Once you pour a cup of 200 proof Gospel, your goose is cooked.

    Larry

  • Larry

    “Essentially, Chandler attributes the exodus of young people to the proclamation (explicitly or implicitly) of a false gospel of “moralistic deism.”

    I’d like to say “he’s on to something” and he is, but it’s kind of like saying, “finally somebody recognized the sky is blue”. Late is the hour but welcomed nonetheless. This one hits home to me personally on so many levels.

    This is a plague and I know it first hand as to myself and so many folks I know personally as family, friends, co-workers. All these are first hand personal experiences and not some statistic. And it’s not just the youth it goes deep as in my dad’s generation (68). I could literally exhaust pages of first hand accounts of this including my own. It is the reason I left the SB “church” and became an atheist. I work in the realm of science and cannot tell you how many ex-Roman Catholics, Baptist and Methodist I know personally that basically have this story, and their view of the “Christian faith” is basically been “do good and you go to heaven”. Oh they have all been taught about “grace” either grace before the fall and conversion to “do”, or after conversion to “do”, but the common theme is grace is not “forgiveness of sins” (Luther) but that “grace power” to do, infused Rome and a rose is a rose by any other name and so is infused grace by any other name in the protestant realm.

    When I’ve talked to them, and it is not too few, they are shocked to hear of Christ in the sense of forgiveness of sins, especially if you shock them with a 200 proof Gospel by saying something like, “…even if you don’t believe it…”, “…even if you don’t get better but worse…”. I could literally tell one story after another and it would be the same. I could even tell you of several stories of some SB youth in our former Calvinistic SB church in which some kids we knew personally at their teenage years wished to join the church and be baptized had to be examined before the elders. The elders asked, “do you still desire to sin”, a teen being honest actually answers that honestly, as opposed to fake sinner adults, with a sheepish “yes I still have desires to sin” (who doesn’t!, Romans 7, 1 John) and the elders “heart reading meter” said, “you are not ready to be baptized and become a Christian. Lest this be misread, this church was not some stogy church lady self righteous group (a parity that only Hollywood dreams up to express a hidden reality) but a fine swell fellow meant to express “free grace” and Christ alone (legalism comes in this way more often than not). Those teens now? Full blown atheist and agnostics entirely gone from the church.

    I know personally across all ages from teen to men older than my dad, including my dad, family, friends and co-workers who fall into this category. The Gospel has not been preached in these denominations not just in “some time” but ever. I know so many people that fall into this category it is sickening. So many times they tried “church” and just had another legalism thrown at them under the guise of “gospel” (and fake law) they’ve given up, they can’t keep up with the pietistic Jones’s, at least they are honest! It’s so bad its hard to “get through” if not impossible to them again and say, “Hey, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about but I’ve found Christ in the orthodox confessions of the Lutheran church.” Because to their ear that sounds like what they’ve heard a thousand other times. And do not make the mistake that this is the problem, which SO MANY DO, of the more gross false churches out there like Benny Hinn or even a Rick Warren, this a problem in false churches that like to cozy up to Luther for a few superficial terms like “grace alone” but over throw the Gospel in the life of the church and lack of sacraments later. These false religions are the best atheist/agnostic makers I know of. I just talked, last week literally, with such an ex-church denomination goer who for this reason no longer goes. Because it at length presented a different Jesus.

    Coming from the outside in, an atheist, I never conceived that the fight for the Gospel would be mostly in the churches (what are termed the heterodox/false churches that is). I’m constantly stunned that I get the most resistance to the Gospel by “god fearing” Christians. It’s like I told my wife, “I could smuggle in legalism and law in any given church in the heterodoxy sphere with little disguise whatsoever. But the Gospel, they are like hound dogs on guard for it.” Once you pour a cup of 200 proof Gospel, your goose is cooked.

    Larry

  • Debb c

    I am currently de-churched. I became tired of the message that the evangelical church I was going to message. It was implicitly that if I wasn’t working myself into a frenzy I wasn’t a good christian.
    by this I mean if I wasn’t attending all church meetings and helping with the daycare that masqueraded as teaching children. attending meetings were women talked about missions and generally doing stuff for the church I would not measure up in God eyes. also if I couldn’t feel God’s presence in the “worship service”I needed to look at myself and find it in my heart to come to God.
    Yet in my “christian walk” I had been doing the thing that was preached since I was little I was reading my bible and I was reading all of it. Yes I started in Genesis and read through Revelation. the more I did this the more superficial the church services seemed for years I went to church because Paul said not to forsake the gathering of yourselves.
    Anyway my husband still wishes to go to an evangelist church and I love the liturgy of the local Lutheran church. So now we do not attend either church regularly as one of us is always unhappply after.
    post script my husband had promised me if I continued to go to the old church until he finished a term of leadership then I could pick the next church.

  • Debb c

    I am currently de-churched. I became tired of the message that the evangelical church I was going to message. It was implicitly that if I wasn’t working myself into a frenzy I wasn’t a good christian.
    by this I mean if I wasn’t attending all church meetings and helping with the daycare that masqueraded as teaching children. attending meetings were women talked about missions and generally doing stuff for the church I would not measure up in God eyes. also if I couldn’t feel God’s presence in the “worship service”I needed to look at myself and find it in my heart to come to God.
    Yet in my “christian walk” I had been doing the thing that was preached since I was little I was reading my bible and I was reading all of it. Yes I started in Genesis and read through Revelation. the more I did this the more superficial the church services seemed for years I went to church because Paul said not to forsake the gathering of yourselves.
    Anyway my husband still wishes to go to an evangelist church and I love the liturgy of the local Lutheran church. So now we do not attend either church regularly as one of us is always unhappply after.
    post script my husband had promised me if I continued to go to the old church until he finished a term of leadership then I could pick the next church.

  • http://deekdubberly.com/ Deek Dubberly

    How do we get the de-churched back? We love them in one person/family at a time. It will be a slow process at first, breaking down negative stereotypes of the contemporary church culture. Eventually, though, church will mean something to them other than a bunch of hypocrites and a few well-meaners.

  • http://deekdubberly.com/ Deek Dubberly

    How do we get the de-churched back? We love them in one person/family at a time. It will be a slow process at first, breaking down negative stereotypes of the contemporary church culture. Eventually, though, church will mean something to them other than a bunch of hypocrites and a few well-meaners.

  • Larry

    Debbc,

    “It was implicitly that if I wasn’t working myself into a frenzy I wasn’t a good christian.”

    Bingo, I know personally by similarity your story for my own part and tons of others. And I don’t say that lightly but empathetically. That’s what happens when the Gospel is made inward and the sacraments are no longer there. Imagine the relief that finally comes when you hear Christ say “I forgive you, you are saved”.

