If you’re expecting this to be a book which enumerates all the things wrong with the organized church, you’re mistaken. Although one chapter attempts to answer the question “Why are people leaving?” author Kelly Bean for the most part focuses on practical ways that those she calls “non-goers” can find ways of being the church without belonging to a traditional church.
She discusses her own experiences which led her to become a non-goer, which included the realization that the women in her own church were not treated equally with men; this led her to notice others who were excluded and she “began to wonder if this was what Jesus had in mind.” She and her husband joined a new church plant of the church she’d been in for 17 years but there were leadership problems and the pastor did not welcome the perspective of lay leaders. After 12 years, she and her husband made the difficult decision to leave this church.
In the midst of all this, Bean began to explore other church traditions and spiritual practices and her view of Christendom expanded. The house group she was a part of and which met at her home continued to meet even after the congregation the group had been born out of didn’t continue. Her experiences led her to ponder the question “What the heck is church?”
Perhaps the most valuable aspects of the book for those who are non-goers, or those who are considering becoming non-goers, are the alternatives she provides for those who are no longer connected to a traditional church. Bean suggests practical ways for alternative communities to provide pastoral care, leadership, financial support, worship, and faith formation for children, youth, and adults.
Bean shares many stories of those in intentional communities and includes their successes as well as their struggles. In the final chapter of the book, Bean addresses those considering becoming non-goers and encourages them to go toward something rather than away from something. She also addresses those who still have the energy and vision to stay in the organized church and suggests that they can be a part of a new way of being the church.
A “Personal Note” at the end of the book is an honest recounting of the events of Bean’s own life in the course of writing the book. She encountered many difficulties and relied on her community of friends and family members to get her through them. She states that “without this wealth of community and friendship, I am sure we would not have made it.”