Just want to say three things about leaving church.
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.
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.