Sunday, May 09, 2010

Thoughts of a Church Leaver

So it's simply a beautiful morning here in Maine. Cool, breezy, sunny. My honey and I are going for a bike ride this morning . . . on our new bikes! This is going to be fun.

I got a kick out of this video the other day, but then read the conversation in response to it at Pastoralia and at Bill Kinnon. What to make of the fact that the video was produced by a church that is, apparently, much like the one being satirized? Of course in the culture these days, when cool people satirize their own coolness, they grow only more cool! Perhaps that old curmudgeon, Qoheleth, was right. Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.

Having left a church last year I have come to realize I'm not going to land in a new church any time soon (thus, the bike ride on a Sunday morning). Not that I'm ruling it out, only that I'm not out there "shopping" for one. I think in the end I might settle for occasional attendance at one of the handful of churches in walking distance from my house.

I'm thinking about this sort of thing after reading a series of articles on the subject of "church leavers." It started with Len Hjalmarson's post at Next Reformation. Too much of the conversation about church leavers comes from church leaders who mis-characterize these people as, inevitably, selfishly flitting from church to church, unable to commit or submit, consumeristic, etc. I bought into that for a while. It is a helpful and comforting myth. I now believe that the selfish ones are those who continue to put forward that egregious straw man.

Anyway, Len's article is much better than all that. Am I a Reflective Exile, a Transitional Explorer, or perhaps an Integrated Wayfinder? I don't know. I know I do want company on this path, and as Len points out rather brilliantly, "transitions require liminal space." Anyway, I'm finding Len's meditation very helpful, and I'm grateful for his links to the work of Alan Jamieson (here and here).

So anyway, all these links above are to very thoughtful and nuanced articles concerning the matter of "church-leavers." Me, I'm clearly in one of those liminal spaces that Len talks about. As I said, I'll probably wind up occasionally attending one of the handful of churches within walking distance of my house, but what I do desire, of course, is what I might call the understanding companionship of a few fellow-wayfinders. I have no desire to "do faith" in isolation, but I'm done with the "tyranny of they."

I'll end with a snip from Len's post:
God may call you out of your faith community. Or, you may find yourself unwillingly on the outside. It will be a tough journey. Keep your eyes on Jesus. I know – the challenge is for some that this journey begins without conversation partners. But if you are reading this, then already you are gaining a broader perspective.

As God’s people in exile we face many daunting challenges in our time. Times of Reformation are always confusing and dangerous. Much that we thought could not be shaken is now being shaken. The rate of people leaving churches in North America is on the increase. The diaspora is hard on everyone – people, leaders, communities.
Now, let's go riding!


Anonymous said...

new bikes? cool!

i am a service gathering leaver,
but NOT a Jesus as Christ believer-leaver.

my husband, a catholic member leaver, also, no longer a Christ believer of Jesus.

talk about liminal space...

Steve Scott said...


I live 3000 miles away, so it'll take a while to get my bike to Maine. ;)

Yes, I'm most familiar with the straw man argument about church leavers. I could give you a long story about it, but will spare you. I like your "but what I do desire, of course, is what I might call the understanding companionship of a few fellow-wayfinders" statement. Where to find such people?