Leaving Church

Just want to say three things about leaving church.

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1. People have left the church.

This is not news to you, especially if you read this blog. Many people (millions, actually) are leaving church in order to find Jesus and a new form of communal life not stifled by dead institutions.

Am I talking ’bout YOU? Got a story? A new website just opened called LettersfromLeavers.com which will accept your story and publish on their blog. And when i say “new” I mean co-creator Tim Bowers just told me its up and your letter might be the very first letter if you submit it today with your story of why you left church and what you are doing now.

2. Jesus has left the building

Paul Vieira has published a great little book called Jesus Has Left The Building with a forward from the Kiwi I would most like to meet – Winkie Pratney. Its an easy read. Paul writes in a casual manner why he left the church to find real Christian community. The book is good and worth reading, and I think young people will resonate with its casual informal tone. But it is not an intellectually stimulating book, if that is your bag. Neither is it a high powered pep-talk for people who think house church and simple church is the next NEW BIG THANG. If thats your style, you might like George Barna’s Revolution, or for even more Turtle-wax, try Jim Rutz’s MegaShift. But if you are one of the millions who have left church or are feeling a little “excommunication envy” [not a real word, i just made it up] then Paul’s book has the content AND the tone of the actual conversation. Paul also started a new blog so go and say hello and tell him he is either a HERO or a HERETIC for leaving the church. I am sure he has heard both before.

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3. There is church beyond the 4 walls.

Alan Jamieson sent me his book Churchless Faith back in 2001. I blogged it as part of that years “Postmodern Church Time Capsule” and, I believe, introduced it to my little emerging church world in 2002. Alan hasn’t sent me his new book “Called Again” so I wont even mention it here. But his first book is a good resource for those looking at faith journey’s beyond the traditional church structure and a challenge for churches to take care of the sheep on other pastures. It has a chapter entitled “Leaver-sensitive Churches” [sample] in which Alan gave a strong challenge to churches to care for the sheep who have left church as well as the ones who stay.

Paul Whiting, another Kiwi who writes about Simon Jones’s book “Why Bother With Church?” has a good blog post on Alan regarding this:

“In the Gospels, Jesus reflected the imagery of Ezekiel 34 when he spoke of the difference between shepherds and hired hands: the latter are ambivalent about the safety of individual sheep, while the former leave the ninety-nine in search of the one who wanders off. “Like the hired hands,” Jamieson says, “it would appear that they [New Zealand EPC leaders] are happier sitting with the flock than doing the hard work, maybe even personally risky work, of scouring the heights and ledges for those who have wandered off.”

Also, Alan’s notes from his meeting with us in London are worth reading and so is my post called Christians without Churches

Go Further: If you live in the UK and have left the church, but have not abandoned the body of Christ and still want you and your friends to be a part of God’s misson and party, send me an email to let me know who you are and a link to your website if you have one. We are putting together a website that will be dedicated to empowering people like you to be the church where you are.

Also, Len H. has some thoughts on leaving church and Wolfgang Simson’s book comes out in 2 weeks – check back here for a review.

Factoid: 4 Kiwis were mentioned in this post. A Kiwi is someone who was born in New Zealand. It is also a native NZ bird, a shoe polish, and a fruit formerly known as the Chinese gooseberry.


Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)


  • very interesting idea with lettersfromleavers. I could write a long letter, but I am in denominational work so I better not, someone might read it. but seriously, although I was being serious, I hope that as a denomination we can learn how to help and connect with those who are leavers, not to “keep them in the ranks” but to, in a sense, create new ranks.
    thanks for the site!

  • Got a story? A new website just opened called LettersfromLeavers.com which will accept your story and publish on their blog. And when i say “new” I mean co-creator Tim Bowers just told me its up and your letter might be the very first letter if you submit it today with your story of why you left church and what you are doing now.
    Neat…ok, done that. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Leaving Church

    TallSkinnyKiwi (Andrew) writes about leaving church. Food for thought on the increasing discontentment with traditional churches in three references he provides:
    Letters From Leavers
    Jesus Has Left The Building
    A Churchless Faith

  • Funny, I just left my church, or was kinda pushed out depends on how you see it. I will be posting my letter on the leavers page but I am not really discouraged, just anxious to see what is next.

