Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often, a Follow Up Blog

Donald Miller

Monday I wrote about why I don’t attend church regularly. I was naive to open such a sensitive conversation without expecting a backlash and was taken aback at the response. Many people thought the blog was saying people shouldn’t go to church or that I had something against church. None of that is true. And yet, most of the influential Christian leaders I know (who are not pastors) do not attend church. Perhaps it’s something we should talk about in an open, safe environment. All I can offer is my perspective, which I do not offer as an answer, only a contribution to a discussion.

On that note, one caveat: I can only give camera angles on the issue because that’s how I think. I tend to see things from multiple angles and am comfortable not choosing “the right opinion” because I’m not convinced the right opinion is even on the table or that there is one in the first place. Many opinions can be right. Binary thinking causes more false dichotomies than true answers or helpful discussions, so I’ll avoid them as best I can.

This blog will likely be misquoted, mischaracterized and parsed in an effort to demonize. This happens when anybody puts their thoughts out there on any subject. It’s expected. But I’m hoping something more happens. I’m hoping, for some, it contributes to unity. We are not that different.

So as you read thoughts that may seem foreign, please understand my intent is not to judge or pose threat. As Ravi Zacharias often prays, let there be more light than heat.

*Photo Credit: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

Camera angles on church, why many people don’t go, pushback to the blog and an increasing cultural inability for nuanced thought:

1. I WAS MOVED BY READER SENSITIVITY

Reading the comments from Monday’s blog let me know how far my personal spiritual journey has taken me from modern evangelicalism. Theologically, I find myself in the evangelical camp in many ways, but as for the “one way to do life and church” I’ve gone a different path. And I’m hardly alone. While I love the traditional church, I love it like a foundational part of my past, as though it were a University I’ve graduated from to join a much larger church those still in the University program are quite suspicious of. (More on church as school later)

For many, though, the church is where people find spiritual security through communion with both God and a local tribe. People love their churches, their pastors and their community. Some people believe church is the main place we worship God, that it’s superior and more sacred than worshipping with their family or friends or through other outlets such as work or daily life. My faith and intimacy with God has grown as I’ve evolved in my understanding of church, and as I said, many find that threatening. And yet, in the comments, even the heated ones, it was beautiful to see a group of people love something so much. The passion moved me as much as it frustrated me.

2. FEELINGS ARE NOT VALID?

A response I kept seeing on twitter and in the comments was that my blog was all about feelings. It wasn’t. It was actually about learning styles. I used the word “feel” a couple times and it was pounced on like a fumbled football. And yet I kept asking myself “why do these people have a problem with feelings or the concept of feelings?”

Feelings are, essentially, thoughts. They don’t come from the heart, they come from the brain. Both thoughts and feeling are chemical and electrical functions of the brain. It’s true they are different, but one is not a lie while the other is true. The reality is, neither is trustworthy without verification and consideration.

The distinction, however, that feelings are lesser trustworthy experiences is a false dichotomy. Certainly you can’t do math with feelings, but you can’t love with math. Is math an invention of God while love a worldly experience? Did God create your mind to be a calculator and Satan stuck some feelings into the mix?

The Bible itself includes a large amount of art and history and comparably few rational essays, so the evangelical tendency to dismiss “feelings” is confusing. Add to this “rational thought” can also be misleading. Both Richard Dawkins and C.S. Lewis arrived at their different positions by taking trails of thought. Both consider themselves rational and grounded in foundational philosophical principals, but they ended up in different intellectual places. Why then do modern evangelicals elevate thought as though it is the only path to truth? And why dismiss feelings as though they are weak or lesser than? Shouldn’t the issue be given a more nuanced treatment?

Add to this yet another conundrum, and that’s the myth any of us are objective thinkers in the first place. Research indicates we are given to tribal thinking and confirmation bias and defend those “feelings” with rational justifications we most often mistake for a linear line of thought, as though we are objective. We are not objective. Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye and Ken Hamm are not completely objective thinkers. They are given to tribal thinking and confirmation bias. Find me a theological rant of any stripe and I’ll show you a “thinker” using rational thought to defend the presuppositions of a tribe, likely in an effort to gain security or from a fear something is being taken away, in other words, rational thought fueled by feelings.

