The “Dones” and the Need for Revolutionary Christian Writing
Who are the “Dones?” They are mature Christians who know what the Bible teaches, seek to walk with Jesus, but are “done” with church.
This term was new to me until I read an article by Thom Schultz. I know many people who have served the Lord for decades, but are now ”done.” I just didn’t know there was a name for them.
A pastor is likely to say, “A Christian who does not attend church on Sunday is probably a backslider. After all, the Bible says, ‘Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as is the habit of some.’” (Hebrews 10:25)
Pastors are the only ones who have a stake in keeping dreary and dead churches alive, so what else would they say? Many mature Christians have realized that churches are not fulfilling biblical mandates and they don’t want to participate in a social club.
Schultz describes a Done perfectly:
“John is every pastor’s dream member. He’s a life-long believer, well-studied in the Bible, gives generously, and leads others passionately.
But last year he dropped out of church. He didn’t switch to the other church down the road. He dropped out completely. His departure wasn’t the result of an ugly encounter with a staff person or another member. It wasn’t triggered by any single event.
John had come to a long-considered, thoughtful decision. He said, “I’m just done. I’m done with church.”
John is one in a growing multitude of ex-members. They’re sometimes called the de-churched. They have not abandoned their faith. They have not joined the also-growing legion of those with no religious affiliation–often called the Nones. Rather, John has joined the Dones.”
Why Do the Best People Say They Are Done?
Josh Packard, Ph.D., a sociologist, has done some research into this question in his book, Church Refugees. In interviews, he discovered people keep hearing the same old lectures from the pulpit. They do not want to “plop, pray and pay,” but want to be involved with others in life-changing ways.
Can we blame pastors for the present state of the church? In my view, yes, and theological seminaries too. They are the ones who have created an institution of endless talk and little action. Seminaries have taught pastors to remain in their study for 40-50 hours per week, parsing Greek verbs. Pastors have come to believe that if they deliver the Word of God on Sunday, their work is done. Of course, this was not the way of Jesus. He was constantly among the people. Churches are dead today because pastors are entombed with their study books all week.
Most preachers are not good writers and so the people suffer when they deliver their sermons. According to Barna Research, “Churchgoing is slowly but incontrovertibly losing its role as a normative part of American life. In the 1990s, roughly one out of every seven unchurched adults had never experienced regular church attendance. Today, that percentage has increased to nearly one-quarter. Buried within these numbers are at least two important conclusions: 1) Church is becoming increasingly unfamiliar to millions of Americans, and yet 2) the churchless are still largely comprised of de-churched adults.” De-churched adults are the “Dones.”
Many pastors have tried to stem the exodus by adding bands or other entertainment to enliven worship services, but the dullness begins when the band stops playing and the preacher starts preaching.
Mature Christians are not done with Jesus Christ, but they are done with the maudlin institution the church has become. They read the Book of Acts with a sense of longing.
Writing to the Rescue
One way to stop the exodus of the best and brightest from our churches is with better preaching. Better preaching requires better writing. Sermons are basically nonfiction material. In seminary, they teach people to study, so they study a passage to death, and that is bad because it bores people to death. All sermons should be about 25% exegesis and 75% real-life stories that illustrate that biblical truth. The stories can come from reading, but most should come from the real-life experiences of the pastor as he is out among his people and the community.
This does not discount the need for Bible exegesis, but simply puts it in proper perspective. The pastor wants to spend all his time digging biblical nuggets, but he fails to put any of the nuggets in the context of daily life for hearers. Thus, the pastors fails, sending people away because of his self-absorption with his own study skills.
In conversation, people speak about 150 words per minutes. Preachers speak faster. If a sermon is 40-minutes (the absolute maximum by any standard), a pastor will deliver about 6,600 words. If a pastor can type 35 words a minute, it should take about three hours to write a sermon. But what about research time? Add an hour or two beyond personal devotional reading for that. Pastors think they need to spend 40-50 hours each week “in the Word” to be spiritual leaders, but that is bunk. If they are not spiritual leaders in the first place, no amount of study time will help them.
Every passage in the Bible has been commented on by dozens, if not hundreds of scholars. Pastors need not waste their time by reinventing the wheel. Pastors can invest their time better by praying about what passage they need to preach based on their interaction with their people and the community, and then weave a sermon from it. They also need to invest time in praying for their hearers. But the exegesis has been done; it is the pastors’ duty to verify that work and then reshape it for present needs.
There is a Role for You
There is another important way Christian writing can make a difference. When Christian writers recognize they are part of the extended church, they can minister to the entire church, including the “Dones.” Hebrews 10:25 is not a restrictive concept. Christians are assembling to worship, pray, give and serve beyond the walls of local churches and are fulfilling that biblical injunction. Mature Christians are getting spiritual nourishment from television, the Internet and other media.
Each of these mediums requires a Christian writer. Christian books are important, but more Christians should be writing news articles, blog posts, radio, television and movie scripts, lesson plans, and a host of other material for the Christians who want to put their faith in action, but no longer trust the local churches that put form over function. Ordinary writing is not enough, however. Our faith and our culture demands revolutionary Christian writing.
Better, more diverse writing will motivate people to serve the risen Christ. Be a part of that writing revolution.