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.