Done With Church? Don’t Quit It, Change It

GoodbyeThere’s a large and growing number of people who say they’re done with church.

These aren’t the Nones – those who are increasingly checking the box marked “none” on religious affiliation surveys – these are people who self-identify as Christians, but have intentionally stopped attending church.

According to several recent writings, including The Rise of the “Dones”, by Tom Schultz, the Dones are a growing percentage of society. Many of them have come from the clergy.

Yes, I know what many of you are thinking. This is just more evidence of our entitlement culture that doesn’t want to make commitments or be held accountable. I have to admit that thought occurred to me, too.

Certainly there are people leaving the church who fit that description. But there are regular church attenders and leaders who fit that description, too.

The Dones aren’t like that. They’re not lazy, apathetic or self-serving. Often they’re just the opposite. As Shultz says in his post, “To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.”

Many of them may be like the kid in class who’s acting up and getting bad grades, not because they’re not interested in learning, but because their learning style doesn’t fit in a classroom setting. They want to leave, not because they don’t care, but because they hate having their time wasted.

Almost everything I’ve read from within the church about the Dones (and it’s a lot), has been written from one of two standpoints: 1) What can we do to win them back?, or 2) An attitude of “good riddance”, with an underlying, sometimes directly stated attitude of “they’re just lazy people who want everything done their way.”

I think that second attitude is inaccurate, dangerous and arrogant. But the first attitude may be missing the point too, since it feels a little like a salesman trying to woo customers back with a semi-annual sale. Either way, we don’t get it.

But everything I’ve read by the Dones (including conversations I’ve had with them) tells a different story. They’re not lazy or self-serving. And they’re not looking to be won back. They’re tired, frustrated and hurt. And they truly are done.

So this post isn’t written to church leaders to offer ideas about what we can do to entice the Dones to come back. Today I’m talking to the Dones or almost-dones, maybe even to fellow ministers in one of those groups, with a simple message.

If you’re done with the way we do church, don’t leave it, help us change it.

 

What Are They Really Done With?

As I’ve read blog posts and books about and by the Dones, a few patterns have emerged. As it turns out, when people say they’re done with church, here’s what they often mean. 

They’re done with:

  • the institutional church
  • judgmentalism
  • infighting
  • being a passive audience
  • lack of applicability to daily life
  • hypocrisy
  • abuse of power
  • anti-intellectualism
  • lack of compassion ministries
  • questionable use of finances
  • (insert your frustration here)

Take a look back at that list. Do you notice anything missing? I do.

None of the things people usually leave the church over are things that actually define the church.

The church is two simple things – neither of which almost anyone wants to be done with.

The church is people loving Jesus and loving others.

When former churchgoers say they’re done with church, they’re seldom actually done with loving Jesus or loving others. What they’re done with is the extras we’ve attached to Jesus and people – often at the expense of the two essentials.

I have to agree with them. I’m done with all that, too.

But, despite my own doneness, I’m choosing to stick with the church. Why? Because the things that really make up the church, the things that matter – the Jesus and people stuff – are worth staying and fighting for.

 

What To Do If You’re Done

If you’re done with the way we do church, good for you. Those feelings of frustration are a good start. It means you haven’t stopped caring.

It probably means you’re fed up with business-as-usual. It probably means you want more of Jesus, not less.

The good news is you’re not alone. In addition to me (as if you cared about that), there have been a lot of people in history who were done with the way we do church.

  • Martin Luther was done
  • The Pilgrims were done
  • John Wesley was done
  • William Booth was done
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was done

And long before all of them, Jesus himself was done with the way worship was being conducted in his day.

But they didn’t leave. They didn’t give up. They stood up and changed things.

Yet it’s important to note what they didn’t change. They didn’t add anything new to the Gospel. And they didn’t remove any of the essentials. They reinforced the basics. They helped the church – or their segment of it – realign with one or more of the core values we’d lost. They pointed us to the timeless truths defined by Jesus himself in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

 

Don’t Be Done With Us

The church is not a building, a denomination or a set way of doing things. It’s people who love Jesus and love each other enough to want to change the world.

So, go ahead and leave the way church currently does things. Be fed up. There’s plenty to be fed up about.

But stop complaining about “them” and the way “they” do things. Them is us. If you’re a believer, you’re a part of the church, even if you’ve stopped attending. You don’t stop being part of the church when you stop going to church any more than you stop being a member of a family when you stop going to family reunions.

