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Lyle Schrag D.Min.

So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore

There is a book that has developed something of a cult following among frustrated pastors and bloggers who yearn to be “organic” Christians. It has a controversial title that is guaranteed to stimulate discussion: So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore. Written by Jake Colsen [actually by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman who created a pseudonym out of their partnership] the book has an indy feel to it. You can download it for free from www.jakecoleman.com/Jakespreads.pdf.
As is becoming common from the emerging church template, the book written as a conversation between an ancient disciple [John] and a modern day believer [Jake] as a way to reexamine the statusquo of Church life. For some, the book is troubling … for other, it is a challenge. In essence, the church as an organization is viewed as guilty for distracting people from the true mission of Jesus. No matter what the nature of the organization – traditional church or house church – each are taken to task for obscuring true spiritual growth with the performance of religious exercises.
No matter what you think about it [and personally, I think that the criticism of Church as an organized body with rituals that create a common voice is simplistic, misguided, and in some cases prejudicial. The fact is, there was a bit more organization and common voice in both the New Testament and the early church than the “relationship based fellowship” presented in the book] … back to my thought, No Matter what reaction you have to the book, the one thing that I do appreciate is the nudge for leaders to engage in a more sincere and deliberate ministry of spiritual formation.
Just one clip from the book:
If church can be this simple, John, how do leaders fit in all of this? Don’t we need elders and pastors and apostles?”
“For what?”
“Doesn’t someone need to be in charge and organize things so people will know what to do?” Marvin was almost beside himself. I cringed inside knowing he wasn’t going to hear what he wanted.
“Why, so people can follow someone else instead of following Jesus? Don’t you see we already have a leader? The church gives Jesus first place in everything and it will refuse to let anyone else crawl up in his seat.”
“So leaders aren’t important either?”
“Not the way you’ve been taught to think of them. One can hardly conceive of body life today without an organization and a leader shaping others with their vision. Some love to lead; others desperately want to be led. This system has made God’s people so passive most can’t even imagine living without a human leader to identify with. Then we wonder why our spirituality falls so painfully short. Read through the New Testament again and you’ll find there is very little focus on anything like leadership as we’ve come to think of it today.”
“But there were elders and apostles and pastors, weren’t there?”
“There were, but they weren’t out front leading people after their personal visions, they were behind the scenes doing exactly what you have on your heart to do, Marvin—helping people to live deeply in Christ so that he can lead them! Elders won’t end up managing machinery, but equipping followers by helping them find a real relationship with the living God. That’s why he asked us to help people become his disciples and why he said that he would build his church. Let’s focus on our task and let him do his.”
And don’t think that non-traditional churches get away with much either.”
It’s a stimulating, sometimes disturbing, read … which raises some poignant questions for any leader. In reading the flurry of blog discussions about the book, one set of questions arose that made the debate worth the trouble:
When I structure things am I facilitating sincere devotion to Christ or am I steering people to perform religious exercises to meet others expectations? Will people come out of this with a greater devotion to Christ and a pure love for others, or will they be motivated by guilt or fear?

8 Responses to “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore”


  • I’m not sure that I would describe this book as an emergent(ing) church conversation. Have you seen these guys pictures? LOL! All joking aside, I would have to say that much of what they say rings true of church institutions across America. Does John’s description of Jesus or the church sometimes blur biblical lines or examples? Maybe? I think the most revealing piece was the idea of people always getting what they seek. Why are so many believers unsatisfied with their “church” experience and their walk with Father? Why do so many people fight to the death for their version of the “institution” or their desire to accommodate self-need? If churches are guiding people to the right source (Vine) would people feel this way? If we were really pointing people to Jesus’ yoke would they feel so weighed down and frustrated? Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If a person feels weighed down they are probably carrying the wrong yoke. Unfortunately, most of the time, the pastors/teachers/rabbis/spreaders of the yoke are the ones to blame. As a pastor, I find the book all too similar to my experiences and my pastor friends experiences over the past couple of decades with the church institution. I’ve made the same mistakes, and I’ve experienced the same nagging hollowness and fatigue. It’s time to be the church rather than go to church.

