Recently having read an article called ‘The Rise of the Dones’ by an American blogger, Thom Schultz, I was motivated to address the same the problem in Aussie Churches.
‘The Dones’ are the Church members who are sick of all the un-Christian and worldly hoopla that passes for Christian witness and worship in many of today’s sorry so-called Churches. They have taken the plunge and opted out, realising that their allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ, not to the transparently doctrine-light, power-hungry and dollar-chasing leaders who abound today.
I think there must be many thousands of ‘Dones” in Australia at the moment, and many more who have lost their faith as a result. I know of many people who have forsaken meeting together formally in a Church building, and, while this could become the behaviour opposed by the writer to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:25), lots of them still meet with other Christians for home Bible Studies and small worship groups on a regular basis.
Many of these ‘Dones’ are older Christians who have seen the unbiblical and wishy-washy changes taking place in their Church over the years and have at last seen it is not wrong to leave a man-centred institution. That institution may now be one which focusses on seeker-sensitive, purpose driven entertainment activities on the one hand, or one which has deteriorated into a legalistic or even a compromising, sin-accepting assembly on the other.
As Schultz points out, the very people on whom the Church depends for lay leadership, service and financial support, are leaving. And the problem is compounded by the fact that other, younger people are not filling the gaps.
Some pastors are guilty of non-pastoral attitudes, such as: ‘If you don’t like it here, go somewhere else’. They are unconcerned that members of long-standing are being pushed out to accommodate some new way or even a new gospel based on purpose rather than Christ. And some leaders are glad to get rid of older people who are perceived as a thorn in their side, despite the faithful Christian service many have given over the years.
All Church leaders and pastors should take note and return to the Christianity of the New Testament: evangelism, baptism, the fellowship of believers, the apostles’ doctrine, the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:40-42). No New Testament Church was ever given a mandate, for example, to run a business or a shop to raise money, regardless of the financial advantages to an associated charity. I have seen how quickly this activity degenerates into basically a money-making activity and ‘de-spiritualises’ everyone involved in it.
Of course many pastors and denominations, in their fear of losing flock, are finding that re-inventing themselves and their Churches into business and entertainment centres with a staffed bookshop, café, spotlighted bands, vibrant worship leaders and a reluctance to mention sin, hell or repentance, are now engaged on a never-ending spiral.
This spiral quickly develops through changing the music, highlighting the band, shortening the prayers, downgrading the teaching and Bible exegesis, not mentioning negative things (such as persecution of believers), and not addressing homosexuality or abortion, to the extent that the whole counsel of God is not being heard in what is probably the great majority of Churches, regardless of denomination.
It is a continuing spiral because the activities (old and new) which this direction takes is self-perpetuating: the band has to be as good as last week, the preacher must be as humorous as last time, the organisation of other activities has to be up to standard. If the Church has not been cleaned well or the lawns mown, if the worship leader isn’t seen as ‘super spiritual’, then so much of the time and resources of the Pastor and the leaders will be devoted to these things rather than to the leading of the Holy Spirit through prayer and God’s Word.
Your Church, as Schultz concludes, is probably sitting at the moment on a ticking time bomb. The increasing exodus of the ‘Dones’ is just a matter of time until one of two things happens:
1. The Church closes, is amalgamated or sold as part of a bigger megachurch, or
2. The leadership concentrates on preaching of the Word of God and ‘equipping the saints for service.’ But remember what happened to the Church at Ephesus? Despite having the Word of God and the perseverance in doing good works, they had lost their first love – they had got involved in doing the right things to the extent that they had forgotten how to love the Lord Jesus Christ. (Revelation 2:2-7).
And how does Jesus tell us how to show our love for Him? Many times through the Gospels He says words such as ‘If you love me keep my commandments.’ (John 14:15) In other words, love is obedience.
So let us get back to the basics: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Luke 10:27). We don’t need all the additions thought of by man.