If there’s a problem with the church, the only place any solution can come from is us.

Don’t quit. Don’t stop getting together with other people who love Jesus, or working with them to touch the lives of people who don’t know Jesus.

You don’t like the way church is done? Do it better! It can be done better. It must be done better. You may be done with your church, but don’t be done with the church.

We need you now more than ever.

 

So what do you think? What do you plan to do?

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Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Goodbye photo from woodleywonderworks • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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36 thoughts on “Done With Church? Don’t Quit It, Change It”

  1. Change the church? How does one work toward that lofty goal when your very goals are seen as a threat by those in power. They have their own little realm that they will protect to the end. Any suggestion of change causes them to raise the drawbridge and prepare for a siege. Progress is virtually impossible if you propose anything that is perceived as adding to workload.

    Foci are upon activities that are designed to minister to the needs of the particular church or to just maintain the status quo. If any ministry focuses outside of the particular congregation, that effort will be limited. Granted, many churches do go beyond this level.

    I just want to help more inwardly focused churches progress from being primarily a social opportunity and move towards transforming the world. Unfortunately, my experience tells me that too many churches are comfortable with dying right where they are.

    I’m not done, but I have no ideas as to how to move forward and I’m totally frustrated by the surrounding stagnation.

    1. Nick H. your response shows where many people are. I like your analogy of “raise the drawbridge and prepare for a siege”. The picture in my mind of what happens when current leadership does this, is those on the other side trying to cross the drawbridge simply turn around and walk away – hence the article being on those that are “done”.

      I’m not sure of the answers, but I am sure that IF those who are “done” truly are done, then we are in for a rude awakening. This reminds me of when I was growing up. This problem is not new to this generation. Back in the 80s early 90s that generation was saying the same thing. This won’t be the last generation that says it either – UNLESS we come to a point where we understand our methodologies and preferences are just that, and not doctrine.

      What I have experienced recently, are a generation of people that are not “done” with loving Jesus and loving others (as the article states), but a strong desire and passion to get closer to Jesus and show that love to the world – and the current church culture they are in may inadvertently be discouraging it because it doesn’t look like what they have experienced in the past.

      I have also found that the blame is not heavily weighted on either side of the equation. Both the current church leadership and the generation of “dones” have not spent enough time together to understand what God desires to do and where He is moving them. That mess is where I want to live. I believe the impact the church (people) can have if we can respect and honor the past, understand the present, and trust that what God will do in the future may even be greater than the past – maybe then we can lower the drawbridge and turn all our defenses to our real enemy.

      I’m not done either. I’m just beginning.

  2. You know the parable where the servant who’s given one talent to work with, looks covetously over at the servant working with 10 talents, and says, “Maybe if I moved over to his office, the Master would likewise give me his talents to work with!” so he quits?

    I know; it didn’t make it into the gospels. I still see it happen quite a lot. People get tired of the few resources of our small churches, and decide joining a bigger church, or another church, will solve all their problems. So they’re “done”—with us. And after they hit the very same roadblocks in the other churches, they’re done there too.

    1. I’ve seen that too, K.W. The most frustrating ones are when they leave our church because we made some necessary update, only to go to a church that also makes that update – but they’re OK with it there. Ugh.

  3. I’ve been there.
    Drop the D you get one.
    “it only takes a spark to get a fire going”

    One idea that can be accomplished – alone if necessary.
    Ask one person to join you.
    Doing one thing is more powerful than 50 things that could or should be done.

  4. After years of trying to help the church change and move in new directions, the rejections add up. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to move on in order to keep one’s sanity. Making the decision to become a done and to walk away is not easy but is necessary. Sad but true.

  5. We prefer small churches. Aging and health issues limit outside mission work, but fellowship and care abound. . One small idea is to install comfortable chairs for those of us with arthritis, joint replacements, back ailments, and such. I can visualize a “race for the soft chairs” on Sunday morning—makes me smile. Take out a few hard pews and put in some soft seats. Recall seeing the picture of your elderly member and the teenager. If I remember right, he was sitting in the lobby during the service because the chairs were soft. Whose idea was it anyway to put hard pews in the sanctuary? Know you “turn over” your sanctuary furniture frequently for different events. Small churches I know don’t have this kind of “horse power”. Just take out a few “historic” pews and put in some recliners.
    Heard a minister say once that seeing people sleep during the sermon was very comforting to him—meant that everyone was calm and all was right with the world. Soft seats seems like a good “pilot project” for research into improving “church”.

