A Churchless Faith


How do you live a life of faith without the help of the church?

It is a relevant question for the thirty-eight million people who have dropped out of church in the last decade, part of a total of 156 million unchurched Americans. Incidentally, most all of them have attended a church at some point.

You could…

  • Consider the organized, institutional church irrelevant
  • Become a harsh critic of the church that has personally disappointed you or someone you know.

But, I think…

  • The church and THE CHURCH are different things. THE CHURCH is relevant because it includes all those who believe Jesus is who He said he was, and want to live life in a way that imitates him. The organization that calls itself the church is a different animal. While it has huge issues, I don’t want to write it off, because it has the potential to do so much good, in spite of all of its baggage.
  • Complaining about the sins of the church isn’t a solution, it’s an observation. It’s time to move on.

You could…

  • Don’t worry about the church as an organization, but think how to be THE CHURCH in the course of normal life.

It would look like…

Here are some ideas to get us started. I hope you will add to the list.

  • Be a regular human. Jettison the specialized Christianese jargon that only works to keep people apart; i.e., those who know the terminology and those who do not. We really shouldn’t need our own little language to describe our faith.
  • Integrate faith and life. Don’t try to separate yourself from the cultural mainstream, simply accept it as your address, your context. Of course, you will want to stay away from things that are harmful to yourself or others, while you embrace your time and place. Faith is now a part of regular life, not something apart from it.
  • Assume responsibility for your own faith expression. Now that you are not outsourcing it to professional staff, special programs, and an organization, you get to decide how to do it. Make sure what you do is meaningful, and not just some exercise that you impose upon yourself.
  • Exterminate arrogance. In some way we all tend to feel we are better people than some other people. To think God values us over others, or we are better than someone because of what we believe, is way off base. It’s the subtle sin of Christians.
  • Notice God everywhere. Actually, He shows up in strange places and in strange people. Can you see him?

This list is vastly incomplete. Help me out here.


Photo credit: Mtaylor848  Creative Commons

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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  1. I can’t help you, Glenn! At least not with your list! I am in a place where I must have corporate worship. Not that I am crazy about the forms I am experiencing, but I need all the other people around me. Even if I don’t know who they are. I don’t know if that really makes sense. I must have this or I climb within myself instead of climbing on the lap of my Papa. I am not strong enough, far enough, or something enough. No, we all need others. The hour-long lecture I could probably do without. That can be gotten in so many other places. But that is not worship. And I can worship by myself any day of the week. I am tired of by myself so much! I am searching, though. Your blog helps with my thoughts. My husband and I have been “church shopping”. This is not the most fun thing I can think of doing! I think it is beneficial to do this every so often, even if you go back to your original church. I think it is good to get out of what may be a rut or just a habit. I do want to shake things up, but I don’t think I can do that as long as my husband wants the status quo. It will take time and prayer and God to make anything happen.

    • Jean

      Sorry about my late reply. So much has been going on, including lots of changes on this site.

      I respect your position, We are each unique individuals. What I am trying to do is to broaden the ways I worship, being aware of God wherever I see him.


  2. Be still, take time to shut off the brain and close the mouth to listen to Jesus when you’re out doing life, listen to others, then do something. The opportunities are countless

  3. Not a bad start…I have been getting rid of church mind grids of us and them, fear, end times, etc. and free in His truth…soaking in His presence…a relationship with a Person not a book 😉

  4. So true Glenn. As Christ followers, we need to remember the differences you pointed out. The church and the Church are two different things. The church is a man-made religious institution while the Church is a living organism made up of living stones, those who put their faith in Christ. The church is a once a week religious meeting. The Church is a daily lifestyle living by the example of Jesus, loving and accepting others.

    • Roger – You’re right, we need community and a sense of mission. However, the church (as we usually think of it) isn’t doing very well at that in too many cases. Someone who bows out of that is still a part of THE CHURCH. He is just looking for better ways of being THE CHURCH. That’s the point, I think a lot of the forms are broken. We can do better.

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