It seems a lot of people are done and they are done with church. Millions in fact. More to be added after the 2016 election. Many people discussed on social media how the message sent by the church was the final straw. Now knowing how evangelicals (81% of white ones at that) felt, those at the fringes of church, either on the outside or the inside, were going to finally say goodbye to the church. They are done!
As a second time doctoral student, this time going for my Doctor of Ministry and thinking of research for a dissertation, I became very interested in who these people were so much so that I walked away from a traditional church plant model (not the only reason though) and transitioned into The Passion Center as a non-traditional faith community that would minister to these folks and to document my journey on this road. Essentially, church done different.
Don't know who or what "the dones" are? Perhaps you've missed some of the buzz on them.Some articles can be found here, here and here. There is even a Facebook group for "dones" here. In doing my own research, I actually didn't find many dissertations on the subject. However, aside of George Barna's, Revolution book, the only other book I've found "so far" that studies this population of people specifically is the 2015 study by sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope. The book is entitled: “Church Refugees” where they share how they interviewed over one hundred of what some are calling “the dones”. These “dones” are folks who have left institutional churches searching for much more. Some of the findings were surprising as Packard documents that these folks were some of the most committed people in their churches. Many were in leadership, ministry, and very active in the overall functions and activities of the churches they attended.
But what is it that they (the dones) are looking for? Well, according to Packard’s research one of the features that they are not finding in their organized churches is authentic community. Packard states, “Perhaps more than anything else, what people want out of a church is a community of people who are experiencing God together.” These church refugees are done with church. But they are looking for more. More community and what it means to love one another and the world. But they are also looking for engagement. That is, they want to be engaged in ministry to one another and to the world. They are tired of sitting in the pews, serving on committees, and all of the red tape and bureaucracy that go along with “ministry” in the institutional church. They want to serve and minister but not with all the garbage attached to it. I know many people who are amazing leaders and were once very involved with the church, now just hoping they can connect with just a few people for community. Due to in many cases, what has been a "bad experience" or even "burn out" they have chosen to go to mega churches to "lay low" but still eagerly hope for community. Many times, even after their own personal attempts numerous times, they simply can't find it. Some have given up and now find no reason to keep going. Community matters to keep people engaged. Without it, it may be only a matter of time before people in the pews are also done.
Packard estimates that over 32 million American Christians have left their institutional churches in the last 10 years or so. Again, it’s important that we realize that the majority of these people are not leaving because they are falling away from Christ. Rather, it’s because they want more of Him and are finding that the institutional church system is a hindrance rather than a help in them attaining that goal. The other day I meant with a nice lady I knew when I was pastoring at a local church who mentioned to me she's about done. Three things stood out to me. One was her feelings that she didn't feel she belonged anymore (since most around her were extreme right wing conservatives and she is more of a moderate). Secondly, the church was not doing anything to encourage and promote community outside of Sunday service and third was that the church was not doing anything to show they cared about their community.
I really think this information should be utilized by "traditional" church pastors who care about this population and also want to make sure they are addressing the needs of those in their pews who are almost out the door. It is also great information for people who are courageous enough to try a new model. Who are willing to do church differently to become a safe place for people who have just had enough of church as usual.
I don't think anyone should dismiss this as just some kind of movement or trend. It is really a revolution. Something is now happening that is truly completely turning over everything regarding the traditional church system. People are leaving and doing something else. The question for those of us who care about people finding God, growing in faith and serving and loving their world is, what are you prepared to do? Do you even care to do anything?
I am going to be sharing more research on this blog. I am also going to be hosting various groups to listen to "dones" in my area and NYC. Let me know if you are interested specifically in this topic or being invited to a discussion if you are or know of someone in this category by sending me an email here.
I am hoping my research will help pastors think of alternative ways to reach out to this population and I am hoping people will rise up to pastor this population by forming non-traditional faith communities.
Who’s really there for you? Not just someone to “like” your status update or follow you on Instagram … but to like you? To love you? Right now, if you got bad news … if you just broke up … if you lost your job … if you were hungry? Where would you turn? Who would you call if you were crying? Who would listen—and love you? No matter what? Even if you’ve done something bad, or if someone did something bad to you?
In the last three years, I have noticed that while anyone of us can accumulate friends and followers on social media, friends that are there for you when you need them, support you when you are trying to build something, pray for you when you are going through a trial, are few and far between. It has been a wake up call but I think that was a good thing. Why? Because I learned two things. 1) The most unlikely people will show you they care and 2) which is the most important, God really cares.
He has loved you since before you were born? He loved enough to die for you? The same God who created the mountains and the oceans created you. Knows you. Loves you. And He’s there for you. He wants to be your friend.
I know sometimes I have felt alone. But that is normal, really. At some point all Christians feel alone or begin to doubt that God is a loving God. But here’s what you need to know: God’s attitude toward you is love.
