by Rick Chromey
I went to church yesterday and left “almost” done.
I say “almost” because I’ve gone to church all my life. In fact, I’m a pastor and I train clergy. But, truthfully, I’m almost done with churchgoing…at least on Sunday morning. It’s just not worth my time or energy.
Now before you criticize my spirituality, I’ll unashamedly profess my love for Jesus and deep affection for authentic Christianity. I welcome opportunities to worship, digest God’s Word, share my faith with friends, serve the unfortunate, give my wealth to help others, fellowship with believers, and experience the Holy Spirit’s presence. I embrace mission and long to see the whole world living beneath the banner of Jesus Christ. I love a church when it acts like the churches described in Acts.
The problem? It’s hard to find a church these days that embraces these ideals. I recently moved to a new community and started to “church shop.” In general, I find the mainline denominations too sickly, stuffy, or stuck while the evangelical community types seem more interested in producing a Sunday show. The small churches try to be bigger while large churches try to act smaller. Nickels and noses inform the leadership, with nearly all decisions guided by one person.
It’s why I’m almost done.
The politics and practices of churchianity have eroded my passion and purpose. Yesterday I attended a typical service at a megachurch’s satellite campus. The band was OK, but the songs were new, and few were singing. We all stood there and watched for 20 minutes. Then this hip, young, slightly balding, paunchy pastor started his new series titled “Conversations.” I love discussion and felt betrayed when all he did was lecture; there was nothing “conversational” about it. His primary point? Jesus needs to be experienced rather than explained. The reality is, neither happened. I couldn’t wait to leave.
Maybe I’ve grown too critical…or cynical.
Or maybe I’ve simply grown tired of modern churchianity. If so, I’m not alone. According to sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope’s groundbreaking study of people surprisingly like me, there’s a cohort of Christians known as church refugees or “Dones.” These post-church Christians have flown the proverbial coop. I believe there are countless more like me, testing our wings but not quite ready to leave.
You might call us the “tired and almost done” cohort.
So what would keep me in church? I’m glad you asked.
- Worship that promotes an experience with God. I like to sing, but what about prayer? Or experiential meditation? I hunger to feel I’m in God’s presence, whether I’m standing, sitting, or kneeling.
- A re-emphasis upon ancient rites like baptism and Communion. In the New Testament, baptisms were done immediately as people came to faith, and they were done everywhere and anytime. The Lord’s Supper was practiced every Sunday, although biblically it could be done “whenever” (1 Corinthians 11:26). We need to recapture these ancient—and commanded—rituals.
- Brief, interactive sermons. I love insight and inspiration, but I prefer to talk it out. And if you can’t say it in 20 minutes, call it a day. Most minds wander after five minutes anyway. My new book, Sermons Reimagined, suggests a template.
- A church not afraid to tell stories. Whatever happened to testimonies? Whatever happened to average Joes and Janes sharing their faith? Our history is His Story. Share the microphone.
In general, restore Acts 2:42: a gathering focused around biblical truths, community, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. In a cyber culture hungering for authenticity, church shouldn’t be plastic, masked, or fake.
I prefer to get real. And I suspect you do, too.