  • Ok, i suppose i have a few positives and several negatives. I guess ill start with the positives. Despite the fact that i found myself in profound disagreement with “John” on several issues, there are some excellent points he makes that can serve to caution us to examine our motives. He also reminds us not to allow outselves to just become part of the “machinery.” I get the impression that the book was written with great sincerity and with the intent to free people.

    That being said… I tend to think that the general theme of the book was rather simplistic and gave evidence of the authors’ predisposition to blame the contemporary church for almost every problem or disfunction in the life of the church members. Disillusioned?…Obviously your church has failed to provide an authentic forum for faith. Bitter?…Must be because you were manipulated and used by self righteous power mongers. Stressed? …Must be because the church is pulling you one way while God is beckoning you in another. They fail to address these states of being as a common to the human condition. The book implies progressive freedom from such problems, only once freed from the bondage that church imposes. I say, the church is filled with people, people are flawed and sinful, therefore chuch is not without baggage. Can churches be found that reflect their jaded characiture of hypocrital religion? Sure. Do all or even most churches operate with such mercenary motives? I strongly doubt it. I know a good deal of people that strike me as sincerely wanting to serve others. I dont get the impression that they are part of some grand shame-management scheme. I honestly believe they have, in their zeal to shed light on the “scheme” of organized religion, used a straw man argument. They address only the easiest church stereotypes. The “worship” song that Jake overhears has questionable lyrics that are easy to critque. Convenient that they didnt overhead “On Christ the solid Rock i Stand.” It would have been much more difficult to illustrate the shallowness of church with it. When Jake’s former church grew it was because two other churches were “hemmoraging” as one pastor left scandal-ridden and the other left for a larger congregation. It would have been much more difficult to explain the church growth had there been no scandal to refer to. The authors set up straw man after straw man and then knock them down. I was rather disappointed because the discussion could have been so much more engaging but for me, it ended up being profoundly frustrating.

  • I thought the book was so profound.

    If you think they were setting up straw men, let me give you a little of our church history.

    1st church, well known Pastor is put back into ministry only 3 months after an emotional affair with a woman. He tells us that he doesn’t have to meet the requirements in Titus and Timothy because he is not an elder or deacon, he’s a pastor. Hows that for spin?
    2nd church, pastors wife gets hooked on prescription drugs, he separates from her, saying he will never divorce her, two weeks later he marries church secretary.
    3rd church pastor divorces wife and marries church secretary that wife was accusing him of having an affair with, which he denied.
    4th church, single pastor marries a woman that looks like a hooker, she starts having “discernment” about people causing him to distrust everyone, head elder loves to play games by pitting people against each other with out and out slander, apparently got kicks out of stirring up trouble. Church split 1 yr later.
    5th church, pastor has a little problem with wanting to buy a 3 million dollar building with only 50 to 75 members, he gets his building, church dies from giving, giving, giving.
    6th church, pastor is trying to outreach to non christians, unfortunately he is in desperate need of someone discipleship himself. He puts men in eldership that have never even read the bible, worship leader is fired for having a drinking problem, same problem he had at last church, no one checked references I guess.
    7th and last church, I get an email from our pastor whom we love dearly, apparently 3 people have accused me of calling him a false teacher, (how could you do this to me!!?? he accuses me.) No one will tell me who my accusers are or what I reportedly said. After 6 horrible weeks of deliberation, they determined that altho’ I was innocent of the charges, I was certainly the problem because I vehemently demanded that they follow the bible and send one person to confront me. Elder thought
    I seemed “angry” How Very disrespectful of “leadership”. I “obviously have a problem with their authority” by even challenging the slanders. Huh? Blame the victim.
    We left as quietly as possible, now the church has had a nasty split.
    No, I don’t want to go to church anymore and Jesus is my everything. We’re just having a hard time surviving “church” :(
    Its better to stay at home, but “Jake” has given us hope.
    If Christ is the head of His church, would He really be making disaster after disaster?
    No Way!
    It must be that others are trying to play the 4th part of the Trinity.
    We would love to go to a church, but we find it too dangerous to our spiritual health.
    I cannot express to you how much I love Jesus
    and the family of God, but we aren’t sure what to do.
    Church is only safe for those who do not get connected or minister to others.
    If you get connected, you see too much.
    If you serve in a church, you become a target for small minded people who really think that they own, not only the church, but all the people in it.