        1. You want people to comment? Listen, and try to understand where they are coming from. This includes listening to those older than you. We all get lost in “our” pressing matters, and forget to listen in all directions. Ever thought about how little muscle and how soft the tissue is of the elderly? Would it hurt to put in soft seating for those who would be in pain to sit in pews (and thus unable to concentrate on the message and just wanting to get the service over earlier)? I’ve actually been in a service where an elderly man died – it was too hot and stuffy (church trying to save money), but it was always his custom to wear a suit and a tie. A certain level of comfort is helpful, and even necessary. Edd and Carla just told you why some elderly don’t attend.

          I think you are reacting more to the sleeping part – I can see how that would be hurtful/challenging to Southern Baptists, Assembly of God, etc. And yet, please realize that some mainline preachers might be happy to simply have people present, to have a chance to see how they are doing as they enter and leave.

          Whatsoever you do (and say), to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do and say to me. Are Edd & Carla any less your brother and sister because they are looking through different lenses and have less firm bodies?

          1. Dennis, my reaction wasn’t to the idea of having softer chairs instead of hard pews. Our church has done that for the reasons you mentioned. It was the “put in some recliners” comment that made me think it had to be a joke.

  6. I’m not sure what a done is and judging from what I’ve been reading , I’m still not sure . I will admit I haven’t read all of them or given as much thought as observation to this as I plan to but this sounds very familiar to me , some of the comment as to why “dones” are “dones'” certainly are not new , this seems to happen in every generation . I don’t particular care for a lot of the characterizations of the church as a whole because these individuals could not have attended every church there is even in their respective communities , so they have a very limited sample from which to make their assumptions. I find this to be strang in the era of “Mega” churches that people are leaving churches as well . But like I said nothing new to see here another fad that unfortunately Christians have become prone to buying into , we treat our Faith like the technology world treats new products , what’s the latest, greatest, fastest gadget going. If you can detach yourself from the rest of the body and survive then you’ve proven the word of God wrong , and if you can’t stand to be with your brothers and sisters no matter what state or condition you judge them to be , then you’ve proven yourself to be what you accuse the church of being or not being depending on your excuses , sorry your reasons for being a done . I will stop , I should have never began this response as we can debate this to no end but I’m tired of us dumping on the church .

    1. You make some good points, Tommy. It reminds me of what I wrote in a recent post.

      “I get that it’s very painful when we’re hurt in a toxic church environment. I’ve been there. I know.

      But it sometimes amazes me when people give up on church because people hurt them, while being completely oblivious to the people they hurt along the way, themselves. It’s easy to find someone to blame. But it’s so hard to find anyone to step up and admit that they were ever the culprit. But someone has to be doing the hurting, right? Sometimes that someone is me.”

      If you want to read the rest of that post, here’s the link:
      http://newsmallchurch.com/church-is-not-efficient/

  7. Karl,

    I’m glad to see that a pastor wrote this article. That adds authenticity to it. I see you are part of the Assemblies of God denomination which is growing faster than the American population. Methodists have not done this since around 1890.

    In my own experience as a pastor for three decades is the needed changes people are needing to be part of are up against a very high wall of poor health inside so many church bodies.

    Decades of church growth books, workshops and programs have not accomplished much significant growth. An extremely small percentage of churches in America are growing primarily by conversion growth.

    The current fascination with family systems theory in church health efforts are not working like expected. It is a sad commentary on the state of things that there are only 4 books on the market that approach church health from a biblical/theological approach. It’s almost like we have missed asking the right question. What does the bible and theology have to do with it?

    Our biblical illiteracy problem is seen in the symptoms from being underfunded Biblically and theologically can be seen all over the place. Basically, we need a strong shot of biblical/practical Ecclesiology, i.e. theology of the Church-what it means to be a church shaped by biblical teaching in growing Christian disciples by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

    The NT views the church as a living spiritual body in Christ with Jesus as our Head. To bring about change means moving from a focus on programs to a focus on discipleship of the church body as a whole in looking at applying what it means to be a church which is in right relationship with our Head; the leadership of the body which is like the nervous system; the general relationships within a church body which is similar to the musculoskeletal system of the body; and finally individuals in the areas of their walk with God, their marriage and family relationships, their work, their outreach to others and their overall well being.

