Brian Bennett is a Done. He’s done with the institutional church. But eight years ago he was the teaching pastor at a megachurch in Ohio.
After a personal downfall, he left. In his pain and bewilderment, he tried visiting other churches as an attendee. But he couldn’t get “grafted.”
“Church is built for a shotgun approach,” Bennett said. “Most people sitting in the pews are living with the same lie inside their head that I was living with from the stage. The lie is, if people knew who you really are, what you really struggle with, they wouldn’t like you anymore.”
He said the typical Sunday morning church experience does not allow for the depth of community that people crave. “Sitting in a chair, looking at the backs of other people’s heads–it’s not really built to get to the core of this level of hurt.”
Bennett began sharing on Facebook some of his personal and spiritual reflections. Immediately he heard from others–other Dones, people who had left the church but not their faith in God. Now he regularly supports this growing tribe with “help on demand,” which he believes was missing in his church experience.
He said the Dones are looking for “spiritual conversation, two-way conversation, honest dialog.” They’re not seeking pat answers from a religious speaker.
Bennett said these Dones respond to him not because he has it all together, but because he admits his own brokenness. “God uses broken, messy people to help other broken, messy people,” he told me on the Holy Soup Podcast.
I mentioned to Bennett that sociologist Josh Packard, co-author of Church Refugees, found that 10 percent of current churchgoers say they are “almost done,” on the verge of walking out. How might churches stop some of this exodus? Bennett suggests churches find more ways to create two-way conversations. And church leaders need to convey a sense of genuine humility about their own humanness. On his website, Bennett displays the moniker “Pastor Jekyll and Mr. Hide,” which alludes to his former life in the pulpit.
Bennett said after confronting “the lie that I was scared of for 20 years of my adult life, I finally embraced the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of myself. I desperately still want God. For seven years I felt He was done with me. Now I finally have the freedom that I never had before.” The Dones he serves are on a similar spiritual journey.
Listen to the entire revealing conversation with Brian Bennett on the Holy Soup Podcast.
Can’t figure why when we pass ten restraunts to get to church and get free donuts and coffee and sit on chairs that took the place of nice pews to hear loud wild music o well
Great interview, Thom! Brian said: “A person that needs help, they need it now.” I’ve often wondered: What if the body of Christ met to sincerely listen to one another and to meet one another’s needs, rather than to merely hear a one-man teaching? What if we made people’s needs a higher priority than our program and sermon? As you know, that’s what we’ve done at The Salvation Army Berry Street in Nashville. Thanks again for interviewing me in May. People who liked Brian’s approach will probably enjoy it too @ https://holysoup.com/he-stopped-the-sermon/.
When asked about how to keep people from becoming Dones, Brian said: “I would create some forums to listen to them . . . to honestly listen to what they have to say.”
The two-way relational interaction described is a must if the church is going to survive the cultural shifts underway.
But I need to say something about this idea of being “done.” I’m in the 10% of “almost.” But I can’t go all the way out the door. Faith in its ancient sense is about trust, loyalty, and allegiance to Jesus. This is not about allegiance to buildings, programs, paid staff, and doctrinal statements.
But it DOES encompass a certain loyalty to his people.
It is easy to criticize what is and give broad statements about what needs to change, but what are some practical ways to add more two way conversation on a Sunday morning?
Kendal: Here’s one practical way. Church could include a time for open sharing during the service. Churches used to do this and call it testimony time, however, it can go beyond sharing testimonies to sharing Scriptures, insights, gifts of the Spirit, prayers, prayer needs, short teachings, etc. I give many other practical ways to open church up to conversation in the book: “Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible” @ http://amzn.to/2etLBch.
Great question. I’m not sure what your situation is, but I think there is a manageable way to create interaction in a “church service”. Most sermon manuscripts in scripture are no more than 10 minutes long. Yet the average sermon in our churches can be 40 minutes?????
My suggestion is to present a well thought out message closer to 10 minutes, then facilitate a discussion with an open mic. Towards the end of my career I went so far as to give a cell phone number out for people to text questions if they were too nervous to ask.
The reason most pastors won’t do this is because they only have prepared what is in their notes. They aren’t comfortable with a dialogue that might challenge them. The scary part of what I’ve suggested is, it may get tense. People ma have to agree to disagree. But, for me, that’s in sharpening iron. God speaks to everyone, not just the person on the stage.
