I Started a Church for People Who Don’t Like Church
It has no building, no pastors, no pulpit, and no pretense
It has been almost four years to the day since I decided to walk away from the church.
For a kid who grew up going to church every week, twice a week, for the first 38 years of my life, this feels like a big deal. Occasionally, I feel like I should get out my Sunday best, dust off my hymnal, and head down to the local chapel for old time’s sake, or perhaps to appease some lingering sense of internal guilt that tells me I am destined for the bowels of Hell — a belief that, ironically enough, I picked up from my involvement in church in the first place.
And that’s a big part of the reason that I walked away from the institution. I couldn’t stand how guilt and fear were used as tools to manage and manipulate people’s behavior. I couldn’t stand the performance-based religion where I constantly strived to receive God’s blessing, acceptance, and forgiveness. Above all, I couldn’t hack the hypocrisy I observed in certain church leaders. If these men are anything like the God they purport to serve, I wanted nothing to do with it!
And so I walked away.
But, I am not alone.
For example, in the USA alone, around three and a half thousand believers walk away from the Christian church every single day. According to the online publication The Christian Century, in the USA, an average of nine churches per day shut their doors for good.
Yet, according to Barna Research, over 70% of Americans still identify as Christians. And so do I. My problem is not with Jesus. So far as I am concerned, he is history’s preeminent teacher of love, grace, and compassion and worthy of being followed. Rather, my problem is with the church.
Which left me with a conundrum.
How do I follow Jesus now that I don’t go to church, especially when almost every expression of my faith had been linked to the church up until this point in my life?
In addition, I have observed that the Bible assumes that all Christians will be part of a faith community of some kind. Christianity has always been and will always be a communal religion, so I knew I couldn’t do it alone. So how do I do Christian faith without being part of the institutionalized church?
It’s been playing on my mind.
And so, I finally decided to do something about it. I decided to create an online faith community — a virtual church, if you will.
The birth of an idea
When I started writing on Medium, I wrote angry poems that were (thankfully) only ever read by a handful of people.
But everything changed for me that day. I wrote what would be my first-ever proper blog post. It was entitled, “Why People Walk Away From the Church.”
It became the first article that I wrote that went viral.
For some reason, it resonated with lots of people. I realized that I was not alone in how I felt. I wanted to believe. I wanted to have faith. But I struggled with the church. And there are many people out there like me.
People began to share their stories with me. Some of those stories were tragic. There were situations of spiritual abuse — of mistreatment by the church. There were others who had never felt safe enough to articulate their doubts and fears or ask their questions.
And so, I started blogging almost exclusively about religion, spirituality, and Christianity. Some people hated it. Some people loved it, and, over time, people began to follow what I was writing.
I count it an absolute privilege to be able to write things that have an impact on people’s lives or help them in some way. There is only one problem with blogging, though. It involves an author, who creates content, and a reader who consumes content. It is transactional by nature.
These days I’m longing for more than content creation and consumption. I want community. I want to create a forum where we can have two-way conversations. I want to create a safe place for people who have faith but who struggle to be part of the church institution.
Enter the Backyard Church online community
So, I teamed up with a bunch of other Backyard Church writers to create Backyard Church Online.
Backyard Church Online is a safe place for people who still have faith but can’t, don’t, or simply don’t want to go to church in the traditional sense. Maybe you’ve lost faith in the system. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by the church or other Christians. Maybe you find the church is not an emotionally safe place to ask your questions or share your doubts. Maybe you’ve even arrived at a place where you want to grow in your faith, but the church is taking you around in circles.
That is why Backyard Church Online was created.
Backyard Church Online is a dynamic online ecosystem that allows you to interact with content, chat with other members, participate in online forums, post your thoughts, insights, and questions, and even share photos and videos. It has all the functionality of a social media site like Facebook (but without the ads), only it is a closed community, so it really is as safe a space as we can make it.
Best of all, it has an app that allows you to access all the network’s features from your phone, your iPad, or your computer. It is a church community you can carry around in your pocket.
I think that you will be impressed by what you find in The Backyard Church Community. Let me tell you what you can expect:
- You’ll find a safe place for your faith to fall apart without being judged.
- You’ll find people who will walk with you while you try to piece it all back together as well.
- You’ll find a safe place to ask your big questions, share your doubts, talk about your pain, and unpack your religious trauma.
- You’ll have access to thought-provoking and challenging content to help you move forward.
- You’ll be able to connect with like-minded people from all over the world who are on a similar journey.
- You’ll be able to chat with other church members and leaders openly and honestly.
- You’ll be able to participate in online forums and discussions about matters of faith.
- You’ll be able to connect with other writers and bloggers who write about religion, spirituality, and Christianity.
While this all sounds amazing, there is a cost to provide the space for Backyard Church Online. It’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than running a church building and paying for pastors. But we do charge a small subscription fee to help us pay for it. I want to be totally upfront about that. But, you can try it for free, though, and if it’s not for you, then bow out! No sweat!
No church is perfect. This one won’t be either. But, my hope is that we can at least be honest, real, and open in this church community. Everyone’s story is welcome here without judgment. No need to perform. No need to try to impress. If you’re longing for a church community like that, welcome home!
Whoever you are, you belong. I pray that Backyard Church Online brings you life, faith, and hope.
The Backyard Church is not just a blog. It’s a real online community for people who have faith but can’t, don’t, or won’t go to church. Join today.
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