There is a growing population of folks that say they are “Done With Church”. These people are being called “Dones”. I have friends that would identify as “Done With Church”.
People might be quick to pass this movement off as a phase but it is actually more like fallout.
Born between 1961-1981 (for the most part) this “Done With Church” generation (Gen X) has proven to be a very problematic generation for many local congregations. Churches all over America are finding this generation willing to talk about Jesus and willing to identify with Him because they feel He is still relevant.
So what’s the problem?
“Gen X” finds the local church to be (for the most part) irrelevant, having no practical purpose in their lives anymore. They are just walking away from congregations with the intent to never return. This is a generation that has been born, raised and propagated two simple but toxic ideas about the local church.
First “The Done” generation has been taught to find its purpose in results. Gen X seems to think the end will justify the means. The church has raised them to believe that the Gospel is “getting saved” and “building churches”. If getting saved and building a church is the end goal of the church then it makes sense that Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Church” would find so much success with those who prefer the “Attractive Church Model”. It also makes sense that men like Michael Slaughter propose a “Missional Church Model” in which the church attracts folks outside of the church life into “missional” or community service like activities hoping to ultimately draw them into the local church from the outside in. There are pragmatic approaches to “winning souls” based on things like bus ministries, addiction recovery ministries, preaching ministries or friends and family ministries.
If saving folks and getting them to church could be bottled up and franchised under the guise of “making disciples” then we are witnessing the death of a generation of salesman. We are watching them bitterly walk away from something that was never really supposed to be the main thing.
Second “the done” generation has been given a consumer mentality in regards to Church life. If the “Done With Church” generation is experiencing spiritual organ failure, it’s because they have been taught to bottle and sell the Gospel. It only makes sense that they might need some great branding and marketing ideas to house the plastic Jesus church they have created. It sounds harsh to say that but I don’t believe the “Done With Church” generation is really walking away from the institute of the local church no more than a divorced couple is walking away from marriage. Gen X is walking away from something they thought was the local church. They are walking away from something they have created because they have become convinced (like Dr. Frankenstein of his monster) that they made a mistake.
I’m sure they believe genuine congregations are out there but they wouldn’t know how to find them. It’s like a fish trying to discover water. The thing that is right in front of their face could prove to be the most difficult thing to find because they have spent a life time of being groomed and grooming others to invest in something that never really existed. There is no consumer church.
If there is any hope for the “Done With Church Generation” it is time. Time itself can’t heal but healing can happen over a long enough period of time. “Dones” will come back to local churches in my opinion when they realize that not every congregation seeks to run themselves like a hamburger joint. They might come back as a valuable reminder, witness and encouragement to the next generation seeking to understand how to be an authentic church of 40 people in a building made for 4,000. They might come back and help folks clean up this mess. But for now they are like the child in my fourth grade class that took a crap in the swimming pool and ran away.