Kendal, at my church the pastor injects a conversation time into his sermon every week. During the message he stops and asks a thought provoking question, and asks everyone to turn to someone next to them and converse. After a couple minutes of conversation, he redraws the congregation’s attention, and asks for a couple of sample responses from the crowd. He then incorporates these thoughts into the rest of his message.
Watch this blog next week for more ideas on making Sunday morning more interactive and effective.
Christian Mentor’s Movement by Christian Mentor’s Network is making an attempt to bring about and encourage one-to-one relationships. Their process is 100 percent biblical, 100 percent relational, and 100 percent non-denominational stand alone organization. They don’t condemn or encourage believers to leave a Church. In fact their process can be used as a relational tool within the church. However, it can also be used quite successfully within the “Dones” community. It’s all about Christians ministering to one another on a deeper level, normally not provided in traditional church setting.
James commented on Facebook: “1 hour Sunday wasn’t designed for that sort of two way intimacy. If you want that join a small group or any other ministry the church has, but to demand that of the Sunday Worship service it seems to me is like barking up the wrong tree.”
I agree. Definitely not suggesting mentoring be a Sunday morning thing. I myself, a done, am using it to minister one on one with those who want to go deeper in their relationship with God but have no desire to set foot into a religious organization. I’ve been a men’s minster for over five years, and I have noticed group programs, or at least the ones I have been part of never seem to evolve into deeper healing relationships.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a Pastor re-route the conversation when the congregation asks tough questions.
In my experience, the kind of fearless conversation and exchange we are talking about doesn’t happen in most small group or ministry settings. While the Sunday morning hour cannot be that completely, I do believe Sunday morning sets the bar for vulnerability throughout the church.
Small group ministry was the church’s attempt at manufactured community in the 70s and 80s. There are great examples of it working well, and people doing “life together”. The Dones want the same guidance with people they are really doing life with on a day to day basis. It’s not with other church goers matched by geography or relational status, it’s real, messy, organic relationships that Christ can be brought into.
If you’re a pastor…this is not about recruiting people away from church. This is about the church accepting that there are 31 million Christians out there who need community and guidance…outside the church walls. They will smell a secret agenda to be pulled back in ten miles away. Why can’t we just love them where they (we) are?
I’m with him! I’ve been away from being on staff now for 8 months and have feel like I’ve had more real conversations eith people in eight months than I did in 17 years of full time ministry.
Keep going Rodney. It has taken me a while to work through my pastor DNA. It’s not easy but very freeing.
At the end of our service we have a causal visiting/coffee time , and that’s were the real stuff happens, without the need for a leader to control. People offering to help each other, praying for each other, listening and giving encouragement to each other. People [the Dones] know how to live the Christian life, leaders need to create the space for them to do it and then get out of the way unless their asked to be involved.
Great insight, Wayne Rucz! “People know how to live the Christian life, leaders need to create the space for them to do it and then get out of the way.” Most Christians have been taught enough. Many have been taught too much. But very few Christians have been introduced to an environment where they are free to obey the New Testament “one anothers” and to “do it” as they feel led by the Spirit. This is what Paul was advocating in 1 Corinthians 14:26
Beth shared on Facebook: “Being part of a church is not about sitting in a pew on Sunday morning for an hour – looking at the back of other people’s heads! There are Sunday morning study groups and fellowship time at the church we attend. There are Wednesday evening fellowship times or Tuesday or Thursday evening Bible Studies – with no sitting in a church pew – at all! If you look hard enough you’ll find that there are churches who focus on FELLOWSHIP and LOVE just as much as on Sunday morning worship!”
Beth. I hear you and I am happy to hear your particular church is being relational, in a deep nurturing way. However, what if a person comes from a small town with about 25 Churches total consisting of various denominations. The person living in this town has lived their for over 20 years, attended all 25, and has not been able to experience what you are experiencing. Any ideas how to convince this person to walk back into the institution? Should an attempt to do so even be made? Should a suggestion be made for that person to leave their town in search of a place similar to what you are experiencing?
Or is it, like Brian suggested, ok to love and minister to them right where they are?
For me, as a man and a “Done” I moved away from the traditional church setting in search of biblical and personal conversations that go much deeper than the epidermis.
