Nones, Dones, Undones, and Not Dones: My Personal Thoughts & Source List (Updated 6/1/15)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

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So which one are you?

Steve Simms posted earlier today about three groups of people in the church. His definitions are a helpful starting place, which I list here with my own revisions.
Dones:  people who have given up on the traditional church format.

Not Dones: people who are still trying to hang with the program (many of whom are honestly desirous to reform it from within).

Undones: people who are overcome and overwhelmed by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Nones:  people who claim to have quit Christianity altogether.

I suppose this has been building for a while.  My own testimony of growing up Southern Baptist, as a preacher's kid, then transitioning into full-time vocational ministry through Bible College and Seminary, and devoting half my life to pursuing leadership in the local church, as we know it today, has converged into a journey I did not expect.  I decided to quit "church" last year. (Parts of my testimony are herehere and here.)  Then I came to find out along the way that many others did not expect a similar journey to happen to them either. They too have left "church." I suspect that we would all be willing to affirm that what we once defined as "church" can now more appropriately be defined as "churchianity."

While the Wiktionary definition is decent enough, I don't think it goes far enough to describe what a growing number of us are really feeling inside.  And while it is appropriate to question sources referenced in the Urban Dictionary, assuming this one is accurate, we are told that Bible teacher, Richard Pope, defined "churchianity" as, "the condition of the modern-day Christian Church and how different it's teachings are from the original ideas and message of the historical Jesus."  I'm good with that.  I think.  But I offer my own definition, nonetheless.

Churchianity:  a mirage (of the kingdom of God taught and exemplified by Jesus as unfolded in the New Testament) that is always forming both near and around the new covenant community of Jesus by perpetual, generational layers of religious traditions created by well-meaning but largely grace-ignorant Christians, in order to supposedly help themselves and others honor God and follow Jesus better.

As far as I can tell, there are three forces working within and on Christianity, constantly exerting pressure to turn it into churchianity. 

Outside the Church

Outside the church is the world, of course.  1 John 2:15-17 tells us that the world is about three things: a lust for money, a lust for pleasure, and a lust for power and control.  Yet despite John's clarity that these things are all dissolving away as we approach the return of Jesus, Christians give in to the bombarding temptations by subtly attempting to integrate it into our Christian lives.  The life Jesus teaches us to live seems so radically at odds with the world we live in, that it seems impossible to bring ourselves to break with whatever we have to in order to follow Jesus.

The world has forged inroads into Christianity in the form of business.  That's pretty much what most local churches are, if we are honest.  It seems so crass, doesn't it?  But every local church has to pursue the ABC's, and must work to maintain three primary gears in order to supposedly "survive": attendance, buildings, and cash.

The ABC's of Churchianity:

Attendance, Buildings, & Cash

Without people, a building to meet in, and money to keep it all going, we are told that churches are not successful.  At least that's what success gurus have written and preached to us.  Consequently, churchianity has evolved as Christians and church leaders are integrating the world of business into the kingdom of God faster than any of us truly realizes.  Scores of books and scads of conferences, blog posts, seminars, workshops, dvd's, podcasts, and webinars offer us the latest and greatest ways to get your church organized, growing, and even replicating.  I now refer to local churches as brands, and the denominations or movements they belong to as franchises.  That's pretty much what it feels like after years of laboring intensively in the business of church.

What's worse is that when it all doesn't work, when it starts to falter, when the giving drops, when attendance declines, and when the mortgage is past due, we turn to the Bible of all places, in order to find biblical justification for it all.  And leaders are there hoisting terribly misapplied Bible passages in order to justify the obligations they place upon people to be more faithful, be more committed, serve harder, give more sacrificially, attend more meetings, etc. ad nauseum.  (I'm preaching to myself right now, by the way, cause I was one of the worst offenders.)

Essentially, the churchianity is an organization run by systems that require people to run those systems.  Those systems are managed by a hierarchy of leaders, whose job it is to recruit volunteers to run the systems which attract attendance and cash in order to pay the overhead.  Business philosophies and practices are integrated with the Bible in such a way that leaders and Christians unwittingly cooperate in a return to old-covenant structures and concepts which do nothing but exhaust people who are already looking for relief in Jesus.  It's almost as if churchianity is a system which requires the volunteer support and financial donations from those within the system in order to simply sustain the system.  Meanwhile, the system is mistakenly identified with the church of Jesus Christ, His bride, His community of faith, His family.

Inside the Church

With the business force operating outside the local church, there are the two internal forces operating just as strongly.  Christians and church leaders have made enough integrations of the world with the life of Jesus that the mutation into churchianity has already begun to take hold.  Christians struggle with making difficult decisions in following Jesus and want easy answers that come in the form of principles, methods, steps and processes.  Church leaders have made enough integration decisions in their lives that they are happy to fill the need that so many Christians are clamoring for, including themselves.  Needs-based sermons, sermon series, and an endless production of paper and digital resources abound to supposedly help Christians with this need.