    That “implied” works righteousness is more deadly than “explicit” works righteousness, at least with the later you KNOW where your enemy is and can identify him. It’s kind of like Patton once saying, “I’d rather have the German army in front of me than the French army behind me”. I’d rather have Islam, Mormonism and rank atheism in front of me than heterodoxy of ANY form behind me”. With friends like that who needs enemies!

    The Gospel and sacraments don’t call for faith, they give it. There’s a scene in the movie Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers part, that displays this nicely. Golem who trust no one and is the representative essence of the inwardly turned sinner in ugly form is attempting to get the ring back. Sam, the incurable religious person, never trusts him and is always saying, “he deserves…”. Sam is like most false churches. Sam, like the false churches, has a religion whose essence is “if you believe/then you may be assured you are saved”. Frodo yet absolves him because he knows the addiction he is under, Frodo has mercy on him. Frodo has a religion whose essence is “I forgive you SO you WILL believe/trust me” (true Christianity and the Cross religion). Sam turns Golem inward to change so Sam’s religion can then accept him, fallen love that loves its object because of its attractiveness. We might say Sam’s religion makes Golem assured by calling upon “does Golem have faith or similarly signs of said faith”. Frodo’s religion gives sacraments that both give and work faith, Frodo removes, in the movie, the bondage of the Elf rope they have Golem captured and constrained within (kind of like the tutor Law) and writhing in. Sam, the glory religion, would prefer to leave Golem in that bondage and jerks him around (recall the movie scene if you’ve seen it). But at that moment Frodo gives Golem a sacrament, he removes the bonds of the rope. Golem is stunned, stops his writhing and raging and for a moment one sees his inward turn go toward his “savior”, in this case Frodo, who removed ACTUALLY his bondage SO Golem would trust (believe) him. Later Golem displays a joy due to this and cast his inward turning self talking with himself away saying, “leave us forever”. It is not until later in the movie when others similar to Sam rebind (back to the Law) Golem because of his character being “seedy” to them that Golem returns to self salvation and self turning thinking that Frodo, the true religion, is like these other false religions (like that which parades itself around as Christian within the heterodox churches). And tragically as the story goes, Golem is lost forever, he looses the faith and falls away and in inwardly seeking again, due to the Sam/law religions and assuming Frodo (like the Cross) is the same as them…Golem in the end falls into final destruction at Mount Doom.

    This exchange is much like what we see between false churches and true confessions, between no sacraments and pretend sacraments and true sacraments and it is soul killing deadly. Anyone that takes heterodoxy light does not understand the devil nor what is at stake.

    Larry

  • Larry

    Debbc,

    “It was implicitly that if I wasn’t working myself into a frenzy I wasn’t a good christian.”

    Bingo, I know personally by similarity your story for my own part and tons of others. And I don’t say that lightly but empathetically. That’s what happens when the Gospel is made inward and the sacraments are no longer there. Imagine the relief that finally comes when you hear Christ say “I forgive you, you are saved”.

    That “implied” works righteousness is more deadly than “explicit” works righteousness, at least with the later you KNOW where your enemy is and can identify him. It’s kind of like Patton once saying, “I’d rather have the German army in front of me than the French army behind me”. I’d rather have Islam, Mormonism and rank atheism in front of me than heterodoxy of ANY form behind me”. With friends like that who needs enemies!

    The Gospel and sacraments don’t call for faith, they give it. There’s a scene in the movie Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers part, that displays this nicely. Golem who trust no one and is the representative essence of the inwardly turned sinner in ugly form is attempting to get the ring back. Sam, the incurable religious person, never trusts him and is always saying, “he deserves…”. Sam is like most false churches. Sam, like the false churches, has a religion whose essence is “if you believe/then you may be assured you are saved”. Frodo yet absolves him because he knows the addiction he is under, Frodo has mercy on him. Frodo has a religion whose essence is “I forgive you SO you WILL believe/trust me” (true Christianity and the Cross religion). Sam turns Golem inward to change so Sam’s religion can then accept him, fallen love that loves its object because of its attractiveness. We might say Sam’s religion makes Golem assured by calling upon “does Golem have faith or similarly signs of said faith”. Frodo’s religion gives sacraments that both give and work faith, Frodo removes, in the movie, the bondage of the Elf rope they have Golem captured and constrained within (kind of like the tutor Law) and writhing in. Sam, the glory religion, would prefer to leave Golem in that bondage and jerks him around (recall the movie scene if you’ve seen it). But at that moment Frodo gives Golem a sacrament, he removes the bonds of the rope. Golem is stunned, stops his writhing and raging and for a moment one sees his inward turn go toward his “savior”, in this case Frodo, who removed ACTUALLY his bondage SO Golem would trust (believe) him. Later Golem displays a joy due to this and cast his inward turning self talking with himself away saying, “leave us forever”. It is not until later in the movie when others similar to Sam rebind (back to the Law) Golem because of his character being “seedy” to them that Golem returns to self salvation and self turning thinking that Frodo, the true religion, is like these other false religions (like that which parades itself around as Christian within the heterodox churches). And tragically as the story goes, Golem is lost forever, he looses the faith and falls away and in inwardly seeking again, due to the Sam/law religions and assuming Frodo (like the Cross) is the same as them…Golem in the end falls into final destruction at Mount Doom.

    This exchange is much like what we see between false churches and true confessions, between no sacraments and pretend sacraments and true sacraments and it is soul killing deadly. Anyone that takes heterodoxy light does not understand the devil nor what is at stake.

