A couple years back, I had the opportunity to attend David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me Live event at National Community Church in Washington DC. Everyone who attended the event received a free copy of Kinnaman’s latest work You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith. As I quickly read through the book following the event, I discovered the perfect language to describe my feelings toward the established church. The key metaphor Kinnaman uses is the Babylonian exile of which we read in Scripture. The fourth chapter of the book is titled Exiles. I was so excited about coming across this metaphor that I photocopied the entire chapter and emailed it to the leadership of our denomination. I was essentially saying, “This! This explains my predicament (and others like me) perfectly!”
I don’t want to leave the established church, but there is a strong temptation and the establishment is making it more and more difficult to stay. Therefore, I am torn between two worlds. I am part of a disconnected world who clings tightly to methods and nonessential convictions that are driving it further away from those on the outside. At the same time, I see God moving outside of this disconnected world and I am drawn to be a part of his movement. Rather than leave, I want to be a part of bridging this gap.
Kinnaman defines an Exile as “those who grew up in the church and are now physically or emotionally disconnected in some way, but who also remain energized to pursue God-honoring lives.” Later in the chapter, he writes that Exiles are, “trying on new ways of Christ-following that make sense to their communities and careers.” These ways of Christ-following, however, may not make sense to the established mainline church. Kinnaman also shares that Exiles are, “caught between the church as it is and what they believe it is called to be.”
Part of my dream that has led me to develop a ministry like 801South is providing a safe space into which Exiles can bring people about whom they care. The established church needs entry points that allow for a friendly reception–not simply superficial smiles and coffee, but also for ideas that are very different from (and even counter to) what has been accepted as “normal” in our current context. My hope is that all three focuses of 801South–worship, discipleship, and service–will provide that safe space so people who yearn to live a life of Christ-following are not apprehensive in including people from their own spheres of influence.