I recently cracked open the newest issue of Time magazine, which displayed the words “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life” on the cover, and was pleasantly surprised one of those ideas mirrors one of the major themes in my book: Many believers need to be saved from the church. The article explained how American society is experiencing a shift in its concept of spiritual community. More and more people, without rejecting God, are leaving the institutional church and rethinking “religion.”
Time’s article calls the number four idea “The Rise of the Nones,” the Nones being the now 16 percent of the population who say they have no religious affiliation. That percent does not correlate with the 4 percent of Americans who identify as atheist or agnostic, meaning 12 percent of these “Nones” are still believers. Their hunger for spiritual meaning and connection is still strong. Many have fled the doctrinal battles, hierarchal control, and spiritual abuse happening inside the church to create grassroots Christian communities, often meeting in homes.
There is an irony to this phenomenon. This movement of Nones and Not Church (what one Sunday gathering calls itself) is worlds closer to the original intention of what New Testament writers called ekklesia, in Greek, or what is commonly translated “church,” than what fundamentalist, evangelical, and Catholic churches have become. In Confessions of a Bible Thumper, I explain (as does author Frank Viola) that a more historical and linguistically accurate reading of the Bible does not support our modern concept of church.
I’m excited about this trend. I believe a Not Church movement has begun. A movement that exposes controlling churches and denominations, such as Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), which I was apart of in another life (and whose abuse is thankfully gradually being exposed here and here) and Mars Hill Seattle, whose recent extreme “church discipline” case was reported by KOMO 4 News Seattle. Moreover, I would hope, it would be a movement that funnels energy and money into fighting poverty and oppression, pursuing social justice, and simply loving others unconditionally (Jesus stuff), rather than building ego-driven empires that too often control the flock, idolize the Bible, and canonize doctrine. As I say in my book, the models for such communities are endless, way beyond simply a home church movement. I welcome your comments.