    Larry

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    WE can get CPH to offer a 60% discount on “The Spirituality of the Cross” for anyone odering 20 or more copies, then we can inundate out neighborhoods and churches with them. I think that is the best plan.
    Then our churches can stop playing community center and return to being churches, concentrating on preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments, and letting the youth group die if there isn’t anyone dying to take 30 teenagers to Disney land and put up with teenage drama over facebook. Letting couples find a certified counselor to help them with the marriage problems.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    WE can get CPH to offer a 60% discount on “The Spirituality of the Cross” for anyone odering 20 or more copies, then we can inundate out neighborhoods and churches with them. I think that is the best plan.
    Then our churches can stop playing community center and return to being churches, concentrating on preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments, and letting the youth group die if there isn’t anyone dying to take 30 teenagers to Disney land and put up with teenage drama over facebook. Letting couples find a certified counselor to help them with the marriage problems.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    As a Pastor who grew up in the thrall of “church growth,” I can remember being in thralled with the huge churches with spectacular activities and ministries, I find myself in a struggle. The church growth mentality is warring with what I think maybe what is needed. I admit still falling for the idea a great program will attract new people and retain current members, but I wonder is this really where we need to be. Is not the ultimate purpose to be the “absolution station”, the one place we are guaranteed to be able to go to hear the good news? Do we really need all the ancillary “necessities” such as music and youth ministries and to be the center of our members lives? Do we need to be wasting our time in business meetings? Part of me still wants to say yes but the other part of me realizes as a Pastor my job is to teach, proclaim the Law and the Gospel, and administer the sacraments.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    As a Pastor who grew up in the thrall of “church growth,” I can remember being in thralled with the huge churches with spectacular activities and ministries, I find myself in a struggle. The church growth mentality is warring with what I think maybe what is needed. I admit still falling for the idea a great program will attract new people and retain current members, but I wonder is this really where we need to be. Is not the ultimate purpose to be the “absolution station”, the one place we are guaranteed to be able to go to hear the good news? Do we really need all the ancillary “necessities” such as music and youth ministries and to be the center of our members lives? Do we need to be wasting our time in business meetings? Part of me still wants to say yes but the other part of me realizes as a Pastor my job is to teach, proclaim the Law and the Gospel, and administer the sacraments.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    DL21@11
    I am not warring with it. The only programs I care to see is dartball for the men, and Bunco for the ladies. And they can keep those going as long as they find them entertaining.
    Big churches and programs have lost their luster for me. Just looks like a big headache.
    Word and sacrament, that’s it.
    Though Schools I do find helpful, and useful, but the rest of it? I can go with out.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    DL21@11
    I am not warring with it. The only programs I care to see is dartball for the men, and Bunco for the ladies. And they can keep those going as long as they find them entertaining.
    Big churches and programs have lost their luster for me. Just looks like a big headache.
    Word and sacrament, that’s it.
    Though Schools I do find helpful, and useful, but the rest of it? I can go with out.

  • fws

    “The church was no longer just a means by which Christ’s mission would advance in the world, it was also the end of that mission. ”

    bingo

  • fws

    “The church was no longer just a means by which Christ’s mission would advance in the world, it was also the end of that mission. ”

    bingo

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Bror,
    I am unfamiliar with dartball, what is it?

    Programs are a big headache. I have a big one because I refuse to put together a youth program like the popular one at another church here in town. Instead, I have chosen to focus on teaching families how to be Christ to each other and equipping parents to share their faith with their kids.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Bror,
    I am unfamiliar with dartball, what is it?

    Programs are a big headache. I have a big one because I refuse to put together a youth program like the popular one at another church here in town. Instead, I have chosen to focus on teaching families how to be Christ to each other and equipping parents to share their faith with their kids.

  • Larry

    “WE can get CPH to offer a 60% discount on “The Spirituality of the Cross” for anyone odering 20 or more copies, then we can inundate out neighborhoods and churches with them. I think that is the best plan.”

    I like that plan. When you see the face of someone that grew up in church finally hear for the first time ever an alien message, its stunning (its like reliving it when you yourself first heard it).

    Another story, a friend of mine, long story short, was once communicating this to a life long (late 40s) RC about this. Basically Christ’s forgiveness period, even if you don’t get better. The guy was literally shell shocked. It was an official business trip they were on. And literally for 200+ plus miles all the way back home the guy just sat there pondering it, shaking his head saying every once in a while, “That’s the most astounding thing I’ve ever heard in my life…” And this guy grew up in the church, went his whole life and is very well educated.

    I’ve seen this more than once. Another guy grew up in the church, when I started talking he was already answering back to me. He had long left the church but still “believed in God”. I basically gave that same pure Gospel, half way into his already loaded reply, expecting I suppose from me some implied moral message, he caught what I said, did a double take (literally), stammered on his words, and said, “What did you say…”. Shell shocked.

    I’ve found for such folks one has to go back like Luther and redefine all those old terms they heard “faith, grace, etc…”, otherwise they quickly slip in the false definitions they’ve been fed or implied about.

    Larry

  • Larry

    “WE can get CPH to offer a 60% discount on “The Spirituality of the Cross” for anyone odering 20 or more copies, then we can inundate out neighborhoods and churches with them. I think that is the best plan.”

    I like that plan. When you see the face of someone that grew up in church finally hear for the first time ever an alien message, its stunning (its like reliving it when you yourself first heard it).

    Another story, a friend of mine, long story short, was once communicating this to a life long (late 40s) RC about this. Basically Christ’s forgiveness period, even if you don’t get better. The guy was literally shell shocked. It was an official business trip they were on. And literally for 200+ plus miles all the way back home the guy just sat there pondering it, shaking his head saying every once in a while, “That’s the most astounding thing I’ve ever heard in my life…” And this guy grew up in the church, went his whole life and is very well educated.

    I’ve seen this more than once. Another guy grew up in the church, when I started talking he was already answering back to me. He had long left the church but still “believed in God”. I basically gave that same pure Gospel, half way into his already loaded reply, expecting I suppose from me some implied moral message, he caught what I said, did a double take (literally), stammered on his words, and said, “What did you say…”. Shell shocked.

    I’ve found for such folks one has to go back like Luther and redefine all those old terms they heard “faith, grace, etc…”, otherwise they quickly slip in the false definitions they’ve been fed or implied about.

    Larry

  • J

    How to get the de’churched back?
    Read the discussion spawned by Kagan’s article, where you’d think you’d come across a “Christians for Nuclear War” convention. People took Kagan’s bait not only to call for yet more wars, but to mindlessly insult Obama as ‘amoral,’ and ‘anti-American.’ The ‘culture war’ oozes from your pores. Don’t you think a lot of de’churched just got sick of it and left?