Before we get too irate and have a trigger reaction against the idea feelings are actually valid if verified and tested, we should consider new revelations in brain science, learning-style revelations and basic psychology. What about intuition, what about the whole brain? What about Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence? What about Sir Ken Robinson’s work on education reform? What about Jung’s early work on personality theory and motives? And even Malcolm Gladwell’s work on thinking without thinking? When evangelicals attack “feelings” they’re discrediting thinkers and researchers more knowledgeable than they on how the brain actually works.

The attack on feelings works great to sway young seminarians who like to label liberal theologians, but in the end, it’s a limited and narrow perspective.

The point, though, is this: Feelings matter. You can’t build a house on them, but they guide, shape, validate and work with rational thought to shape who we are and how we do life. When Jesus interacted with people, He cared about how they felt. And He was not weak or weird for doing so. He’s the one who made those silly little “feelings” in the first place. How odd, then, His own children would dismiss them as irrelevant.

3. CHURCH ISN’T ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT GOD?

It’s a nice cliche and has some basis in scripture, but while the thought makes a great tweet, it should be parsed in a more nuanced way. Many people seemed to want me to attend church out of a sense of duty or responsibility. These were the comments I received that were most traced with guilt and shame, interestingly.

Certainly we have a duty and responsibility in many areas of life, including church, but God has no problem with us enjoying Him, each other, nature and for that matter a worship experience. And if we don’t enjoy a specific kind of worship experience, He could care less whether we go choose one we enjoy more. David danced naked, not out of responsibility, but because he went temporarily pleasure-go-nuts with emotion. He liked it. He was wired to like it. His son worshipped God as a philosopher, playwright and architect. Everybody worships differently. The church offers music. And let’s face it, most of them offer the same music. Jesus isn’t crying Himself to sleep at night because somebody wants to worship Him by planting a garden more than singing a song.

But this is a much larger issue. The subtext of these comments seemed to insinuate that God wants us to suffer for Him. But not suffer by reaching the poor or by being outcast, suffer, literally, by standing in a church service singing songs you don’t find catchy. Really?

The subtext of these comments reminded me of an elderly Catholic woman I watched in Mexico City, crawling on her bloody knees to the Metropolitan Cathedral. She’d crawled for nearly twelve miles. She was in her eighties. She wanted to suffer for Jesus. Her family followed her, wiping her brow and offering her water. It was moving to see. But in my opinion, entirely unnecessary and perhaps the stuff of bad theology. I applaud the devotion, but I don’t admire it. I don’t think when Jesus told us to take up our cross, he was talking about self mutilation.

The point is this: God has no problem with you having pleasure enjoying Him, and when we don’t through a specific methodology, He has no problem with us switching things around so we do. He’s not calling us to be sanctified through dutiful boredom.

4. WE MUST ATTEND A CHURCH SERVICE TO BE IMPACTFUL FOR GOD?

I’d say half of the most impactful people I know, who love Jesus and tear up at the mention of His name, who reach out to the poor and lonely and are fundamentally sound in their theology, who create institutions that feed hundreds of thousands, do not attend a traditional church service. Many of them even speak at churches, but they have no home church and don’t long for one. They aren’t wired to be intimate with God by attending a lecture and hearing singing (which there is NOTHING wrong with) they are wired to experience God by working with Him.

That said, they also have no opinion about church, don’t talk about it and are too busy with enjoying the global, non-arguing, non-tribal community that they consider to be the church to worry about what people think.

That said, they wisely keep their mouths closed on the issue where I went and talked about. Serves me right.

The point, though, is this: Jesus engages people inside and outside the church. It’s almost as though He sees the church as one, without walls, denominations or tribes. I’m starting to see the church that way, too.

5. NO CHURCH MEANS NO COMMUNITY?

These comments also surprised me. It was as though people thought because I hadn’t been to church in years, I had no community, that I lived in isolation. This is untrue. My community is rich, deep, spiritually sound, gracious, sacrificial and at times (because I’m an introvert) exhausting.

What I hadn’t realized before I read those comments, though, was that I had worked to create my community.Community is everywhere, and every church you’ve attended was a community that somebody sat down and created. I happen to think a lot of them look exactly the same and have no problem making mine look different, but it’s still a community. Millions of people who do not attend church have rich, meaningful communities that they created or have joined. You could create your own community out of your home in a matter of months.

6. YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US

This was perhaps the most surprising response. Because I said I’d not been to church regularly in years, people supposed I had something against the church. But I didn’t and I don’t. In fact, since I left, any issues I’ve had with the church have gone away. I have nothing but kind feelings for the church and consider myself, in a strange way, part of it. Or at least I believe Jesus sees me as part of the church, part of His Bride.

But again, there’s a subtext here, and I think it involves insecurities. It’s a common human issue: If they aren’t like us, they are threatening. But I promise, Christians who do not attend church are no different than you. They are kind, they struggle, they are gracious, they are judgmental and they are trying to connect with Jesus sometimes and sometimes not. But for the most part, they aren’t against the church.

Tribal thinking often causes a great deal of harm. We think people who don’t agree with us are likely lesser people because what is foreign often feels threatening. But that’s hardly true. People are people. Some of them do bad things both inside and outside the church. I’m convinced the distrust we feel at the foreign is a divisive and deceptive thought pattern meant to cause harm.

Imagine the relationships people lose out on, the incredible life memories, the healing and community they aren’t involved in because they can’t engage or have community with people who do not agree with them theologically. I’ve no interest. People are either kind or mean. I choose kind ones, I don’t care what they believe. This is part of why I feel like my community is so healthy.

7. DO YOU ATTEND A TRADITIONAL BIBLICAL CHURCH?

Your church likely looks nothing like the church in the book of Acts, which, was not much of a prescription on how to do church anyway. There are some marching orders in the book, but there aren’t many. Mostly those direct instructions are about choosing elders and deacons and dividing up each others money so that it’s shared. But that’s mostly it.

The modern traditional church sticks to the part about the elders, very loosely nods towards the financial stuff, but is basically a large school system. The modern evangelical church is an adaptation of an ancient institution led by scholars after the invention of the printing press. It is also an evolution of a government-run institution dating back centuries. And it continues to evolve today into something else.

Unless you are Shane Claiborne, your church probably doesn’t look anything like the church in the book of Acts, so let’s not get self righteous.

As a side note, many thinkers in America credit the growth of the American church with supply and demand principals. They say the reason the church in England is struggling is because it was so influenced by the government it didn’t adapt with culture, where in America churches had to compete with each other and so adapted, evolved, grew in style, shared best practices at conferences and adopted marketing and branding strategies they learned from business leaders.

The church in America, in other words, is a product of a school-like system mingled with best business practices and is quickly moving toward entertainment-like institutions. And to be honest, that amazing adaptation and evolution has worked fantastically. I think it’s great. These practices reach tons of people who want Jesus, community and wisdom from an ancient trustworthy text. That said, to say traditional church is Biblical is a stretch because of two false presuppositions.

Those two false presuppositions are:

1. The Bible has specific, robust and complete instructions on building and running a church community. It doesn’t. As I said earlier, the book of Acts has a few marching orders, but as a writer I assure you, that’s not the author’s intent in that book. It’s a history of the early church and an encouragement for us.

2. The church you are attending is a Biblical church. If you mean it’s a church that is centered around Jesus and takes the eucharist, perhaps. But, again, your church likely doesn’t look like the church in Acts. And I think that’s fine. God wanted the orthodox theology to stay the same, but the church can, should and has evolved in style, language, customs and so forth.

It’s a hard thing for some people to get their heads around, but God shares agency with us in creating the church and we get to use our creativity and heart and passion to incorporate these loose instructions. Actually, big business could learn a thing or two from churches. And so could education reformers. Because of the passion pastors have for the gospel, their willingness to share best practices and the economic competition they face with neighboring churches, they often adapt faster than business. When I was a kid, our church looked like a school mixed with an anglican-style high church.

Today, many churches look like night clubs complete with pastors being piped in on video. It’s quite brilliant and I’ve no problem with it, it’s just not my thing. I don’t like night clubs. And I don’t like lectures and I don’t emote to worship music. And I still love Jesus. It’s shocking, but it’s true. That said, let’s stop using the word “Biblical” as some sort of ace card when it comes to how church should be done.

