God Within Me?
If you talk to SBNRs, before long you are gonna hear someone say “I find God within me.” And this shift is leaving the church with fewer members.
This simple video made by a woman who is spiritual but not religious is a great example. Although she grew up in a Catholic family and had some good early experiences, eventually she left the church and began her own voyage of self discovery. Her search included extensive reading and metaphysical practices such as astrology.
Where did it lead her? She says, “I read all this stuff because I was just curious, what is the real religion out there? And then it dawned on me. The real religion is what we have within us” (7:30-7:50). This is something I have heard hundreds of times when speaking with people who are spiritual but not religious.
Her story faithfully replicates so many of the hallmarks of SBNR. She wanted to be part of organized religion but at some point she just felt too confined. There was dissonance between her views and the teachings of religion, so she left.
But there was more too it than just theology. She describes two events that turned her against the church. The first was when she wanted to have her children baptized and the priest refused. The second was when she heard a Baptist preacher suggest she would go to hell if her beliefs did not match his.
Today she considers herself open minded and rational enough to conduct her own inquiry. For her, religious truth is not something to take on faith. It is a matter of research, investigation and effort.
If you are reading my blog because you are trying to think of ways to grow your church, this video would be worth watching. It plainly describes how this woman gradually lost faith in the church. In part, her negative experiences with clergy persuaded her to leave. The good news here is that this is something that can be fixed—in theory at least.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Church growth starts with keeping the members you have. It is much harder to get new people than to retain the ones you have.