  • J

    How to get the de’churched back?
    Read the discussion spawned by Kagan’s article, where you’d think you’d come across a “Christians for Nuclear War” convention. People took Kagan’s bait not only to call for yet more wars, but to mindlessly insult Obama as ‘amoral,’ and ‘anti-American.’ The ‘culture war’ oozes from your pores. Don’t you think a lot of de’churched just got sick of it and left?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “Another story, a friend of mine, long story short, was once communicating this to a life long (late 40s) RC about this. Basically Christ’s forgiveness period, even if you don’t get better. The guy was literally shell shocked. It was an official business trip they were on. And literally for 200+ plus miles all the way back home the guy just sat there pondering it, shaking his head saying every once in a while, “That’s the most astounding thing I’ve ever heard in my life…” And this guy grew up in the church, went his whole life and is very well educated.”
    It wasn’t until I was in the air force, that I realized there are people who have gone to church their whole lives, and never heard the forgiveness of sins. It was at that point I decided to become a pastor.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “Another story, a friend of mine, long story short, was once communicating this to a life long (late 40s) RC about this. Basically Christ’s forgiveness period, even if you don’t get better. The guy was literally shell shocked. It was an official business trip they were on. And literally for 200+ plus miles all the way back home the guy just sat there pondering it, shaking his head saying every once in a while, “That’s the most astounding thing I’ve ever heard in my life…” And this guy grew up in the church, went his whole life and is very well educated.”
    It wasn’t until I was in the air force, that I realized there are people who have gone to church their whole lives, and never heard the forgiveness of sins. It was at that point I decided to become a pastor.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dartball, otherwise known as American Style darts, is a dart game modeled after baseball, played with over sized darts thrown underhand, at 4′x4′ baseball diamonds 15 feet away. Most often this game is played in the basements of Lutheran Churches in the upper midwest, though it is quickly becoming popular in Utah. It’s a good excuse to get men together.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dartball, otherwise known as American Style darts, is a dart game modeled after baseball, played with over sized darts thrown underhand, at 4′x4′ baseball diamonds 15 feet away. Most often this game is played in the basements of Lutheran Churches in the upper midwest, though it is quickly becoming popular in Utah. It’s a good excuse to get men together.

  • DonS

    Steven @ 5: Well said. I can never quite understand why mainline Protestant churches, which have thrown over any concept of the Truth of the Gospel or judgment for sin, bother to continue meeting. It must be for social reasons, but it’s understandable why so many would “de-church” from such a meaningless waste of time.

    J @ 16: Is there anything that you don’t see through a political lens? I don’t know what kinds of churches you attend, but I’ve never been to one that called for nuclear war, insulted Obama, or did anything else even remotely political. Perhaps rather than de-churching, you should just look around for a different church.

  • DonS

    Steven @ 5: Well said. I can never quite understand why mainline Protestant churches, which have thrown over any concept of the Truth of the Gospel or judgment for sin, bother to continue meeting. It must be for social reasons, but it’s understandable why so many would “de-church” from such a meaningless waste of time.

    J @ 16: Is there anything that you don’t see through a political lens? I don’t know what kinds of churches you attend, but I’ve never been to one that called for nuclear war, insulted Obama, or did anything else even remotely political. Perhaps rather than de-churching, you should just look around for a different church.

  • J

    DonS @19
    You’ve ‘never been to such a church” that did anything ‘even remotely political’ ? That doesn’t pass even the straight face test.

  • J

    DonS @19
    You’ve ‘never been to such a church” that did anything ‘even remotely political’ ? That doesn’t pass even the straight face test.

  • Larry

    “Well said. I can never quite understand why mainline Protestant churches, which have thrown over any concept of the Truth of the Gospel or judgment for sin, bother to continue meeting. It must be for social reasons, but it’s understandable why so many would “de-church” from such a meaningless waste of time.”

    Very nicely couched. Back in the day when I was a young atheist in college the protestant/evangelical groups on campus would always try to draw us unbelievers in by appealing to things we both liked. In our area it was basketball, usually intramural competition. Basketball is pretty much a religion in KY, especially college bball. So they’d approach us to rope us onto their teams to “secretly” be witnesses to us heathen. The only real secret was that we knew exactly what they were doing but they didn’t know we knew. Of course anyone whose competed in sports in general and basketball in specific well knows the heated frustrating moments of blowing a move or missing a pass/shot, etc… One day I told my buddy, “you know I love basketball and I love playing it but why do I have to just limit my play to these church groups? I can play with fellow unbelievers, have just as much if not more fun at it, and besides when I mess up a shot or blow a defense I prefer to say a good strong cuss word instead of “fiddle sticks”.

    Larry

  • Larry

    “Well said. I can never quite understand why mainline Protestant churches, which have thrown over any concept of the Truth of the Gospel or judgment for sin, bother to continue meeting. It must be for social reasons, but it’s understandable why so many would “de-church” from such a meaningless waste of time.”

    Very nicely couched. Back in the day when I was a young atheist in college the protestant/evangelical groups on campus would always try to draw us unbelievers in by appealing to things we both liked. In our area it was basketball, usually intramural competition. Basketball is pretty much a religion in KY, especially college bball. So they’d approach us to rope us onto their teams to “secretly” be witnesses to us heathen. The only real secret was that we knew exactly what they were doing but they didn’t know we knew. Of course anyone whose competed in sports in general and basketball in specific well knows the heated frustrating moments of blowing a move or missing a pass/shot, etc… One day I told my buddy, “you know I love basketball and I love playing it but why do I have to just limit my play to these church groups? I can play with fellow unbelievers, have just as much if not more fun at it, and besides when I mess up a shot or blow a defense I prefer to say a good strong cuss word instead of “fiddle sticks”.

    Larry

  • jim_claybourn

    Dr Rosenbladt’s presentation (see right side bar) would probably be a big help to the de-churched, and those trying to reach them.

  • jim_claybourn

    Dr Rosenbladt’s presentation (see right side bar) would probably be a big help to the de-churched, and those trying to reach them.

  • http://johnbriggs.reachby.com/ John B

    Would those who attend church (or even churches) without becoming members constitute another category? The Mis-churched, perhaps?

    There are many explanations for lacking and limited commitment to the church. Among them is denominational exceptionalism that extends beyond advocacy to claims that a particular communion stands alone within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.

    Churches might bring back the Un/De/Mis-churched by presenting denominational distinctives with humility and charity, with openness to seeking avenues for fellowship (even if imperfect) with other churches; and with encouragement of individuals in building (and maintaining) relationships with Christians in other churches as brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • http://johnbriggs.reachby.com/ John B

    Would those who attend church (or even churches) without becoming members constitute another category? The Mis-churched, perhaps?

    There are many explanations for lacking and limited commitment to the church. Among them is denominational exceptionalism that extends beyond advocacy to claims that a particular communion stands alone within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.

    Churches might bring back the Un/De/Mis-churched by presenting denominational distinctives with humility and charity, with openness to seeking avenues for fellowship (even if imperfect) with other churches; and with encouragement of individuals in building (and maintaining) relationships with Christians in other churches as brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John (@23), we could probably bring back even more if we didn’t limit it just to “brothers and sisters in Christ”. Why not encourage our churches to build and maintain relationships with all our brothers and sisters in any god?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John (@23), we could probably bring back even more if we didn’t limit it just to “brothers and sisters in Christ”. Why not encourage our churches to build and maintain relationships with all our brothers and sisters in any god?

