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9 Reasons the Church Needs Non-Church People

As I walked through the large, glass church doors, a deep pain swelled in my stomach screaming for me to turn and run from this place I’ve called home.

I used to feel loved by these walls—treasured and safe in their warm embrace.
I used to find sanctuary in a beautiful, lingering worship melody as if Jesus himself was holding me tight and whispering in my ear, “I love you.”

You see, I miraculously wandered through those same doors six years earlier—lost and suicidal—and over time saw my entire life transform. I even shared my story in a service from the stage in front of thousands.

Then, on a brisk October day, these words came flying at me in a painful meeting:

“You have caused darkness in our church,” and continued, “Your voice isn’t welcome at the table.”

My jaw slammed to the cold, tile floor. This man was all-but-saying the words I fear most out of the people I love: Get out, you aren’t wanted here.

Don’t worry friends, I didn’t bring a gun to church or destroy the chicken wild rice hot dish just before the potluck—offenses obviously worth excommunication. I did something much more scandalous: I listened to what God was whispering to me and wrote it down in a post I called 12 Reasons Millennials are Over Church.

Why would God want me to feel such hurt and rejection for my faithfulness to him? I wanted out of all of it. “I’m taking a church sabbatical,” I told those closest to me. Even worse, I journaled this:

I don’t want a personal relationship with a God that would lead me to so much hurt and rejection.

So… I’m not Job… shoot me.

And yet, in the months that have passed, it became glaringly obvious that I was in fact meant to write that piece. Five days after that meeting, the post got picked up by one national blog and within weeks, five more. Three months after it’s initial publishing, those words have been viewed and shared over 500,000 times by authors, church leaders and college presidents.

One famous author wrote: “If we took this kid seriously church would not be the same again. And in a good way.”

I’ve talked to pastors in Michigan, Illinois, Texas, and Tennessee. I’ve met and networked with some of the most beautiful Jesus-like people you could ever imagine. I got contacted by a publisher asking to see the book proposal for my manuscript.

I share this story of church struggle not to shame anyone or to cause gossip. I am sharing this painful story for you: the beaten down, church-resistant, “I’m never going back there” Christian, because I want you to know you are not alone.

And through this whole ordeal, I’ve come to a crazy realization: the church desperately needs more non-church people like you (and like me).

And here’s why:

1. You Hold the Bigger Picture

Since you are not a church-insider, you see the larger story in a different way than those completely immersed in church culture. You have a laser vision for our ultimate purpose—to love God and serve the least of these—that allows you to call out the distractions that keep the church in neutral.

Takeaway: The church needs you to (gently) remind them of the plot when it gets lost in the wrong story.

2. You Have Compassion for the Misfits

You’ve felt the sting of exclusion so you’re able to empathize and love people in a way the in-crowd cannot. Because you don’t fit the mold, you are exactly the person someone needs to come say hello.

I once heard a church worker say, “there is a place here for anyone who tries—people are just lazy and then complain they don’t have community.”

I wouldn’t call someone who is brave enough to step foot in a new church lazy; I would call them courageous and vulnerable.  They are entering a new place wondering if they’ll be judged, wondering if they’re too “dirty” to stand next to the family with the perfectly ironed khakis, wondering if this place will be another source of pain, condemnation, and disappointment.

Takeaway: If the people who don’t fit abandon the church, the other outsiders will never have a place either.

3. You Challenge the Status Quo

You’re not willing to accept an institution that is merely “good enough” and are brave enough to speak up when you see waste and inefficiency.

It seems people in power don’t really like to be challenged (and certainly not by someone younger or who doesn’t fit the church mold). This is why we, the people who don’t love church, need to use the voice God has given us.

Sadly, you’ve probably felt the backlash for standing up for what you believe in, but this is why the Church needs you even more.

Takeaway: Never be afraid to humbly stand-up for the changes God is calling you to lead. If you hit some resistance, you’re probably on the right track. Be brave enough to keep going.

4. You’re Bold & Edgy (and dare I say… reckless?)

The perfect church person is quiet and reverent. They always appear holy and have memorized every syllable of the church handbook. They don’t ask questions about big decisions and certainly don’t give their opinion when things are handled poorly.

You have never been like this (and you probably don’t even hangout with people like that.) But Paul doesn’t call his disciples to be quiet and timid. He calls them to love God with reckless abandon. Paul encourages Timothy saying,

“God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.” 2 Timothy 1:7(MSG)

Takeaway: Be careful not to immediately jump on the offensive. Get your hands dirty by serving and loving the church. If during that service you see ways to improve the church, pray and share what you feel God is telling you with strength and confidence.

