Fr. Richard Rene on “God Without Church?”

Fr. Richard Rene, pastor, fellow CP author and AFR podcaster, has this weblog post up, God Without Church?:

It’s a common reality: people who believe in God without feeling the need to attend church regularly. They even have a name—“Nones”—because of their typical response to surveys asking about their religious affiliation. And those of us who consider Church attendance to be central to our faith might want ask ourselves why they are one of the most rapidly-growing demographics in North America.

What leads a person to believe in God, while refusing to identify themselves as members of a particular “faith community”?

These days, the answer would seem self-evident. Consider the genocides, the acts of terrorism, racism, and oppression by those who proudly claim to represent Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. Witness the petty infighting, sectarianism, power-mongering, and divisiveness within religious communities. Add to this the various abuses inflicted by religious authorities on their weakest members, and it’s not difficult to understand why someone might want to have nothing to do with a church at all.

In brief, it points out that a churchless Christianity (or community-less spirituality, if you want to remove it from Christ) is really just a haven for those who prefer to keep God in their heads, as an abstraction that doesn’t call one to account. It’s essentially a pastoral look inside the basic dynamic of “spiritual but not religious.”

Read the full post.


  1. says

    It seems to me a cleverly disguised End Times ruse by Satan to divide the Body of Christ. “Christianity is a relationship with Christ, not a religion.” Well, it’s most certainly about a personal relationship with Christ, but that does NOT mean that we should shun the fellowship of fellow believers.

    The Holy Spirit (through the writer of Hebrews) says it best:

    “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:23-25 KJV

  2. John Canterbury says

    It could also be that some people have been treated so badly by people in the Church and inept, uncaring, and sometimes abusive pastors that they’ve given up on the whole idea of being involved in Church. If you beat someone down enough, they eventually get sick of being beaten and either hit back, or flee from the source of abuse. Its to those people we need to go and offer compassion and comfort, instead of waiting for them to come to us. After all, i’m sure in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the poor guy in the ditch would have gotten up on his own and gone to the Inn if he’d been able to walk or move, but he was too wounded to do so, and needed help. Standing over wounded people and telling them to get up and move when they’re not able is not compassionate at best, and abusive at worst.

    • says

      Do you think those people are the intended audience of Fr. Richard’s post? It seems to me that his intended audience is the “spiritual, but not religious” crowd who simply have no use for community. I don’t think his piece is remotely equivalent to “standing over wounded people and telling them to get up and move when they’re not able.”

      In any event, defining the “we/us” here is kind of a problem. How am I, for instance, to know exactly where to find such people as you describe, unless someone brings them to me or me to them? And can you imagine me trawling the local pub for such folks? “Excuse me, everyone—yes, you can see from my clothing that I am a clergyman. Is any one of you suffering from church abuse and in need of assistance?” The wounded man seen by the Samaritan was obviously wounded, but someone who has rejected church life because of abuse is not usually quite so obvious. (And let’s remember that the Good Samaritan wasn’t on a wounded-man-hunt. He happened upon him.)

      I agree of course that people who have been abused should be cared for, but they’re invisible to the Church as a community unless we know about them, though they may not be invisible to those who know them. This is a practical side of ministry that often gets papered over by those who insist we have to go out and find people to minister to. (Don’t get me wrong, by the way: I try to be as active and visible in my town as I can, and I also constantly preach that we have to reach out to people and not wait for them to come to us. But we have to know them first and have some means of connection already established.)

      But such people may also simply not want anything to do with the community, and we cannot really go against their will, either. Perhaps reading something like Fr. Richard’s post may help them to see that their problem wasn’t community in itself, but the particular community they were in. (And, let’s be honest—the problem could be themselves, as well. There are plenty of functional communities that are rejected by dysfunctioning people.)

      It seems to me that Fr. Richard’s post essentially shows what a healthy community is supposed to look like, that community is a necessary part of church life. I’ve certainly known folks who’ve been abused in a church community and then concluded that what they needed was to change to a different community, either because where they were had inherently distorted theology (and therefore, praxis) or because the locals simply weren’t living up to what they were preaching at a level that became abusive.

      Anyway, my guess from your tone is that you have someone in particular in mind, so don’t take my words (or Fr. Richard’s, for that matter) as necessarily applying to them in particular. I’m speaking generally, and I am certain he was, as well.

      • John Canterbury says

        I completely agree with you and Fr Rene. Many people are looking for an out to participating in community/Church for many reasons, reasons that are often self centered, over-individualistic, and sometimes downright narcissistic. And you were right, I did have someone in mind when I wrote what I did, several ppl in fact. I keep coming across people that fall into the category of “the wounded and Church freaks me out” type and rather than casting aspersion I was attempting to explore this issue, bc I keep coming across these people who are so freaked out about being crushed that they avoid Church altogether, and it breaks my heart seeing people in such pain, suffering all alone. Its exceedingly frustrating too, bc I have no idea what to say to them, and perhaps the frustration as a result of my ineptitude came across in a way I didn’t intend. I’m very sorry for that. But how do we reach those wounded people along with trying to convince the “spiritual but not religious” crowd that they’re going about connecting with God entirely the wrong way?

        • says

          My experience has been that the key thing is to love them authentically while also being clear (though not obnoxious) that one is a Christian.

          In terms of the message that has to be preached, written, etc., I think we do best by preaching the very core, foundational themes of the Christian faith—that God became a man to seek and save the lost, to heal them, to unite with them. The book I’m working on right now is actually explicitly aimed at introducing Orthodoxy to the un-churched, ex-churched, de-churched, etc.

      • George says

        @John Canterbury says ….”Many people are looking for an out to participating in community/Church for many reasons, reasons that are often self centered, over-individualistic, and sometimes downright narcissistic.” . . . .

        – as one of those people who you don’t know and yet presume to judge by your generalization I feel the need to let you know that such comments do not help and do hurt.