An Alternative Theory on the Dones

We’re told Generation Z, more than any other generation in a long time, is focused on doing good in the world. They just don’t do it in the church.


We’re told Senior Adults, more than another other generation before them, are healthier, wealthier, and eager to stay engaged in the world around them. They just don’t do it in the church.

We see friends fight community hunger, sex-trafficking, illness, and water issues through a variety of non-profits—many they’ve started themselves. They just don’t do it in the church.

Through social media, ease of travel, and the digital empowerment of the individual, people are making a difference in all kinds of ways in all kinds of places. They just aren’t making that difference in and through church.

After a long discussion about the “Nones,” researchers have discovered another category of people leaving the church—the “Dones.” While the Nones are those who claim no religious faith at all, the Dones are those who still claim faith in Christ, but are no longer engaged in the life of local church. They’re DONE. The Dones tell researchers they’re just done with church. They say there’s too much bureaucracy, too much judgment and/or hypocrisy. A lot of the time, these individuals were deeply involved in their church, but after their kids graduated high school or after one of the couple retired, they started doing other things on the weekends.

But going to church is not one of them.

I have a theory. Yes, I know. Everyone has a theory. Church is out of touch. Church is too this or too that, but I think all of these other theories are wrong. Here’s my theory.

I think a lot of people stop coming to church because we never ask them to do anything great. We never call them to a vision that will demand everything from them. We never tell them to sell everything they have and go follow Jesus. We never tell them to head to the far reaches of the world and carry their casket with them because we don’t expect them to come back. We never tell them to leave everything and everyone they love to go start a church in some third world inner city slum.

We simply ask them to come to church and sit quietly. We ask them to give their money, sing reverently, but sit quietly.

Most of us want more, not less, from our faith, and if church can’t help us get there, we’ll get that “more we need” from somewhere else.

No one wants to come to church and sit.

Why would they? It’s just more comfortable sitting at home.

Some Things Just Don’t Matter

Here’s a little secret nobody tells you until you get older: most things don’t matter. All the things you can’t live without—shoes, cars, electronics, houses, and tickets to the next “game of century”—just end up being things you have to sell later or take to Goodwill.


The other stuff like hairstyles, which side of the den your chair is on, which drawer the silverware is in, and who controls the remote are things everyone fights about when they’re younger, but when you get older, they just don’t matter.

If something doesn’t matter, don’t make it matter. Roll with it. If your wife wants to move your chair to the other side of the den, no big deal. It doesn’t matter! These aren’t the things you talk about when you get old. Trust me, I’m not old yet, but I’m getting there (I’ll be 60 next month), and all of those battles I thought I had to win mean nothing…absolutely nothing now.

But I can tell you about how my boys’ hair smelled when they were babies. I can tell you how beautiful my wife looked on the days our sons got married. I can remember the quirky way Jeannie looks at life that always makes me laugh.

I can remember how she believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Those are some of the things that matter. The rest? Well it just doesn’t. What’s more, it won’t ever matter.

I wish someone had told me this earlier. Maybe they did, and I just didn’t hear it. I guess that’s why I’m taking the chance on talking to you about this. Life is short. Don’t waste a minute of it on things that don’t matter.

Learn to relish those things that do matter. I pray you’ll have the wisdom to know the difference between the things that do matter and those that don’t.

A Safe Place

I grew up in the middle of Cold War. About once a month, our schools would have drills on what to do if we were attacked by nuclear weapons. We had to go out in the halls, sit down along the walls, and put our heads down to cover our eyes from the bright blast of the explosion. (Yeah, I know, but we actually thought it would work!)

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Throughout our city, you would see black and yellow signs pointing us to the closest Civil Defense shelter. If there was an attack, sirens would sound, and we would run for the nearest shelter. All we had to do was find the sign, and we’d find a safe place.

Now, there are little red and white signs around our community with the silhouette of a child and the words “Child Safe” on the sign. With the growing numbers of child abuse and abduction cases, communities have designated places where a child can go and be protected—no questions asked.

Everybody needs a safe place and maybe, just maybe, that’s why you and your spouse live in the neighborhood where you live. Perhaps God has placed you in the middle of your community so the families around you always know there’s a safe place. A place where they can find the love of Christ in and through the love of your family. A house where they know if they show up, they’ll be welcomed with unconditional love, peace, and safety.

We live in a hard world. People are always looking for someone or someplace that’s safe. Who knows, maybe one of the purposes of your marriage isn’t just so the two of you can know love, but so that an entire neighborhood can experience the love of Christ.

The Basics

Every discipline has a set of rituals or actions that are the building blocks of everything else done in that particular discipline. In music, it’s the scales. In cooking, it’s dicing garlic and onions. In football, it’s blocking and tackling. On and on the list goes, and you get the point. In every discipline, there are a series of basic actions you have to master in order to get better at your desired task. Until you master these basics, you’re stuck and you won’t be able to develop in your chosen field.


Walking with Christ is the same way. There are some fundamentals—some basics—that we have to master if we ever want to grow fully into the person we’re created and called to be. In 1 Kings 19, God gives the prophet Elijah some very good gifts. It comes at a particularly difficult time in Elijah’s life. Jezebel is looking for him and has promised to kill him when she finds him. He’s tired. He’s depressed. When God comes to him, God gives to Elijah the simple gifts that should be part of all of our lives.

First, God lets Elijah sleep. Most of us live sleep deprived lives. We don’t get enough rest and because of that, we’re irritable, sloppy in our work, and generally inattentive to our lives. Lack of sleep leads to all kinds of physical problems and depriving someone of sleep is considered a form of torture. So, here’s the first basic: Keep Sabbath. That means finding one day a week where you disconnect from the world and reconnect with God and the people that you love (like your spouse and your children). Our world keeps us constantly frazzled and frantic. There’s literally no time to think. No one makes good decisions under these conditions. No one likes living like this. So, unplug. Rest. Worship. Literally, this is God’s will for you. Keep Sabbath.

Second, God gave Elijah fresh bread and water. For Christ-followers, Christ Himself is the water and bread of life. For us, prayer and Bible study are as important as breathing and eating. We can’t know Jesus as deeply as we want to without a disciplined life of prayer and study. This means finding a time of day where you step away from the world and into the presence of our Savior. The radical teaching of Christianity is that our Rabbi is alive. Our Teacher is still working with His students. Nothing excites a teacher more than an eager student. Pray. Read the Bible. They’re the basics everything else is built on.

Lastly, if you keep reading, you’ll see where God gave Elijah a friend. He called Elisha to serve along with Elijah. The last basic you have to keep? Finding true spiritual friends. In American Christianity, we have this myth of the Marlboro Man Christian. You know, a person who lives his or her life in solitude—as one against the world. I don’t know who started this myth, but it’s simply not true. Following Christ is too hard to do by yourself. You need friends. Remember, it was always Paul and Silas (or Barnabas). It was Peter and John. Pray Jesus will bring into your life true friends who will encourage you and hold you accountable to your best self. It’s a basic. You can’t do more until you first do this.

And no, you never outgrow these fundamentals. They never change or lose their importance. There’s a reason we talk about our faith in terms of a journey. We never get there. We’re always on the way—one step after another. It is, after all, pretty basic.