The Invisible Church – Stages of Leaving

My notes on Nomad podcast 179 in August 2018

Learning from the experiences of churchless Christians – a time of change and transition!

  • Asking Questions and Exploring Doubts
    The responses of churches has been poor – to express doubt is seen to be a dangerous thing – not part of an authentic journeying with God?
    Questions and Doubts – the need to interact?
    If opportunities are not there , people look elsewhere.

  • Cumulative Disaffection
    Frustration builds up over time – issues around the relevance of church to the life of people – a growing disconnect between life and the experience of church.
    The added responsibilities of just helping to keep the church going.
    Many felt that they no longer belonged – sometimes as a result of changes in themselves – unable to interact and express their own feelings!

  • Investigating, Experimenting and Evaluating
    These kick in at different times – some start looking at other options while still a member of a congregation – reading, conferences and conversations.
    Others leave not knowing what is going to happen – less intentional – a random process – the web – sharing with others – sometimes moving church.

  • Tipping Points
    Within the life of people – health, unemployment, moving, breakdown of relationships.
    Within the church – a new venture, new leadership.

  • Grief, Detox and Moving On
    Grieving many things that kept them in that congregation for many years – friendships and often a feeling of guilt (that sometimes lasts for a long time).
    A season of real soul searching and great anguish.
    A parallel with the Kubler Ross Grief Cycle.
    Detoxing from a lack of deeper relationships and a deeper walk with God (people can be part of the same congregation and have very different experiences of it).

Some of the challenges of living outside of congregational life – a real challenge to find fellowship – some never manage it – being misunderstood – finding alternatives.

How people feel after having left church will often depend on the extent to which they have explored other options before leaving church.

It can take a long time to feel at peace with their decision/choice to disengage from church. Most then see it as a positive thing for them.

A hunch that there is a connection between personality types being over and under represented within congregations. Introverts will find extrovert leadership challenging and unlikely to become part of the core leadership.

There are many expressions of the one church. Different stages of life will make a difference.
The need to recognise the dynamic nature of individual journeys – seasons in a believers life – spirals – we grab something – explore it – live it out – so much to wrestle with – back to a place of harmony.

Different aspects – many different personalities.

For many their faith was not very different – the changes had often been gentle.

So many cultural changes – the speed and depth of changes seems to leave churches disengaged.

When leaders leave there is usually some intentionality about what they are going to do next – pioneering something else or joining another denomination.

What might the future church look like? Bear in mind that God is a God of surprises. Some are exploring ancient ways such as new monasticism.

The suggestion that big churches lack intimacy and accountability, while small churches lack a sense of celebration.