Christians without Churches

kleinReinhold Scharnowski has some good thoughts on the Christians who won’t be turning up to a worship service today, but who are just as much a part of the family of God as anyone else.

Here is Reinhold’s post:
“John Barrett estimates that there are 112 Millions of churchless Christians – men, women and children who confess Christ as their Lord but do not belong to any of the traditional churches. This number is growing fast. I know at least 50 of them. Either this is the Great Apostasy or it is a Great Apostolic movement. Apostolic means “to be sent” – maybe many of these are “sent” out of the Church walls and into the world God so desperately loves? This would necessarily require a radical new-definition of “church”: liquid, dynamic, defined by relationships and not by meetings and structures. If we take this seriously – wow! If church is “the ever changing form of God`s mission into the world” (one of my own definitions), then church is – and has to be – a reflection of the way people live and relate to each other. I still believe in meetings – we will need them until the end, I think – but they are not the essence of church, just one of many ways church becomes visible.
This weekend is Pentecost – a great time to reflect more and deeper on these things that will determine my personal future a lot.”

Reinhold heads up DAWN Europe from his base in Switzerland. He will be participating in our Global Roundtable at Greenbelt Festival on August 26th. Should be great to have him here in England. His writings on postmodernity and its impact on the European emerging church may be the first written in the German language.

My friend Peter Brierley told me that he believes there are more Christians outside of church than inside church in Great Britain. From what i and Reinhold have seen, i would have to agree. Another friend, Alan Jamieson, wrote a book called “A Churchless Faith”. His research for the book showed that many of these people who have left are actually leaders who wanted to grow spiritually and could no longer do so in the confines of the established church.

I believe a deep ecclesiology has to allow for those outside the traditional “line” of what it means to be a Christian. Evangelicals and protestants have been outside the Roman catholic line in the past.
(I heard that the original word for line was “paga” from which we get the word pagan – one outside the line- I dont know Latin, but does anyone know more about that?).


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • PT says:

    that is profound
    christians without churches, i thought were christians without Christ at the centre
    but this is far from the truth
    to step out into the battle ground
    to be in the front line
    to walk that line requires a keener ear to listen to God’s still small voice
    one thing i worry about is accountability
    im sure we all need it, and with less people around there seems less accountability
    but this may just be a restructuring which is needed in my mind
    anyway i do think that we should find where God’s favour is, where we are anointed to go and do that
    do our utmost for his highest
    our paradigms should not rule us
    only Christ should

  • Susan says:

    People need a pastor, a helper for them to find their way. A source of inspiration, encouragement, discipleship, teaching, expressing, learning, etc., What a challenge. Is anyone up to meet the need of these churchless believers.

  • chad says:

    Paganus is the Greek word for “country-man” — someone who dwells outside the city. Perhaps it’s related to your “outside the line” notion. Pagans live outside the lines of the city? That would certainly throw cold water on the prevalent idea of the “big bad city.” 🙂

  • Christians without Churches

    Andrew Jones picks up an interesting post over at Reinhold’s Journey on ‘Christians without Churches’. ‘John Barrett estimates that there are 112 Millions of churchless Christians – men, women and children who confess Christ as their Lord but do not…

  • sasa says:

    not greek but latin word 🙂 otherwise true. interesting that pagina (latin for “page”) comes from the same root. pagus was originally a row of wine bushes in a field, hence paganus was a field man, countryman

  • Steve says:

    I wonder if “apostolic” can be separated from “church.” A rediscovery of the meaning of both terms is essential in the place where I live.

  • Did the first century house churches all have pastors? There were travelling teachers, like Paul, but did every church have the heirarchy that we have today? Is it possible to have a variety of church models and still be under God’s will? I think so. When two or more are gathered….

  • Andii says:

    I’m ordained yet I’ve found that, in moving out of a full-time church-based ministry, it became quite hard to feel comfortable in local churches when I wasn’t exercising a leadership role. This is not to do with needing to lead or be recognised or even to exercise my gifts, rather it was to do with the fact that I had begun to realise how churches look at feel to [some of]those outside them: and it isn’t always pretty. That’s no criticism of faithful people doing the best they can and working with what they have and eve responding to God in ways that make sense to them. It is simply that so much of church is out of sync with the actual concerns of people. I know that there is something about the gospel criticizing culture and human complacency, but I think I know what that looks like. I’m seeing something different here. A cosmetic version of the gospel which leaves people passionless and unmoved. An expression of churching ogether which fails to connect with who we are in the rest of our lives.
    Me? I can very well understand how come there are Christians who don’t connect with much of church today. I long to do what Mike Yaconelli claimed to do; to do church for those who don’t like church. Hey -that’s for me!

  • Willer says:

    hm – we have just made a study in a Danish context on young people growing up in church. We found that 40% left the church mainly because they didn’t have any tools to handle the cultural gap between churchreality and “real reality”. Their spiritual life was still very much alive they just didn’t need the church to live with the God… How can we be community to these people?