  • This post makes me feel a lot better about some of my, “Need to get out of here,” thoughts. (It’s not about *not* loving Jesus. It’s just about being able to be alive).

  • I think its fascinating how closely “leaving church” and “house church” are intertwined in many people’s minds. I’ll take that as a compliment–we try to be a safe place for those questioning faith and institution, some who are even considering a final departure from both.
    At the same time, though, I feel more church-oriented as a house church guy these past 9 years than I ever did as an “you can go to church without being a Christian” card-carrying evangelical. Seriously, the importance of community life, sharing, and “bottom-up” worship as part of a locatable, tangible group of people has never been stronger. I feel in some ways like I became Catholic or something. Except, of course, for our complete lack of clergy, buildings, or much of a budget.
    In another facet, an American, Barbara Brown-Taylor recently released a memoir, Leaving Church. I haven’t read it yet, but some friends tell me it’s great.

  • Andrew,
    Thanks these a great resources. I’m in a strange spot where I just feel something is missing when I’m in church and I don’t want to go church shopping. What I really long for is Christian community and living out the gospel.
    Prayers please

  • I’ve known Winkie Pratney for about 30 years. One of the 3 or 4 smartest people I have met in my life. An excellent communicator, brilliant thinker, futurist, etc. etc. Plus, an all-around great guy.

  • Good words and reads Andrew, thanks for this. Its hard to know where to turn when you’ve been burned or who to turn to. Prayers and blessings that people connect here in ambundance 🙂

  • I can’t speak for others (except those who have confided in me on the subject), but here’s my experience/take on the leaving church and house church thing. First, leaving church. I can relate 100% to the frustration and downright sickness at the state of most churches in America. It’s the same story, over and over, coast to coast. Lifeless (non)worship, stale, out-of-a-box (not to be confused with outside-the-box) sermons, hierarchical red tape (not to mention, scandal) and a complete lack of communal brother/sisterhood. Throw in a few personal squibbles and there you have it. So there’s definitely something drastic happening across the U.S. However, it’s a bit too far of a logical leap to conclude (despite anecdotal evidence) that this is because the church has been too “institutionalized” for the majority of the last 2,000 years. I’ll be the first to denounce Constantinian Christendom. And we can find errors in every faith tradition, including mainline, Orthodox, Catholic, evangelical, and emerging ones. But the art of sound ecclesiology is not following the “NEXT BIG THANG” as Andrew insinuated, which includes present manifestations of Ancient-Future churches, home church fellowships, and intentional communities.
    Second, home church. I’m no longstanding veteran like some (most) of you all, but I was part of one for long enough (a year) to gain a pretty thorough perspective. In fact, I co-founded a “church” called The Core, which we envisioned being a network of home churches with various cooperative manifestations in inner-city Springfield, MO (it’s still going, pretty strong under the leadership of my friend/co-founder Ryan). My thoughts had been very influenced by Bonhoeffer, Stedman, Nee, Hunter, Sine, Brimlow, Hauerwas, Viola… you get the idea. So I was pretty familiar with the theory behind it all. And, for the most part, it was a good experience. Unfortunately, most of us found it pretty stifling before too long. It didn’t quite “catch fire” as it has in the Eastern world. The fellowship was great. The discussions were good. And it was at least authentic (although several people held themselves back significantly). In fact, we even purchased a decrepit, turn of the century home downtown, renovated it, and lived there for 2 and-a-half years. We persuaded others to move into the area. We became very active in our neighborhood association (I served on its board of directors) and our community in general. My wife and I got jobs within walking distance from our home so we could bike to work (mine, in community development, hers in the arts). Our desire was to birth a radically Christ-centered, urban community of disciples. Incarnationally. Holistically. Would you agree that we put our money where our mouths were? But it didn’t work–for us.
    Now my wife, daughter and I have moved to Chicago and have found a slightly bigger church (about 6000 between all the services and 3 campuses), and it’s been amazing (so far). Better than any church we’ve been apart of in our 25/24 years of existence. They also have a huge emphasis on small groups. So I guess experience has virtually everything to do with your perspective on church. Great churches are rare these days. But they do exist, in all forms. The large church we are a part of now is far superior to the one we helped plant. Of course, we may have just been lousy church planters. Or maybe it was the wrong wineskin for us. I am a visionary, leader, preacher-type. That’s how I’m wired. But I’ve found that people serious about following Christ holistically need someone(s) with a passionate, Biblical vision to lead them. Otherwise, why would they read your blog? Or The Ooze? Or McLaren? Or Newbigin? Or…? We might lead in more cutting edge ways, but we’re all leaders and followers of someone(s) or something(s). It just so happens to be more postmodern (convenient?) to follow people half way across the country (or world). That way we can remain anonymous and avoid our leaders seeing us for who we truly are… seeing through our smokescreens…helping us deal with our sin (adequately). At least this is my perspective…as an insider.