8. JESUS DOESN’T HAVE POWER OUTSIDE THE CHURCH?

One twitter comment said by leaving the church I was committing spiritual suicide. I read that comment to a friend (a nationally known, strong Christian leader who does not attend church but doesn’t talk about it) and both of us were taken aback.

Do people really believe there’s no spiritual life, no walk with Jesus, no community and no love outside a Sunday morning worship service? For those who’ve never taken a break from church, this will be a hard one. But I assure you, He’s alive and well and happy and working both inside and outside the traditional church. He’s going places many of us are unwilling to go, or perhaps scared to go. He exists outside our worldly tribes, even if those worldly tribes are labeled as a local church.

I’ll tell you a story, and this one may seem crazy to some, but I promise it’s true. A few years ago I was interviewing a prominent world leader. Can’t tell you who, but every person reading this knows who he is. We were two hours into a conversation about leadership and he asked me to turn off my recorder. I did. Then he began describing a kind of knowing he had in his spirit. He knew he was supposed to help people, especially the poor, those who are true victims. I said I thought that was great. But then he asked me, he said Don, I don’t believe in God, I walked away from the Catholic church when I was a young man. But I can’t explain that feeling. It’s like God is talking to me. He’s wanting me to go reach these people. I’m confused a bit.

For me, that was an intense paradigm shift in my faith. I believe he was hearing from Jesus. I just don’t think he knew it or had a category for that kind of reality. And as I continued to interact with traditional evangelicals, I realized they would have no category for that man either. Potentially, he can help millions of people (and since then, has) but evangelicals wouldn’t be able to understand that Jesus was partnering with him unless he agreed with their foundational theological positions and perhaps even attended their kind of church (of which, in the Christian tradition, there are 360,000 different kinds).

So what do we do with a man who is interacting with Jesus and doesn’t know it? Here’s what I did with it: I decided I didn’t fully know what Jesus was doing, that much of His involvement with the world was a mystery, and He was going to reach out to the poor both through, and outside the church. Quite a paradox. And most evangelicals are uncomfortable with paradox.

9. THE CHURCH CAN’T ADAPT BEYOND A LECTURE/WORSHIP SYSTEM

I do think church can evolve beyond a lecture/worship/performance institution, but the current leadership is unlikely to make that happen. When and if the church evolves, it will evolve from outside the current leadership and that evolution will pose a threat to existing tribal values as well as financial systems that are sustained by the current model. In other words, the church will be reluctant to change because things that are foreign are perceived as bad and we’ve got to keep doing it this way for job security.

The reality is, though, there can be entire avenues of church (within existing institutions) that explore all the ways God has created the brain to work, in other words, all of His children, not just those who best respond to traditional services. There can be art tracks, work tracks, business mentoring programs, community gardens and so on. In other words, the person of Jesus can be brought into every facet of the life He Himself created.

If we are honest, and look at the whole situation objectively, the greatest resistance will come from an unseen but largely inarguable hurdle: job security.

The lecture/worship system is the most efficient program to get the most people through a church experience over a given weekend. It’s an unbelievably smart business model. A staff of 50 or so can reach thousands at once, give them a brief experience, send them off into community groups and so forth and sustain church activity while still collecting offerings. Few consider that church has evolved to look as it does for financial reasons, but this is likely the first thing a truly objective thinker would notice. Current church programs involving a short lecture and worship is an astoundingly efficient financial model, and so it will be reluctant to change.

Please don’t misunderstand me. What I did not say is that pastors are in it for the money. I’ve met very few pastors who didn’t have the skill set to make much more money in the business world. Most of them are in it for the ministry, I’m convinced. The point was to sustain a church budget, the current worship experience is the most efficient model.

Neither am I arguing the current model should change. Millions are fed weekly through these kinds of programs. What I’m arguing is that nobody should be faulted for creating something different. Those who would argue “we shouldn’t simply create the church in our own image” forget it already has been created in our own image. First the image of the royal government then the image of the university or school and then big business and now moving toward the entertainment industry. The church has always been recreated in the image of the dominant institution in society. For the early church, that was the family. For our culture, it’s business and education and entertainment.

