Life After Church Ever since I was a kid, church was a part of my Sunday mornings. That’s how it was for many people in the 1950’s. Whatever your religious preferences, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian or other Protestant tribe, everyone seemed to belong to a place to express their belief. Not so anymore. In fact, you do not need to belong to believe, you don’t have to join to belong. What’s more, you don’t have to attend regularly to join. Life during church was the norm. But I am hearing steps of change.

  • Believe, Yes!, but not Belong like we did in earlier times.
    • Belong, sure, but not Join as members used to.
      • Join, absolutely, but not Attend regularly.
        • Attend, yes, but not always in-person, in the sanctuary on Sundays.
          • I choose to be involved in-person online, and in many other ways.

What time is it in your church? If you had a calendar hanging on the wall in your sanctuary, and it represented the emotional-time of your attitudes, actions, and priorities, what year would the calendar depict? 2012?

A pastor came to my office near tears. “I can’t take it anymore. I don’t even feel like worshipping with them anymore, they are not moving forward at all, they are so stuck.”

The frustration the pastor described I hear frequently. A well-intentioned pastor trying to get the leadership team to imagine a few years ahead, (choose innovative change to address emerging opportunities), and they respond: No way!

What many pastors don’t realize is that though they may be inviting leaders ahead just a few years, they are functionally and developmentally several decades past, stuck, for example, in year 1990, not 2012. For the leadership, the mental and emotional invitation of three real years ahead to 2015 for them feels like a 25-year leap they just can’t imagine taking.

It’s hard to change, for some, its difficult to get ready to contemplate change. The future is not a choice, but a reality. The moment you read these words they immediately become past to you. All groups, governments, institutions, struggle with change. From the school board to the classroom, library and hardware store. Change is undeniable and inevitable. Stop fighting change, and instead, embrace it. See the change as good.

We struggle with change because we have found too much comfort in the past, becoming too at ease with the familiar.

Life for people of faith no longer simply expressed during church at new, alternate times and places after church. (After Church is no longer defined as a building destination, sitting in pews, singing three hymns and listening to a sermon, facing forward observing the sacraments, passing the plate, and leaving. Its time to choose openness to God’s preferred future. We need not go into the future kicking and screaming, either. We are not victims, but co-creators with God for our future. God is on the move out in the wild, not just in the sanctuary.

(For those in the Presbyterian tribe, we have chosen an awesome spiritual and innovative journey fitting the time After Church as we commit to start 1,001 new worshipping communities during the next five years! Worshipping communities, not churches, not buildings as we have known them, but something innovative and effective, perfectly suited for out time After Church http://www.onethousandone.org.

There is a job to be done by the church of Jesus Christ. What is that job?
Some of our buildings are perfectly suited to the task. Others not so much.
Some of our leaders are perfectly adapting to the task. Others not.
Some of our resources have been hoarded to keep the illusion of early times going.
Our priorities are no longer suitable.
Our values need a realignment.

Jesus asked, Which of you, if a child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if asked for fish, would give a snake? (Matthew 7:9–10). Its time for stone buildings to release the gifts of the people inside into the world because there is life after church and together we are called to offer bread and fish to our communities, not stones and snakes.

So how’s your life after church?

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