Falling Between The Cracks – Disillusionment With Church

I recently wrote this piece for the Fresh Expressions website, which can be viewed here. Fresh Expressions is a network of groups trying to ‘do Church’ differently. Hope you enjoy.

I love God, but I really struggle with His fan club sometimes.

I remember writing words to that effect on my MySpace page many years ago in a moment of desperation.

Since that time, my wife and I have worked through some of our disillusionment with established forms of Church, and have found joy in joining one locally. That said, there’s still a little itch in the back of our minds that there must be more. We’ve spent the last couple of years scratching that itch – and discovering that we’re not alone.

Our first experience of a fresh expression of church was visiting Zac’s Place in Swansea, and a lot of stuff started making sense after observing the beautiful chaos of the place.

My wife and I have been walking with the poor, marginalised and excluded in Luton for a number of years now, and something of Richard Rohr’s notion of being on the ‘outside edge of the inside circle’ resonates with us. As we journey with our friends on the margins, and we see God working transformation in the most desperate of situations, there is one major stumbling block we regularly come across:

Church.

We so desperately want our friends to become part of a community of Christ-followers, and are so regularly disappointed when they don’t make it. This shouldn’t come as a great surprise given that we have struggled with this journey too. ‘Severe multiple disadvantage’ is a term often used by statutory bodies to describe some of our friends, and it describes quite well the situation of their relationship to Church. It has a totally alien culture, requires the ability to sit still and silent for long periods of time (described as ‘my life’s aim!’ by one of our friends), and as the old saying goes, often answers questions people simply aren’t asking.

So what is the solution? I recently undertook a group theological reflection on the subject with a variety of local Christians (including a Bible college lecturer), and was quite surprised at the results. Despite the open-mindedness of most of the participants, they came to a pretty unanimous decision: we need bring change to the institutional Church. This shocked me, as like any good research gatherer I tried to point them in the direction I had already made in my mind (starting a fresh expression), but they just wouldn’t bite. They could only see change in terms of what they know as ‘Church’.

Much has been written about what we could do differently to improve the status quo by the great minds of folks such as John Drane, but this degree of change isn’t going to happen quickly. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it won’t be unmade overnight. This leaves us with some questions:

  • what do we do for now?
  • what about those whose faith and life is hanging by a thread, who are falling between the cracks?
  • do we love them enough to step out into the unknown?

If you have any ideas, let me know…

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8 thoughts on “Falling Between The Cracks – Disillusionment With Church”

  1. Great questions and ones I have asked myself. I think too often Christians are contented to stay with the known. Many are not willing to change the method in order to reach the masses. Thanks for posting and for reminding me of this.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the encouragement. You’re right, we do need to step out into the scary unknown. But we don’t make that journey alone …

  2. We would love to see the church be more interactive. Not just singing. Discussion, ministry, various people sharing what God has shown them. I don’t thing He meant for us to sit for and hour every week listening to the same person lecture. We were not told to “go, sit and listen to My words”. We were told to GO and DO!

      1. Never! It should be a place where we get equipped to go out. Equipped for good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. Church should be a safe place to practice what we learn so we are prepared and equipped to reach a lost, dying and broken world.

        This requires honesty, and leaders who are not insecure.

      2. My husband and I have often commented how we would like to see church meetings be more like a 12 Step meeting:

        Desperate people who come together for a common purpose.
        The purpose is clearly stated at the beginning of each meeting to stay on track without personal agendas.
        They know they are hurting (sinful) people and need God to live.
        They have agreed on a creed (the 12 steps and 12 traditions) but do not have one supreme leader who bosses everything.
        They are brutally honest and transparent.
        They call people out on their bs.
        They teach each other from their own experience.
        They support one another, encourage each other, help each other.
        They remember where they used to be, what they used to be, and stay humble because of it.
        They are grateful to be alive!
        They don’t look down on newcomers. They know they learn from new people and oldtimers alike.
        They do not care about appearance or wealth, knowing that I (suv driving, soccer mom) am no different than a biker in the eyes of God.
        They take personal responsibility for their actions, make amends quickly and try to not hold grudges.
        They live one day at time without regrets and resentments.
        They know secrets will kill you.
        They take responsibility to teach, lead, and help the whole group grow in peace.
        They take their message into a lost, broken and dying world.

  3. What seems to work for a number of the guys we work with is “magazine style” church. A 50″ screen with downloaded contemporary worship songs and SHORT preaches/words invairably involving food of some type. Seriously informal and some may say messy and irreverent, but it gets folk on that first stepping stone, where sometimes they like to stay, and that’s cool too.

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