  • Former WELSman from the SW

    Todd, JohnB’s question deserves a better answer because it’s unlikely that the WELS and LCMS will survive the first half of the 21st century in America. The synods are notoriously insular, overwhelmingly white, geographically entrenched, devoid of the poor and disadvantaged (and thus ignorant of their needs), and strongly devoted to the policies of the Republican Party.
    And these synods, shrinking every year, show no desire no change. Indeed, in my city, when the WELS churches find that their neighborhood’s gotten a little too mixed, they pick up stakes and move further into white suburbia, leaving no trace of a Lutheran presence behind.
    Meanwhile, the US grows increasingly mobile, much more racially diverse, and the GOP’s base is gradually limiting itself to the white parts of the old confederacy and Utah.

  • Former WELSman from the SW

    Todd, JohnB’s question deserves a better answer because it’s unlikely that the WELS and LCMS will survive the first half of the 21st century in America. The synods are notoriously insular, overwhelmingly white, geographically entrenched, devoid of the poor and disadvantaged (and thus ignorant of their needs), and strongly devoted to the policies of the Republican Party.
    And these synods, shrinking every year, show no desire no change. Indeed, in my city, when the WELS churches find that their neighborhood’s gotten a little too mixed, they pick up stakes and move further into white suburbia, leaving no trace of a Lutheran presence behind.
    Meanwhile, the US grows increasingly mobile, much more racially diverse, and the GOP’s base is gradually limiting itself to the white parts of the old confederacy and Utah.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Former (@25), you’re going to have to work a little harder to convince me of everything you claim. Maybe it’s true for you — and if so, I’m sorry.

    But I attend a WELS church in a dense urban area that is about as far from the upper Midwest as one can get in the continental United States. It is located in the part of town that is most associated with minority housing, and to get there, I have to drive by not a few strip clubs (mere blocks away from the church). We have a food pantry just inside the door for the poor people who come into our church, sometimes to listen, but often just to get food. I am not intimately aware of the incomes of my fellow congregants, but of those I know well, some are well below middle class, however you define it. And if you’ve paid attention around here, you’ll note that I’m not exactly a fan of today’s Republican Party, and yet somehow, I seem not to have noticed any political rhetoric coming from the pulpit, much less that favoring Republicans.

    I won’t pretend the WELS, and my church with it, doesn’t have issues. (Outreach is a perennial problem among Lutherans.) But your portrait rings false to me.

    What’s more, I’m sad that you think that membership numbers are the metric by which we should measure a church. I prefer to measure a church by its adherence to Scripture. And Scripture itself makes clear that that will not always be a popular path filled with throngs of people. (Noah’s church seemed particularly small when it held its gathering aboard the Ark. Jesus’ church didn’t seem much bigger when its pastor was killed.) And that’s why I’m still in the WELS — because of their teaching.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Former (@25), you’re going to have to work a little harder to convince me of everything you claim. Maybe it’s true for you — and if so, I’m sorry.

    But I attend a WELS church in a dense urban area that is about as far from the upper Midwest as one can get in the continental United States. It is located in the part of town that is most associated with minority housing, and to get there, I have to drive by not a few strip clubs (mere blocks away from the church). We have a food pantry just inside the door for the poor people who come into our church, sometimes to listen, but often just to get food. I am not intimately aware of the incomes of my fellow congregants, but of those I know well, some are well below middle class, however you define it. And if you’ve paid attention around here, you’ll note that I’m not exactly a fan of today’s Republican Party, and yet somehow, I seem not to have noticed any political rhetoric coming from the pulpit, much less that favoring Republicans.

    I won’t pretend the WELS, and my church with it, doesn’t have issues. (Outreach is a perennial problem among Lutherans.) But your portrait rings false to me.

    What’s more, I’m sad that you think that membership numbers are the metric by which we should measure a church. I prefer to measure a church by its adherence to Scripture. And Scripture itself makes clear that that will not always be a popular path filled with throngs of people. (Noah’s church seemed particularly small when it held its gathering aboard the Ark. Jesus’ church didn’t seem much bigger when its pastor was killed.) And that’s why I’m still in the WELS — because of their teaching.

  • Former

    tODD, I believe all you say, but I will reply that I’ve never seen a WELS church like the one you describe, though how diverse, really, is your area? Where I live (metro area pop. 1 million), there is one WELS church not in white suburbia. That church has no outreach and, of 200 members, 1 is black. The church, in fact, has more pastors than it has minority members. And you’ll get an earful if you badmouth Fox News, yet you’ll be hardpressed to find anyone who’s read the Book of Concord.
    I’m not judging a church’s success by numbers. Christ said his church will always be with us (and He with us), so even if the WELS and LCMS go out of business, that says nothing about the vitality of the church, only about the obsolescence of a particular denomination.

  • Former

    tODD, I believe all you say, but I will reply that I’ve never seen a WELS church like the one you describe, though how diverse, really, is your area? Where I live (metro area pop. 1 million), there is one WELS church not in white suburbia. That church has no outreach and, of 200 members, 1 is black. The church, in fact, has more pastors than it has minority members. And you’ll get an earful if you badmouth Fox News, yet you’ll be hardpressed to find anyone who’s read the Book of Concord.
    I’m not judging a church’s success by numbers. Christ said his church will always be with us (and He with us), so even if the WELS and LCMS go out of business, that says nothing about the vitality of the church, only about the obsolescence of a particular denomination.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Former (@27), I live in Portland, which has a metro population of 2 million. There are, I think, only five WELS churches out here (couldn’t tell you much about the ELS, but they’re also out here). And yes, most of them are in the suburbs — though, given that Portland proper has a population of 600,000, most of the people are in the suburbs, as well. And, sure, Portland (and the Pacific Northwest in general) is a white place, as is our congregation. I’m not sure that’s the church’s fault, though. My church is certainly more diverse — economically, racially, etc. — than most of the restaurants and bars I frequent. Though I will note that the largest group found at our English-conversation outreach program is Russian speakers. I know a number of Russian speakers attend our church’s school.

    And, again, if you’re familiar with this blog, you’ll note that I don’t exactly shy away from political discussions. But, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t gotten into any that I can recall in my church. Maybe most people there really love Fox News, but I wouldn’t know. It hasn’t come up. I prefer it that way.

    And you say that you’re “not judging a church’s success by numbers”, but how else to interpret these words of yours: “these synods, shrinking every year, show no desire no change”? If they weren’t shrinking, would that be evidence that they were doing things right? You seem to think that they need to change because they’re shrinking — how else is that not judging their success by numbers?

