Today I quit Christianity…the new Exodus


DROPPING KEYS
By Hafiz

THE SMALL MAN
BUILDS CAGES FOR EVERYONE
HE
KNOWS

WHILE THE SAGE
WHO HAS TO DUCK HIS HEAD
WHEN THE MOON IS LOW,
KEEPS DROPPING KEYS ALL NIGHT LONG
FOR THE
BEAUTIFUL
ROWDY
PRISONERS

“Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity.” On July 29th, 2010 Anne Rice wrote these words on her FACEBOOK page… Anne Rice is a famous, best -selling American author.

In an article originally published in the L.A. TIMES but picked up by the VANCOUVER PROVINCE last week author William Lobdell says, “Rice is merely one of millions who have opted out of organized religion in recent years making the unaffiliated category of faith the FASTEST – GROWING ‘religion’ in America, according to a 2008 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.”

What is most unusual about this Exodus from the organized church is that people are not leaving their faith or Christ, just the container they have been told it is discovered and nurtured within. A vast majority are looking for more of God, more of what Christ invited us towards. They are on a spiritual journey and it is taking them outside the walls of what they have known.

It is the Exodus of the seeking?

As one who loves the church, this mass Exodus is unnerving and hopeful all at the same time. George Barna, who leads a market research firm studying the beliefs and behavior of evangelicals, speaks to this Exodus in great detail in the book “The Revolution”.

In far too many churches the Kingdom of God has become church – centric and the church has become consumed with its own existence not the Kingdom of God. Some would argue the church is one of the few organizations on earth that was designed to focus on its non – members more than its members. Yet this is often not the case.

People are not necessarily leaving spiritual community in this exodus.

They are just leaving the organized church and designing their own spiritual communities. Church as we know it is often defined by a charity number, budgets and appointed leaders. What if people are initiating their own spiritual community, choosing their relational spiritual accountability and choosing how to press on with the Kingdom of God outside of stated structures.

What if it is the leaders that are late to the party?

This living organism called the church may just be outgrowing the organizational structure of this thing called the church as we have defined it … at least in North America.

The cat is out of the bag.

Much of the Exodus today has to do with the fact the church “is becoming more like the world it seeks to change”, says William Lobdell. The disorientation is both perplexing yet exciting… just maybe God himself is dropping the keys…

The ‘Sage’ is at work once again. I am reminded of Hafiz ‘s poem “DROPPING KEYS’ as I think of this NEW EXODUS

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on August 22, 2010.

8 Responses to “Today I quit Christianity…the new Exodus”

  1. Todd,

    If this is a new form of a Sunday morning sermon, I must say, I like it!

    Very provocative. God is definitely calling this, like every generation, to a renewed intimacy with Him and to follow His lead in a practical participation in His kingdom vs. the slippery slope of second-hand religion. I’m sold on Exodus. But is this a forced decision for those wanting to follow Christ? For me, the $64K question is something like: “Regardless of denominational leaders, can our church community’s DNA be altered and our local congregations be redeemed, and thus change, over time, church culture in the West?” Or, does this kind of renewal and reformation only come by way of Christ leading smaller groups of disciples(remnant?) on a journey, leaving worship centers on Sunday mornings, to venture out into an uncharted, but faith-filled and obedience-driven wilderness? Over a decade ago I heard Gordon MacDonald wonder out loud, if Willow Creek was the model of Church life in the future, or if it was the last of a dying breed. I think Hybels’ self-pronounced judgement reveals what God is seeking – transformation of character and culture. A decade later I’m seeing more and more people staying on in churches, but cutting down their participation, or simply dropping out and doing little that is missional or worshipful on a sabbath or any other day.

    If a missional Exodus is what has to happen, perhaps a healthy trajectory out of a life amerced in an institutionalized State religion (non-missional Christianity in North America) will resemble a type of process of conversion for “Christians”, and even mimic process evangelism (Engel/Norton) – something worth studying. God knows the depth to which we Christians need rehab from an “Egyptian way of life”, so I’m all for Exodus. But I’m feeling pretty isolated. Perhaps people are dropping out of Christian community altogether, in any form, and not forming new communities, because they don’t want to be associated any longer with broken (Egyptian Christians) people. This concerns me. If we Christians are stereotyped (rightly or wrongly) by the secular media as intolerant, homophobic hate-mongers, bigots, irrational, or the enemy of civilization (thanks Christopher Hitchens); maybe a parallel, even greater Exodus is actually occurring for non-missional reasons. Like my American friends saying that they are Canadians when they travel, I see Christians disassociating with Christ Himself. I guess I’m seeing too many bored or wounded x-church attenders seeking to escape judgement from peers and colleagues. My growing concern is for a generation of undiscipled disciples inside and now outside of our churches, who seem unable to cope with being misunderstood, and having self-images stained by controversy and criticism. Wimber might have said it differently – a generation of people who want to be nice, respectable Christians more than “fools for Jesus”.

    Speculation and theorizing aside, it is going to take enormous courage and discernment to stand for Christ and help people, and even plant churches, while not appearing like we are defending religion, or abandoning the faithfulness of the true Church. It is like we are again back at the dawning of the Church being birthed out of and alongside Judaism. Again, like the First Century, amidst a new movement of God, we need many fearless but compassionate and longsuffering Pauls, Barnabases, and Timothys – using wisely and giving away generously the keys of His Kingdom. Pretty good life’s calling.