    This involves a lot of rebuilding which is very difficult and in some places not realistically probable to take place. While I saw some improvement in some of these areas, I’ve also seen no improvement in others and have concluded that it is far easier to built it right from the bottom up than it is to rebuild. A lot of it depends on more than just the pastor. Much of it has to do with how healthy a body of Christians are and how much they want to become more healthy which will include standing up to obstacles like church bullies, etc.

    As a church body becomes healthier its ability to be in ministry to others and to reach out to others becomes healthier as well just like having healthy skin. Developing a healthy church is an ongoing journey which is never an end in itself but a means for being a more effective church in the world.

    While I understand those who have left after years of frustrations, I wish more would stay and continue to work toward needed changes. If your only reason for leaving is that no one ever came from outside and stood up to a church bully by speaking the truth in love or the pastor tried to but no one backed them up, then stay and gain the Christian courage to stand up instead of being among those who are afraid, quiet, and too kind to do anything but disappear.

    I hope someone finds this to be helpful.

    bachdevelopment.com

    1. Thanks for this, John. I especially resonate with your statement that we need to move from a focus on programs to a focus on discipleship. I believe that is key.

  8. I like much of what John Crowe has written above, and I would join up with “lostartofrelationships” to move mountains

    I’m right there, on the edge.

    You ask the “Done’s” to help change the Church? Say what? By your definition of the Church, why would anyone want to change that?
    Maybe you meant to ask to have folks help change how we are the Church? Well, Family Systems Theory, as well as many theologians, make it clear that the only one we can change is ourselves. This may or may not result in changes in others.

    Where might change be most effective and helpful? How about being more accepting of those on the margins? If people see the leadership of a congregation actually cares – truly cares for those who can give nothing in return (and maybe can’t even attend), then what might be the results when this grows like wildfire? I’ve seen families start attending because the pastor or other leaders visited those in prison, and those prisoners (unintended and not suggested) writing home to say that they find hope in the visits. I’ve seen families brought closer by a congregation sending the kids to camp on full scholarship, and the pastor taking them there personally.

    What if at least 50% of congregational giving went to Mission? I’ve seen too many congregations where more than 50% was spent on the pastor, and of what was remaining more than 50% went to the building for heating and cooling and repairs, and the rest went to part-time staff and a small amount went to education.

    What if services were less predictable, less book of order, and less about us? “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear straw hats and velvet to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.” Annie Dillard

    I don’t think the “Done’s” are really Done. I think many have actually stepped up by stepping out, and are taking it to the streets and living it out.

    Is it attendance, or membership in a congregation that saves us? I’ll be honest – I once thought that way, and that I would try to be “good enough”.

    I’ll also be honest in sharing that some leave because they fear they will split the congregation if they stay – because their theology is a little different, or because they have big hopes and people won’t listen to the Spirit within them (like Nazareth did when Jesus was there – Mark 6), or because so many will flat out reject any new ideas with “We’ve never done it that way before”.

    You want Done’s to try to change the congregation? Put newer people on the church board (and not because they give 10%, or say nice things to us, etc). Listen for, and encourage diverse opinions. Get people who are excited about their faith to share – and not just on a Sunday morning with something prepared and rehearsed, but going out to visit people at home and at soccer practice, etc.

    One of the very biggest things that can be done is to have a great vision and mission, AND for all leaders to show their full buy-in by actually living it out. Someone sell their Mercedes and give the proceeds to an inner city effort to provide food and shelter? Amen. Someone adopt children who are hard to place? Amen. Several become mentors to those in prison? Amen. Give 4% to the church and attend most of the time – but not actually live out what Jesus taught? Aughhh! Why stay if that is the norm?

    Now, where in that is there any priority on attendance? Does faithfully attending for 80 years really move the Church forward? Or would less Biblical and Theological knowledge be better, because a person is spending most Sunday mornings in a park, simply encouraging and loving the people there? How can it be that people are shielded from real life – by being present on Sunday mornings and feeling that they have done something great for Jesus – but fail to live it out?

    I know – it would be dangerous for a pastor to suggest that a congregation meet every other week, and spend the other weekend in service and mission. Or maybe that the congregation could sell their building and go out to be the church in the world. Better yet, turn the church building into a place for those who need help.

