Who Are the De-Churched?

More and more people are asking me why it seems that people are less and less inclined to attend an organized, meets-in-a-building, has-a-501(c)3-tax-status, sermon-listening, music-singing church.  And it’s not just the “wicked” who aren’t going anymore, but “good” people too.  Why? I think this article gives part of the answer.  I think this is very important for Christians who are still devoted to the typical understanding of church to come to terms with.  –Todd

Who Are the De-Churched?

Some are leaving the church because they’ve received a false gospel. Others are leaving because they’ve found the real one.
by Skye Jethani, www.outofur.com, March 16, 2010

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.

Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church near Dallas, explains the de-churched phenomenon in this short video.

Essentially, Chandler attributes the exodus of young people to the proclamation (explicitly or implicitly) of a false gospel of “moralistic deism.” This understanding of the Christian life says that if you obey God’s rules he will bless you with what you desire. This represents a form of the prosperity gospel which saturates the Texas soil where Chandler pastors, but it’s also popular beyond the Deep South. (How many teens have been told that abstinence will be rewarded by God with great sex within marriage?)

The problem arises when God’s blessing doesn’t come—or doesn’t come in the form we want. Divorce, illness, poor grades, failed relationship—virtually any hardship has the potential to destroy one’s faith in Christ and the church that represents him. So, according to Chandler, people walk away. They enter the ranks of the de-churched.

I think Chandler is right—but only half.  Continue Article Here

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