The Bible explicitly tells us that God loves and cares about you deeply. And even if your emotional connection with Him isn’t always there, God is still near.
One of the most touching verses in Scripture that perfectly captures this truth of God’s heart toward us is found in Zephaniah, which states: “The Lord your God is with you. He’s mighty to deliver. He takes great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He rejoices over you with singing.” (3:17)
So here is the game-changer: God’s promise is that if we draw near to God then He will draw near to us (James 4:8). But how do you do this?
You can draw near to God when you open His word. You can begin anywhere in the Bible, but if you’re feeling particularly dry spiritually, one of the most helpful places to start is in the Psalms. Then, once you have your Bible open, pray a prayer that goes something like: “God, I’m taking a step toward you. Please speak to me.”
The second part of this game-changer is to find a friend, someone who is a godly person and ask them to hang out with you, even if it’s just for an hour. You might suggest grabbing a cup of coffee together. Share your hearts and pray together. Then, watch God show up.
Who cares? God does. In this I believe.
All of us tell stories about ourselves. Stories define us. To know someone well is to know her story—the experiences that have shaped her, the trials and turning points that have tested her. When we want someone to know us, we share stories of our childhoods, our families, our school years, our first loves, the development of our political views, and so on. I love meeting new people and over coffee have an unhurried session in sharing stories. I am a story person!
One of the greatest realizations of my life thus far was understanding and owning the fact that I am the writer of my own story. I am so thankful for that because truth is, if I would have allowed others to write my story, I would have only amounted to being a barefoot and pregnant Latina statistic from the Lower East Side. However, while that could have been a possible outcome and that possibility is still part of my story growing up in the Lower East Side raised by a single mom who was always working to feed and clothe her two daughters, it wasn't! Mischief was always present. The church and the eventual introduction to God was my saving grace.
I am now going through yet another transition in life. Boy am I the transition queen. But one of the things about when any of us go through transitions especially those we didn't plan for is that you get to write this next chapter in your story.That's important because we need stories especially in the time of transitions.
There probably is no greater time when a story is needed then when we are going through a major change of direction. When we are leaving A without yet having left it and moving toward B without yet having gotten there. In a time of such unsettling transition, telling a compelling story to coworkers, bosses, friends, or family—or strangers in a conference room—inspires belief in our motives, character, and capacity to reach the goals we’ve set.
Let’s be clear: In urging the use of effective narrative, I'm not opening the door to tall tales. By “story” I don’t mean, something made up to make a bad situation look good or you know that new thing going around right now, "alternative facts.” Rather, I'm talking about accounts that are deeply true and engaging that listeners feel they have a stake in our success and feel like they can survive their own shifts.
Creating and telling a story that resonates also helps us believe in ourselves. Most of us experience the transition to a new working life as a time of confusion, loss, insecurity, and uncertainty. We are scared. “Will I look back one day and think this was the best thing that ever happened?” we ask ourselves. “Or will I realize that this was the beginning of the end, that it was all downhill from here?” We oscillate between holding on to the past and embracing the future. Why? We have lost the narrative thread of our life. Without a compelling story that lends meaning, unity, and purpose to our lives, we feel lost and rudderless. We need a good story to reassure us that our plans make sense—that, in moving on, we are not discarding everything we have worked so hard to accomplish and selfishly putting family and livelihood at risk. It will give us motivation and help us endure frustration, suffering, and hard work.
A good story, then, is essential for making a successful transition in life. Yet most of us fail to use the power of storytelling to share the story of our life and how everything played a role to make us the person who we are right now. So, I urge you, go ahead, look at your life thus far, and start writing the narrative that has become you. Learn to embrace all the disappointments. I know in my life, some disappointments led to defining moments like meeting a person that changed my life or moving to a new job that open doors to me being able to do more good in the world.
We all have a story. Not all of us have really reflected on what that is. Not all of us have learned that we write how we transition to the next chapters. Not all of us have learned to put a semi-colon where others are trying to put a period. Make your story about being a love warrior, giving back, doing good, leaving a legacy. That will always be the true power of holding the pen. What will your story say?
So today is the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. Much has been said about what it means to be a difference maker in the Trump era. But this isn't a political post. This is a post about you, about me. If you don't like where society finds itself today, YOU must be the change you wish to see.
Whatever changes you would like to effect in our society has to begin with you. This means that we should each try with every moment afforded to us by God, to be an example of what we preach and teach. Everyone is tired of hearing things by people and never seeing them done by the same people.
This also means our actions and our words should reflect what we say we believe. So many people live these compartmentalized lives, saying one thing, doing another and confusing the heck out of all who are watching and then wondering why they get no respect and have no impact.
