The English language is amazingly fluid. We are constantly joining words and parts of words together to communicate new concepts. De-churched is one such word that has come on the seen over the last couple of years.
The de-churched are those who went to church on a regular basis at some point in the past but have stopped all, or nearly all, participation in church. The area in which I live (western Washington, USA) has a considerable population of people that fit that description. There seems to be a couple of themes that come up in conversation with those who no longer are involved with a church.
Some feel hurt by a pastor, elder, teacher or members of a congregation. These hurts can run deep into the soul. Some feel abandoned, used and even abused. The bad behavior of others who claim the name (and maybe even authority) of Christ can leave deep wounds and the recovery process can be complex.
Others that grew up in church (even without the above experiences) learned that pleasing God is mostly in what the do and don’t do. Don’t cuss, don’t lie, don’t go to R rated movies (unless they are about the crucifixion of Christ), don’t listen to “secular music”, don’t, don’t, don’t… If you don’t do this and that, and if you go to church, read their bible and are nice to others you can have a good relationship with God. In short, morelism becomes the primary determining factor in pleasing.
We may do well to avoid some of the don’t(s). Some may even be harmful. But when they become the bases for how we deal with God and how we expect God to deal with us, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Perhaps this is unintentional on the part of the teachers in such churches. Nevertheless, when troubles come, when failed relationships become a reality, when a rejection letter from a college, the death of a parent or close friend, or anything to shake their faith in God; they are left saying, “I was good. I did all the right things…yet God let me down.” An attitude gets adopted that God owes us because we were good. When life seems unfair, conclusions stemming from that “unfairness” are tied to God and much of what they learned about Him.
Many others reasons and explanations can be offered concerning the de-churching of a generation; but what remains true is God’s love of all—including those who no longer pursue a relationship with Him. God’s love for us is not tied to our goodness or our proper understanding of His nature.
Perhaps it is time for the Church to lovingly seek out and patently offer a healing hand to our brothers and sisters who’s faith has been shaken for one reason or another. This is a growing population in the US and evangelism is not necessarily the best word to describe what needs to happen.
Any thoughts on how to “reach out” to this population with the hope and healing power and love of God?