    Anyhow, if I thought we could collect on it, I’d gladly take up on your bet that the WELS or LCMS “will survive the first half of the 21st century in America”. But we’ve yet got 40 years to go, and I’m not inclined to remember that. Still, from what I’ve seen, if I were to bet against any Lutheran denomination — at least in my urban experience — it’d be the ELCA.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Former (@27), I live in Portland, which has a metro population of 2 million. There are, I think, only five WELS churches out here (couldn’t tell you much about the ELS, but they’re also out here). And yes, most of them are in the suburbs — though, given that Portland proper has a population of 600,000, most of the people are in the suburbs, as well. And, sure, Portland (and the Pacific Northwest in general) is a white place, as is our congregation. I’m not sure that’s the church’s fault, though. My church is certainly more diverse — economically, racially, etc. — than most of the restaurants and bars I frequent. Though I will note that the largest group found at our English-conversation outreach program is Russian speakers. I know a number of Russian speakers attend our church’s school.

    And, again, if you’re familiar with this blog, you’ll note that I don’t exactly shy away from political discussions. But, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t gotten into any that I can recall in my church. Maybe most people there really love Fox News, but I wouldn’t know. It hasn’t come up. I prefer it that way.

    And you say that you’re “not judging a church’s success by numbers”, but how else to interpret these words of yours: “these synods, shrinking every year, show no desire no change”? If they weren’t shrinking, would that be evidence that they were doing things right? You seem to think that they need to change because they’re shrinking — how else is that not judging their success by numbers?

    Anyhow, if I thought we could collect on it, I’d gladly take up on your bet that the WELS or LCMS “will survive the first half of the 21st century in America”. But we’ve yet got 40 years to go, and I’m not inclined to remember that. Still, from what I’ve seen, if I were to bet against any Lutheran denomination — at least in my urban experience — it’d be the ELCA.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    My experience lately has more in common with tODD than Former. A growing LCMS congregation, very close to downtown Salt Lake City (that’s in Utah), very racially diverse with a very active Sudanese Ministry, a thriving Early Childhood Center with many primarily Spanish-speaking teachers, and an overseas mission we try to support. Most of the congregation is certainly NOT Republican (due to the fact that Mormons are sooo associated with the Rep. Party here). That’s where I’m privileged to serve as pastor. We may be smaller than most, but we certainly baptized many more than we were privileged to usher home to glory last year. I too would bet that we outlast the irrelevant and unfaithful mainline denominations – though Missouri does certainly have its problems right now (tell me about it!).

  • Bryan Lindemood

    My experience lately has more in common with tODD than Former. A growing LCMS congregation, very close to downtown Salt Lake City (that’s in Utah), very racially diverse with a very active Sudanese Ministry, a thriving Early Childhood Center with many primarily Spanish-speaking teachers, and an overseas mission we try to support. Most of the congregation is certainly NOT Republican (due to the fact that Mormons are sooo associated with the Rep. Party here). That’s where I’m privileged to serve as pastor. We may be smaller than most, but we certainly baptized many more than we were privileged to usher home to glory last year. I too would bet that we outlast the irrelevant and unfaithful mainline denominations – though Missouri does certainly have its problems right now (tell me about it!).

  • MDS

    All arguments aside on size, growth, RP, PC, apostate, WELS vs LCMS vs ELCA etc…are any of you de-churched? Yes. How do you get the de-churched back? Maybe the question should also be asked is how do you get the de-churched to come back to the pew next week when they, like myself, slides into the back pew on Sunday mornings trying to be unseen, trying to fit in, beaten down by the world and life and facing uncertainty, looking to connect to find what they once had and understood? How I got to the de-churched pont isn’t the question (confessional Lutheran raised and took an evangelical twist which basically almost destroyed my faith). I shook your greeters hands at the door, smiled politely back as the usher handed me the bulletin, read in the bulletin how you were a “liturgical” church but you never open TLH sitting there in the holder in the pew, just have to follow along on the screen on the wall in the same order every week. Sang your CC music with your praise band punctuated occasionally by a hymn. I duly filled out your little membership form for 2 years in the nice little leather book handed down from one side of the pew to the other (R to L), always making sure I put my name, address, phone # and checked the “guest” block before handing it to the usher. Even wrote on it a prayer request once and asked for a prayer of thanksgiving for making it 2 yrs after cancer treatment. Once, one of your vicars actually called me to thank me for coming to church. Shake your hands every Sunday during the meet and greet. I even got on your mailing list for the ordination of the new minister. I come to your altar and take communion with you without question, a repentant and beaten sinner and an unknown in your church, hands shaking when he takes body and blood after so many years. I go back to the pew and open the hymnal and read and reflect on the Nunc dimittis, finally getting it…

  • MDS

    All arguments aside on size, growth, RP, PC, apostate, WELS vs LCMS vs ELCA etc…are any of you de-churched? Yes. How do you get the de-churched back? Maybe the question should also be asked is how do you get the de-churched to come back to the pew next week when they, like myself, slides into the back pew on Sunday mornings trying to be unseen, trying to fit in, beaten down by the world and life and facing uncertainty, looking to connect to find what they once had and understood? How I got to the de-churched pont isn’t the question (confessional Lutheran raised and took an evangelical twist which basically almost destroyed my faith). I shook your greeters hands at the door, smiled politely back as the usher handed me the bulletin, read in the bulletin how you were a “liturgical” church but you never open TLH sitting there in the holder in the pew, just have to follow along on the screen on the wall in the same order every week. Sang your CC music with your praise band punctuated occasionally by a hymn. I duly filled out your little membership form for 2 years in the nice little leather book handed down from one side of the pew to the other (R to L), always making sure I put my name, address, phone # and checked the “guest” block before handing it to the usher. Even wrote on it a prayer request once and asked for a prayer of thanksgiving for making it 2 yrs after cancer treatment. Once, one of your vicars actually called me to thank me for coming to church. Shake your hands every Sunday during the meet and greet. I even got on your mailing list for the ordination of the new minister. I come to your altar and take communion with you without question, a repentant and beaten sinner and an unknown in your church, hands shaking when he takes body and blood after so many years. I go back to the pew and open the hymnal and read and reflect on the Nunc dimittis, finally getting it…

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    “Mis-churched” is what I think I would be classified as. I get drug to a Vineyard Fellowship congregation because that’s where my spouse wants to go. I do, however, get first-hand observation of charismatic silliness.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    “Mis-churched” is what I think I would be classified as. I get drug to a Vineyard Fellowship congregation because that’s where my spouse wants to go. I do, however, get first-hand observation of charismatic silliness.