    I take the post to be about getting people to stay in a congregation. At what cost to faith and sanity? I’m afraid that the “signal flares” would not be sent up, because it just wouldn’t be polite to fire them in the service, and worse, that they would be ignored by the leaders because of a lack of compassion.

    Now, this post might seem an attack, and many might get defensive. I want to speak from what I feel and what I observe, and hope that this will move the conversation. I’ve waited to post, because I wanted to see what kinds of things will be posted. I didn’t figure there would really be many Done’s who follow this blog, and those who might have hope and hang around aren’t likely to post anything – because it wouldn’t really lead to substantive changes.

    What do I see for the future? House churches – without paid, professional clergy. (Lots of reasons for this – churches losing tax-exempt status, for one, but primarily because it can be very effective in moving the shared time from monologue and professional musicians to dialogue and taking it to the streets.) As Gideon might help us to see, once the Church gets small enough and courageous enough, it will truly be effective.

    1. Yes, I meant to ask to have folks help change how we are the Church? This is why the focus needs to change from programs to discipleship. Only as people mature as Christians can the health of a church improve. As people grow and replace those in leadership who are not growing what I call the nervous system of the church becomes healthier. The more healthy, on fire, growing disciples that you have in the congregation, the more potential healthy leaders you have to select from. As you rightly pointed out, this may or may not result in changes in others.

      You are right that attendance alone does not fulfill out entire call to discipleship, but we are called to not forsake the gathering of ourselves together as is the practice of some. Hebrews 10:25. Also, gathering together is one of several things that the very early church did in Acts 2:46 plus other places in Acts mentions gathering together on the first day of the week which for Jews was our Sunday.

      I”m not sure at all that less Bible or theological knowledge would improve things at all. Overall, biblical literacy is rather low. What we need is for biblical and theological teaching to actually be applied to life and go further than skin deep.

      I’m not sure that house churches will be the solution. I was part of one when I was in college and it was a good experience. There is a house church network onlline with a registry for each state and beyond the US. http://housechurch.org/registry/index.html

      I don’t take your response as an attack. You are speaking from what you feel and observe. Likewise, I am writing about what I feel from what I’ve observed as a pastor in which some places were rather healthy, some were not but had a core that was healthy and helped change things for the better and some where all the healthy people had left which was extremely toxic and difficult to deal with.

      I was trying to lay out in my response a way that those who are done might not end up leaving and work toward change how we do church. Evidently, I was not entirely successful. Thanks for pushing for more clarification.

      America is becoming more of a mission field and churches will need to be much more like the first century church in order to grow and expand. What this will look like, we have yet to see. Knowing American church history, I have hope that God will send us another revival or spiritual great awakening that will move the Church forward. So, from that perspective, I have hope for the future. It will not be easy, but the Church is of God and will continue!

      1. John Crowe – I mostly agree with you here. Thank you for what you wrote.

        However, I’m not sure that gathering every week can be read into the Hebrews 10 passage about not forsaking the gathering. Are people running afoul of the Scripture if they aren’t there on Wednesday evening for studies, or whenever there is a gathering in the church building?

        In the OT, there are four celebrations annually that all the men were to try to attend – they would travel for days to be there. Could four times a year meet the “don’t forsake the gathering” request/command? Unfortunately, this type of how many is enough really just leads to legalism. But there certainly are people, for various reasons can’t or don’t make it frequently, who feel quite guilty and unworthy because of lack of attendance. Trying to guilt people into attending isn’t a very good way to move forward.

        I think people are getting turned off to weekly attendance by the pettiness that they see. And they don’t find a compelling reason to attend weekly, since attendance isn’t a salvation issue. And how many congregations have spent years trying to get people to say a sinner’s prayer, get baptized, and then don’t help them with a mentor, and continue to pray for them, and go to where they are to encourage and bless?

        And let’s be honest – the message of Christianity isn’t always easy to live out. We don’t get to level 24 and it’s as far as we need to go – there is always more we can work upon in our lives as followers.

        I wonder if our expectations of what it means to be a follower of Christ is too low?

        Sure, if there are higher standards, then there will be people leave. But it also means that Christianity will become stronger and more meaningful.

        So, I guess what I’m saying is that I am not particularly worried about declining church attendance and membership.

        (There’s so much more that can be said, but I’m running out of time at the moment.)

    2. You have a lot of great ideas, Dennis. Very passionately and intelligently expressed. I especially agree that house churches are a great alternative for a lot of Dones. But no one form fits for everyone.