    • We have experianced the same thing over and over again. In one church many years ago I witnessed a crime and my testimony put 2 men in prison. Not only did I find out that church is not a safe place especially for children, but that they really don’t seem to care about you. We also Love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our hearts, and feel guilty for not going to church, but where do we find one that we can feel safe in again? Time after time I talk to people and it is the same no one trusts anyone. How can you build a strong church with out it? I pray the Lord to be our Shepherd untill we can find a group of people who really want to do this right.

    • I think Jake is on to something, we just left a church where a woman was a Pastor. She asked me if we would have trouble with that, but because she was so kind we tried it. After much study, my husband and I couldn’t find one scripture supporting a woman pastor, and at the same time talking with her on the phone she made a statement that she had to preach conditions. In other words, preach that Jesus Loves people, then turn around and threaten them, that doesn’t make for a atmosphere where people can be nurtured in the Lord. Her grandaughter is suffering from morbid obesity, and her 3 grown children all are struggling. People look beat down there. We left after about 3 months. I tried to show her that the Lord would never leave us nor forsake us. I think people are tired of Hirelings, Pastors who are hired, Jesus even warned of this when he spoke about it, that hirelings didn’t care for the sheep but if a wolf attacked they would run. I am not looking for a leader to control me, and what about clergy and laity, why do clergy have to be seperate from the laity? Every human being on planet earth needs to bow their knee to Jesus Christ, all have sinned, then why do pastors act like they didn’t? Perhaps America is getting a wake up call to go back to the First Love, Leaders who are feeding themselves instead of the Flock. Since when should the Pastor be seperate from the people, he must be saved just like everyone else? What happened to serving, humility, having a servants heart?

  • You claim to love Jesus, and I believe you. It sounds like you have had quite the list of church problems. You should know that we all have. As Jeff said, the Church is made up of people. It will always be messy.

    What is important to understand, however, is that Christ died for the Church. And then he set up the Local Church for us – believers – to live out our faith with one another. It’s kind of like how he gives us a family to live life with. Growing up, my family was pretty messy. Sometimes, I didnt want to be a part of them. I even hated them at times. But they are still my family. It wouldnt make sense to tell my family that I am still part of them, I still love them very much, but I never want to spend time with any of them again.

    Have you ever had a bad experience at a restaurant? I have. Have you had more than one bad experience at a restaurant? I have. But, I went out to eat last night. Many bad experiences eating out has not caused me (or you, I would guess) to never eat out again. I dont dare compare commitment to eating out with the commitment we are to have to the Local gathering of believers.

    Just as there is no way to God but through Jesus Christ, there is no way to live out our faith on earth except in community with other believers in submission to the Elders (Spiritually mature men) of that community as Biblically prescribed.

    I am so sorry that you have had so many bad things happen in your life caused by the sin of other people (namely church leaders). However, though it may seem to do more harm to attend church, I fear you are doing more harm to your spiritual condition in your choice to abandon the local church gathering.

    Read Acts 2, Ephesians 5, and I Cor. 12

    Dont give up on the church – Jesus Christ didnt.

  • As for the book, I agree with Jeff:)

  • This is a truly remarkable book!! It made me think and it helped me believe!! This in large part answers the question; What went wrong with the modern church?

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