The people who have left a legacy in the world are the people who have created change, impacted societies by being accountable for what THEY DID. The phase that we "should keep things 100" (which I confess I use) is of no use if we think we can take a day off from this commitment. Truth is truth and truth is, you can change no one but yourself. This world needs what each good human being has to offer it. If you are driven by Godly principles even more so but you can't change a dog gone thing, if you don't look within and work on you first.
Each one of us has the opportunity to leave a stamp on this world by making our lives meaningful in a thousand ways and making the lives of others better than they ever thought possible. If you want to see change you must first start within. It’s that simple and it’s that profound.
I hope you choose to change the world around you. Your city. Your hood. I pray you start with you.
If you read any of my social media posts, you already know I am not a fan of Trump. Truth is, I never have had such negative feelings for any incoming President. Before you go thinking I'm some crazy liberal or blinded democrat, let me just say I'm an Independent and I look at people not just platform.
Many respected leaders across the country have raised their voices against this incoming administration and with reason. One of the key messages that I see throughout is that they are looking at Jesus characteristics and see that the person elected doesn't embody any of them yet 81% of evangelicals felt they could overlook that because he made some promises. If he will keep them is yet to be seen. But the message of hate can't be unheard. That message that reverberated across the U.S. and the world didn't spread sonshine. What it did is spread a message that tells immigrants, the poor, LGBT community that they aren't valued and that they should be fearful.
So what can the "other kind of people who believe in Jesus," the ones who didn't vote for this guy do in this time? We can continue to raise our voices to spread the Sonshine. This Sonshine is the gospel message. The gospel message is LOVE. Jesus died on the cross as a way of showing us how we can transform our world through LOVE. What Jesus does, he confronts evil and hatred by responding only with love. Even praying for those putting him to death: "Father, forgive them." This is how I feel God speaking to me lately. I cannot and probably will never understand how people could have voted for Trump. Others feel like how could anyone NOT vote for Trump. We all need to look beyond platform in this day and if we proclaim to love God, see how we can heal the rift in the spaces God has us. All I can do is ask God to help me spread the Sonshine to remind the world around me that no matter if we are living in a time where there is hate and division, God never stops loving us. His love is without condition; it's without limit.
Spread a little LOVE. That's how we spread the gospel message that makes people want to even give us an audience. Right now, there are many who don't even want to look at an "evangelical," much less hear them out. LOVE is the only thing we can stand on. LOVE was the only thing Jesus used to transform the world then by dying on the cross. It is the only thing that can transform the world now.
What does God ask of us? Love God with your whole heart and mind and soul. Be open to receiving that love of God, then responding to God with as much love as you can pour forth. And then let that love overflow so that you love your neighbor as yourself. You make love the whole motivating and guiding force of your life, reaching out in love to brothers and sisters, to all members of the human family, responding in love to God. That's speading Sonshine. That's what Love Warriors do.
Is it me or are we seeing a major lack of love in our world these days? I know for those of us who are believers and have actually read the Word of God, we know it was bound to happen, since we know how the story goes and ends. But I was hoping believers wouldn't go that way so fast! As we get closer to Jesus, we are supposed to become more Christ-like and in that, we grow more in love and are intentional about doing all we do in love. I ended 2016 and entered 2017 with an intentionality to be a #LoveWarrior in my community and of course, to those in my inner circle. But being a love warrior and doing all things in love means I have to remind myself of a few things.
First, God does not 'have' love, He IS love. His love is unconditional. It is not dependent upon anything we say or do. Romans 5:8 states, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God, knowing exactly how sinful and undeserving we are, was still willing to send His only begotten Son into the world to die for our sins. This is the Love of God. Jesus Christ paid our sin debt, asking nothing in return. Salvation is a "free gift" (Romans 5:15; 6:23). Thus, the gift of eternal life cannot be meriting, earned or obtained by self-righteousness. HE did THAT in love for love. Wow! So who the heck am I (or you) to determine who is worthy of His love or our love? He determined that already.
Second, I don't have that kind of love. I know I couldn't love someone that much that I'd give my kids for them. But He did. The truth is NONE of us can do much of anything in love like that without the love that can only happen as His Son Jesus lives out His life through us each and every day. But it takes us being intentional about our relationship with Him. I always find that when I spend time in prayer I get up calmer and more tender. More aware of my actions and more in tune on whether I am being loving to others or not!
The problem is this...too many of us Christians try to operate in the quality of love that comes out of our own strength and emotion. God wants us to do the best we can, but our best isn't good enough to express His love to the world. It's why we need Jesus. (1 John 4:7: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.")
Simply put God wants everything that we do for Him in this life to be done in love. He actually set out the love warrior mandate way before anyone else did. We have just done a poor job with love. We have done such a poor job that 81% of "evangelicals" voted for a guy who showed NO characteristics of a loving Christian. That message that was sent into the world needs some serious repairing. Most people who were on the fringes now are completely done. Others are embarrassed that their friends would think they think as this 81% and others are simply blinded by party politics.