  • Larry

    It’s a two fold problem. One has to do with making “how do we get X back/into church” the primary issue and the second is the opposite side of the same coin in which the “dechurched” themselves don’t know their real need. In the first the church becomes unfaithful to the Word and aims at methods and pretty soon the Gospel is gone and in the second the “dechurched” don’t know their real need and complain about the “unfriendliness” or lack of this or that, other than the pure Gospel/sacraments, as the reason they don’t like X church. In both cases both are leaving the Word, unfaithful, and seeking other things.

    The Gospel, the real need, often comes packaged in an otherwise unattractive package, perhaps a teeny tiny poor aging congregation that doesn’t have much otherwise going on, but Christ is given to the starving and thirsting soul. The exterior is unattractive just like its Lord was so that men would not be drawn to Him for other things. Just like the sacraments which admittedly to the eye and senses are not all that much spiritual in appearance. After all it just looks, feels and tastes like water, bread and wine, no external fire works or jazzy band music to make them stellar in appearance – but it’s the Gospel Word that makes them the treasure beyond all measure and comprehension. It is as if God hides His infinite treasure, His Word, in otherwise a nothing thing so that by that relief between the two the treasure hidden might be seen. And so often the Gospel treasure in purity is hidden away in a church that’s poor, very tiny, perhaps aged with a smattering of a child here and there, perhaps the pastor has a personality that would never get him a job as a salesmen or motivational speaker, but yet out of that church and out of that pastor without flashy speech comes the treasure from heaven that feeds the dying soul. We all remember that we are all dying right, or did we forget that just because today I have not been given specifically 6 months to live does not mean I’m not dying in reality?

    Having been and having many de-churched in my family I ask the same, how do you “get them back”. While in a way that’s a good question, yet to ask “how do we get them back” and focus on that is to focus on the wrong issue and only will lead to the very thing that may have disenchanted them in the first place or even leads them themselves to a deception of what they really need and thus look for in a church. That’s the problem, that’s how all our old church growth churches functioned (my former denomination), and I came from the premo ground cutting experts in this field, the ones some Lutherans think they want to imitate.

    We always wanted to figure out “how to get X back or Y here in the first place”. So that becomes our number one issue. Slowly over time this degrade gravitates further and further down the path it set out on and invents “new things” to do this. The further down the down grade it goes the more overtly silly it gets. And it all ends up being about works in the end when all the fat is boiled down. This is Finney 101 for you life long Lutherans that have never suffered under the various forms of revivalism, alter calls and such.

    So it starts with a pious sounding idea, “how do we get X back/in the door/saved/etc…”. Of course all Christians are interested in this but there’s a danger in this that leads to deception and this is one of two reasons the un/de-churched walk out the door (the second is some simply don’t know their real need and that’s why pure Gospel doesn’t satisfy them either). So we develop our versions of “milk and cookies” to get them in the door, get them back, and many of the dechurched not knowing their need look for their versions of “milk and cookies” in a church and use that as their excuse for leaving and hoping around. On the one hand the church using the milk and cookies eventually sees a dip in attendance or “group X” leaving more and more and says to itself again, “how do we get X back/in the door”. Answer, “we need more/new milk and cookies” and so they proceed. And/or the dechurched, not knowing their real need, say to themselves, “I tire of all these worthless milk and cookies at this and that church, I need MY milk and cookies”, and off they go to visit other churches. They may in fact visit a wonderfully rich pure Gospel and sacrament church giving out the treasure of heaven like Bill Gates shoveling pure 24 carrot gold from a barge to the people. But not knowing their need they say to themselves, “hey this is not milk and cookies, where are my milk and cookies”, and off they go.

    Every one, thus, forgets their need and think their need, in various forms, is “milk and cookies”. They forget they are dying, death is upon them (us) they need only look in the mirror for some day it will be their (our) very skeletal faces with a thin veneer of old decaying mummified flesh that some future dying man unearths and said, “he/she died in…”. But in this case it was not some unknown Egyptian mummy but Larry. Having forgotten their/our need and seeking after false needs they leave faithfulness to the Word and shoot for other things, “how to get them back”, “how to get them in in the first place”, “how to unify otherwise”, “how too _______”. And thus they fall for the temptation of leaving faithfulness to the Word, where the real need and solution to that need is actually given, to other needs and other solutions.

    Larry

  • Larry

    It’s a two fold problem. One has to do with making “how do we get X back/into church” the primary issue and the second is the opposite side of the same coin in which the “dechurched” themselves don’t know their real need. In the first the church becomes unfaithful to the Word and aims at methods and pretty soon the Gospel is gone and in the second the “dechurched” don’t know their real need and complain about the “unfriendliness” or lack of this or that, other than the pure Gospel/sacraments, as the reason they don’t like X church. In both cases both are leaving the Word, unfaithful, and seeking other things.

    The Gospel, the real need, often comes packaged in an otherwise unattractive package, perhaps a teeny tiny poor aging congregation that doesn’t have much otherwise going on, but Christ is given to the starving and thirsting soul. The exterior is unattractive just like its Lord was so that men would not be drawn to Him for other things. Just like the sacraments which admittedly to the eye and senses are not all that much spiritual in appearance. After all it just looks, feels and tastes like water, bread and wine, no external fire works or jazzy band music to make them stellar in appearance – but it’s the Gospel Word that makes them the treasure beyond all measure and comprehension. It is as if God hides His infinite treasure, His Word, in otherwise a nothing thing so that by that relief between the two the treasure hidden might be seen. And so often the Gospel treasure in purity is hidden away in a church that’s poor, very tiny, perhaps aged with a smattering of a child here and there, perhaps the pastor has a personality that would never get him a job as a salesmen or motivational speaker, but yet out of that church and out of that pastor without flashy speech comes the treasure from heaven that feeds the dying soul. We all remember that we are all dying right, or did we forget that just because today I have not been given specifically 6 months to live does not mean I’m not dying in reality?

    Having been and having many de-churched in my family I ask the same, how do you “get them back”. While in a way that’s a good question, yet to ask “how do we get them back” and focus on that is to focus on the wrong issue and only will lead to the very thing that may have disenchanted them in the first place or even leads them themselves to a deception of what they really need and thus look for in a church. That’s the problem, that’s how all our old church growth churches functioned (my former denomination), and I came from the premo ground cutting experts in this field, the ones some Lutherans think they want to imitate.

    We always wanted to figure out “how to get X back or Y here in the first place”. So that becomes our number one issue. Slowly over time this degrade gravitates further and further down the path it set out on and invents “new things” to do this. The further down the down grade it goes the more overtly silly it gets. And it all ends up being about works in the end when all the fat is boiled down. This is Finney 101 for you life long Lutherans that have never suffered under the various forms of revivalism, alter calls and such.

