Have you heard of the “Dones?” They are done with the run-of-the-mill, Sunday-go-to-meetin’ kind of Christianity. They want us to know how sick and tired they are of “churchianity” and they are not going to take it anymore. They are closely related to the “Nones,” as in, “none of the above,” a response increasing in popularity with young people when asked about their religious affiliation. They are unaffiliated.
Most “Dones” affirm that they have not abandoned the faith. But from there it often goes downhill as they regurgitate grievance after grievance against the organized church. Here are just a few:
- It’s boring, unspiritual, moralistic, judgmental, superficial and hypocritical. Ouch!
- It’s unchristian to meet in a building when the unfortunate, needy and homeless need our money and attention instead.
- “Dones” claim to be tired of the Sunday routine of “plop, pray and pay” while just looking at the backs of people’s heads and calling it worship. They say they cannot abide being lectured to. They have “heard it all before.”
- They love Jesus but not the church. Some say they still love Jesus’ church, but apparently not any particular one that actually meets together to practice their faith in an organized way.
- Some claim their spirituality is much too authentic to get wrapped up in “churchianity.” They took it as long as they could. They emphasize how thoughtful and painful their decision was to leave.
- Many “Dones” claim that before they left, they felt ignored. This one is sad. We must work to make sure people at church feel loved and heard. That also goes for people outside the church.
It hurts to love Jesus’ church and take all these shots. But we cannot deny that some have experienced church this way. Nevertheless, they are not fair as stereotypes. It is ironic that those who decry judgmentalism most often need to look in the proverbial mirror. But so do we, as a church. So, we take these shots with a measure of gratitude.
In his book “Church Refugees,” Sociologist and church critic Josh Packard glowingly describes the “Dones” (prior to their departure) as, “the most dedicated and active people in their congregations.” And then, they were done. Somehow, the implied blame always seems to go to those who are still not done.
Jesus’ church is far from perfect. But our buildings are not really the problem. I have found that Christians who meet in buildings are consistently generous toward the needy. And I love those imperfect people who plop in pews with me to pray, sing, commune, learn and love. If you resent the backs of people’s heads, then sit up front. Better yet, change your attitude. Jesus loves them too.
The proclamation of the gospel from the pulpit is a time-honored resource for spiritual guidance and inspiration. Doing it well is as much the job of the listener as the preacher. I find it ironic that the long one-way-street monologues of popular politicians promising hope and change seem to work charms on many of the same people who find church to be boring. They can take it from politicians, but not from preachers. Good preaching has always been precious in God’s eyes and in the ears of His people.
Everyone has the right to choose to be done. But when the “Dones” stereotype churches harshly to justify their departure, their plight loses legitimacy in my eyes. Too many “Dones” seem to want to take others with them.
So I have a challenge for the “Dones.” If churches in America are so off base that you cannot stay, then plant a new congregation and do it right. Instead of being done, show us how it’s done! Don’t curse the darkness–light a candle!
I suspect that the organized church will never measure up to the high ideal many “Dones” hold for her. They are done with the flawed and frustrating organized church made up of messed-up strugglers like you and me. In his book, Life Together (1938), Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed this trend. He wrote:
“He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”
Loving one’s ideal of Jesus’ church is not actually loving her for who she is. “Dones” will come and go. They always have. Let’s love them coming and going. But Jesus’ church is not done with me nor am I done with her. And she is not done with hopeless sinners who need desperately to change.
Okay, I’m done.