I think it was Reggie McNeal who first said, “People…are not leaving the church because they have lost their faith. They are leaving to preserve their faith.”
That statement may be shocking — even heretical — to some, but I suspect that for many it is enlightening, effectively explaining declining church attendance, albeit in a disconcerting and confronting manner. But for a growing number of folks, this quip either gives voice to the ache in their hearts or offers credence to their faith journey.
When I first heard this statement, it immediately resonated with me, explaining a spiritual angst that I saw around me. Today, however, my comprehension of this idea has grown to underscore my own spiritual angst. Though I still attend an institutional church, I suspect that I no longer belong there.
An amazing friend is seeing this played out. Increasingly she is meeting those who love Jesus, but no longer “go to church.” Although they long for meaningful community and connection with other like-minded believers, they do not find it in the typical Sunday morning church service — so they give up.
However, there are a growing number of viable alternatives. For my friend it is a house church. For others is may be a “small group,” a parachurch organization, or simply an intentional meeting with others who share their faith journey or faith questions.
To the disenfranchised, I encourage you not to give up. Keep seeking until you find the spiritual community that your heart longs for. It is out there.