Quitting Church is an alarming subject to congregational leaders, evangelical or not. This is the work of Julia Duin, Religion Editor of the Washington Times. And it’s the story, partly auto-biographical, of the people exodus and "spiritual brain drain" that the evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal communities have experienced for more then a decade. While the mainline churches are not the focus of this survey, the topic of church drop-outs warrants concern, regardless of Christian affiliation.
The first part of the book is a "big picture" look at the problem. Duin substantiates her case using ample research from the likes of George Barna, Lifeway, the
Whereas most of the energy of contemporary evangelicalism is geared to the under 35 group, according the Duin, the book is an indictment of our waisting both spiritual and people resources in "an era of dumbed-down, purpose-driven, seeker- friendly Christianity." The author is partial to the house-church experience, or covenant Christian community movement. As a college student in
The biggest learning from Quitting Church was the fact that so many are disenchanted and dissatisfied with the most popular brand of Christianity still practiced by many evangelicals; we could probably add mainline Christians as well. The disenchanted are those who have been hurt by the hypocrisy of church people and their leaders, while the dissatisfied, according to Duin, are those who are just spinning their wheels spiritually. Their church is holding them back from engaging in meaningful ministry. The later chapters get down to concrete recommendations of addressing this spiritual malaise, such as 1) Leadership that is freeing and less controlling,
2) Emphasize receiving the spiritual gifts that God, the Holy Spirit, chooses, rather than on spiritual gift inventories 3) Actually practicing all the spiritual gifts (such as tongues and interpretation) instead of denying them for the benefit of seekers. She noted that fewer and fewer charismatic churches are using tongues in corporate worship. 4) Teaching and learning new insights so that people don't have to go somewhere else to grow.
As far as inviting the formerly churched back, it's most effectively done through a friend or family member. Once those folks return, it's all about the friendliness, acceptance, and hospitality of the congregation. The formerly churched need some hope, or a sign, according to Duin, that the status quo has changed.
I wonder if the U.M. Methodist heritage's strong emphasis on continued growth in grace and the vows to grow in prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness, seem to offer a sort of inoculation against quitting? Moreover, can churches like the UMC learn how to do evangelism from the Willow Creeks of the world, and can others learn how to do discipleship like the UMC’s? Can we learn from each other? It seems that by their existence, the more evangelical churches flout structure and aspire to continuous revival and renewal; whereas, mainlines emphasis more organization, and are less prepared for renewal that is not measured by the hard data bureaucracies love. But in the “burned-over” district of movie-house, market-based evangelism that Duin describes, her personal search for authentic community with other Christians reflects the spiritual journey of millions, Christian or not. And that’s the book’s significance.