In fact, I’d argue that by making the church smaller, less formal, less organized, less institutionalized and more like the chaos of a family structure, the church would be moving MORE toward the historical church in ACTS and less like a culture-formed institution by deconstructing itself. Though I hardly consider that a God-given decree. Again, I believe we can make it what we want (within God-given parameters) and share agency with God in positively impacting the world.

So that’s about it as for camera angels. For any offense I’ve caused, I ask forgiveness. You are more important to me than this discussion and I’ll likely not talk about it again for a long time.

The final issue for me is control. I can’t control you, you can’t control me, and none of us are going to control Jesus. He’s going to do what He wants, and what He wants is to love the world through us, both inside and outside the church.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.

  • Gwen Rushing

    Here’s some additional camera angles:
    1Thess5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing.
    James 5:16 So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.
    Hebrews 10:25…not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.
    Matthew 18:19-20 Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”

    While I can agree with a number of your points about the church today, the overwhelming evidence in the Bible is that coming together as a body is pleasing to God because that is the difference between us and the world–
    John 13:34-35 NASB. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    How can we demonstrate the love for each other if we cannot meet together? The bottom line regardless of how you choose to word it–as just your choice or different levels/needs/perspectives–the heart behind it is disappointment with the body, disenchantment with the body, an unwillingness to stick with the body and help heal, nurture, contribute to the effectiveness and faithfulness of the body. That is a picture of a lack of love. In all honesty, I am going through the same process. The answer, however, never lies in our ability to reason, but in the truth plumbline of the Word of God and the revelation and conviction of the Holy Spirit. Those who have sensed the road being traveled by the church universal as not being faithful to God’s Word, did not abandon the church, but begged and sacrificed for the church: Wesley, Luther, Bunyon are a few that spring to mind. At this point that is where I am at and I believe the more of God’s children who seek His will, His face, His love, His glory, the more mercy, grace, enlightenment God will bestow upon mankind, His church receiving first in order to reach out to the rest. Be encouraged that your words and questions struck a nerve because you are not alone. Be faithful in your prayers seeking the will of God for yourself and the body of Christ.

    • NM

      I think your missing what he might be saying. I think he is done with church as far as being confined to 4 walls of a building, and that getting labeled as “church”. I have no doubt that he is aware of those verses. But are they only truly lived out by attending a church service? Like he said he has not isolated himself. He still meets with believers, probably encourages believers, prayers with believers, serves with believers, and does life with believers. Community in Christ is bigger than attending and serving at a organised church. I guess that is the beauty of being apart of the body of Christ.

    • Zoe Gingerich

      I like your approach… to use scripture. Then, people can continue their conversation directly with Jesus as he is the best discerner of thoughts and motives. Thank you.

    • ShawnR

      I am always amazed when people pick and choose a few verses to highlight a point.

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  • Clarke Morledge

    Don,

    In reading your critique of the “traditional, local church,” you have created a kind of dichotomy, binary thinking in your terms (that you ironically reject), that sets up the traditional, local church in contrast to your current experience of Christian community that you have now “graduated” towards.

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but this sounds like quite a bit of hubris on your part, is it not?

    Essentially, I can not make sense of your ecclesiology. You have written quite well critiquing many of the problems with traditional, evangelical ways of doing the local church, but by setting up this questionable contrast between your understanding of Christian community and the “traditional, local church,’ it appears that you have merely confused the theology of the church with something that is really murky.

    Do you have any answer to that?

    • Jason English

      Clarke,

      I’m not absolutely sure if this summarizes what Don is saying but I will take a crack at it since I hold the same stance as he does. So, here is my very simple perspective on the matter:

      The Church is the Bride of Christ.

      Believers are the Church.

      All believers are the Bride of Christ.

      A building can house the Bride of Christ (the Church) on Sunday morning. A house can also do this very same thing on Wednesday nights. An office suite can do just the same as well on Monday mornings. So can a car, a park, a submarine, and an open lot, etc.

      The Church is not an active assembly that only happens on Sunday mornings. It is an organic, living, breathing, and powerful vessel (the body of believers) that is constantly engaging the world in any and every capacity.

      This link also is helpful when considering Donald’s thoughts:

      http://www.biblequestions.org/archives/bqar163.htm

      Well, that’s what I think he means in a nutshell.

