July 6, 2012
Pastor 'Ain't Going to Church No More'
A three month break to discover what it's like to be "spiritual but not religious."
Pastor Mark Sandlin has decided to quit church...for three months. Sandlin says he hasn't missed more than 2 consecutive weeks of church his entire life, and his sabbatical isn't simply for rest. He wants to research and understand how non-churchgoers live. He writes:
A week ago I started a three month long sabbatical. I decided from the very beginning that I would not darken the door of a church.... Why am I not going to church? Because a great deal of the people with whom I'd like to figure out how to be in ministry don't. They're not heathen. They're not un-spiritual. They're -- well, just like me, except they have Sundays off.
This is my hope for the next three months: I want to understand what it is that the "spiritual but not religious" like about not being in church AND I want to understand what I, a life long churchgoer, miss about not being in church.
I know what you're thinking...he's going to discover a few extra hours of sleep- big deal. Sandlin plans to blog through his three months without church, and I'm sure he'll gets some attention and traffic to his site as a result. But before we dismiss this as a blog stunt, consider this point he makes:
I'm a preacher. I'm all wrapped up in the system. From the inside, it is truly difficult to gain perspective. Conceptually, I get why an increasing number of younger generations are flocking away from -- well, the "flock," but frankly, just seeing and acknowledging the "hypocrisy" (among the other issues to which they correctly point as the problem with church) isn't enough; I need to do something about it. So, it's time to get some "perspective."
Obviously getting perspective may require more than simply not going to church. It may also require building relationships with the young people he's eager to understand. Still, the fact is we do lose perspective as church leaders who are "all wrapped up in the system."
When was the last time you understood what it was like to work 50-60 hours a week, and then come to church on Sunday to hear you should devote more of your time to volunteering at church? Or when was the last time you experienced the pressure of working in a non-Christian environment? And can you remember what it's like to live as a disciple of Christ when it's not your job?
Maybe Sandlin is on to something. Perspective is important, and there is no doubt that we can lose it when trapped inside the institutional parallel reality of church. So, apart from a three month sabbatical, what do you do to maintain perspective?