I’m posting the following article because it resonated with me. It’s quite fascinating–could God be “working” in people a brand new thing when they separate from the church they had belonged to for years? Here’s the article which I wrote in 2002, for Challenge Weekly.
By Peter Veugelaers
Spirited Exchanges caters for doubts and questions that church leavers might have that are less acceptable in a church context.
It is a safe place for discussion and forum about faith where there is no neat ‘tie up’ or ‘fix it’ at the end, says Jenny McIntosh, facilitator of Spirited Exchanges.
Jenny works alongside people who have left conventional church structures, predominantly from Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, and who struggle with faith issues, and also organises a young adult version of Spirited Exchanges called “Deep Stuff”.
“I actually wonder if some of this (leaving conventional church) is actually God moving in people – for people to go further in their spiritual journeys and that they can’t do that in the particular church they are in.
People have no place to go apart from quashing down what their experience [in a church] is telling them or denying what church is saying to them. So, how do they meld those two together,” Ms McIntosh explains.
“Churches can often have a package – to believe in a certain way – and when people’s experiences go against that or they start to raise huge questions about that, and they can’t reconcile the two, then they have no place to go apart from quashing down what their experience is telling them, so how do they meld those two together,” Ms McIntosh queries.
She says of Spirited Exchanges, which is held in a bar and cafe fortnightly, the intention is for people to process what has gone on for them in churches and explore and struggle with faith issues. Some go back into church, some go onto post-church groups and Ms McIntosh says Spirited Exchanges does not have an agenda that they get people back to a church.
It is often a huge step to leave a church, Ms McIntosh says — it requires huge courage, and it means huge losses, including losing your friends and going against loyalty to a particular church when you have invested a lot of your life in that environment.
“It is quite a scary journey and you don’t know what you are going to, and some people almost have to get to that place that it is harder to stay in than it is to stay out.”
What Ms McIntosh observed when talking with young adults in “Deep Stuff”, for those 20 – 35 years old, is that they are involved within culture – “which I think would be one of the things that would characterise them, more than those who tend to stay inside the church” – and, they are less isolated and more involved with a wide range of people. A lot have experienced life’s pains, such as coming from a broken family.
“Most of them are unlikely to re-engage with a church – I don’t know what will emerge for them in the future. The church doesn’t touch where life is for them and the reality of their lives.”
Published 2002, Challenge Weekly