      • NM

        Brilliant, I think you are exactly right.

  • Ric Lippmann

    Gosh, why does everyone appear so attacked? All Donald is doing is sharing and explaining his experience (which, incidentally, is shared by many) and he’s being mobbed by an angry crowd building an argument trying to disprove and shoot him down.

    Listen to yourselves. Scary – for you…!

    Uncanny resemblance with a certain group of religious leaders who incited similar responses to the words and actions of a certain Rabbi once upon a time…

    • Clarke Morledge

      Ric: Well, some may be angry and fit your Pharisaical description. But this evades the issue.

      Many are confused as to what Donald is really saying. I am with him on his evaluation of different learning styles, etc. I am just hung up on him feeling like he has “graduated” from “church” towards some “larger church.” What does Donald mean by “church?” If Donald has in mind a distinction between the “church” and the “kingdom of God”, or perhaps a distinction between the “visible” and “invisible” church, he might dispel the crowds at the gates with the pitchforks. Donald can probably calm down the “mob” if he were to spell out his theology of church a little more clearly.

      If he has, he might want to link that here since this page gets a lot of traffic.

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  • http://hope4shediac.com Brock M Symonds

    Hi Don,

    I think your blog is well written, thoughtful and stirring.

    My questions are (more questions for me to ponder) : Is the church needed at all? What if people who need a church, or the structure or the community it gives, disappear? Are we giving another reason why the church is not needed or is not needed on a regular basis? We are living in a world where regular church attendance is being redefined as not a: every week unless I am sick or away to once a month as work and schedule allots.

    Don you are a very respected author and thinker in the Body, I respect your works, it is people that are held in such high esteem, like you and other Christian leaders you reference, that are needed to give nod too the local church.

    Every week as a local pastor I “do” church in a way that is not necessarily my preference and I do some things that I really don’t like to do or don’t minister to “me” personally. I don’t have a need for worship songs, it’s not my “way”, I struggle to listen to other’s preach and would rather read the transcript or book. But I believe in the local church as a teaching place (school), a landing place (for those seeking Hope), and a launching place for us to be Christ in our communities.

    No question this can be done without the church in families or other communal groups but I think the church is needed and the church needs “all” to support and keep it as relevant as possible, instead of leaning away from the church because it is not the only way or is not for everyone. Siting intellectuals and successful Christian leaders as ones that support the view that regular church attendance or support is not needed concerns me. Maybe they have “grown” out of the church or the need of a local church. But the little church in some corner of the world would love to have the support and nod from you. Here in the trenches there are many looking for the beacon of the church and look to others in the Christian world to validate its work.

    Love your books and blog, please don’t read into this my loss of respect or love for you. You stirred my heart and mind and touched my heart for the local church, and in saying this I might be biased.
    -pastor brock symonds
    Shediac Bay Community Church, New Brunswick, Canada

  • Brittany Sherman

    Donald, I just wanted to affirm you regarding your thoughts on learning modalities and relating them to learning styles in the church. I actually have thought the same thing for a few years now because I am a teacher and have learned many creative ways to reach students’ learning styles through my teaching program. Sir Ken spoke at a conference I went to, which challenged me to think further on this. My husband and I were youth leaders a few years back, and I started applying some of the techniques I learned in my credential program, such as activities and art that students could reflect and express their understanding of things. It was only for a short bit, but I have always hoped that this would be more integrated in the way adults learn too. We attend a church called Fellowship Monrovia, where they believe in doing life in circles, such as small groups and such, which I appreciate. We are also training in a program called “Simply the Story” where you can share bible stories in small groups, where inquiry is the main source of learning, through group participation and instead of the storyteller giving learning points that God teaches them, the group raises questions and thoughts of their own, allowing God to speak in a different way. Anyways, just wanted you to know that there are others out there who have similar thoughts…I’m interested to see how God will transform the church in the west. We are moving to Tanzania to do community development and I’m interested to see how church gatherings are done in rural communities, such as the Masai. Keep sharing your thoughts…I appreciate them.