  • Yeah, maybe so. Since I didn’t technically “leave the church”, I wasn’t sure if my story fit there, but I guess it couldn’t hurt. Thanks!

  • matt
    as our family moves around the world, we end up doing what we believe God wants from us at each city. that has meant a variety of models.
    sounds like you are doing the same.

  • Ahh, yes. That’s the missional thing to do. Listening to Stetzer right now. Wonder if SBC will give him any creedence. Doubt it, for about another couple decades.

  • Metrosexual Evangelicals Caused Me to Leave My Church
    Since becoming a Christian over twenty years ago, I have seen a lot of things come and go in the Evangelical Church here in Southern California. As a very young man, the thing we had to deal with in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was the backlash against Evangelicalism due to the Jim and Tammy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals that rocked America during that era. Almost every conversation I had with non Christians during that time period was directed back to the scandals of one too many big time electronic media pastors who gut busted fleecing their flocks or with one illicit affair or another.
    Yet, as I recall that era of American Evangelicalism, things were much different back then, truth was truth and most conservative Evangelicals had a conception of what was true and what was unbiblical. We knew that Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Roman Catholics were unbiblical and many of us attempted to demonstrate from the Bible that these things were so.
    But we have reached darker times in American Evangelicalism…
    In our postmodern day and age, things have changed big time. Very few Evangelicals know the essential truths of the Christian faith and almost no Christian will take a stand for the truth if it will make him or her unpopular.
    In our pragmatic times, most Christians avoid controversy and confrontation as though it were worst than the AIDS virus. Most Christians I know these days have no convictions and tolerate the most wretched heresies and lifestyles to occur right under their noses. Most Christians I meet these days have very little doctrinal conviction and even less ability to defend their faith if they should encounter a false teaching.
    As I survey the current milieu and culture of American Evangelicalism here in Southern California, I have seen many Evangelical Christians fall away into false teachings because they were not grounded in the essential truths of the Christian faith and very few Christians around them would take a stand against these false teachings when it mattered.
    Evangelical Churches and colleges are now moving away from Biblical verse by verse preaching to being proponents and representatives of seeker sensitive, pragmatic and Emergent Church religion filled with sentimental falsehood. Formerly staunch Evangelical Churches and educational institutions have become bastions of Postmodern relativism where very few Christians know the truth let alone stand for the truth.
    In Southern California Christianity today, the type of man that is admired is the nice likable guy, the metro-sexual Evangelical, the good guy with the frosted hair, tight black t shirt and the tight faded jeans who is whimsical conversationalist and attempts to tolerate every-ones beliefs and lifestyle irrespective of how contrary to the Bible those beliefs and practices are.
    Today’s Church is filled with what I would like to christen the “Metro-Sexual” Evangelical. This is the type of Evangelical male who places more emphasis on his personal grooming and appearance than what the Bible teaches. The Metro-Sexual Evangelical is the rock star wannabe, the smooth operator with all the lady friends who tolerates everything and anything in the Christian Church because he does not the know the first thing about what Biblical Christianity is.
    The Metro-Sexual Evangelical has risen to popularity and prominence in most Evangelical churches and colleges in Southern California because a generation of American Evangelicals have become pragmatic compromisers and distanced themselves from any semblance of authentic Biblical Christianity.
    The real man and woman of God who cares about what is happening with American Christianity will learn what the Bible teaches and what is authentic and historic Evangelicalism is and will avoid the “Metro-Sexual Evangelical” who is destroying the Church with his compromised lifestyle and lack of Biblical knowledge and discernment.
    The question is, are there any Biblical men left in American Christianity?
    The time has come to leave the women’s jeans and Metro-Sexual Evangelical behind and return to the historic Evangelical Christian faith based on the authority of the Bible alone, that teaches that there is still truth and falsehood in the world today, that teaches that Evangelical doctrine matters, that teaches that Jesus Christ is still God the Son, that teaches that the Trinity is still true, that teaches that the Bible is still the inerrant Word of Almighty God, that teaches that men and women are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
    Evangelical man and woman of God, let’s leave the Metro-Sexual Evangelical behind and take a stand for Jesus Christ in our generation. Let’s know our God and know our Bibles and stand for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints even if its not the popular thing to do.