I’m a Done in the sense that I don’t attend a church in my hometown in rural Texas, but I watch online services at a progressive Presbyterian church in suburban Seattle every Sunday. I had dropped out of church, but my brother told me about the services at his church and it changed my life.
The difference is that this church, Bellevue Presbyterian Church, does things that seem unusual.
1. The sermons challenge us to live the love of Jesus out in the community, away from our neighborhood and among our neighbors in the way Jesus explained the term “neighbors”. For me that means becoming a weekly Reading Buddy at an elementary school with 80% of the kids qualifying for free or reduced lunch. I’ve also volunteered at events to rebuild flood damaged homes in the poorest sections of our community.
2. The sermons also emphasize that Jesus loves and God uses imperfect people. The churches I had attended seemed focused on the guilt model to keep people coming back.
3. The sermons point me to teachers and books that I’ve studied to become more knowledgeable about the history of ancient Israel, the history of the Church, and current Biblical scholarship. So I’ve read Parker Palmer, Tim Keller, N.T. Wright, Pete Enns, Derek Flood, C.S. Lewis, Brian McLaren, Dave Tomlinson, Ben Baughman, Pope Francis and others. One of my favorites was Church History in Plain Language by Dr. Bruce Shelley.
Here in the Bible Belt, we have a variety of churches, but the call to Love Your Neighbor doesn’t seem to get much emphasis across racial lines. The Prosperity Gospel is also a common theme at many evangelical churches. And Bible study at local churches would never point me to the authors and books I’ve listed.
I’d attend a clone of my brother’s church if it could be transplanted here in Texas, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to gain inspiration from the services online.
By the way, Ben and Carma Baughman pointed me to your website Thom.
This may sound old, but why can’t we just go back to the Acts of the Apostles model of doing Church? I mean that is what Jesus and the disciples left us. I have found that the further we get from the original instructions Jesus left us… the further we also get from His mission and the more distracted we get on things that have no eternal significance.
I was in the 10% of almost done until just recently. I would have been totally done if my husband kept us going to our traditional Sunday morning church service. I had told him I didn’t want to go anymore (even though we were both serving in ministries). We now go to a non-traditional evening service that has rectified most of my done issues. Thankfully, this service is offered at the same Church but with a different Pastor on staff. Totally different atmosphere.
Here are some of my done issues:
lack of real, deep relationships (even if you go to several home groups weekly)
lack of equipping and activation (as opposed to just teaching)
lack of sending (old fat sheep that are never sent to fulfill their God given purpose)
lack of discipleship and self-centeredness (Carnal Christians)
more focus on money and programs then on people
This non-traditional service we go to is basically led by the Holy Spirit.
Relationally – People at this service seek to know you and have relationship with you. People call. FB, meet and text each other during the week (not just talk in person on Sunday). The Pastor and his wife talk to me like a real person and make me feel welcome. Others in the community take interest in my interests. There is time set aside before and after the service to grab a cup of coffee or tea and just talk, share and pray with each other. Donations for baked goods are given to an orphanage in Africa. It is generally a loving non- judgement zone. They encourage and help people to connect with each other.
We do have Worship but it looks different from week to week. It could be live worship with a band, or acoustic guitar, or it could be u-tube videos. The house is open to worship however you feel led. You can dance, use flags, raise your hands, sit, lay prostrate… anything that helps you connect with God. We even had a circle dance once and a fire tunnel. Crazy!
Equipping and Activation – The Word of God is awesome but this takes it further. We don’t just talk about praying for the sick, we all lay hands on the sick. We don’t just talk about the prophetic or talk about hearing from God… but we listen and write encouraging words to each other… we prophesy over each other. We don’t just talk about evangelism… we hit the streets to share the love of Jesus. We ask questions and are real. There is interaction throughout the whole night. Individuals give testimonies and share a scriptures. One time a guy (not on a worship team) felt led to play his trombone over someone when there was a word of knowledge given. The power of God fell on this woman when he started playing and she was completely healed. Isn’t God awesome?! This would NEVER happen in a Sunday morning service. There are times when there is just a teaching… to bring revelation that will remove lies or to bring repentance. We are encouraged to ask questions. The Pastor is the first to admit that the messages he brings are often because God put a finger on something in his own life and he doesn’t want us to fall into the same trap. When you deliver messages in a real and truthful way, then we can all grow together without fear of judgement. If one is struggling there are probably others struggling too… better to talk openly about it, bring it to Jesus and pray rather then just “stuffing” it.