      “You want Done’s to try to change the congregation?” No. I’m asking the Dones to stay within the church, not necessarily to stay within their congregation. Very few of the congregations they’re leaving are open to healthy change, which is why they’re leaving them. But leaving a specific congregation, or even a specific style of church doesn’t mean they have to leave the church entirely, which is what most of the Dones are doing.

      I want passionate voices like yours to be heard. Thanks for overcoming your reticence and sharing it here.

      1. Karl, thank you for the comments and clarifications. Change is not easy. I’m not a big proponent of just start a new congregation rather than seek change within. (I do see the argument though and acknowledge that it is easier.)

        I’m beginning to think that “Dones” are merely a symptom of a larger issue, and one of the larger parts of this is leadership.

      2. I would disagree with you that “no one form fits for everyone”. That is true only for those who do not understand the form God revealed in the NT. For them, whatever form is most pleasing to their personal preferences is what “fits”. God did not save us to run on our on preferences. He saved us to do what He asked for. What he asked for is very relational intensive and 7 days a week function. It’s summarized in the “new and living way” played out in Hebrews 10:19-26 with 3 specific vertical and horizontal relational dynamics that require 7 days a week church life. It is focused on “one another” oriented communication. It does not require a hired expert to drive it. It is driven by Jesus in believers who will walk this “new and living way”. 100% of the giving can flow beyond those who give instead of a meager 14% on average per Leadership Journal. 100% of leadership can be reproduced into others because it no longer involves a 30-45 minute weekly Bible lecture. It is supernaturally simple. 100% mutuality frees God’s people from title driven power structures. Didn’t Jesus himself reject honorific titles and pedestalizing men. We ARE “all brothers.” This is the only form in the Bible I can find. I can’t figure how “preach the word” equals lecture the word for 30-45 minutes by one man. It fits everyone “filled with the Spirit”. Even that is specified in a form of “speaking to one another in psalms hymns and spiritual songs…”. Eph. 5:19 There is something severely wrong with making 58 “one another” instructions invalid for the time we call “worship”.

        Believers can leave an institution but they can’t leave the church of which Christ has made them members. He will still be their “head” anywhere they are. He will direct other members to them to pick up the pieces. They are still His temple. The Chief Shepherd still knows them all by name. Being “done” only applies to a very old tradition set up by men. We can’t possibly separate ourselves from Jesus.

        1. In Hebrews 10:19-26, I see encouragement to persevere in faith. I see a passage which is descriptive, but not necessarily prescriptive. I do not see 7 days a week required to meet with the believers.

          Tim – I’ve not run across your perspective. Can you help me understand where you are coming from? Is there a website? What is the name of your fellowship? My first guess is that it includes “Apostolic” in the name. Would it be fair to say we are all brothers and sisters, or do you only see brothers included?

          1. Dennis
            Hebrews 10:19-25 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

            This is completely instructive. Did you see the 3 “Let us..” statements? Jesus died to “open for us” this “new and living way”. This “new and living way” culminates in believers “considering how they can stir up one another to love and good works” and “encouraging one another”. This is the specific instruction for “meeting together” they are “not to neglect” like some are in the habit of neglecting. This is so important we are to increase it “all the more as you see the Day drawing near”. When believers gather to focus on one-way communication, they are obeying this two-way communication instruction. There are hundreds of books on sermon preparation but no books on preparation for these two very specific instructions for believers function for their “meeting together”. When believers “draw near…”, “hold fast…” and “consider how they can stir up” and “encourage” their fellow saints 7 days a week, they will not be content to sit and listen to a Bible lecture. This dynamic is how believers increase in “love and good works”. Lecture will not increase this from God’s instructions. These instructions are a fit for every believer in the whole world and in every generation. These instructions not only include a preparation to give out truth but a preparation to respond to others truth presented. These instructions give all believers the responsibility to drive the content and intense relationship responsibility to respond to each others string and encouraging. I have not seen any instruction or any description for believers to meet together for one way communication by one man and where everything is driven from a pulpit.

          2. Tim – thank you for the reply.

            I’ve not been a big fan of preaching… Not that it can’t be informative or instructive, but with the amount of time we have now-a-days, and the ability to read and have access to Scripture, it doesn’t make sense for one person to always do all the studying and all the speaking/preaching.

