ARTICLE TWO OF TWO
To read "Finally...fewer Christians" (part one), click here .
Now, to return to the data groups described in “Finally…Fewer Christians,” I am glad to hear the recent rise of two specific groups–NON-DENOMS and NONES.
I doubt I’ll be the first to say it, but, “Psssst, let me whisper something into your ear. The ‘traditional’ church is in big trouble.” The numbers of people who find “Church” relevant in most traditional church lines are declining exponentially in American society. Add to this that fewer and fewer people find it worth their while to give themselves to service in those church groups. (Fewer priests and pastors mean greater numbers of church closures. Which leads to fewer people–the cycle just further illustrates the irrelevance and the distance “Traditional Christianity” has from real people.) Now, before I way-lay an entire segment of “The Church,” let me say that I personally know of more than a couple of great examples where individual churches, pastors, and priests have been involved in major turn-arounds…but those are the exceptions.
Here’s a clue to point out the movement away from the traditional, conventional Christianity that has been so in control of religiosity–for so long–in America that they didn’t know it was possible to lose it. Look at how many churches have been dropping their denominational label and signs over the past few decades. It’s hardly ever St. Michael’s Catholic Church or First Baptist Church anymore. It’s St. Mike’s and Mokena Community Church. Even the typically-slow heads of church groups have started to get the front-end clue that most people are put-off by the labels.
But, that late move to drop the denominational label has only been a band-aid on the bleeding from a bomb wound. People are more than tired of the labels–they’re sick of the irrelevance. I say “sick” for a reason. That sickness is not necessarily translating into immediately fewer bodies in the sanctuary on Easter or Christmas in traditional churches. (People will still pay a little homage to grandma and grandpa’s parish, but it’s more about family than about religion. How do I know? Pay attention to the other 50 Sundays of the year.) Add to the drastic drop in attendance, numbers of churches, and people willing to give their lives to serve the “traditional Church,” you can also notice a growing movement away from a “Christian” culture. Hence, the “nones” spoken about by the American Religious Identification Survey (conducted by Trinity College in Hartford, CT).
Now, if you haven’t read my articles much or gotten the vibe from this current series of articles I’m writing right now, let me say it straight for you: I didn’t like the “Christian” culture we had before the numbers of “us” (insert chuckle) were dropping. It wasn’t doing anything to resolve poverty issues. It didn’t transform politicians into servants. It didn’t reduce arrogance. It didn’t increase the numbers of people who volunteer in my hometown to help others. It didn’t dynamically improve the gifts given to pantries. It didn’t improve the divorce rate. It didn’t spend energy on protecting the planet. IT didn’t try and HELP America…only religiously CONTROL it.
You know what has been a part of bettering the world, though? De-traditioned churches. And nones. Statistics have shown over the past decade that “de-churched churches” have been more about adopting Jesus’ way of life…and less about preserving the past and the old powers that came with the label. This has resulted in a purer faith and a simpler way of life. In other words: JOYFUL, SIMPLER LIVES. HEALTHIER FAMILIES. HIGHER LEVELS OF VOLUNTEERING AND GENEROSITY. Better neighbors.
Do you know WHO has been one of the primary catalysts of this result? De-churched people. The “Nones.” They’ve given good church people a wake-up call: “CHRISTIANS, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? WHY DO YOU BELIEVE LIKE YOU DO? DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE STARTING TO APPEAR DRASTICALLY COUNTER-CULTURAL? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”
You see, not all the Nones have left Christianity. They have purified some of the churches that could have ended up continuing to go the wrong direction…like the traditional churches who have conventionalized their spirituality. But, instead, the NONES have helped steer an at-risk movement into remembering WHO and WHAT WE ARE ABOUT.
Now, while some of the NONES have re-entered and re-calibrated the Church’s spirituality, a growing number of others have little to do with what they perceive is an irrelevant religious industry. Good for them for seeing the truth about religion. I’m as “non-denominational” and “none” as I believe I can be at this stage in my life. (I’ll probably learn how to be MORE of both as I grow older and wiser.) I don’t need a label to love Jesus and to live the right way. But, sadly, for some of the wll-meaning Nones, they have unwittingly thrown out Organized Spirituality while rejecting Organized Religion. In doing so, they may have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
Church should be a cistern of clean, pure, de-churched spirituality–something alive and fresh in most Nones. Yes, I love a church filled with Nones. It’s pure. It’s a lot less clenched-up, a lot less bound-up in erosive and empty traditions, and a lot more relevant to everyday life on planet Earth. That’s who Jesus loved being with the most, too. The irreligious. For the most part, the irreligious are WHO JESUS BUILT THE CHURCH WITH, IN THE FIRST PLACE.
But He didn’t call THEM “Christians.” He called them His own. He called them His friends.
(The best irreligious people I know are in churches. If you’re from the Lincoln-Way area, you are welcome to join a couple more of us at Grace Fellowship. Check us out at www.GraceLife.cc!)