    So it starts with a pious sounding idea, “how do we get X back/in the door/saved/etc…”. Of course all Christians are interested in this but there’s a danger in this that leads to deception and this is one of two reasons the un/de-churched walk out the door (the second is some simply don’t know their real need and that’s why pure Gospel doesn’t satisfy them either). So we develop our versions of “milk and cookies” to get them in the door, get them back, and many of the dechurched not knowing their need look for their versions of “milk and cookies” in a church and use that as their excuse for leaving and hoping around. On the one hand the church using the milk and cookies eventually sees a dip in attendance or “group X” leaving more and more and says to itself again, “how do we get X back/in the door”. Answer, “we need more/new milk and cookies” and so they proceed. And/or the dechurched, not knowing their real need, say to themselves, “I tire of all these worthless milk and cookies at this and that church, I need MY milk and cookies”, and off they go to visit other churches. They may in fact visit a wonderfully rich pure Gospel and sacrament church giving out the treasure of heaven like Bill Gates shoveling pure 24 carrot gold from a barge to the people. But not knowing their need they say to themselves, “hey this is not milk and cookies, where are my milk and cookies”, and off they go.

    Every one, thus, forgets their need and think their need, in various forms, is “milk and cookies”. They forget they are dying, death is upon them (us) they need only look in the mirror for some day it will be their (our) very skeletal faces with a thin veneer of old decaying mummified flesh that some future dying man unearths and said, “he/she died in…”. But in this case it was not some unknown Egyptian mummy but Larry. Having forgotten their/our need and seeking after false needs they leave faithfulness to the Word and shoot for other things, “how to get them back”, “how to get them in in the first place”, “how to unify otherwise”, “how too _______”. And thus they fall for the temptation of leaving faithfulness to the Word, where the real need and solution to that need is actually given, to other needs and other solutions.

    Larry

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Bless you, MDS.
    I’m not “de-churched” and haven’t ever been. Thank you much for writing what you wrote. Regarding other “de-churched,” I know some who have come back but I know more who haven’t. I’m often at a loss in terms of what I ought to do as a pastor especially for the “de-churched” who could possibly be considered “lost sheep” of the Savior under my charge. I so want for them to continue to receive the life and blessing that Christ has to give them through the forgiveness of sins. But often in these areas there is avoidance, the past to deal with, and many other barriers.

    Perhaps that’s part of my problem – perhaps not all are “lost sheep” of the Savior, like we are apt to assume. He knows where His are. There are some, I’m sure, who know their Savior too – many still know where He is to be found (or at least should be) in the ways He delivers His gifts to them through the means of grace, but still stay away? The hurts sometimes run that deep. How to overcome those things is very difficult for us.

    Perhaps the first role of a faithful church in even being able to minister to the “de-churched” is honest self-examination and repentance of the congregation’s faith and practice. Also a willingness to be called to account by God’s Word and the Church’s Confessions regarding faith and practice. It is to die and to live in Christ crucified and risen as His body.

    Fighting against the individualism and isolation of our culture may be another important area for our congregations to think about.

    (I’ll post this on the “de-churched” post as well)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Bless you, MDS.
    I’m not “de-churched” and haven’t ever been. Thank you much for writing what you wrote. Regarding other “de-churched,” I know some who have come back but I know more who haven’t. I’m often at a loss in terms of what I ought to do as a pastor especially for the “de-churched” who could possibly be considered “lost sheep” of the Savior under my charge. I so want for them to continue to receive the life and blessing that Christ has to give them through the forgiveness of sins. But often in these areas there is avoidance, the past to deal with, and many other barriers.

    Perhaps that’s part of my problem – perhaps not all are “lost sheep” of the Savior, like we are apt to assume. He knows where His are. There are some, I’m sure, who know their Savior too – many still know where He is to be found (or at least should be) in the ways He delivers His gifts to them through the means of grace, but still stay away? The hurts sometimes run that deep. How to overcome those things is very difficult for us.

    Perhaps the first role of a faithful church in even being able to minister to the “de-churched” is honest self-examination and repentance of the congregation’s faith and practice. Also a willingness to be called to account by God’s Word and the Church’s Confessions regarding faith and practice. It is to die and to live in Christ crucified and risen as His body.

    Fighting against the individualism and isolation of our culture may be another important area for our congregations to think about.

    (I’ll post this on the “de-churched” post as well)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Correction #33 – (I meant the “re-churched” post – with a few slight modifications).

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Correction #33 – (I meant the “re-churched” post – with a few slight modifications).

  • http://johnbriggs.reachby.com/ John B

    Todd (@24) I’m not looking to maximize the number, but just thinking about the “How” in the question at the end of the original blog post.

    In Jethani’s article he categorizes the mission to the unchurched as a shift in the traditional understanding of evangelization. He separates this category from de-churched Christians.

    Of Jethani’s three sub-categories, the “Relationally” de-churched is that which I’ve encountered most often.

  • http://johnbriggs.reachby.com/ John B

    Todd (@24) I’m not looking to maximize the number, but just thinking about the “How” in the question at the end of the original blog post.

    In Jethani’s article he categorizes the mission to the unchurched as a shift in the traditional understanding of evangelization. He separates this category from de-churched Christians.

    Of Jethani’s three sub-categories, the “Relationally” de-churched is that which I’ve encountered most often.

  • Weird Nerdy Dude

    Yes, the Lutheran synods are dying. I’ve crunched all sorts numbers. First the ELCA will go (not even 50 years), then the LCMS, and lastly the WELS. This will happen unless of course a schism or merger happens first. Once the Baby Boomers die or become too senile, giving will drop like a rock, few people will be around to shoulder the debt service, and many of the institutions we’ve come to love will be up for closure or grabs. For the LCMS & the WELS, it may take somewhat more than 50 years to finally do them in, but the numbers don’t lie, and the underlying demographics aren’t changing.

  • Weird Nerdy Dude

    Yes, the Lutheran synods are dying. I’ve crunched all sorts numbers. First the ELCA will go (not even 50 years), then the LCMS, and lastly the WELS. This will happen unless of course a schism or merger happens first. Once the Baby Boomers die or become too senile, giving will drop like a rock, few people will be around to shoulder the debt service, and many of the institutions we’ve come to love will be up for closure or grabs. For the LCMS & the WELS, it may take somewhat more than 50 years to finally do them in, but the numbers don’t lie, and the underlying demographics aren’t changing.


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