The other beautiful thing about this evening service is that people want to be there and there is no time agenda. People who come to this service don’t feel an obligation to “get it over with” like many Sunday morning Church goers. We may start on time… we may start late. We could end at 8:30pm or be leaving at 11pm. Everyone leaves feeling loved even if they have to leave early.
Oh, AND, this service is open to anyone. If you know Jesus or if you don’t; if you have a Church or if you don’t; if you live local or even if you don’t. Everyone is received with love and treated like family, even if we never see them again.
I just want to say as a recovering almost done. It IS possible to create a “church” for the dones, or those who are close. I believe every struggle is an opportunity to birth the “new” thing God is doing in the earth. Looks like Pastor Brian Bennett is doing just that!
Hi Christine, Thank you for sharing. Good to hear that you go back to the Acts of the Apostles model of doing Church. You are in the Right Church which is the One Body of Christ meant for All who believe Christ. I am excited to follow your group concept going back to the Acts of the Apostles model of doing Church. In 2010, I have left the traditional, religious, institutional Church when I found out that all the churches worldwide have been misled by the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) under the decree of Emperor Constantine since 321 AD and by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD whereby the Church (Pagan model) was first instituted. The mainstream churches today have been deceived and misled by RCC into a hierarchical system, dominated by the papacy heretical indoctrination since then. The reformer, M Luther led us out of the papacy but he could not have fully understood the gospel of Christ. We in these last days are more fortunate with accessibility of more information as our Redeemer is coming soon.
Steven shared on Facebook: “As a former elder (18th yrs), fully invested in a church that I was a founding member of, I understand that feeling of done. But I’m beginning to see, after 7yrs, that God is not interested in my comfort. I did not leave that church. The congregation refused to be led by those of that they had appointed to lead them. I resigned.
I have come to understand that God uses us seasonally. He may keep you in one place for your entire life. But He may not. I was involved in another group that brought life to students on a college campus for a season.
For the last 3 yrs I have been involved at a local church. I am content with just worshiping and fellowshiping. I have no deep desire to lead. Only to be His.”
I’ve been wrestling w/ a number of these questions since I was in seminary 25 yrs ago. Was in a Reformed Episcopal parish that was unlike anything I ever saw filled w/ spiritual refugees from *very well known* churches in So Cal that, for lack of a better term, were high energy Christian warehouses.Everything was big and loud and happy, happy, happy. And the folks coming to this very small parish in a nondescript office complex were just tired of being pumped up constantly. At this parish, doctrine mattered plus a liturgy that’s been around since, well, centuries. They were connecting to something more than just what the focus group was telling them to talk about or the extremely well paid consultants tell them in their “research”. Christianity has a history deeper than than an individual’s conversion story.
I ended up trying to emulate that as I was ordained in a traditional Reformed/Presbyterian denomination. It was like being part of a Borg collective. Deeply entrenched organizational culture w/ a rotating set of “elders” who are there to keep everyone in line. Preach about stuff “out there” and leave us alone. Sorry. I never followed the party line. 3 congregations in 10 yrs all w/ the same basic result. Got out.
What I fail to see in the discussion, however, is a singular word that I suspect the Dones understand but for whatever reason is avoided here just like the megachurches do. Ultimately it is sin that is at the heart of our brokenness. We, humanity in the image of God, have become blinded by what sin truly is and the consequences that accompany it. Yes, us Calvinists have been good at talking about sin. We have confession of sin in the weekly liturgy. But we’ve been lousy at recovering from it or even talking about individual sin. We’re respectable middle/upper middle class suburbanites w/ really good education and have reasonably successful careers.
But we can’t just treat our brokenness via a self-help group which is what many evangelical churches generally have done, exactly as Brian described. Get people volunteered. Getting involved means you see others are worse off than you. Self-worth improves. Another notch on the spiritual gun belt.
