Will the publishers help me out here?

Writer, Frank Viola, recently wrote about leaving “the institutional” church.

Another popular writer Donald Miller caused a sensation when he wrote a blog about the fact that he does not regularly attend church anymore. His follow-up blog includes this quote that grabbed me by the eyeballs:

And yet, most of the influential Christian leaders I know (who are not pastors) do not attend church.

I don’t mean to sound as flippant as this will sound, but can I get a list?

If I’m reading advice about how to be a pastor in the church from men and women who do not themselves attend church, well, I’d kind of like to know that.

Can publishers start putting that on the book cover somewhere?


I see that Teddy Ray has already written on this topic. He is always worth reading, but I did not notice his post until after I published this.

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5 thoughts on “Will the publishers help me out here?

  1. I’m not a publisher, but I think I might know of where Miller is coming from. I honestly think that he is being quite loose in his argument. I’m fairly sure he’s referring to people like Rachel Held Evans, who have a significant online blog presence (and some books under her belt) and apparently do not attend a local congregation. I’m not sure what her current situation is now, but I do remember a couple of years ago this was an issue.
    For starters, it’s always fuzzy to define who is among the “most influential Christians.” Add in “non-pastoral leaders” (as Miller does) and I would say that those are some pretty odd parameters. You might include Peter Rollins, I might disagree and say Leonard Sweet (who, though ordained, seems to exert most energy towards teaching and writing). I would say the formation of such a list really is ambiguous and ultimately untenable.
    Perhaps Miller might also be thinking of speakers who regularly tour the country (like Rob Bell, Alan Hirsch, Anne Lammott, etc). They’re generally popular on the speaking circuit, especially for generation Y or post-evangelicals. These individuals (especially with the a speaking-vocation in mind) supposedly have said “adios” to the church. It looks like Miller has taken some liberties to assume that there are other “famous” people who also share his anti-institutional ecclesiological position.
    I don’t mean to sound like I’m bashing people like Miller, but I cannot help but notice how he subtly includes himself among this particular list of important people (through a kind of affirmative “tu quoque” with unnamed people). I think the comment was made in a sort of retrenchment mode. His original post garnered much criticism, particularly that he was affirming a privatized, sentimentalized expression of Christianity. Instead of acknowledging potential flaw, he doubled down in his position, and to put it bluntly I would say acted out of narcissism.

    1. Rachel Held Evans has written about her difficulty attending a local congregation because she is often traveling and speaking on Sundays. But I think she is currently a member of a local congregation.

      It’s also worth thinking about what constitutes “attending church” these days. If I work on Sunday mornings but tune into sermon podcasts or worship livestreams, have I attended? What about Sunday School but not worship?

      1. These are good questions. They raise another one about the difference between being a member and being an active member.

        But still, I’d like to know. I read most of these kinds of books and a blogs as a pastor. I’d like to have some sense of whether the people doing the writing feel that church membership in the traditional sense has lost its importance. That will help inform my reading.

  2. I’m not surprised about these revelations concerning no church attendance. The institution is sinking, and we are (in a sense) “letting it go”…

  3. Why attend church when all they’re going to tell you there is that God does it all? Protestant theology sunk church attendance. It took 400 years to finally convince the people fully of the faith alone mindset. Every since the Reformation (until now, of course) Protestants have always mixed in some level of works, including, obviously, church attendance, as necessary for salvation. But now that the 400 years of brainwashing have finally settled into people’s heads, they are thinking, “Wait a minute. Jesus did it all. There’s nothing I can add. If I try to add anything (they’re always telling me at church) I will be damned for it! So, in reality, by attending church, aren’t I putting my soul in danger? Shouldn’t I stop committing that horrible sin of doing a work, namely, going to church?”

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