Nevertheless, I digress... So what are we to do as we begin this new year? We have to learn how to walk with His love working in our lives. (1 Timothy 1:5: "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.") There is no other way that God wants us to live. We are to "Do everything in love."
If we meditate on these verses one after the other, the message comes through loud and clear --- God wants us to express our life in love. It is the number one quality that all believers need to have flowing throughout whatever we do. How is love expressed in your life? Is it your most observable characteristic? How can you be a love warrior to those around you? Do you even care to be?
The new year is always a promise of something new. New is always exciting don't you think? The last three years haven't been all that great for me. Yet, for some reason, this year, I am excited about having no other expectations than newness.
A new year, 2017, has come. This verse has often been a verse I see as a New Year verse because it is part of the chapter where God is referred to as "the beginning and the end." It is the chapter where John SEES everything new, "a new heaven and new earth," "a new Jerusalem." He even describes a new life with God where He will wipe away all of our tears and where there will be "no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Then we hit the verse which many of us hold on to tightly, "Behold, I am making all things NEW."
I think most of us are looking for a new beginning in this new year. At the end of the year, my husband and I made a difficult decision about something and we said, we won't look back and we won't try again, 2017 was to be a year of newness in our lives like never before. Why? Because it would be one lived without entanglements of any kind. We let go of everything that was making us unhappy even if it meant that there would be a redirection or albeit a redefining of who we would be.
Are you looking for a new beginning? Look to the One who makes all things new. Let's dedicate this year as a year of worship and finding ourselves and honoring ourselves and the path we have walked up until this point. Happy New Year friends.
I once read a quote that said, "if you don't like the direction of your life, change it!" We all know that that is easier said then done right?! It takes people years and sometimes it takes a lifetime to attempt to change their lives.
Obviously, wanting to change your life stems from some reason. Who wants to change what one thinks is good? Many of us come to the point where we want to change our lives when we are confused about what we thought our life should have been by a certain age, some of us want to change our lives when we hit that milestone age and think to ourselves, "there has to be more than this...right?" and still others want to change their lives because after they have done all they have done, their lives still feel kinda sorta empty and purposeless.
In reflecting on my own life, I feel that if we boil things down to the simplest form, all we need to change our life is a change in our mindset. But the problem with changing our mindset is that it usually takes a crisis or many of them to force us to rethink how we think. Sometimes it takes being ok with others saying YOU ARE NOT OK when you determine in your mind that you want to change your life. What are you prepared to do to change your life? How serious are you about this quest? Because it will take all of you to do it and you can't be a coward about it.
I can say this because honestly, I am the Reinvention queen. When something in my life was killing me, I cut it out. When I was going in one direction and felt like I was being untrue to my soul, I changed course. Sure, some think I am crazy. Many call be their "courageous" friend which is code for "I would never do what you have done loca!" But nevertheless, I've done it.
Are you ready to do it? If you are, then you need to start reflecting on your mindset. You have to start diving into the B.S. you have guiding your decisions (by the way, that stands for Belief Systems) and then you have to retrain your brain. I wrote a book Don't Buy The Life: Eradicating False Belief Systems that Keep You from Your Destiny specifically to help people through this process. Here are six things you can do right now to change your life in 2017:
No one wakes up in the morning hoping to go to work to be met by a monster of a boss. One of the hardest things to even comprehend is how people with power can be so unkind to others. Especially to the very people who can help them become as productive as they need to be in their division or organization in general. In America, over 70% of people hate their jobs. There are many reasons that have been stated over the years in various polls why people hate their jobs. Some have included lack of fulfillment, being overworked, being underpaid, unappreciative supervisors, embarassment over company reputation and the list goes on. Obviously, most people stay at the jobs they hate because they can't find a new one or lack the courage it takes to leave "the devil they know for the one they don't know!"
One thing that has been mentioned, that boggles my mind for the need of it having to be mentioned is kindness! If you are a leader, you really should care about being kind to the people who are your peers and especially to those you supervise. This article mentions how kindness is actually a critical factor in effective managers. As a consultant to organizations seeking to engage their employees more in an effort to stop turnover and increase productivity, I have seen first hand how many unaware leaders are at the helm of many companies.
If you find yourself in a position of leadership, you need your people to want to work with you and after you've invested time and money into employees, you don't want them to leave you quickly. Many employees or volunteers stay less than a year in organizations that do not display kindness.
Leaders can use simple rules to win the hearts and minds of their people — with huge returns. Making small adjustments such as listening, smiling, sharing and thanking others more often can have a huge impact. Caring enough to create a high trust culture would do amazing things for your organization as well. Go ahead. Be kind. It may just change everything!