Let’s find a word better than "Nones" and "Dones."
The labels “Nones” and “Dones” miss the point. People who aren't in churches on Sunday aren’t saying No to God, No to Faith, or even No to Church.
Some never were in the church in the first place – the Nones. Church seemed little more than real estate that they passed on their way someplace else. They wondered why church, with its closed doors and negative reputation, was essential for finding God.
Some tried church for years, then walked away – the Dones. Reasons vary, of course. Some got bored. Some tired of being talked at by uninspired preachers. They were tired of being ignored at coffee hour or having their desire for Christian community reduced to serial 90-second chats. Sunday morning lost whatever allure it once had – an allure that was probably more about habit than anything. Many just found other ways to connect with God.
We need a new word. Something not so negative, as if those staying away from church were committing a gross error and needed to be called on it. We need a word that captures what they truly are doing, which is staying away from Sunday morning worship.
That is the issue, you see. If all that “church” means is 70 minutes on Sunday morning, then, yes, maybe they are done with church. But who says “church” must mean “Sunday worship”? To the extent that Jesus thought at all about an institution called “church,” he meant those called out of the world to embrace a new way of living, grounded in the good news of salvation, forgiveness, mercy and oneness, and dedicated to serving others, especially the least of these.
Ask a None or a Done about that meaning of Church, and I think the response will be, Where do I find it? Show me where faithful people gather to share good news and to mediate mercy and justice. I want to be among them. Show me where oneness has overcome divisions and a heart for mission guides their common life. I want to be part of that.
But if all you have to offer is arguments, power struggles, arch and antique ways, and unaffordable facilities, they are saying, Count me out. Who wants to get close to an institution whose public face is said to be angry, judgmental, old and dull?
Or as Dones will tell you: I came seeking God, and instead I got a pitch for repairing the roof.
Many church leaders don’t want to hear either Nones or Dones. They consider them “happy pagans” and “self-serving.” If they were true believers, church leaders seem to believe, they would be sitting in our pews, honoring ancient tradition, listening intently, singing what is chosen for them, lining up for communion, and picking up the financial burden of keeping church doors open.
That attitude is self-defeating, of course. If you approach the world by ignoring anyone who disagrees with your practices, what future can you have? So, we need an attitude adjustment.
Let's start by dropping negatives like Nones and Dones. Those not in the pews aren't lost. They are simply exercising their personal autonomy to find God in fresh ways. Some call them “seekers” and respond to them by asking what they seek, as Jesus did with Blind Bartimaeus.
I like the word “fresh.” It isn’t negative, nor does it presume a predetermined or doctrinaire answer. “Fresh” simply says, I am seeking God, and I am open to whatever ways will draw me close. What do you think? Does "fresh Christians" work for you?