  • Jack Ryan

    I was on the MV Doulos for three months. An evangelical christian ship of 300 crew staffed by career missionaries and trainees for the mission field. I was literally living the book of Acts. And they had services every Sunday, prayer meetings twice a week, bible study once a week. I attended maybe half the Sunday services, and perhaps 4 prayer meetings. But the point was I was immersed in the Book of Acts and what difference does it make attending Sunday services every week or once every two weeks? I was living the Book of Acts.

  • AL Garcia

    I read an article by Frank Viola today that caused me to look your article up. I’m a pastor that is not part of a traditional church anymore. When pastors and other church employees defend the institutional church it can be a conflict of interest and self preserving. There are other stakeholders that will defend the weekly activity of the church as God’s mandate. However what they don’t realize or don’t want to accept is that by being self preserving they are undermining the great commission. It’s interesting when pastors reach celebrity status and are no longer financially supported by the church that they feel free to “say it like it is”. Thank you for raising awareness. Could you imagine what it would be like if you were employed by a church, or even be a member? Would you feel free to say the things that you do? Living in a way that pleases God shouldn’t be restricted to a talking head show. I connect with God in my work too.

  • Eric Humphries

    “Tribal thinking often causes a great deal of harm.”

    I’m captivated by this thought but not because I agree with it. Nor really because it brings contention to my soul. Rather, I’m just curious as to how this “tribal thinking” really plays itself out. Two questions:

    1.Where’s the “Simon Sinek’s group of 150″ in all of this? – What I mean to say is aren’t we discovering more about how we function in this day in age as societal creatures to the point that we can begin to foresee the shortcomings in our communal structures, i.e. the institutional bodies we call our local church? Given there are many benefits to the momentum a large community can create (which I’m all truly in favor of), but that doesn’t make up for the fact that we loose so much of our own vulnerability and capacity for growth when we cram ourselves into a movement before being moved.

    2. If we do find ourselves captured by a small body, what do we do with that momentum? I mean, come on. We live in the age of Facebook likes and YouTube views. It seems like everyone wants the show on themselves, just to validate their identity or something. This question is rooted in the fact that some of us are lucky enough to have that lightbulb go off when we all of sudden capture what this is all about. And once we do, we find each other and want the spark to catch fire. How then do we manage within the shifting sands of subjective objectivism and Facebook likes and get others on board to the Main Thing without having to wrap them up in our way or method?

    I ask for many reasons. One being I work for a body that claims 7000+ members and I can earnestly say that although my heart has softened much for the institution of church since taking the job I feel that I am still standing on the outside. It doesn’t (or maybe it does) help that my job keeps me from the typical routine of worship services and sermons but in doing so I’m finding a very slow inclusion process into the primary “family” of the church itself. If it were’t for the staff and various connections through them, I would know very little of the people actually in attendance week to week. I can say this even after three years.

    I am a supporter of the church as an institution because I know that our culture needs a starting block. But in the race to be won, we will find ourselves running a completely different race if the Kingdom is not first and foremost. Its not in the planning of services or backpack drives or dessert socials or even prayer vigils. The thing we need the most is the move and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in and through us in person and community so that we would be changed into the likeness of Jesus and the progress and procedures that follow would be dictated by only that. The fact that such an argument exists concerning just how much we should carry out our orthodoxy or cultural practices is telling of how much we are left out of the loop of what God is actually doing right now all around us. It is just and fair to to defend what is right, but just think for a second; if what were doing is producing all good things, why would we ever stop to argue our way of doing it. Just do it, watch others follow, and lead the way.

  • Rob

    I just found this.. If you see this comment Donald then please can I highlight when Jesus works through you he is working through the church. You don’t go to church but you are the church. You don’t need to invite those who don’t know Jesus to church because whenever you go for a meal with them or go to their home they are at church. People naturally want to protect the institution that they love and I and many others have benefited hugely from church so of course it is with defending… but you are also the church and so you should be defended to. Keep doing what you are doing.