  • Did anyone else notice that all or most of the letters from leavers were from people who completely left Christianity. More than just leaving the “institutional” church, but the church altogether.
    Althought I happen to agree with your comment at the beginning of this post,
    “Many people (millions, actually) are leaving church in order to find Jesus and a new form of communal life not stifled by dead institutions”
    It doesn’t look like, at least at this point, this website is addressing the needs of those people to vent. I’m curious what others think of this.
    I also wonder what it is about these “de-churched” agnostic/atheists that make them want to keep talking about their “non-faith”?
    A couple of questions to ponder. Thanks for the great info!!!

  • Thanks for the offer of having a link to my website. Thought this might be of interest to some of your readers.
    Kind regards

  • I’ve been involved in a cell-church since I first came to my college. Lately, I can’t help but feel like I’ve traded my unique personality for a group personality thing. New people come to lifegroup but I feel like it’s a big deja vu after a few semesters. I don’t want to burn any bridges but they’re sounding a little worn out. The church that they meet at seems to have less sermon variety than the church my parents go to (I’m referring to the topics, it’s not ONLY evangelism but the whole Bible). I kept giving my time, even some of my money, and feel like this church at college is not going to change topics.

  • The Real Jesus was a man of truth and love; a giver not a taker. A man who wanted nothing from this material world; the wealth of the church would be abhorrent to him. He followed the path of Love and he became perfect in Love. Love is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
    The church has hijacked his message and twisted it to suit their own selfish desires. You will not find a Christian, who has true love within that does not have inner conflict because of the false doctrines and misinterpretations that the church teaches. You only have to look at the churches wealth and power to see that their way if not the way of Jesus. If you search for Jesus, the Truth and Love, then visit my website:
    http://www.the2ndcomingishere.com You will not find fear and guilt thrust upon you and you will know how special you really are.

  • Is it any wonder that people are leaving the church in droves? You go to church, get told how much you suck and then get told that Jesus made it better, but you still suck. It’s just dizzying, isn’t it?
    It seems to me that the church cuts off the branch that it rests on simply by its existence. The church is supposed to facilitate a relationship between a real person (like you) and god. but is that what happens? nah. instead doesn’t it seem like the people in any church organization become clones of each other, using the same language, same jokes and even the same perspective on nearly everything?
    is it any wonder that in an age of self-actualization there are more and more people who want to be individuals and not part of a herd, simply doing what they are told?
    if you are interested, come to
    let me know what you think…

  • It’s an amazing and wonderful thing that so many people are awakening from the deception in the world which conflicts with Love and Truth. There are many questions being asked that you will not find answers to in todays religions. There is a place where you can find them, a place where you will realise your innocence, the meaning of your life and the true nature of God. It is time for the gathering together of the Children of Love. Join me on:
    http://www.love-themeaningoflife.com and you will realise that you are loved, you are not alone and God never left you.
    Love and kind regards

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