Andrew Strom, "Mercy and Truth Ministries"
May 6, 2003
Why are tens of thousands of devoted
Christians leaving the churches? Is it a
'movement'? What is causing this world-wide phenomenon?
"It is surprising to find that roughly 10 million born again Christian adults (in the US) are unchurched."
-- George Barna (www.barna.org)
I am writing on a rather unusual topic today. On Monday night (31 March) I was invited onto a Christian Radio show in New Zealand to discuss the growing numbers of "Out-of- church" Christians in the West - people who have left the churches for various reasons but still claim a strong Christian faith. It was a very interesting night, and the phones ran hot.
This "Out-of-church" phenomenon has now grown so large that books are being written about it. In fact, several years ago I heard an estimate that there are TENS OF THOUSANDS of such Christians just in our largest city (-Auckland) alone. And I believe it is the same right across the Western nations. I have personally come into contact with literally hundreds of such people. The surprising thing is that they are often the most committed kind of Christians - praying, insightful, deep- thinking. Yet they have grown tired of "playing the game" inside our church system and have opted out. Often their involvement goes back many years. In fact, they had commonly been leaders of various kinds.
But now they have left. Why? The church obviously finds this a very difficult thing to explain or deal with. The usual accusations are often trotted out: "So-and-so has been hurt and has a root of bitterness". Or they are in "rebellion". Or they are "not a team player". Or they are "backsliding".
But if you talk to these people you will often find that they have been sitting in church for years and years, and they simply cannot stand to sit and watch the same old game being played any more. The LACK OF GOD is what gets to them - even in our most "Spirit-filled" churches. WHERE IS GOD IN ALL OF OUR ACTIVITY? Surely this is not the way it is supposed to be?
New fads and programs come and go, but the mediocrity and LACK OF GOD just seem to go on forever. And so quietly, sometimes without anyone even noticing, they slowly slip out the doors - never to return. Some have even told me that they felt God "calling them out". Others simply felt they couldn't stay there anymore. The state of the church weighed upon them more than words could say.
Very often they did the rounds of other churches, hoping against hope that they would find a place that felt "right" in any way. (-Though most of them are not "church-hoppers" by nature). But the places they visited never seemed any more "right" than the place they had left. And after a while it just seemed easier to stay at home with God.
As I said earlier, most of these people have not given up on Christianity at all. It is today's church system that they have given up on. And we are talking about large numbers here. Thousands are already opting out. And many feel like they are "waiting" for something.
Some of these people have started up home-fellowships. Or they meet with other couples on a casual basis. But many meet with nobody at all, and they consider themselves in a 'Wilderness' place - alone with God. (-Very common).
I was asked several weeks ago by a pastor whether I agreed that what is happening could be a 'move of God'. That is a pretty radical thought. Many leaders would think the opposite. Because anything that leads people out of "their church" can't be of God, can it?
Hmmmm. All I know is this: The concept of going through a 'Wilderness' just before entering the 'Promised Land' is totally Scriptural. In fact, it is right through the Bible. Even Jesus went through such a wilderness time.
But it is not possible to stay "alone" forever. Some day, if these people are going to be part of a new move of God's Spirit, they are going to have to come out of their wilderness and become part of the "BODY" that Jesus brings together - the 'new wineskin' that will come with this new move of God. Otherwise they could miss out. That is the great danger.
God bless you, my friends. Kindest regards in Christ,
Thunder Ministries 'New Zealand Revival' Prophetic Supersite -- http://crash.ihug.co.nz/~revival
Apr 26, 2003
What a response! Ever since we published that article last week on "Out-of-church" Christians, I have been inundated with emails about it. It seems to be going round and round on the Internet because many are from people who are not even on this List. So many heart-felt stories from people who still love Jesus but have left the churches (-forever, in many cases). Quite an eye-opener, really. This issue is so much bigger than many of us have realized. I don't think a lot of leaders have any clue how many Christians are simply opting out of "organized religion" today. It is quite staggering. I have been wondering if I should write a book about it.
On Friday I got a bit of a shock because a Webmaster from France wrote to me saying he had translated the article into French. I started getting email requests saying things like "subscribe a voir le site eglisedemaison.be" and so-on! Which just shows that this "Out-of-church" thing is a huge issue right across the Western world. Everywhere, people are hungering and thirsting for the REALITY of God, and sadly not finding it in our churches.
Many of the stories people have been sending me are so honest and heart-rending, it really makes you realize that things simply cannot go on the way they are. GOD CHANGE US!! Shake us, transform us, move upon us again in Reformation and Revival power! We cannot go on this way - we really can't.
Much of Christendom has become a "machine" that simply grinds on and on, whether God is present or not. (And I speak here of the "Spirit-filled" churches just as much as the others). Surely the number of genuine Christians who are leaving (in their droves) tells us that we are in some kind of CRISIS?
I have been getting so many responses that I have had difficulty keeping up with them. Many are well worth publishing. I will try to pick out a few gems and publish them on next week's List. There are some truly insightful and touching stories out there.
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