October 22, 2010 by

So I Guess Now I’m a Demographic


Categories: church, food for thought

A few days ago, I posted this rant about a book that defends the institutional church structures, essentially addressing the growing “problem” of people leaving the institutions. A quote from the book near the end of it concludes that we should just basically bite the bullet, go back, be faithful, and be quiet.

Now, to be fair, I haven’t read the book, only some quotes posted by a blogger who is apparently in favor of it…so my rant wasn’t about the book itself, but about the quotes from the book. (I probably won’t read the book, either, at least right now, because I’m too busy actually engaged in things that matter to come down off the wall and debate.) So this isn’t a continuation of the rant, nor is it really to bash the book. Rather, I’ve just been thinking that the fact that books are now actually being written about this issue highlights two important points:

  1. This trend of people leaving institutional church (without necessarily leaving their faith) is now apparently a large enough groundswell that people feel compelled to write books to counter it.
  2. As one who has left, I am apparently now part of a new demographic the institutional church is now targeting–right along with the unbeliever and the prodigal. I am part of the target market now. (This is a new experience for me–I’m used to being on the side of the targeters, not the targeted.)

In other words, this has apparently become a significant enough “problem” that it’s attracting attention among institutional leaders and thinkers; yet their response thus far seems to be not to soul-search to find out what’s causing the exodus, but rather to try and stem the tide itself by trying to convince the leavers to return.

A classic case of simply treating the symptoms rather than looking for the root cause.

Missing the point. Again.

You see, from what I’ve discerned from my limited exposure to the institution’s response to this, what I’m seeing is that the “sales” tactic being used to try and draw people back, the card being played to get the sheep back into the proverbial fold, is the same card that used to keep us in the bubble in the first place…


In other words, Don’t come back because we get the point now. Come back because you should never have left. Come back because we’re all towing the line and doing our duty, and so should you. Just because.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think that tactic is going to work. Presuming that the attractional method is the right way to do this (and that in itself is a huge presumption), you can’t lure people back with the same crap that drove them away. As one who lives by trying to follow Christ and listen for His voice, I just don’t hear the voice of the Shepherd in those guilt-tinged arguments. Do you?

I’ll probably ramble about this more in future posts, but for now, as a member apparent of this target demographic, let me generally suggest to representatives of institutional Christianity that you try another tactic to reach me.

Or better yet, stop targeting me, and start listening. There are actually legitimate reasons why people are leaving, and they aren’t all negative ones. It might actually change the way you see the church as a whole.

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

6 Responses to So I Guess Now I’m a Demographic

  1. Sarah

    "I am apparently now part of a new demographic the institutional church is now targeting–right along with the unbeliever and the prodigal."

    No, Jeff. You *are* the prodigal. Don't you see? 😉

    Yep. You nailed it. It's guilt (with a pinch of shame thrown in for good measure). Thanks for writing this – made me laugh out loud.

  2. reformedlostboy

    I'm beginning to ask many of the same questions you have been asking for years. I just found your blog and I'll be reading. I read the book you mentioned as it was recommended to me from my former pastors when I shared with them some of the questions I had with the organized institutional church. What a pathetic dissapointment. I would have thought that the structures that have been around for the last 1700 years or so would have had more of a biblical basis. Thankfully I was wrong and now I am confident that my relationship with Jesus will deepen as I find fellowship with an assembly of believers instead of the members of an organization.

  3. Anonymous

    I am re-reading "Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna.
    A fascinating read showing the non-bilical [eg "Pagan"] origin of so much of the way we "organise" and "do" the stuff we call "church".

    They also seek to be fair and NOT to bash people who are caught up in the system but seeking to follow Jesus.

    So much we do is unexamined and presumed to be "the way" that it is very hard for people to think that the "box" they are in just might have some very significant flaws and limitations.

    Richard Wilson

  4. MrsBarts

    Firstly I would just like to say thank you so much for what you do here. I have been reading along for a while. It has helped me so much in my journey away from traditional church and I feel less alone. It's amazing to me that there are people on the total other side of the world to me who are dealing with the same issues as me and that we can help each other through.

    I had to smile last night when a member of my old church suggested that I should have stayed 'as a witness'. Your recent posts came to mind immediately.

    This person also commented on how much I was missed and how much they wanted me back. That's funny since no one has phoned, emailed or dropped round in the 6 months since I left.

    The church leadership has made it very clear that if I return, its on their terms, following their rules and I should be there because the Bible says I have to be 'in fellowship' – guilt, guilt, guilt – I should be towing the line and doing my duty. They have no clue why I left cos when I tried to talk to them about it they just pushed their own agenda.

    And so I say Amen!! to what you have said here. Stop targeting and start listening. It might change the world 🙂

    And thanks again to both you and your commentors.

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