Why People are Leaving the Church


One of the responsibilities of anyone in pastoral leadership is to be able to answer the question of why people are leaving your church.  I know this will ruffle some feathers, but sometimes we have to think of the church as a business, and when we do that, we need to pay attention to the trends taking place in society.  We might have the best product in the world, and I think eternal salvation is pretty great, but if no one comes through the door then no one will hear the message.

As a church, I believe we have bought into the narrative that the world has become secular, and there is no room for the church.  We need someone to blame so we turn to the culture of the day and point the finger at television, video games, etc. while all the while we ignore any role that we, the leaders of the church, might have.

There is no doubt that society has become a more secular place, but this Is not a new trend, in fact, it has been going in this direction since the 1960’s the church has just woken up to the idea.  There is no way we are going to complete so we just need to stop trying.  We need to realize that Sunday is just another day of the week but that there are six other days.

So where am I going with all of this?  Well for starters we as a church need to face up to our past and take responsibility for the role we have played in all of this.  We are not passive bystanders we are players and have contributed to where we are today.  We need to look, and when I say look I mean take a long hard look, at everything we do and how we do it and then seek answers to questions about what we can do to assist in making things better for our little corner of the world.  The mission of the church is a simple one, make disciples, not make converts, and not make cookie cutter people, make disciples.  How do we do this?  It’s quite simple, and Jesus told us how to love God and love neighbor.  We do not love them by screaming at them and telling them they are wrong.

I stumbled across an article recently that puts a fine point on what I am trying to say.  “Dear Church Here’s why People are Really Leaving You.”  Take a few moments and read the article then come back.

For the longest time, I thought worship was the problem.  I was told that traditional worship, where the minister wears a tie and robe, were not right.  We have to wear jeans and a t-shirt.  We cannot call our churches a sanctuary it is an auditorium.  Singing hymns are not good enough we need a rock band with flashing lights and smoke.  I’m not saying that any of that is wrong what I am saying is it does not matter what you do if it is not authentic then it’s not going to work.  Wear jeans if that’s what you want but if you are committing adultery with your church secretary, it’s not going to work.  Have a band and flashing lights, but if the people outside the door of the church are hungry, and you are doing nothing to help them, you are doing it wrong.  Some of the biggest hypocrites I know, including myself, are church members.

Here are some questions to ask and these come right from the end of the article.  Again, if you have not read it take the few minutes, it takes to read it and reflect on it.

Church, can you love us if we don’t check all the doctrinal boxes and don’t have our theology all figured out? It doesn’t seem so.

Can you love us if we cuss and drink and get tattoos, and God forbid, vote Democrat? We’re doubtful.

Can you love us if we’re not sure how we define love, and marriage, and Heaven, and Hell? It sure doesn’t feel that way.

We need to be able to authentically answer these questions.  We do not need answers, but we need to be open to the process of finding the answers.

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