Every day I converse with people who have left the organized church. They are very spiritual people interested in living authentic lives of integrity, justice, love and vocation. But they are turned off of the institution we call church. I understand.
I had squirrels in my house once. Do you know how impossible it is to catch a squirrel? If they smell anything human on the bait, you won't catch them. Same with my children and so many, many of my friends: if there is any sense of a trap, they won't even come close. They can smell control and manipulation from a mile away. Even if the control is minor and sincere, they won't take it. Not even a nibble.
Let's look at the difference between a family and an institution. The problem with an institution is that it requires the sublimation of individual freedom to some degree. I think a healthy family is otherwise: it promotes individual freedom, nurtures it, encourages it and allows its expression. (Now, when it comes to hurting other people or themselves, then it needs to be addressed. Of course.)
Many of my friends and my own children want to be free. They don't wish to sublimate their own freedom for the sake of an institution's security or success. How is the church today different than Molech in the Old Testament that required the sacrifice of our own children for its existence? Can we be a collective, a community, a church, without requiring people to sacrifice themselves for it? Can individually free people gather together without allowing the principalities and powers to subtly take precedence and erode their own freedom for the sake of its own life?
My readers, these are serious questions for serious times.