As Christians, I'm afraid we are more intoxicated by our culture than we realize.  Everything around us, especially as westerners, is about ease, speed, and pleasure.  We want it to be easy.  We want it fast.  And we want it to feel good, sound good, taste good, and smell good.  Yet without thinking, we incorporate these things into our walk with Jesus and find our souls justifiably at odds with ourselves.  What we think is okay somehow doesn't match up with what Jesus said.  But we still want to follow Jesus.  That just about sums up my own Christian life for many, many years.

Plug all of this into our life of "going to church."  Week after week, Christians come to "church" hurting, suffering, filled with emotional, spiritual, psychological, and physical pain.  Seeking healing both inwardly and outwardly, we are instead given steady doses of DIY, self-help Christianity, with a constant barrage of lists of things we should do differently, all in hopes of achieving what we really feel we need deep down inside.  Unavoidably however, over time, a mirage of Christianity forms, which constantly attracts thirsty and weary souls ever onward toward a seeming reflection of Jesus and the Father's love that we somehow never seem to actually arrive at and enjoy (contrary to Matthew 11:28-29).  Here's how this mirage develops, in my experience.  

Churchianity slowly but surely heaps upon new covenant Christians an increasing load of religious obligations that are constantly taught and preached as the biblical way to live for Jesus, but are actually contradictory to the new covenant and counter-intuitive to the Holy Spirit within us.  

In short, churchianity uses Jesus and his teachings in a way that actually contradict the new covenant life Jesus intended for His followers.  Terrible misinterpretations of the Bible are taught and preached, outside the scope and context of the new covenant, which end up pointing a Christian right back into the arms of the very law Jesus died to fulfill for us.  I grew up with this stuff. (And I've written about it in years past.)  I practiced this stuff.  I taught and preached this stuff.  Many others have done so as well.  And I think what's finally happening is that we're waking up to the reality of what we've lived under...and suffered through.

Leadership? Or Leadershit?

I was once a churchianity leader.  I've led in various capacities ("lay leader," elder, deacon, associate pastor, senior pastor, and church planter) in various parts of the country (Atlanta, GA; Columbus, GA, Statesboro, GA; Athens, GA; Los Angeles, CA; Brentwood, CA; Grand Rapids, MI).  And I've had the privilege of teaching both rising and existing church leaders in various parts of the world (Jamaica, Mexico, India, and Nepal). In every city where I've served, there are some amazing people who love Jesus with all their hearts, and want to glorify God, love one another, and see the kingdom of God come from heaven to earth.

But I carried within me a toxin I did not realize or understand during those years.  I have come to see that many church leaders unknowingly carry this toxin within them as well.  I now call it "leadershit."  I know.  That's offensive to some.  But such words are necessary sometimes in order to paint an accurate word picture of a particular subject.  For me, that particular subject is biblical leadership.  And I've blogged about it here too many times to count (and in fact, I may have to go back and do some culling and deleting of leadershit blog posts as I get around to it!).  When churchianity gets a hold of leadership, it turns into leadershit.  That's because churchianity has a love affair with what it thinks is a biblical concept of leadership.  Churchianity is driven by various flavors of leadership cults, in my opinion. 

Leadershit:  a cacophony of theological b.s. about leadership in the Bible that in reality is just a perpetually evolving pile of scandalous contradictions when compared to Jesus' teachings on the subject. 

In reality, churchianity's version of leadership isn't biblical at all, when we compare it to the black-and-white teachings of Jesus about things like titles, positions, and hierarchies (Matt. 18:3-4; 20:25-30; 23:8-12; Luke 22:26-28).  It's practice of leadership today melts away when held next to the heat of passages like Ephesians 4:11-17, where we are told that church leaders' primary responsibility is to equip believers to do the work of ministry, so we can grow up into living under the leadership of Jesus...and then get out of the way so we can actually do it.  My ministry and theology of leadershit was largely a violation of teachings like these for almost all of my life.

With my two-cents cast into the pot with so many others, I've attempted below to aggregate a list of blog posts, articles, podcasts, and online social media groups which express and describe the issue that is recently rising to find a voice on the web that has previously been a seeming whisper here and there. I've personally read and listened to everything listed below.  As far as the books section goes, I've either read most of them, or am in the process of benefiting from them (except for Josh Packard's book which is yet to be released).  That doesn't mean I agree or disagree with everything, of course.  It simply means I've accessed, reviewed, and pondered on it all.

I hope to update this from week to week to keep the list complete so that over time many believers may have opportunity to find their own voice within many others who have known for a very long time, deep down inside, that something in the "church" is very, very wrong.

List of Resources

Blog Posts & Articles


Facebook Groups



Did I miss anything or anyone?  Let me know in the comments below and your link, if validated, will be added to the list above.

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