Today, in a conversation a friend used the phrase “unchurched at church” to refer to people who regularly attend church but who have become alienated from it. They no longer participate in the ministry of the congregation. They ignore the objectionable theology being proclaimed in the sermons. They come to see their friends. They have become unchurched at church.  This is one of the sad consequences of a church crisis.  When the unity breaks and a common mission is abandoned people gradually withdraw to the spiritual back pew.  They become sad ambassadors of a once proud faith.  I am reminded of the Beatles song “All the Lonely People”.

The Christian life is supposed to be a joyful life. We are forgiven.  We are free.  We are all ambasadors of Christ.  When we are unchurched at church we become the kind of witnesses that the Beatles sang about. Pathos replaces joy and maintenance supplants mission.

As I look back over the years of parish ministry I find myself convicted by my failure to seek out the “unchurched at church”.  For pastors it is easy to let the disgruntled become quietly passive. There are many other people who want to make a positive contribution and it is easier and more rewarding to focus on them.

At St. James we do not have any “unchurched at church”.  We are too new! It takes more than 13 weeks to alienate people 🙂 If we are going to have a vibrant witness it is important that we stay that way.  Patrick Lencioni in his Five Dysfuctions of a Team provides a roadmap for doing this.

The five dysfunctions are

  • Absence of Trust,
  • Fear of Conflict,
  • Lack of Commitment,
  • Avoidance of Accountability, and
  • Inattention to Results.

Read the book for an understanding of how these dysfuntions undermine community life.  Allowing these dysfunctions into a community will result in members who are “unchurched at church”. It is no accident that one of St. James’ core values is Accountability.