  • Andrew says:

    Good to see some response on Reinhold’s post. I met Alan face to face earlier this year in London, and gave a short blog posting on it . I also mentioned Alan in my Postmodern Church Time Capsule Number 3 (2001), under no. 6 – “Churchless Believers Got More Vocal”.
    You can buy Alan’s book “A Churchless Faith” , an excellent book despite its cheesy cover, or you can download some good resources about Alan’s thoughts directly from Jason Clark at his emergent folder .

  • Evers says:

    Very thought-provoking post & comments. Andrew, thank you again for your blog.
    I want to ask a question: Can one be a healthy Christian without engagement in a Christian community? “Do not neglect meeting together… wherever 2 or more are gathered, if they had been of us they would not have gone out from us…”, all the “you plurals” in the NT… I don’t mean this in some sort of legalistic way — “If you’re not in worship 4 times a month, you’re out of the holy huddle!” But don’t we need each other? Accountability, encouragement, forgiveness, counsel, prayer, corporate worship, etc. Never mind the need to hear preaching of the Gospel and to receive the Sacrament (I’m a Lutheran, what can I say?). To try to be a Chrisitan without being in a Chrisitan community seems to be more about absolute individualism than about imitating & participating in the Triune life of God.

  • Andrew says:

    Hi Eric (Evers),
    it might help to backtrack a little to Reinhold’s original post and also to the times when i have talked about singular church and modular church. but let me say now that we are talking about millions of Christians who do not attend worship services, but who may actually be MORE involved in Christian community, some on a daily basis in and out of each others homes, than those who only turn up to an organized meeting.
    This would include a lot of urban monastery people, house church people, organic community people, and those that journey beyond the radar of the institutional church. Some have left the church because they were not getting the things you mentioned, rather than running from them.
    Does the Lutheran church in USA have any scope for organic/house based structures? I have been to Spirit Garage – the Lutherans first pomo/alternative church in Minnesota – but what about Lutherans who want to church without the traditional ecclesiastic structure. Are there only two choices for them (attendence or non-attendence)?
    And how is Moby’s new CD?

  • Evers says:

    Thanks for the helpful response! I was, at first, envisioning some sort of “Lone Ranger” Christianity, but that seems not at all to be what you’re talking about. Very cool. It sounds like people who have left institutional congregations, but are still very much a part of the church – they may not be showing up as numbers on some denominational statistical report, but they are a part of living Christian community. Amen to that!
    As far as what the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) has for organic/ house-based structures: bleah. The denomination just isn’t there, and its energy is being wastefully poured into other, much less healthy, matters. Some congregations are doing very exciting small house group/ large group celebration models, but they are, sadly, viewed with a lot of suspicion by denominational powers-that-want-to-be. On a much smaller scale, I am very excited that one of the cell groups we’ve gotten started over the last year here is starting to get the experience of being the real “front door” into the life of the congregation.
    Re: Voodoo Child. Not too shabby. I’m far, far from a techno aficionado, but I like it. The songs that I’ve rated in iTunes have all gotten 4-5 stars.
    Thanks again for the blog. Peace!

  • What is church and why do we need it?

    TallSkinnyKiwi wrote this article about Christians without churches. There are so many faithful Christians that don’t fit into a “normal” church building. I’ve witnessed countless of my fellow believers judged, condemned, even kicked out of churches …

  • Mike says:

    First, the church is a body (as I will show later). This body must be made of Christians.
    23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (Eph. 5:23)
    Christians need to congregate in some form.
    25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10)
    The churh is meant to be a body.
    12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (1 Cor. 12)
    27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. (1 Cor. 12)
    These verse are clear, we as Christians, are to form a body. This body can be a huge church, and it can also be a small group in a living room. However, we can not be seperated, scattered and churchless. Why?
    Because you can not function as a body with your members scattered across the country.
    God bless.

  • Andrew says:

