If you feel like you don’t belong in many churches, you’re not alone.
A skyrocketing number of American Christians feel what could be called spiritually homeless. You’ve probably heard someone say they are “spiritual but not religious.” Or maybe you’ve read about the “leavers,” “nones,” and “dones,” popular terms in the media for people who have exited church.
People who have become spiritually homeless found that they no longer fit the kind of Christianity they experienced in their churches and in the media, and they departed from their communities of faith. They might hold onto their spiritual practices and beliefs, but they can’t find a church that feels right to them.
People leave church for various reasons. Someone told me recently that she felt like a spectator in her church. It’s a large church in the Southeast Valley, and she found it hard to get involved beyond just occupying a seat on Sundays. She’s looking for something that challenges her spiritually and a community that is making the world better in practical ways.
In 2016, the trend of people leaving church accelerated for other reasons. According to one poll, 14% of evangelical Christians left their churches between October and December. They were surprised by how much “culture war” political partisanship was influencing their churches, and they found it to be a distraction from the message of Jesus.
A 30-something woman shared with me recently that seeing so much ugliness in the name of Christianity throughout her life has caused her to question her faith more than she ever thought possible. A pastor I know told me that some in his congregation are starting to question whether religion does more harm than good.
Space for Questions
They need a place to be honest about how they’re feeling and the questions they have:
- Is religion for thoughtless, gullible people, or is there something worth holding onto?
- Is Christianity for backward “sheeple,” or has it inspired good in the world when taken seriously by thinking, ethical people?
- Should we be embarrassed to be part of a church, or in spite of the obvious shortcomings, is there something flowing in ancient streams of wisdom that can actually help us to be better people?
Yes, the list of harmful attitudes and actions promoted in the name of religion is long. Harming people while claiming to represent Jesus is cruel and hypocritical, and it has continued for far too long.
And, yes, if we’re going to be honest it’s also true that running parallel to that injustice throughout history is an equally long storyline of incredibly courageous, soul-stirring, and world-changing good inspired by spiritual leaders and communities that follow their teaching.
A Place to Heal
There really are communities of faith who want to practice thoughtful, compassionate, Jesus-inspired spirituality in a deeply meaningful way. They’re out there, but they’re often drowned out by the loudest, most divisive religious voices.
Religion is complicated because there are unlimited examples of both the bad and good practice of it. In fact, religion looks a lot like people, both helpful and harmful, with all our complexities and brokenness. Yes, there are too many examples of bad religion, but good religion, on the other hand, expressed in the lives of leaders like Chief Joseph, Ghandi, MLK, Savitribhai Phule, Malala, Oscar Romero, and countless others, has brought out the best in humanity.
I was in a nonprofit board meeting recently where I saw a power play take place. One of the members was being scapegoated and overburdened with tasks. It was easy to see, and any sensitive person should have perceived what was happening. As I watched the behavior of these supposedly socially conscious people who should have known better, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew 20:25-26:
“Jesus called them (his disciples) together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…’”
No matter how much religion is misused, every person with any power still needs to hear this vision of what it means to be great. As long as injustice and exploitation exist in this world, Jesus’ concept servant leadership needs to be shared and reshared because it insists on the humanity of every person. This is just one example from one religion, and our world would be qualitatively better if examples of good spirituality like this were preached from the housetops.
The best of religion and spirituality calls us forward, challenges us to let love be our guide, and inspires us with a better vision of reality. Good religion and spirituality will never be discredited, because even in the messiness of religion, good religion and spirituality help us to be more fully human.
If you live in the Phoenix, AZ metropolitan area, I want to invite you to The Well. The Well is easily accessible from Chandler, Gilbert, Ahwatukee, Mesa, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, and Tempe, but of course anyone in the Valley is welcome.
The mission of The Well is to create a community where thinking, compassionate people can find a spiritual home and cultivate a Jesus-inspired life.
The Well is a place where you can express both your faith and your doubts, so
You can spiritually grow to become your best self, and
You can partner with God to make a difference with your life.
No matter who you are, you are welcome at The Well. You’ll experience practical teaching from the Bible in a way that will bring ancient texts to new light, passionate worship music, an excellent children’s ministry, and the love of a church family who welcomes you with no hidden agenda.
If you feel spiritually homeless…
For more information about how to connect with The Well, contact us here.