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“Spiritual Nones”—Some Thoughts

Recently this writer, a pastor, caught some self-described “non-denominational Christians” off guard. In connection with a pre-marriage counseling class, we remarked to the couple: “More and more religious people are becoming Nones.”

“Really?!” “Yes, but the word is spelled n-o-n-e-s.”

“Oh!” came the retort—and everyone snickered. A brief discussion followed on the roles which organized religion, church affiliation, and public worship ought to have in the Christian way of life.

So how can and shall we—who admit to being “dogmatic”—respond to the Nones phenomenon? 

Generally speaking, Nones don’t want to be “categorized” with any particular denomination. While claiming faith in a [generic] god, Nones prefer to be labeled as “spiritual” and/or “religious” rather than as Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, or you-name-it.

In recent months our local newspaper carried three op-ed articles which touched on this topic. The headlines read:

1) “Church world is a-changin’”;

2) “Young people fleeing the church, not God”;

3) “Religion: Majority is no longer Protestant.”

Yes, you can google the term “spiritual nones.” When we did, a couple dozen insightful articles popped up.

Many polls show that Nones constitute a growing segment in the religious world today. [“The number of people who say they have no religious affiliation—called ‘nones’ by some—has more than doubled in the U. S. since 1990, to 16% of the population.” TIME magazine, March 12, 2012] Tied in with this is the fact that more and more “religious” and “spiritual” people are breaking ties with organized religion. [“For most, they’re not rejecting God….They’re rejecting organized religion as being rigid and dogmatic.”
Same TIME article]

As far as the Nones and public worship are concerned, one googled article reports: “…the unaffiliated [our “Nones”] stand out from other religious groups in the U.S. for their infrequent attendance at worship services. Just 5% of the unaffiliated report going to worship services at least once a week, compared with about half of Protestant (49%) and four-in-ten Catholics (41%). The overwhelming majority of the unaffiliated say they seldom or never attend worship services apart from weddings or funerals. Fully 83% of atheists and agnostics seldom or never attend worship services, and the same is true of 67% of those with no particular religious affiliation.” (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, October 9, 2012)

This writer sees significance in the fact that Nones are mentioned in a paragraph with atheists and agnostics. We don’t want to be uncharitable, yet it appears that being a None equates with standing for nothing [sounds like atheists to us], or with the related idea that since nobody really knows Truth, it doesn’t much matter what one stands for [as agnostics will claim].

So how can and shall we—who admit to being “dogmatic”—respond to the Nones phenomenon?

First of all, we assert that Bible believers enjoy many, many blessings from their Savior-God within the organized church affiliation and structured fellowship in which they strive to practice the Christian faith they profess.

So, allow us to list a few Bible passages which, if and when the opportunity presents itself, we would like to study and discuss with wanna-be “Christian” Nones.

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him. ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31f)

Contrary to how political correctness would have it in some “Christian” churches as well as in culture and society as a whole, truth, absolute truth, exists.

“And [the early Christians] continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

Far from being turned off by “rigid doctrine,” members of the early church embraced Scripture teaching within a fellowship of like-minded believers.

“…These things we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
(1 Corinthians 2:13f)

Being “spiritual” is a desirable and necessary religious trait, yet God-pleasing spirituality calls for Spirit-led discernment.

“And to the angel [pastor] of the church in Philadelphia write, …I know your [church’s] works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name….” (Revelation 3:7ff)

Within an organized congregation first century believers were addressed by their one Head—Jesus Christ; in the process of spreading His Word, they were commended for…for doing what?

“Let us…consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24f)

In view of the approaching Day of Judgment, what would be some positive reasons for—and results of—assembling together for public worship?

The list could go on and on and on, but these few passages demonstrate how Jesus’ disciples seldom if ever put their religious faith into practice along the lines of “label-less stand-for-little-or-nothing” Nones. Rather, they sought one another out for Spirit-led worship and Godly fellowship around solid (true) Bible doctrine.

Dear reader, when a door opens for you to do so, look to engage any Nones in an objective, Bible-based discussion of the Christian religion and its biblically-based and thus God-given parameters.