    Hi Mike
    thanks for showing us that.
    I believe that Christians congregate in many, many forms, and sometimes those forms include a regular worship service (i am talking about our recent modern invention that we call a service) and sometimes they do not.
    I wouldnt say that it is impossible for believers all over a country to gather together. Throughout history, followers of Yahweh have pilrimaged across their country to turn up at significant festivals either once a year or a few times a year. Jesus himself turned up at many of these during his lifetime (he got left behind at one when he was 12) and during his ministry he would congregate in a festival and participate.
    We have made this a regular habit of our family and we encourage others to similarly gather in a festival type group larger than their church or denomination to help show the unity we share as the body of Christ.
    We have been to Cornerstone Festival (USA), Freakstock (Germany) and now in UK we will be involved in Greenbelt Festival in August.
    I believe that these gatherings at week-long festivals is not only Biblical in example, but highly recommended as an important rythmn of our Christian spirituality.
    Mike, what would you say if i asked you which festival you will be attending this year?
    As for being scattered and seperated, my observation is that the opposite is true. It is more likely that believers are too caught up in programs with other believers to be involved in ministry to outsiders. My challenge over the last 2 decades has been to see believers gather AND scatter. We are expert in gathering and even more expert in discussing our gathering. Scattering is a much harder challenge. But Jesus told us to go.
    We have the Scriptures to guide us:
    The early Christians were in each others houses almost every day, they shared money with each other, they sold property and gave the proceeds to benefit the poor, they shared their busineses together. these verses are clear. And they were traveling, and moving about to share the story of Jesus wherever they went.
    Finding the balance – now that is a challenge. Isnt it?
    I wish that more people were scattered and sent into where God is leading them. I pray that millions of believers will hear God’s voice and GO to the billions who are still waiting for interpreation of THE STORY. Those people will find themselves in spiritually sparse environments where there will be no regular worship services. They will appreciate the gathering experiences when they are lucky enough to receive them, but for the most part, they will be pouring out their lives in loneliness and isolation. They will have to be creative in the way they do church, and i pray that someone will be there to encourage them, and not dampen their spirits. For they are also a part of the body of Christ, just as we are (1 cor 12;27) and not any less of a part.
    The Roman Catholics thought that we protestants were “seperated bretheren” but they were wrong. We were bretheren. We were believers. Even though we didnt turn up at their program every Sunday.
    Are we protestants/evangelicals doing the same thing? Are we now looking at a historical loop in which we are the new Popery despising those who do not enter our sacred buildings and calling them “seperated”?

  • Steve says:

    In response to the following statement posted May 30’th by PT…
    People need a pastor, a helper for them to find their way. A source of inspiration, encouragement, discipleship, teaching, expressing, learning, etc., What a challenge. Is anyone up to meet the need of these churchless believers.
    I’ve discovered that I have a really great Shepherd. You can read about Him in Psalm 23.
    I’ve also discovered that He has provided me with a pretty good Helper (John 16:7-13) and that I need no mam to teach me (1’ST John 2:27, John 14:6) for He really is leading me into all truth. If I can’t get my inspiration from Him, who can do it better?

  • URBANarmy says:

    if Church was just….

    …Is it any wonder that the fastest growing church in the west is the “Church of the Churchless Christian”? Dissatisfaction, discontent, frustration, lack of fulfilment seems to be spelling out that the ‘latest worship song fix’, interspersed with f…

  • Lucy says:

    It’s the mindset and structure of traditional church isn’t it. There is an attitude there has to be leaders running the show. That if there were no leaders it would all fall apart.
    It takes a paradigm shift to understand that outside of the structured churches we dont need leaders to run things and show us what we must do. Jesus is the one who does that, and we are all ministers to each other. This is freedom in Christ, to do as he leads us, not as a leader tells us.

  • charles says:

    I have been a christian over 22 years and I haven’t been to a church in about 5 years. I left because of the things i experienced while in church. ( I have been a sunday school teacher, preacher and assistant pastor). I looked for years for a good church and I always found the same thing, dis-honesty, and use of Gods word to accomplish someones personal goals and not God’s. I know there are good, honest christians out there, I just haven’t found them.

  • yes2truth says:

    Hi to you all,
    Here is God’s Equation for the world.
    The lost and/or unsaved = Billions
    The deluded and/or decieved Christians = Millions
    The saved or those Born Again = 7,000 (as in the story of Elijah and metaphorically speaking)
    Many are called but few chosen.
    I have not attended a ‘church’ for seven years.
    Feel free to e-mail me:

  • Dayan says:

    I attend church regularly but have no cell group. Any issues? Some people told me I was not really a Christian because I do not attend a cell group, therefore unable to take part of any church activities such as outreach programes, etc. But I do evangelise to pre-believers wherever I met one. I admit I do not do my quiet times alot, so far only once this year.
    I attend service at faith community baptist church in singapore.

  • Jason says:

    You worship God by showing appreciation for what he creates and respecting life.
    The world outside is his church.
    No one is perfect but as long as you try and care for others and get back on track its never too late.
    I just try and be a good Christian, Im rough round the edges but my heart is pure.
    Maybe the Birthplace of Christianity is Scotland and people wanted to copy it from the Picts….the children of god….the Ancient.
    They fought Roman legions naked with no fear, tattoos to adorn the body, not deface it, people of honor.
    Ceasar came himself to see.
    When the Romans withdrew from the UK, they lefr behind women to breed into the population for 7 generations before revealing themselves. (Mafia initiation ceremony line ).
    The MacGregor Clan had the Pict royal bloodline hidden in it, which is why they were persecuted so badly. I am one with the pict royal bloodline.
    They never stopped hunting us down..
    The RC church are part of the mafia, so I refuse to worship in their church and they lied about christianities origin.

    I love Gods creation, I just refuse to worship false idols.
    The Meek inheit the Earth, not the sell out flogs, so have a little faith.

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