Local Church Escapees

IMG_0778Through an unlikely series of circumstances (which I find most series of circumstances in life to be), I ran across a Facebook page entitled “Local Church Escapees.” Having been a local church pastor for thirty-five years, I was fascinated by the title. While I had been aware that, for some at least, an escape is the only way out of various local churches, I had never given it that much thought (especially in those terms).

What ultimately drew me to the page was an article listing the reasons people leave churches. It was addressed to the church (of which I am obviously a part); so being the arduous pastor that I am, I dove right in. It was a well-written article with some points that were well taken. The point that grabbed me (and still haunts me), however, was the author’s statement that while we (the church) could argue with the individual reasons people leave, arguing is not the required response. The required response is to listen (and presumably learn). [By the way, if any of you knows the article and author of such an article, please let me know. I’ve totally lost that info and would like to attain it again.]

On that point (the one about listening), I wholeheartedly agreed with the author. We DO need to listen and hopefully learn. He was correct about us arguing and pointing out the flaws in the various reasons people leave the church. At the time, I found myself doing just that, and I had a pretty solid argument against each of his points. At the same time, however, I quickly realized the futility of the arguments. I just needed to listen (and learn).

I began to peruse the “Local Church Escapee” page and found myself in agreement with most (if not all) of the gripes these folks had against the church. Frankly, they echoed many of my own gripes and concerns. The big difference was, and is, they took some action. As some would say, they voted with their feet. They left (or as they put it, escaped). I was so moved by this discovery, I began a five or six month long series of sermons I entitled “Local Church Prisoners.”

It seemed to me that if people needed to escape, they must have been prisoners in the first place. I began to wonder about that. How many of us in the church are prisoners—prisoners of our own little rules, our own little traditions, and our own petty and personal beliefs. Do we erect bars that keep others out (and ourselves in)? I’m convinced we do.

And so, over the next few weeks, months, years, or however long it takes, I want to explore this topic with you. If we are indeed local church prisoners, how do we tear out the bars? Can we tear down the prison walls? Please help me in my quest to more consistently experience the church we should be and not the prison we may have become.

13 thoughts on “Local Church Escapees”

  1. I highly recommend reading books by Alan Hirsch, Frank Viola, Francis Chan.
    Reimagining Church is a great one
    Finding Organic Church
    the Forgotten Ways
    Crazy Love

  2. Dave, if you recall, when you first began to “minister” to others, there was nothing traditional about it. You simply wanted to get a bunch of like-minded folks together and fellowship, share, and encourage each other to grow closer to Jesus. Seems to me that is quite similar to how “church” started in the first place. We lose our way when we take our eyes off Him.

    1. I remember well, Randy. That was, and still is, my first love. The great challenge seems to be getting the “church” to move back (or forward) to that Biblical model. For some, it will mean baby steps. For others, it will be a giant, but welcomed, leap. Thanks for jumping in, and please stay with us!

  3. Hello!! thanks for sharing this blog I will be following it. I too have been searching this out but actually for a number of years after being increasingly uncomfortable with the quenching of the HolySpirit today in modern circles…and the thing which bothered me most was : 1 Corinthians 14:26. Where was this?? Obsolete!! So for years Ive been on the same journey searching scriptures and finding the Christ Life so beautiful when we have freedom fo the body to actually function together!! blessings.

    1. Hello Gail… Thanks for your input. What happens within the context of worship or prayer meetings (which is what Paul seems to be addressing in this passage) is always a concern–especially for people like me (pastors). One of the big reasons people leave (or avoid) corporate worship these days is they feel squelched. One guy talks, everyone else listens. We’re always looking for a balance (as was the Apostle Paul). It’s so difficult to attain at times that leadership just chucks it all and takes over. It’s the safest route for them. But as you point out, it’s probably not the most Biblical one. I’m sure we’ll be hitting this topic hard along the way. Please hang in there with us.

  4. I remember reading those articles last year,when our Church was in a bit of upheaval,building upgrade and such. A lot of it made sense and I could see it happening around us as well. My wife and I recently retired from our work life,well, I was too injured to carry on working ,and also retired from volunteering at our Church as well . We had lengthy discussion about our place in the church and what was happening. But God gave us the answer. 1.The problems were not ours to fix,2.we were not to leave,3.we were to stay as the pillars we always had been,and 4.to keep an eye on things so as not to let them go off track,as it where . Look forward to further discussion here Dave, Blessings

    1. Thanks Marlon! I can relate somewhat as a pastor. I’m here and not leaving (although of retirement age). And as the pastor, I guess I’m a pillar (of sorts, at least). And I definitely need to keep an eye on things. The one big difference I see is that the problems are mine inherently. I’ll hope you’ll hang in there with me as we attempt to sort all that out. Blessings!

  5. I love your attitude of seeking to understand. I look forward to the discussions.
    I highly recommend the book Pagan Christianity which explores many of the church traditions which are not biblical. Very interesting.
    http://www.paganchristianity.org/
    Another excellent book is So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore (I think the title is not very fitting. I would title it something like How Church Ought To Be.) Is it fiction or non-fiction?… 🙂
    http://www.jakecolsen.com/

    1. Thanks Bryan. I’ll be sure to put those on my list to check out. I’m currently reading one entitled “Why Nobody Wants to go to Church Anymore” by Thom & Joani Schultz. Pretty interesting so far. I appreciate your willingness to join the discussion.

  6. I just read John 15:9-17, I think the reason there is trouble in the “Church” is because we don’t do what He has Commanded us to do!! “Love one another”. God help us to love!!

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