            If preaching is important, then I like what I once heard the old line Mennonites used to do. Each year they would basically draw straws to see whose turn it was to do the studying and speaking for that year. During that year everyone else stepped up to help make sure the farm of the one preaching was well cared for so that the fellow had the time. (Don’t know if this is true, but it sure sounds interesting.)

            Of course, there are plenty of passages about preaching. This seems particularly abundant in the pastoral letters attributed to Paul. (1Tim. 5:17 for one.) There’s even controversy over whether there are 4 or 5 gifts for ministry – whether preaching and teaching is one gift, or two.

            I like reading well-prepared sermons, and prefer reading, to listening to them. Perhaps this is because I read faster than I listen, and I can quit reading if I’m no longer interested – or if there is something profound and I must stop for a while before taking in more. Sermons can give me pause to consider something, and that can be good. However, I would definitely consider reading the Bible to be more important and more instructive. And sometimes there are parts of sermons which seem to go against the grain of other portions of the Bible.

            As you know, Jesus spoke to the people gathered in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. He read a portion and then sat down. There is plenty of evidence of a leader or ruler in the Synagogue. And there is plenty of evidence of Peter and others making speeches. And there’s the Sermon on the Mount. There are many proclamations in scripture – preaching, if you will.

            But for some time now, I’ve thought it would be better if someone prepared and spoke on a passage of scripture, and then we all had time to discuss it – perhaps over a meal. It would generally be helpful if everyone knew what the passage would be, so that all could consider the passage and prepare for the time together. “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1Cor 14:26). This shows my interest in small group Bible study. At one point, I would study 15-20 hours for our two-hour meeting each week, and come away learning more in the two hours than in the twenty hours of private study. I would read commentaries on the passage, but I would learn more by listening to others share about what the passage means to them. We were sharing our lives, and praying for one another.

            I’ll have to admit that I still don’t see the 7-day-a-week meetings as a requirement in Hebrews 10. If you take this to mean that we always ought to be looking to do these things, then I agree. But I don’t think it requires a person to keep meeting with the same believers every day, in the same location. Actually, I don’t see anything requiring or suggesting a gathering every week. Why couldn’t it be monthly for some, and more frequent for the newer believers who need instruction and need answers and examples to inform their faith so that they might persevere in faith in what Christ has accomplished – which seems the main direction of the passage.

            I’ve sometimes thought about the potential impact it would make if we all gathered, and (as a small portion of the time) each of us shared about a person we know who is not in the fellowship, and then we pray for them, and that week we all made a point to go by and meet these people and encourage them and pray for them, and invite them to join the fellowship. If done well, many would be overwhelmed and would want to learn more, and likely be open to learning about Christ.

            I looked back over the repeated “let us” in Hebrews 10, which I had not taken note of, previously. I also took a look at the passage in my Greek interlinear, and I see that none of these three statements are stated in the imperative. Thus I would have difficulty considering them to be as commandments for how to live. The only imperative in this passage is in regard to “you all MUST SEE the Day approaching” in v. 25.

            The focus of the imperatives in the larger part of this scripture is about abolishing the burnt offerings and sin offerings which go through an earthly priest. Of this, verse 10:11 puts it in the imperative that these types of offerings can NEVER take away sins. The imperative in10:29 basically says, By how much MUST YOU THINK worse punishment will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of Grace?

            The chapter is about living by faith, and persevering in that faith, and not going back to burnt offerings, etc. This way of thinking was surely difficult for those who had made sin offerings year after year. However, I do not find it to be a requirement on how to be the Church when we gather, nor regarding how often.

            The new and living way, is a reference to the sacrifice of Jesus, and to letting go the sacrifices burnt (killed) at the Temple. Because of this particular Priest, the One over the house of God (having made the ultimate offering), let us approach God (impossible to do this and survive if you are marked and filled with sin), faithfully holding on to what we have been given (it is quite precious and irreplaceable), and let us consider (not stated as a command) stirring up one another to love and good deeds – not abandoning the gathering (which is necessary for the purpose of mutual encouragement).

            Hebrews was written to Christians who “have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (12:4). Most likely it was written to those who were being persecuted for their faith, perhaps because of Nero putting Christians to death. This would motivate the warnings against apostasy (6:4-8; 10:26-39). And this would definitely warrant the exhortations to CONTINUE MEETING TOGETHER DESPITE THE RISK – which appears to be the primary purpose of Hebrews 10:19-25.

