By: Stephen McAlpine
Hey Christian, are you in danger of quiet quitting your faith? You know what quiet quitting is, don’t you?
Quiet quitting is a response to the “bring your whole self to work” mantra. Employees are saying “Enough is enough!, I’m going to do as much work as I need to to get by in the workplace, but that’s it.” Employers are apparently asking for too much, and people are declaring that their life outside their job is far more important than their job. Important enough to save the bulk of their energies for it. So they quiet quit.
There are positive and negative responses to quiet quitting, ranging from “right on!” to concerns that being slack is an unhealthy way to operate in the work place, risks your colleagues shouldering more of the weight. Worse still, the quiet quit attitude bleeds over into other aspects of your life.
But for many it’s just a natural swing of the pendulum after a decade of overwork, and the shift by companies to virtue signal about progressive ideologies that many of their workers don’t share.
But work aside, what about “quiet quitting” when it comes to your faith?
Look there have been plenty of noisy quitters over the past few years. I’ve lost count of the number of Christian celebs who have announced on Instagram and Twitter and TikTok (Facebook is for non-celebs and your dad), that they are deconstructing their faith because they need to be authentic/heretical/true-to-themselves.
For the noisy quitter it’s often that the biblical sexual ethic is a bridge too far. Given that the cultural zeitgeist virtually demands it, they loudly announce that they are done with the faith on every social medial platform available to them. And off they go to make the non-Christian version of the Christian album they were planning to produce. Or the book that reveals why they left in the first place.
Noisy quitting has a sugar rush in our social media age, as such people receive kudos and likes and a pile on of love from many other noisy quitters who don’t have the same celeb status. I don’t need to tell you who those noisy quitters are because, well because, they’ve already told you!
Noisy quitters are the second soil in Jesus’ parable in Mark 4. When trouble or persecution arises on account of the Word (aka “not being popular” or being branded a bigot by those in the same creative industries to which they belong), they’re done. Jesus’ perspective is more perceptive. He says it’s because they had no roots – their faith was shallow in the first place. I know that sounds harsh, but in an era of celebrity worship, worshipping Christian celebrities is always fraught with that danger.
…versus Quiet Quitters
But enough about the noisy quitters! What about the quiet quitters of the faith? There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the rise of the “Dones”, those who have just finished with the faith. But there’s a way of leaving the faith that’s less obvious, and looks more like that well-known gif of Homer Simpson, quietly backing away into the bushes.
Quiet-quitting the Christian life is the third soil that Jesus speaks of: those who bear no fruit because of the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things. Or as we might put it today “everyday life”.
And to be honest, as someone involved in paid ministry for more than thirty years, it’s the quiet quitters of the faith who take their toll on you. A noisy quitter? I can cope with them. It’s all over in no time. There is shouting, some fireworks and sadness, and then nothing.
But the quiet quitters take a while. I constantly meet people who were Christian at one time and no longer identify as such, or no longer have anything to do with the people of God, and are just getting on with things like any other secular person. And they do so quietly with a “Meh!” or a shrug of the shoulders.
But the process by which they get there usually takes its toll on someone in the ministry who is concerned for their spiritual health and the spiritual health of those around them in their sphere of influence. Quiet quitters are those who just can’t come out and say they’re quitting, because they don’t actually think they are.
The Cares of the World
Over time they silently and almost surreptitiously allow the things of this age to become more important. And that’s almost imperceptible. It’s often a result of taking a good thing and making it a god thing. Of taking something that, in its right place can occupy a certain amount of one’s time and space, and letting it fill more time and more space, until eventually it starts to squeeze other things out.
The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things. Cares, deceits and desires. When we watch people quiet quit the faith, it’s got a certain pattern. They stop spending time with the people of God. Weekly becomes fortnightly becomes monthly, becomes occasionally, becomes brunch of Sunday mornings with friends, and before you know it, you’re done.
Being discipled by someone else, or making a decision to preference the people of God and the things of God in small incremental ways starts to fall off the radar. It almost always accompanies a slow spiritual withering. Noisy quitting is more about a hot desert blast of hellish wind that rips you away from the faith. Quiet quitting more a slow rise in the temperature over a couple of seasons, with an accompanying lack of spiritual rain fall.
And how does it feel to quiet quit? it feels okay! It feels great in fact. And why wouldn’t it? Many’s the time I’ve been driving to church and looking across at a busy cafe of people who seem to be as happy as I (happier?) and going “I wish!”
And for quiet quitters, while those first few months of cutting out one of the more time-consuming, energy-sapping and people-overloading aspects of your life can induce guilt, that goes away! You’ll find yourself on the other side of the Homer Simpson hedge feeling pretty good! You’ll meet new people who will NEVER ask you how your spiritual life is going or lovingly call out your tendency to gossip or badmouth someone.
And of course, the reason given for leaving church is just how over-busy and all-consuming it is. But nature abhors a vacuum. That time will be filled with other things. What other things? Well, cares, deceits and desires of course. There’s a tendency to dial up other activities and events, often good activities and events, that then become the primary focus. Jesus doesn’t just hit modern life on the head when he talks about cares, deceits and desires, he hits life on the head.
Clearly it was no different in his day because his disciples weren’t sitting around scratching their heads and saying “Explain to us these cares, deceits and desires! Surely this is for some mythical future of Sunday brunches, iPhones and triple ply toilet paper”. No! First century Palestine was no different to 21st century Perth, Western Australia. The same cares, deceits and desires lay at the base of the human heart, they merely had different expressions.
Quiet Quitting is a Gamble
And quiet quitting is easy to gamble with and think you’ll win. Far more easy to gamble with than with those issues that derail the noisy quitters. Junk your theological framework, or decide that you’re actually going to be more authentic living with the man you just met online than with your husband, and it’s all over pretty quickly. You know the stakes, you play your hand and you walk away empty handed.
But quiet quitting strings it out. Often we begin by thinking we can do both. And that’s why in our modern world full of so many choices, opportunities and enticements, quiet quitting is the more dangerous lure. Those of us in ministry roles long term know this because we’ve likely lost a lot more people through quiet quitting than noisy quitting.
What’s the solution to the scourge of quiet quitting and how can you avoid it? Well it’s not to do a soil sample test on your own life. Introspection’s not the solution. What did Jesus say?
“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
When you hear the word of God then respond the way you need to in the moment: repent/trust/admit/lean into/obey/practice. There’s a bunch of ways of saying it.
In short, allow the word of God to do the work of God in your life. And that’s going to happen best in a Christian community. A Christian community in which your relationships have grown to the point of transparency and trust that you will both be warned about the bad things that may make you quit noisily, and admonished about the good things in life that may tempt you to quit quietly. And all of this with a dose of love and grace and humility from leaders and confidants who are ensuring the same is true in their own lives.
So no rocket surgery. No brain science. No secret sauce. Just like with your day job, it’s a thousand tiny decisions that add up to a life of integrity in which your exterior life matches your interior life. Your earthly master may have no idea that you’ve quiet quit, but your heavenly Master will.
And on the last day when you hear “Well done good and faithful servant”, you’ll be overjoyed that you didn’t take the quiet quit option.
About the Author: Stephen has been reading, writing and reflecting ever since he can remember. He is the lead pastor of Providence Church Midland, and in his writing dabbles in a number of fields, notably theology and culture. Stephen and his family live in Perth’s eastern suburbs, where his wife Jill runs a clinical psychology practice.