5. You Can Model Forgiveness

We need to share, not silence, our stories of being hurt by the church. We have all seen how secrecy among God’s people only spreads more darkness.

Instead of wallowing in the pain, choose to do something radical: forgive them.

Run from the enemy’s temptation to gossip. Instead, choose to extend the same grace and love to members of the church that Jesus has extended to you. Yes, egging their house seems like a more satisfying avenue, but forgiveness is actually the greatest gift you could ever give the church.

“Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (MSG)

Takeaway: If you’ve been hurt in big or small ways, be brave enough to walk through that pain and extend forgiveness to those who’ve hurt you. (Side-note: It’s yeah…super not fun).

6. You See Things Like a Newcomer

When a church is run by only people who love church, they forget what it’s like to be a new believer. Slowly, the language and customs become incomprehensible to non-church folk, especially those raised outside the church.

Takeaway: You see the barriers a church places before new people and are the perfect person to come along the newbies and bridge the gap.

7.You’re Not Blinded By Your Love

We’ve all been there, so head-over-heals for someone we choose not see their glaringly obvious flaws. Even when our friends say, “bro, she’s a mess,” we’re all like, “nah, she’s the one.”

You are that friend and the churchy people are the dazed lovers. Your lack of infatuation for the church actually makes your more valuable to the organization as a whole (although they probably won’t see it that way).

True love wants what is best for someone and calls out truth. Just because you are not standing on top of your car with a megaphone having an I-LOVE-CHURCH dance party does not mean you don’t deeply care about God’s Church.

Takeaway: The fact that you’re willing to work towards improvement and press in through the pain is actually a deeper love than the many who choose complacency.

8. You Don’t Care About Keeping Up Appearances

Your Faith is Messy. You’re authentic and vulnerable. You rail against the notion that the J-O-Y of C-H-R-I-S-T must be present on your face at all times. You’re real about the day you’re having and aren’t vague about the struggles you’re facing.
For that reason, YOU are the type of Christian outsiders need to encounter.

People need to see that trying to become fully alive in God is a struggle filled with trial and errors. When you start to follow Jesus, the bible doesn’t say things will get easier, often times they get harder but in a beautiful way.

Takeaway: The Church needs vulnerable people like you who can be open and honest about the difficulties of trying to live an honest, pure and holy life. Can I get an Amen?

(I can’t really pull off the amen thing, can I? Moving on…)

9. You’re More Interested in Following Jesus Than Playing the Religion Game

You know who else stood in front a crowd and told people hard things they didn’t want to hear? You know who else held up a mirror to the religious leader’s of his day and tried to show them the areas they had lost their way?
You know who else was rejected by the people he loved?

Jesus. This guy our church is centered around. So if you’re ruffling a few feathers maybe God is making your more like Jesus than you even know.

If you are truly following him, you too will come toe to toe with those in power just as he did.
You too will be cast aside by those who don’t agree with you.
You too will be asked to show an inhumane amount of forgiveness when you’ve been hurt.

Takeaway: Through it all, keep your eyes focused on being more like Jesus; he’s the only one who truly matters.

So my friends, if you consider yourself a “non-church person” as I do, the church needs you more than you could ever know. In God’s big story, rarely is it the perfect, religion-loving man the hero that is called upon to do great things. Almost always God chooses the underdog, the scrappy misfit to accomplish his unbelievable plans.

So what if God chose me? And what if God is choosing you?

If you’ve left the church, I hope you’re brave enough to go back and try again. I pray you’re strong enough to extend forgiveness for the imperfect people who hurt you. The truth is, there are non-church people still hanging out in these buildings waiting to welcome you back or welcome you in.


…and you are so much more valuable to the Church than you even know. Come hang out with us. We can’t do this alone. So, see you Sunday?

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About Sam

in love with all things Jesus, music, adventure, writing, teaching, laughter, running, friendship. Founder of recklesslyalive.com.

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  1. Good response to naysayers. You are the church and the current and new members need you because you provide a unique and needed perspective.

  2. Sam, you are absolutely right. Jesus is a disruptive force in society. That can happen at the Macro level (i.e. the recent election when the evangelical vote SHOWED UP) and at the Micro level, individually. Any Spirit-filled church has to be open to questions and be willing to change. My church turned 90 degrees last summer, all it took was one visit by Eric Metaxas for the pastor to see the truth that he spoke about the history of this nation and that we are truly, deeply a Christian nation. I see that message has chased some families from the church, and to be honest, my church is weak in engagement of those from high school through college. But I pray that every family finds another church filled with light, or will use their light to bring radiance to that church.

