A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith. They contend that the church no longer contributes to their spiritual development. In fact, they say, quite the opposite is true.” ~ Reggie McNeal, in The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church

I saw that quote shortly after McNeal’s book was published in 2009. I was still deeply involved with house church at that time, and I knew a lot of people who fit that category. What’s more, most of those folks were doing more on the ground ministry since leaving “the church” than they had done in their last decade “in the church.”

Then a couple of years ago my friend John White pointed me to an article about this in churchleaders.com. It seems the church at large had caught on to the trend. Lay leaders and strong, prominent members were leaving in growing numbers. 

The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.” ~ Thom Schultz, in The Rise of the ‘Done With Church’ Population

I learned that sociologist Josh Packard had labelled these folks “The Dones.” It’s a label that describes a lot of the people I was running with when I was working for House2House Ministries.

Are You A Done? Is Your Wife?

I’m not here to debate this issue or defend the dones. I understand why they’re done, and I know many of them are among the most serious Christians out there. I see this as more of a church problem than an individual problem. 

I was a done; we’ve been part of a local church for six years now after being house church for a decade. I know the pain of wanting to follow God and feeling blocked or bogged down by committees and procedures. But I’ve also seen the power of large groups of Christians. Last year we connected with leaders from a mega-church in Atlanta and they are doing things no small group will ever accomplish. I think I have a good grasp on “both sides” of this.

My reason for bringing this up here is it can become a major marriage issue. Lori and I both hit “done” status at about the same time. We talked about it and about what we wanted to do about it. When we made a change we made it together and we were both fully on board. There were certainly some rough spots to navigate, but we did it together. Some couples find themselves with one spouse being done and the other not being there, and this can be a huge problem!

If you follow Jesus, your faith is a big part of who you are, and it’s a big part of your marriage. Most would say their faith is foundational to their marriage. This makes any seeming change of faith feel like it could harm a couple’s marriage.

To the still churched spouse of a done, I would say listen to them carefully. Are they done with God, or done with church? Do they still love God and want to do His will? Are they still reading their Bible and praying? Have there been changes in what they do and don’t do in other areas, or have they remained consistent? If this is just being done with church it need not be a marriage disaster. In fact, it will probably only be a marriage disaster if you make it such.

What’s important here is that the done maintain fellowship with other solid Christians. The Bible is clear that lone sheep get picked off. There are plenty of ways other than church to get good fellowship. Rather than saying “you must go to church” talk about the need for fellowship and support any good fellowship they develop.

Another part of this is going to church together is a significant couple activity for many. If you have children at home it’s a family activity. These issues need to be addressed. How can the two of you spend time together pursuing the Lord? How can you fellowship together? If you have kids at home, how are you going to build their faith? How are you going to provide them peer-based opportunities to grow in their faith? All of these things can be accomplished, but it will require working together. 

To the done with a still churched spouse, I would say communicate, communicate, communicate. Understand that your spouse may not see the difference between being done with church and being done with God. Realise you’re making a significant change and it’s rocking their world. You made the change, so it’s on you to do the work to communicate what you are thinking and feeling.

As I said above, fellowship is crucial. Build solid, regular connections with other Christians and make sure your spouse sees this part of your life. Work to include your spouse in many of these activities. If you’ve never done joint Bible reading this would be a great time to start. Likewise for doing a devotional together. And make sure you’re praying as a couple or family.

To church leaders, I would say studies show getting a “done” back is nearly impossible. Some, like Lori and I, do come back eventually. Many will never again be active parts of a local congregation. Rather than wasting time and resources on the dones, do what you can to keep other members from becoming dones. I don’t have much to say about that, but may I lovingly suggest the issue is more about the institution than individuals?

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