We are a society that parses words, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing — consider the difference of implications between “anti-abortion” and “anti-choice” — and how we phrase things makes a huge difference in how our listeners or readers interpret our message.
For instance, lately in the news there are articles about couples choosing to not have children, and they refer to themselves as “child-free,” as opposed to “childless,” because they don’t like the impression that they are missing something, somehow, by the latter term. As the mum of four, I know that they are missing something indeed, just as I and the Norwegian Artist missed out on a different type of lifestyle because we chose to make less money and spend more time tracking down random socks and incomplete board games without all the pieces. You can’t have it all, and we’re fine with that.
Making A Conscious Decision to Pursue an Alternative
Within the Christian community, there is an unpleasant little term, “unchurched,” that seriously needs a modern counterpart, given that there are a number of committed Christians these days — like us — who for various reasons, no longer attend weekly worship services or participate in a community church establishment:
Like childfree, it implies a conscious decision to go about things a different way, although in our case, our conscious decision came after years and years of trying to fit in, adapting ourselves into a paradigm that the leadership community had set up, and resisting as we were gently, but inexorably, nudged out of the fold. What began as a three-month sabbatical from it all grew into a lifestyle that we embrace, and that works for us.
With more than 75 combined years of sitting in church pews, the Norwegian Artist and I could hardly be considered “unchurched,” which implies, incidentally, that we are “un-Christian.” If you could get us to walk into a church, any Protestant church, on a Sunday morning, we would fit right in, singing the proper songs, putting on the appropriate face, turning to greet one another in the allotted time, listening and looking interested during announcement time, maybe (but it’s really, really unlikely) writing notes about the sermon onto the back of the bulletin.
We are completely and totally versed with proper church etiquette, so we are not “unchurched.” We are simply not in a church building on any given Sunday morning because we choose not to be.
The Numbers Are Increasing
And we are a growing population of committed, frustrated Christians, who fully recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect church, so that’s not why we’re staying away. But we are bored with the routine, not interested in joining a series of groups, and tired of being pressed into a mold. As I mentioned to one pastor (yes, I, a lowly woman, expressed my opinion to a leadership male), “If we were rounded up and sent to jail for attending these services, would our sacrifice be worth it?”
Danged if he didn’t shake his head, lightly, “No.”
Immediately afterward he launched into the “no church is perfect” spiel and encouraged me to “be patient.”
It Takes All Kinds of People
Our lifestyle choice obviously doesn’t work for everyone, and we didn’t approach it cavalierly — as I said, we have 75 combined years of trying to make this work. It is, however, the best choice for us, and many others like us, right now. In our own case, we added homeschooling, homebirth, and building our own home to the mix, so we’re either really, really weird or really, really independent, but that very series of factors made us really, really uncomfortable in the weekly — and now it’s multiple times weekly — community church environment.
At times, I do wish that there were an intimate group situation into which we could fit and thrive. And I do realize that we have to make some adaptations — we have, for many years. We chose to stop, however, when we realized that all the required adaptations came from our side, and if we were ever going to truly fit in, we would have to radically change who we are.