Some people have found progressive communities of faith in which they feel comfortable, connected and cared for, while some of us have been so wounded by the leaders of organized Christianity, that we simply cannot and do not attend.
I’m a Bible College graduate. I was a youth minister for years and a pastor as well.
I know what they label us.
They call us the “de-churched.”
It’s always a hot topic really and the more a person surrenders their autonomy on their spiritual path, the more intense the discussion becomes! Those who have found comfort in remaining a part of Christianity or progressive faith communities celebrate that they feel comfortable in their congregations and they act as though they have stumbled upon a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
But some of us have found that each effort to engage in Christianity ends with a slammed door, a crossed boundary or a judgmental word. I have found this each time I have attempted to rejoin Christianity and either I have really bad luck finding socially and emotionally intelligent Christian groups (or leaders) or I am just not destined to be a part of any organized Christian-based community. (Or a 3rd option I have yet to discover).
I share this not only because I think it’s hard for some of us to leave… but because what complicates our recovery is how some of those who “stay” treat those of us who left.
Sometimes they talk to us like we gave up.
Sometimes they try to recruit us to reform. (Does the analogy of a bad marriage help? Not everyone is called to stay with an abusive spouse and help them heal after every beating.)
Some of us leave because we don’t want to suffer anymore.
Some of us leave because it is well with our souls to do so.
Some of us have turned the cheek too many times and now have endless scars and can’t proceed with this form of faith.
Some of us still really dig Jesus, but have been shown over and over, that Christian does not = Christ-like.
It’s a sad reality, but it is our reality.
So, let us be.
Don’t tell us how awesome your church is – that’s your story.
Don’t tell us how to forgive – that’s your process.
Don’t tell us why it’s important to be in community – that’s your value.
Don’t tell us the church needs our unique voice – that’s your cause.
Tell us it doesn’t matter where we go Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights… because we are loved, just as we are and nothing about church membership or group-based spirituality will change that.
Tell us we matter.
And then walk with us…
And maybe that will lead some of us back to your churches…
Or maybe we will find that nature, the coffee shop, the movie theater and the community food bank feel more like church anyway…
So, in short, don’t talk to the de-churched…
Walk with the non-church goer.
Our stories are legitimate.
Our faith is real.
Our lives are whole.
We aren’t broken just because it doesn’t work for us to be in church.
And you aren’t whole because it works for you…
We become whole when we allow for differences, celebrate individuality and find cooperative ways to love mercy, do justly and walk… humbly.