Churched, Un-churched or De-churched

Posted by on Nov 20, 2015 in Blog | 5 comments

A shorter post than usual today, but it poses some pertinent questions about those who are de-churched… Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

If you’re up with the discussions on the future of the church you’ll know that commentators distinguish between people who are un-churched (as in never had any significant contact with a church) and those who are de-churched (as in once were involved, but no more thank you very much).

While the church has always worried about those who are unchurched (they’re the reason for the missionary movement), the de-churched have had a mixed press.

Theologically it’s a bit of a worry. Is it once saved always saved, or is our salvation a little less certain? And if it’s once saved, does it mean that the de-churched were never really converted? Such questions ignite theology classes. However most observers are convinced that the church has entered a post-theological era. I know that sounds astonishing, but it means simply that our questions now tend to be pragmatic; they are more about us than God.

Sometimes we simply feel insulted by the de churched, and so we judge them. How dare they come to our churches, get involved and then declare themselves disinterested or unimpressed. Clearly if they were more committed, more godly or simply more pleasant, they would have stayed. And so we dismiss them (why should anyone hear the gospel twice until everyone has heard it once).

Trouble is the Bible doesn’t see them in that light. After all, in today’s terms both the lost sheep and the prodigal son were, for a season, de churched people.

If we are wiser, we’ll listen to them… and there are many voices to listen to. Those who left because they thought church unfriendly, or a clique, or not very spiritual, or that there had to be a more exciting way to spend a Sunday, or that it was out of touch, or that it was triumphalistic (no place for strugglers); and then there are those who are burnt out after trying too hard for too long (too long a sacrifice turns a heart to stone…); as well as those… so many different voices…

Voices that don’t say what we want to hear are hard to listen to, but sometimes they have much to say. How about this as a prayer? “Lord give us a heart for the un-churched, and the de-churched, and help us to be responsive to the uncomfortable things they teach us…”



  1. Thanks for this Brian

  2. I think the problem lies squarely with the churches – or, to be more precise, with many of the people within the churches. It seems to me that many church goers have lost sight of the good things of God and are focussed on worldly things – buildings, numbers, pa systems… Churches are often not communities of Godly people – which is what we are supposed to be. We are supposed to be communities of people bound together by love – love for God and love for each other. We are not supposed to be worldly corporations doing worldly things to achieve, essentially, worldly ends.

    It is by our love for each other that the world will know that we are his disciples.

  3. I think we should DEFINITELY listen to the de-churched. Christ seeks those who become lost or wander off…there is something wrong with our ‘Çhrist-likeness’if we don’t concern ourselves with hurt, disappointed, rejected, confused and wearied people who leave church. Maybe, just maybe, HOW we do church to entertain and keep people busy, rather than examining the scriptures, applying them to our context and maturing in Christ has something to to do with this? Christ did not come to entertain people at church or feed them a health, wealth and prosperity ‘non-gospel’…

    • Absolutely right, Sandra. Jesus told us to love each other. Paul said that we come together to encourage each other and build each other up. These are the things that spiritually minded churchgoers need to focus on.

  4. I would suggest that the definition of “De- churched” might also include those who have found themselves without a congregation due to the closure of the one to which they belonged (probably combined with the closure of the church building). This, most likely, is caused by inability to maintain the structure , physical and financial, of the church as an institution and has little to do with disenchantment. It also emphasises the dilemma that exists for aging congregations, whose style of worship is no longer attractive to young people of today and whose numbers have significantly dwindled.

    I would also suggest that the word “church” needs definition. Is one de-churched from the institution or the community – or maybe both?

    Herein lies a significant pastoral situation which, I believe, is being overlooked or, at best, inadequately addressed.

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