Plop, Pray and Pay
Plop, Pray and Pay
Three weeks ago I received this text from John (not his real name):-
“Hi Alan thanks for your recent blogs they were really good reads and made me feel like I wasn't going crazy as I had been sharing the same views with my wife. It really has prompted me to have a good look at my belief system and ensure it's biblical. I am struggling with church at the moment because I feel more guilt than peace when going should be doing more serving giving more helping more I don't think this has been healthy, so thank you”.
John (and Mary) are in many ways ‘model’ Christians. They have faithfully attended their local church right through the child rearing years, very supportive of their pastor and generous givers of their time, talents and treasure. John and Mary are in fact part of that 20% of church members that ‘get stuff done around here’.
The reality is the John and Mary’s of this world are two people in a growing multitude of ex-members who have left or are in the process of leaving. The typical scenario goes something like this:- Their departure wasn't the result of an ugly encounter with a pastor or staff person or even another member. It wasn't in fact triggered by any single event or any single issue. Neither have these folks joined the growing tribe of those with no religious affiliation often called the Nones, rather John and Mary have joined what sociologists have coined as the Dones.
And to be very clear, the Dones are Christians, in many cases stunningly so but they are over the church as such. The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play, they want to participate but they often feel spurned at every turn. Typically you will hear comments like, I am tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with some guy telling me week in week out what to do. I’m bored.
It would be easy at this point to exaggerate the extent of the problem. I want to be careful not to do that. But when I take a look at my friends far too many fit the above profile and more concerning still, many are former pastors. I have quite a few friends who have made the decision to ‘leave in their hearts’ but for a variety of reasons haven’t actually left yet. I’m sure that you personally know people who fit the ‘Dones’ profile. And please don’t forget these are good people who love Jesus.
So I would like to offer a suggestion today. What about ‘get up close and personal’ and confront this reality head on. Why not ask current members some questions and listen carefully……very carefully to these long-time members BEFORE they flee. And pastor (and other ministry leaders) please don’t be defensive. Adopt a listening posture.
Here are some questions you may wish to ask:-
- Why are you a part of this church?
- What keeps you here?
- On a scale of 1 – 7 how would you rate your enthusiasm for our church?
- Have you thought about leaving recently?
- Where can we improve?
- What would you like to see happen in our church that would ‘light your fire’.
Its like an informal audit? A checking in with your people and learning from them rather than some mega-church pastor somewhere giving you some answers. It has never ceased to amaze me how constructive people will be when given half a chance.
I’m in no doubt that the urgent need of the hour is pastors who take seriously the spiritual discipline of listening. And having listened to be willing to adapt and modify and if necessary radically change for the sake of the future of the church.
- Meet The Dones from Christianity Today.
- Why are millennials leaving the church? Preston Sprinkle in ‘Theology in the Raw’.
- The Changing State of the Church by Barna.