            Okay, I better stop. I’ve written a long response, and probably trampled on others values to the point that most will not read it.

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  10. Dennis: Thanks for the interaction. We don’t know that any of the longer teaching passages in the gospels, including the sermon on the mount or Acts were lectures in strict one-way communication. That would be pure assumption on our part, but tradition has no problem with this to push their tradition driven agenda. Billions of dollars change hands every year in America for weekly Bible lectures. It is a massive industry connected to many other multi-million dollar industries – books, seminaries, etc. Exegesis plays no part in the basis for this tradition. Preach is never specified as strict one-way communication in the Bible anywhere that I know of.

    1 Tim. 5:17 does not include any of the 5 or more words for preach. Teaching is there but not preaching. The word is logos and it’s a noun, not a verb, which means it is referring to content, not a form of expression. Newer translations are pushing a lecture agenda. There is no Biblical basis to push a monolithic, strict one-way communication form for the word preach when there are 5 or more words translated to this one english word, and it is never used is a reserved fashion for a hired man or that it be 30- 45 minutes. These are all elements driven by men, not God. The great commission in Mark, the priesthood of the believer and many others specify preach or proclaim as a ministry for all of God’s people regardless of their gifting.

    I was not trying to suggest that believers meet 7 days a week. I was saying they should be preparing for their meeting times 7 days a week because every day they are to spend time with God. There is no such thing as personal devotions, only body devotions. We are all channels of God’s word to flow into us and out to our fellow body members.

    God’s instructions / commands for you are not limited to the imperative tense. If you choose to limit yourself in this way you will fall far short of God’s design for you to grow into the full stature of Christ. Hebrews was written to you, not just Jewish folks back then. Don’t get caught up in hyper intellectual analysis. It was written, inspired, and preserved for you.

    1. Sorry you feel that way, Eula. For me it’s about listening to people, not catering to them. Maybe these posts will give you a different perspective. Especially the first two.

      http://newsmallchurch.com/sit-back-relax-may-be-killing-your-church/
      http://newsmallchurch.com/better-at-200-than-400/
      http://newsmallchurch.com/leadership-over-followership/
      http://newsmallchurch.com/the-elements-of-a-healthy-small-church-and-the-hidden-agenda-that-can-kill-it/

      If not, maybe we just have different approaches to church leadership, which is fine. We need different voices. I don’t expect everyone to lead the way I do.

  11. My “done with” list also includes nepotism and favoritism. American church leaders bent on maintaining their illicit relationships with their powerful tithers have figured out ways to make James 2 irrelevant. They do love money. And how many church leaders groom their own blood relatives for key present and future power positions in their churches? Too many! From accountants to worship leaders to department leaders, the pastor’s kids and other blood relatives are holding the reins. Eli and his wicked sons are still with us. If the kids are so “anointed”, let them find leadership positions in other churches, especially churches where their daddy doesn’t have any influence. Human institutions full of human corruptions. The real Church isn’t formed into a legal institution. Tithe 10% and give more – but never to these religious businesses! Give to people truly needing water, food, shelter, clothing and medicine and to those individual people who are obeying the Great Commission, if you want’s God’s blessing on your giving. If you are giving just for a tax advantage, you are cheating God.

  12. I realize this post is older, but I am done with all the things you mention. When I was in church, I remember sitting in a woman’s bible study and the disconnect between the hurting world and what I call “church culture” just made me shake my head. “I don’t understand why people leave the church. I love and crave fellowship. I need it. I have a friend that left the church and her marriage is in shambles. Why would anyone leave the safety of the church?!” I sat there thinking I knew exactly why and I was staring right at it. Judgments like that aren’t helpful. And maybe that person left an abusive church and their marriage was crumbling because they had lost their faith in God! Abusive churches have done more to draw people away than any other thing. So look in the mirror. Church culture is messed up and I got tired of trying to fit in and ignore what I was seeing. I don’t know what I should do now but I know going back to an institution with crazy men leaders and pushy church members is not something I want to do. Despite what most church leaders think, I matter. My mental health matters. My emotional state matters. I refuse to tell me otherwise and stand judging the outside world as if we are heathers who don’t get it.

    1. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. I wish your pain was an isolated incident, but it isn’t.

      I encourage you to keep looking for like-minded people who love Jesus like you do and who will listen before they talk. Even if it’s connecting with others who have the same frustrations you have. The church isn’t our institutions, it’s people. And we need each other.

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