    Sam, you bring that radiance. Please don’t let anybody tell you different. You are pleasantly humble, yet full of conviction. You have the ear of God, and the heart of Christ. How can anybody erect barriers to somebody such as that!!!

  3. Hey Sam, been busy I see.

    Have you seen enough?…there’s more – much more.

    Religion, no matter its brand is painted with the same brush. God lovers think they know what we’re doing but in truth, they separate themselves through a religious arrogance of self-justification. Traditions and rules to satisfy the mind.

    It’s a horrible sight and only pain can wake you from it. The millennials are the sleeping beauties of christ and when they finally see the mistakes of the past you had better slip the seat belt on.

    Love your work.


  4. Thanks for writing! So crazy to see what’s happened over the last month, but I just want to say that I’m proud of you. I think the ways you’re recommending people respond to very real hurt that can be caused by church is simply countercultural. Responding with humility, love, and commitment to see Jesus formed in the people around you is what the Church is supposed to be all about.

    If anyone became disillusioned about church by reading your viral post, they clearly misunderstood your aim, and this post is a compelling reminder to those people that Jesus is still worth it, even if we have to experience Him alongside imperfect people. Knowing the love of Jesus draws us to love those people more, not less.

    Keep it up, Sam.


  5. Sam, It seems you may see hope for the old fudgy dowdies, bad self centered members in church or perhaps you are trying to redeem your self to say well maybe you don’t really ” sort of hate the church” in the last post I read in your blog. I don’t know what you are really saying: “you sorta of hate the church” or to others now you say: “If you’ve left the church, I hope you’re brave enough to go back and try again.” It is hard for me to understand if a Christian, a believer in Christ, a believer in God the creator of the world, and believer in the Holy Scripture why there is so much division and anger towards Christian’s, especially older ones trying to live for the Lord God and His son Jesus based on God’s Word. Do you hate us as frail and failing as we are? Do you not see any redemption for men that are the leaders although they struggle to teach God’s word? What do you think of your followers that say there is no God,” God is an old man made up by old men’s false stories, it’s made up by old men writing the Bible”, do the Holy Scriptures about God the creator not teaching the way to salvation be truth? I love the church, a group of people wanting to live a life based on the scriptures, God’s word . I take what is taught in my church which is truth based on The Bible anything I don’t agree with I leave it in the hand of God. I love the church, I love God and I love the desire of men and women trying to teach God’s truth. I think you are right in some arrears that you write about but are not so in many areas that you write about. For God’s sake Sam salvation is not within the church but is through the Word of God. Teach those that are disappointed in their life that it isn’t God that has done this or is responsible for this but the devil is what developers feelings of the devil that makes man’s decay and misery. God is good, our faith is in Him and the Holy Word shows us the way to salvation through the Bible teachings, the church is made up of frail humans, we all see different things in God’s word to our calling. God help us all to examine ourselves before Him and just live the simple life of the teachings we are given in His text: the Bible, after all that is all we have to go buy and it is an easy life to live.

    • Dear Carol,
      I am sorry, I know I may get a tongue lashing but I feel compelled to respond despite myself. I know nothing about you and I am sure you are a God fearing and God loving woman. I aways hate it when people quote bible scripture at me like they are better than me so please forgive me if I offend you by what I am about to say but when I red your response this kept nagging at me. God forgive me if I am presumptuous. At the end you said ” it is an easy life to live”. Our Lord himself said ” …it is a narrow gate and hard road that leads to life…” MT 7:14. Our Lord did say his yoke is easy and his burden is light, but it is a yoke and a burden no less we live it by His grace. I don’t think Sam is trying to pass judgement on anyone. He is sharing is own personal pain and struggles and inviting others to return to the church. If we see that as an attack then we should ask ourselves why. As you said we are all frail, have you never been angry with God? Perhaps God has had pity on you and spared you such testing. I certainly have been in a place of hurt where I was angry and yes even thought I hated God. But God had mercy on me. God is bigger than all that and if He can find mercy for those who may rail agaist Him (as did many of the prophets in trials). I am sure by His grace that we can too. Let us all pray for those who have been hurt by us ” the church” and may we all be reconciled in Christ Jesus. Amen