  2. staying or leaving…both have direct cost associated to it…stay and risk losing your soul, leave and risk losing your faith…

    The problem I see with changing the “trajectory” from within is that I don’t think those inside see that ‘what is’, is broken…so we ‘tweak’ ‘morph’ ‘transition’ our way to another ‘model’ ‘version’ ‘gimmick’ in hopes of ‘re-visioning’ ‘renewing’ ‘transforming’ our faith communities towards greater ‘effectiveness’ ‘cost-efficiency’ ‘purpose’…survival!

    Can we leave structure and take experience with us? Or will history just keep repeating itself? Can we leave the safety and fearfully step forward…maybe even play a bit as we go?

    Daniel

  3. “We have no idea who we are. And this is where we are today; 20 centuries into the Christian era, a profound identity crisis has swelled within our corporate soul and it is driving us crazy. We are, as Chaucer once described it, like a drunk man who knows he has a house, but cannot find his way home. The irony of all ironies is that the Western world is crying out for spiritual meaning and the Church has none to give it. Its Jesus is too small….. You and your life have been overtaken by the abounding philanthropy of the Triune God. You have been included in the great dance. That is your identity, who you are and what your life is all about. That is what motherhood and fatherhood are all about. That is what your gardening and your cookouts and you carpentry and work and love and friendships are all about. They are the ways the great dance of the Trinity is being played out in you.” C Baxter Kruger

    Could it be that our spiritual quest as Christians isn’t for new structures but new understandings of God and therefore ourselves? Could it be that our inaccurate theology about God, leadership and therefore ourselves has so permeated the culture of much of our organized church experiences and therefore our lives that we need to open the doors and let in some fresh air. But some doors won’t open so we then walk out into the fresh air and stand there… breathing it in, smelling the life of God again.

    As we do we see God afresh, ourselves afresh and then the community of faith becomes fresh for us once again.

    todd

  4. I know for myself that if I had stayed in the “organized church experience” that my soul would’ve suffocated…so I’d rather “walk out into the fresh air and stand there”…my faith may take a beating, but ultimately it will survive…plus my boys get to see Dad wrestling out my faith ‘real time’…

  5. Todd, just reading Halter’s new book called, AND… THE CHURCH GATHERED AND SCATTERED. He makes a pretty good point that with many of us what called us to leave the church structure was not as much what was wrong with the church but it was what God was trying to say to us that we weren’t hearing. GOd does some drastic things, or so they seem to us, in order to get our attention. Eventually we will find it’s not about “us” and “them”, whether the large group corporate structure is wrong and the small, earthy organic is right, but more about following Him in mission, which ever way He leads. This is Halter’s point and it’s well-taken, at least is seems to be by this guy watching from the sidelines.
    The dropping keys poem is spot-on.

  6. Daniel, I see that same problem of “tweaking from within”, as if the missional thing were just another bolt-on, high performance kit that we can probably get along without – especially us Christians who also live by the conservative “keep it simple” mantra, and have become exhausted by riding a 3-decade wave of must have church performance parts. I wish I was encouraged by the numbers of churches I’ve seen actually change their theology, structure and practical goals to a more biblical and missional one. My hope is that much of the Church in the West will walk in the Spirit and make the jump to missional with a “to the death” commitment. But most us struggle to live so focused or that exclusively. This is why I believe we are in a refining/testing time.

    Is this judgement on a Laodicean Church; a sink or swim scenario with a much smaller but more missional church being the only one left standing in 50 years? From my place of listening, many missional leaders are predicting exactly this – or worse, a post-Christian Western Europe near Church extinction. Been to Berlin or Vienna lately? I love prophets, but have lived long enough to be sceptical of these kinds of predictions. Here’s why. Even if they are right we know God always promises a choice for a renewed life, even after exile. No doubt we’re seeing societal choices, like nationalism being replaced by an eclipsing hyper-independent American Dream mentality. So we might see this type of death take out institutionalized and religious loyalties – but then what do we make of the growth of New Age spirituality? History also shows there is a healthy market in the West for a nominal, just-enough-to-feel-safe, form of Christianity (idolatry), which atheism just can’t extinguish. Which brings us back to a lot of self-focused cultural Christianity tinkering at the edges of reform – so we might be here for a very long time, with our grand children facing the same decision we are. But maybe we can spare them having to make that choice.

    I know that Todd will clear away all the debris on this subject and set us straight in Kelowna on September 25 🙂

  7. I’m not so sure that the “missional thing” is anything more/different/better than any of the other “bolt-on high performance kit”…

    I have issue with anything that gets presented as ‘a better way of doing things’ because ultimately it gets marketed and talked about (through books, web, conferences, etc.) more than it ever gets lived…this would include the “missional thing”…sometimes I wish we’d just shut up and do it already…we’re over-talking and under-delivering to a world that desperately needs solutions to deal with the poor…the environment…business…health…etc.

    Maybe this just highlights my cynicism of the whole thing…I would definitely agree with you Curtis when you say we need a ‘church’ that “will walk in the Spirit and make the jump to missional with a ‘to the death commitment'”…I’m tired of predictions too…I’m tired of looking backwards and looking forwards and trying to figure it all out…I know I must focus in the present without the looming ‘what if’s’ of professional guessers…

    I do know that there will always be spiritual hunger…a need for healing…a desire for healthy community in our world…so ‘the church’ will never be fully extinguished in any culture…we’ll also never be without mission…

    I look forward to Todd clearing all this up when we gather next…no pressure Todd…lol

  8. Good to see the Schuster back in fine form…. armed with provoking thoughts…. at least you have the authority to say what you say because you are “doing” it….

    I look forward to you, Daniel, clearing it all up when we gather next month…lol

    Todd

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