  • Gayla Reed Wingate

    I love to be sent out as The Church. I love to go to church as The church. My home church in Texas is my family and always will be regardless of where I am sent out to be The Church, a witness and testimony of The Good News. Jesus is the answer inside and outside the church. As we come to know Him, we Love with a much greater capacity and we are able to receive and give out love without the perversion of the world’s system of love which equates to bodily functions that bring self gratification. In being the church, serving others is the most gratifying way to live. Serving others inside and outside buildings. I love The Church and especially my church family or tribe. However, I love being made in the image of Christ and going into the highways and biways inviting people to the marriage supper of the lamb. What does this mean? To me it means, Jesus is forever desiring His bride to unite with Him in every place and in every way becoming a Temple not made by human hands. “Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart.” Binding my mind to the mind of Christ and binding my heart to the heart of God is my delight. His desires are my desires. His Word is my Word. John 17:23 (Doing all we do as unto The Lord…He is The Answer…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done on Earth (in our earthen vessel) as it is in Heaven. Amen. I love my roots. They run deep.

  • Albert L.

    Read Don’s follow-up entry above, and checked out the comments below (including the original blog topic this originated). I will say this:

    A comment usually says more about the person leaving the comment than the actual content they’re commenting on.

    Doesn’t matter if you’re a believer in the gospel or not — I hope people can exercise simple, common sense kindness when disagreeing or having a conversation.

    Keep blogging, y’all. :)

  • http://jessiecostin.blogspot.com Jessie Costin

    I’m very grateful to you for sharing this. Because I’ve been feeling very much the same but felt very much alone in it.

    Those who have this view point and don’t talk about it probably have good reasons for it. I know from trying to express my thoughts to friends, it can be difficult and confronting and uncomfortable. And I’m easily misunderstood. But I hope more who hold differing views on church do speak up because it helps to know I’m not alone. And I’m sure there must be many more experiencing the same.

  • http://saturdayafternoonphotography.com Chelsea Melendez

    Thanks for this post. This, along with many other blogs, are helping me detach more and more from the ultra conservative church I was raised in. Feelings were not important, everyone came before you, it didn’t matter what you wanted but what God wanted, and they essentially taught that we were worshipping an angry God. I went to that church my whole life all while being abused by my parents who also taught me not to trust my feelings. I’ve started to deal with all the abuse I’ve been through from physical and emotional to spiritual. I haven’t been to a church in years and I honestly don’t know when I will. I still love Jesus and His Church but I doubt I can ever go back to a traditional stand up sit down church. Sorry you’ve gotten so much flack but I want to tell you how this post helped me make another step forward in my journey of healing. It’s baffling how quickly church leaders put you down for your feelings and yet that’s what I experienced for twenty plus years. The more I run from mainstream evangelicalism the more I find God or at least a God who isn’t perpetually pissed off God. So thank you, this post mattered and needed to be heard and written!

    • Zoe Gingerich

      Hmmm. I can’t blame you for wanting to detach from an abusive, dysfunctional family. I believe healing is important, then you can reach out to others and help create a healthy community. It is possible, even among imperfect humans, with our inborn sin nature, to learn to love each other (possible with the spirit of Jesus

      • http://saturdayafternoonphotography.com Chelsea Melendez

        Already apart of a healing community. Working through the abuse with a therapist. Haven’t prayed or read my bible in at least a year bc it causes me panic attacks and yet I still experience God’s grace and love. It will be a long time before I’m apart of a church. My emotions don’t distract me from the truth, trust me, I know it inside and out from a purely logical and analytical perspective. I’ve spent my entire life living out that exact thought that emotions distract from the truth. I’m just now learning how to emotions. If you want to know more: Saturdayafternoonphotography.com is my blog, and check out the Am I a Crazy series. Again it’ll be a long time before I set foot in a traditional church but I meet with believers regularly

        • Zoe Gingerich

          I guess I should have said “hurt” (damaged) emotions. I feel angry toward the perpetrators that hurt you, those who should have been the safe ones in your life. Thanks for responding to my post. Zoe

    • latebloomer

      Amen I hear you!

  • Zoe Gingerich

    “Church” is like a family reunion to me…I like getting together. And, it seems to require a time and place…or we miss each other. I miss those family members who, for whatever reason, choose not to come. Zo

  • latebloomer

    What I found was I was following the crowd even within the church! I feel there is a lot of opinion in the church and we follow people rather than God. I admit I’m a bit disillusioned. In my experience I felt I was told how to feel. I want God to speak to me directly. God bless his bride but I am still a part of it even if I choose not to attend. I can still be his hands and feet. Another misunderstood introvert thinker feeler!