  6. Hey Sam. Thanks for the thought provoking blog. I am sorry for the hurt you had to endure for sharing what you felt God put on your heart. I have been on both sides of similar scenerios in my life several times.The truth is we are all sinners in need of God’s firgiveness and redemption. I love a saying I read before. “Saying I won’t go to church because they are a bunch of sinners, is like saying I wont go to the gymn because there are a bunch of out of shape people there.” When I was a young girl, I was a super church goer and super self-righteous. I am so ashamed when I think of it now. However a painful experience led me to leave the church for a couple of years and I went down a very bad path. My mother always told me the church is made of flawed humans don’t focus on them focus on Christ we are here to serve him. In my years away from church realised the truth about my own sinfullness and my moms words. I am back now, a true “church goer” I see our flaws clearer than ever and yeah I have been really hurt at times by our members but I love them all! I am grateful for your honest Sam.Lots of people want everything to be black and white. (I certainly do) Us against them, I am goo and they are bad…the longer I live I see that life just isn’t like that. We are all both sometimes. The path to holliness is messy and its difficult. I think you see that and you ask the hard and messy questions and you seek the hard and sometimes messy (By human standards) truth. If anyone finds themselves taking sides after reading your blog I think they’ve missed the point. Instead if I think I am a “church goer” I should ask God how have I alienated those who I should have been reaching out to? And ask God to forgive me and show me howI can make amends. And if I see myself as the angry non church goer then I should recognize my own sinfullness and come to a place of forgiveness and love for those who have hurt me. And yeah be open to coming back to this messy family we call the church. I just really love what you are trying to do but it saddens me when people are to quick to “correct you” or to attack “the church” in defense of you. We are all in this together. Lets take it to prayer and ask God. “How can I make a difference.” OK I’ll get off my soapbox now.? Much love In Christ,

    • PS Sorry I just wanted to say this in case I am misconstrued. I don’t think Sam is asking anyone to take sides. I think he is a God fearing and sincere man who loves the church. And is sharing his experiences and struggles inorder to open our hearts and minds to what God may be calling us to. And I for one am grateful for that.

  7. I happened across one of your articles about how millenials are giving up on churches. Then i perused the page, saw this article. All 9 are me. So what should I do? I honestly dont know a better way to word that besides being clueless to what I should do after having been singled out for some reason…especially since i am not fond of the limelight . Should you happen to respond, hopefully I get notified.

    • D’Attagnan I just came across your comment now and wished to respond despite the long delay. Praise God you feel you have been singled out now what?
      Firstly I would counsel you to pray frequently for God’ s guidance. Read the scriptures and be attentive. You don’ t have to figure it all out at once but be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When you truly and sincerely seek God’s will he wiil direct your paths. He will put people and circumstances in you path so just be open and be faithful. I will be praying for you…Have a blessed Holy Week and a most blessed and Happy Easter!!
      In Christ,

  8. Margaret P Meyncke

    Great article. Really resonated with me. I am going back to church.

  9. You have articulated what has been going on in my family’s life for the past 5 years–the frustration and pain of church and Christians. And having been a pastor’s kid, then a missionary’s kid, and now a leader in our church, I am totally done with church and people who call themselves Christian. I have been reprimanded for being myself, and it hurts like none other. So, I ask myself, why bother? I’ve been a “good” Christian. I’ve followed all the rules all of my life. I’ve been humble when admonished. I’ve been faithful. I’ve persevered. But now I’m thinking, for as many times as I’ve been reprimanded for being too much–being too loud, too opinionated, going barefoot, coloring my hair an unholy green. And those 50 things you’ve suggested? Been there. Done that. So yeah. I’m done with the pharisees. I’d rather go hang out with the whores and tax collectors. Today, their equivalent of the disenfranchised, marginalized, and despised are the pierced, the tatted, the gay, the trans, and all the colors in between. At least they’re real, they need Jesus, and they don’t give a hill of beans what color your hair is or if you happened to say “god” in OMG.

  10. I would be curious to read your definition of what the non-church person LOOKS like. We are visually oriented creatures. We render quick judgements based on what we see. And no place is this more true than in church. I vividly remember a story Bono told of him and his band members going to church. They were dressed like punks–the music genre and attitude–and the people at the church they attended did not take kindly to them. A lot of millennials don’t look much like your average churchgoer and are turned away because of it.

    • Hi Sally! My definition would be Christians who don’t love church or are disenfranchised with it. People who maybe have been burned our just don’t seem to fit it. That’s an interesting story about the band, I totally believe it! Thanks for your insightful comment and sharing your story.