Unchurching isn't what you think

The incorrect assumption

Some people think unchurching is merely about moving one’s church experience from a building to a house. But that’s a gross oversimplification. We don’t want a smaller version of the same thing, or a slight tweak to our existing form of church. We didn’t quit going to church, simply because the pastor doesn’t wear blue jeans, or make enough pop culture references, or use Snapchat. Such things are entirely superficial. Therefore, whenever you theorize such things might actually draw us back to big box Christianity, you betray the fact that you don't really understand Christians who are unchurching.

When it comes to church, we not only want a different expression, we want an entirely different experience. We are moving completely against current culture, including the current church culture. What do I mean? Well, let me provide an exaggerated example. Right now, most of us belong to several different peer groups. For some, it might break down like this: we have our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends, our fellow church members, and maybe a few folks we know from an exercise class, a sport, or some other activity.

The reason we find ourselves in so many different circles is because our lives are multiplistic, non-holistic, not integrated at all. Sure, there’s probably some overlap; we might go to church with a few of our friends, or we might go to an exercise class with a few co-workers, and so on. But, for the most part, these different peer groups are distinct. Therefore, we constantly have to choose between investing time with this group, versus that group. That's why we feel so squeezed all the time; there’s just not enough of us to go around. It’s like continually coming up short on payday, and trying to decide which bill doesn’t get paid.

What we really want

The alternative to all this multiplicity is simplicity: a holistic, integrated approach to life, where there's more overlap between our various circles. Like, imagine what our life might have been like only a few generations ago, perhaps on a farm, outside a small town. We would have lived and worked at home, alongside our family and neighbors; these neighbors would have been our friends, whom we also saw at church. Not to mention, the work would have been real labor, instead of a sedentary desk job, so it would have provided all the physical activity we need!

And there you have it: living, working, and worshipping day-to-day, alongside the same community of people, like one big extended family. Yes, that’s an exaggerated example. But it speaks to the heart of what we are yearning for from our church communities: a daily shared life, like the one we read about in the book of Acts; a life where the believers “had everything in common” and met daily, in their own homes.

The real reason we left the organized church wasn't because it wasn't cool enough for us; there simply wasn't enough community for us. Obviously, in today's culture, we won't be able to get all our separate circles to overlap; but we can create as much overlap as possible: to share meals, and resources, and stories, to share as much of our lives as possible, until we are finally living a daily shared life with other believers. Like one big, extended spiritual family.

One more thought

As a special bonus to this post, I want to share something else. When it comes to creating genuine church community, I think Christians who’ve never known church community, outside the organized church box often make the mistake of trying to build “church” before there's any “community” to build upon.

Since the idea of simply hanging out with friends and neighbors seems “unproductive” to the institutionalized Christian mind, many believers who leave the organized church eventually end up alone. They merely wait and hope for some kind of fully-formed church community to come and find them. But I would argue that kind of siloed Christian life is even less productive than a believer who simple hangs out and has fellowship!

So, I would like to give you two homework assignments. One, please listen to this particular episode of The Unchurching Podcast.

And two, check out this commercial.

Yeah, I know it’s just an ad. But I think there’s a lesson here for folks who long for genuine church community. I think creating community is actually much simpler than we realize.