But if confronting sin really means honesty & humility as Brian described, that means being w/ people that society so very often treats as lepers. Reaching out and touching the untouchable. This is where the suburban churches fail so miserably as described. So, who are the real lepers of today’s society? Who are the people the church simply avoid and the people in the church cannot open up about? Who do we refuse to touch?
“God uses broken, messy people to help other broken, messy people,”
I inherited my mom’s low iron problem and when my mom recognized my lack of appetite and energy, she helped me for a time with giving me extra iron. Then after a few years of trial and error I got so I knew how much to take and how often. Now I’m the expert with this and no longer need my mother on this. In this case with my mom, I’m the done. She taught me what I needed to know and I practice what I learned. Church is somewhat the same. Your taught what you need to know for life and then you go live it. Unless you want to be a teacher or pastor, if you have that gift, church is not necessary.
I spent 30 minutes reading the article and the comments under the article. And all of the comments in this thread. I agree with everything that has been said both in the article and in this thread. But I also can’t help thinking about all the different times in my life that I have been impacted by organized religion. I have listened to hundreds and hundreds of Christian radio programs and Call-in programs and have had my faith and mind encouraged edified and challenged. I was 17 years old at an organized religion event when I realized God loves me. I have had tens of hundreds of questions answered by incredibly insightful godly men on Christian radio. So much of what we know about God has occurred in organized settings. Makes me wonder what we would all be like without that. I think of Augustine’s quote a little over 100 years after Christ when he said “The Church is a whore, but she’s also my mother”
[…] https://holysoup.com/pastoring-the-dones/ […]
The Weak-minded, Their Masters and In That Day Teachings
By Robert Winkler Burke 775-690-7293
Book #12 of In That Day Teachings
(Unless you say, Blessed is he (or she) that comes in the name (and nature) of the Lord, I say unto you your house shall remain desolate (of God… and you will be blind as a bat, spiritually speaking, as you spit on those whom Christ indwells.))
(…Popularity contests are not truth contests… Luke 6:26 The Message Bible)
(In That Day of high denouement, God wants “No MSG” churches, which is to say, “No Mesmerizing, No Shenanigans and No (brazen, sinful, ugly) Gall.”))
The NLP-conning weak-minded masters, (always taking advantage!)
Sell rotten dead fish, fish from bellies of rotten dead whales
Folks eat the putrefied-conning disasters, (not seeing their vantage?)
Buying no fresh fish, fresh fish with no death-making ails.
The weak-minded die,
Unaware, uninformed by their weak-minded masters,
Don’t ask masters why,
In That Day it’s always like this, only faster, faster!
In That Day says,
Wakeup weak-minded masters, there’s fresh fish to be caught,
Weak-minded masters say,
We must kill folk like you. We always do just what we ought!
In all of history, do the weak-minded,
Always need bullying and ravaging by weakminded masters?
And… are all prophets we find dead?
Or have some shown the path to higher and higher pastures?
The NLP weak-minded masters, (always taking advantage!)
Sell rotten dead fish from bellies of rotten dead whales,
Folk eat the the evil disasters, (not seeing their vantage?)
Until they SEE! … and begin loving In That Day’s tales!
You have been warned one thousand times, oh weak-minded masters,
You have been one thousand times generously warned!
Wake up or become rotten, plague-inflicted, cut mid-career: disasters,
By your own dishonorable deeds: generously harmed!
God would that all seers wake up,
To disception’s deeds brazenly done,
Confess all bad, all bad throw up,
Welcome Christ-in-You, God’s son.
In That Day Teachings speak of all this,
In almost every poem,
God’s gift to humankind’s future bliss,
A magnum opus tome!
Millions of people pray every day,
For a sight-increasing epic tome as is this,
In That Day Teachings: hurray?
Temporal minds can receive eternal bliss!
It’s hard to inject what’s eternal,
In the horribly compromised, temporal church world,
Leaders, it’s good, not infernal!
Wake up to the light. Be cleansed. Let Christ unfurl!
Enough with the naysaying,
Enough with trying to, of In That Day Teachings, gainsay it,
It’s the answer to praying,
When answers come, thru denouement, who can hurray it?
The NLP weak-minded masters, (always taking advantage!)
Sell rotten dead fish happily from bellies of rotten dead whales,
Folks eat these putrid disasters, (not seeing their vantage?)
Buying no fresh fish, receiving their masters’ death-mind ails.