John White explains why he broke down in tears…

John White has been a friend for many years. We first met in 2001 when he came to our home to hear Wolfgang Simson speak–near the beginning of the simple/organic/house church movement in this country. John now runs a community for followers of Jesus around the world who explore rhythms of  life that result in vibrant churches meeting outside the walls of the building ( John is not normally an emotional guy, but he broke down in tears at “The Future of the Church Summit.” In this blogpost from the Lk10 site, he explains why:

Future of the Church Summit

I just returned from Loveland, CO where I attended a Conference sponsored by Group Publishing with about 130 church leaders on “The Future of the Church”.  On the last day, I was part of a panel and was asked to share a bit about LK10.  Click on my picture below to hear what happened when I started to talk…

(By the way, make sure you see more information about Josh Packard’s research below my video.)

Josh Packard

Josh Packard

While there were many presenters at the Summit, the most important, by far was Josh Packard.  Josh is a sociologist who’s research has uncovered the fact that 65 million Americans (31% of the adult population) are what he calls the “Dones”.  These are people who were once part of a church. In fact, they were often leaders, the “best and the brightest” according to Josh, but they are now “done” with church as they have known it.  What’s more, these people, for the most part, aren’t going back.  I can’t tell you what a staggering statistic this is!

The picture that came to me was Morpheus talking to Neo in the movie “The Matix”.  (Although Josh is nothing like Morpheus!)  Morpheus:  Let me tell you why you are here.  You are here because you know something.  What you know you can’t explain.  But, you feel it.  You felt it your entire life. That there is something wrong with the world (or the church?).  You don’t know what it is but it’s there.  Like a splinter in your mind.

Click on the photo to watch this 5 minute clip of Morpheus talking to Neo.



For a long time, a great many people have had this “splinter in their mind” regarding church but they couldn’t explain it.  And, now Josh has pulled the cover back and exposed what is really going on.

Two ways to hear more of what Josh has uncovered…

  • 8 minute video describing the “Dones”  (“They are not “casual Christians” or occasional attendees.  Most were in some leadership position in their church.”
  • 90 minute video.  In depth interview with Josh Packard about the “Dones”.  (“Most of these people are not coming back.”)

Back to the Future

While the Dones are not going back to the institutional church no matter how much it is “tweaked”, most of them have not abandoned God.  In fact, some say that they have left “the church” to preserve their faith.  And, the kind of church they are interested in looks surprisingly like the church portrayed in the book of Acts.  Here are some of the characteristics of that church…

  1. All the churches in the Bible met in a home and functioned like a small spiritual family.  The current institutional church, by contrast, spends a great deal of energy and money getting and maintaining a church building.
  2. The churches in the Bible were simple.  We describe “simple church” as a way of being/doing church where any believer could say, “I could do that!”.  (“they were astonished that Peter and John were unschooled, ordinary men”  Acts 4:13)  The institutional church, by contrast, requires highly educated, highly school (seminary, etc) highly creative people to be successful.  (Think Rick Warren, for instance.)
  3. In the NT churches, everyone used their gifts.  In institutional church, only a few, highly gifted people (worship leaders, preachers, etc.) use their gifts.
  4. In NT church, Jesus brought the agenda for the meetings.  In institutional churches, a few, very smart people design the worship experiences.
  5. In the NT, churches were started in a few hours or a few days.  Institutional churches require a great deal of planning and resources and take months or years to start.

Next step?

Want to learn more about doing/being church outside the institutional church?  Check out a free four week course called Church 101.


7 thoughts on “John White explains why he broke down in tears…”

  1. Hi Felicity, I haven’t watched all the videos yet, but this is most interesting. Thom Schultz has been talking about the “dones” for some time now. The situation here in Australia is very different, we don’t have a church-going culture here at all, but some of the same things are happening on a much smaller scale.

    But 65 million (31% of adults) is a huge number, is that really correct? I thought about 80% of Americans had some church affiliation, even if they don’t attend very often, but 31% of adults is an enormous slice out of those numbers. It would mean that church membership would be down by more than a third. Is that the reality?

    Of course, in the end, the numbers don’t matter all that much, it is the reality of the change that is important, and what it means for the church in the US (and here). From the outside, it looks to me as if there are many reasons why US christianity must change, and perhaps this demographic shift isn’t just God’s way of changing how church is done, but also changing the values christians hold?


    1. HI Eric,
      I’m not sure on the numbers and have no way to check them, but it is an enormous number of people that seem to be leaving. Obviously this is very sad for those who lead traditional churches but it is symptomatic of a general malaise within the church culture. And “tweaking” isn’t going to help in the long run. Oh, it may make a difference for a few people, but the problems are not skin deep. They are profound and systemic.

      i picture the Australian church as more like the British one, where Christianity is irrelevant within the culture as a whole. Here, it’s been different until recently, but the current decline is steep and desperate…


  2. Hi Felicity, my name is Ron Mosby, and I am an elder at the Ekklesia of the Lord Jesus Christ in Cincinnati. We also meet in a house. I read your article with interest. I believe that being tired of “doing” church is the symptom. The deeper problem is what is this Bible all about? Is believing in God all that there is? These are the questions that tug at the souls and hearts of the “dones,” and many have not yet found an answer. This is why I wrote the book A Glimpse of the Kingdom. The Bible is not about a religion; it is about a government. And it isn’t about a temporal, earthly government; it is about an eternal, spiritual government. Church, as people have experienced it in this generation, is attempting to help people make a transition from an earthly government to a spiritual religion. There simply is no connection between the two. What the Bible does is explain the transition from an earthly government to a spiritual government. I am not suggesting that the transition is easy, but it is a lot simpler to transition from government to government than from government to religion. I would love to talk to you more about this.


    1. Hi Ron, My apologies it’s taken a while to get back with you. I managed to effectively break a rib 😦

      I totally agree with what you say here. Religion kills, and if all you are doing is feed people religion, sooner or later those who have any hunger for the Lord will say, “Enough!” And then go elsewhere. And I agree with you about spiritual government too–especially when his laws (the laws of the Kingdom) are written on our hearts.


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