Most people don’t want to go to church. But why? And what might interest them in joining a community of faith?
Those questions have sent us across the country looking for answers. After years of research and countless interviews, my wife Joani and I have finally collected our findings. They’re in a new book titled, no surprise, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, with a subtitle of “And How 4 Acts of Love Will Make Your Church Irresistible.”
We found four recurring themes why the majority avoids church. Here’s a sneak preview from the book:
1. “I feel judged.” Gabe Lyons’ and David Kinnaman’s research in their book UnChristian confirms that “church people judge me.” According to their studies, 87 percent of Americans label Christians as judgmental. Fair or unfair, most people view the church as critical, disapproving, and condemning. Whether it’s behavior, looks, clothes, choice of friends, lifestyle decisions, or whatever, the church has a solid reputation for acting as judge and jury over our individual differences.
2. “I don’t want to be lectured.” More than ever, people today want to participate in the discussion. One man told us he’s talked with more than a thousand other men who’ve given up on church. He said, “Guys don’t want to sit in a room and idly listen to some preacher do all the talking. They want to ask questions. They want to share their thoughts, too.” The same goes for women. They don’t want another one-way lecture.
3. “Church people are a bunch of hypocrites.” This isn’t a small minority talking. A whopping 85 percent make this claim. We know, we know. Every church leader in America is weary of this “excuse.” But people aren’t merely referring to incongruous behavior. What bothers them is the sense that church leaders act as if they alone have all the answers. As if they’ve arrived. As if they’re only interested in telling others what to do—“teaching,” to use ministry vernacular.
4. “Your God is irrelevant to my life. But I’d like to know there is a God and he cares about me.” Research by the Barna Group reveals that only 44 percent of people who attend church every week say they regularly experience God at church. They’re not looking for the deep theological trivia that seems to interest a lot of preachers. They crave something rather simple. They want to be reassured that God is real, that he is more than a historical figure, that he is present today, and that he is active in the lives of people around them.
Whether we like it or not, this is what the population is saying about the church today.
Now, as God’s people, we can defensively bark back and shift the blame to all those heathens and backsliders who’ve abandoned the church. But that will do nothing but hasten the decline of the American church.
Or, we can explore ways to better be the church. That’s what led us to the “four acts of love” we describe in the book. I’ll preview those in coming blog posts.
When it comes to the plight of the church, one thing’s for sure. God has not given up on his church. He’s at work, urging his people forward. We simply need to get on board.
I love reading your posts! I feel like it’s right on the money every time! God is using you! I forward your posts each time to our ministry staff and elders to read as well hoping we can all catch a glimpse of how we cater to our culture without even realizing it sometimes…and after returning from Haiti last month, I too, feel it’s time to bring it back to simplicity and deepen our authentic relationship with Christ. If we can do this, others can learn how to as well! Thanks!
These excuses are the same ones reflected in conversations I have had with different people. Choosing to meet people where they are, loving them with Christ-like love, and forming one on one relationships is key to making a change. Thank you for your continued dedication and concern for the future of God’s church.
I identify with the relevance aspect. On one hand, the church I attend is desperately attempting to be relevant with its worship, graphics, and technology. However, I can’t even remember the last time that anything from the pulpit was relevant to my life. In fact, there is a total disconnect from major world events and cultural issues. I’m not looking for simple, just something useful, practical, and wise.
I can’t wait! I cannot speak for others, but I know you have spoken to me already. I am on a church board and we have these issues in our own board. This topic I think goes hand in hand with personal spiritual growth, maturity and service. Until recently I allowed the devil to steel my motivation, faith and hope. He heaped goals of guilt and reminds me of the garbage in my life all the time. Even today it is a daily struggle to remember that my sins are forgiven and the past is the past with a very important future waiting to be revealed. 🙂
If I can learn and relate to others through your book and the leading of the Holy Spirit, this is going to be good!
Audra, I so agree with “I too, feel it’s time to bring it back to simplicity and deepen our authentic relationship with Christ.” If this was occurring in our churches, I do believe we would not be seeing the numbers fall away that we are. How would any of the 4 findings be true if we were walking as Christ walked? It is time to stop building church programs, buildings and staff numbers and start building up the truth of His word and the integrity of His character by living life as He has asked us to do.
Very excited about your new book!
As a former pastor who has made the decision to no longer “go to church”, I can empathize with the majority who choose to stay away from church. While I agree with Thom’s findings, I believe that the root issue goes much deeper. Church, in the West, has become all about an event or a production or an institution rather than the organic gathering of the body of Christ where He is the Center, Circumference, Head and only reason for getting together. The Church that Jesus promised to build is a living organism that is consumed with His life, empowered by His life and exudes His life. This is what the majority is longing to see and, ultimately, become a part of.
Thanks, Clyde. You are indeed reflecting a significant backlash from the public to the contemporary church’s emphasis on the Sunday morning production. One of our interviewees called this emphasis “trivial.” She wants no part of it.
I feel this way sometimes and I’m a pastor. Can’t wait to read the book.
Great post, looking forward to reading the book and unpacking them some more.
Many times, gimmicks to increase church attendance are seen as exactly that…gimmicks. People aren’t connecting with other people, which causes these “high attendance Sunday” pushes to fizzle and fade into an irrelevant past.
For more than a decade, as a Bible professor and as a pastor, I have deliberately & thoroughly studied the life of Jesus–both who He was & what He did. The majority of my major findings showed Jesus’ approach to ministry to be the opposite of what we do. Very sobering! So, I greatly value what you call “a surprising Jesus-based approach” to your “four simple acts of love” (click on group.com). I look forward to reading how this ‘second part’ of your book plays out!
I can’t wait for your book, when will it be in bookstores? In the mean time. I have a practical question in relation to “judging.” I understand that people don’t want to be lectured to; but, I think it goes much deeper than that. They don’t want anyone telling them that they need to stop sinning. The Bible tells us that there are certain actions and attitudes that are not morally or spiritually healthy. But many people today will not accept sound teaching. Instead, they label those who try to impart this information as judgmental or even hateful. So, how do we get past this. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery but he did tell her to “sin no more.” I assume your new book will have some helpful suggestions to deal with this issue. I can’t wait to read it.
Thanks, Carrell. The book will be available October 1, in bookstores and online. And it will unwrap the judgmentalism perception in detail.
Our flesh is rebellious against God and rebellious against worshiping Him. It is only through the pull of the Holy Spirit that we desire to pray and worship. It is not of ourselves. That is why people do not attend church. The reasons are only a cover. But thankfully God’s mercy and grace can replace our hearts of stone.
Couldn’t disagree I have observed and heard those same things though the years. I have observed life style to exist, or make end’s meet exhaust people. Church takes energy—and church leaders know how to wear people out. Why go to church where they not only want our money they want my energy.
#4 is kind of a self-defeating statement. Your God isn’t relevant but I want one who cares for me. I minister under the idea of whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to reach, love, connect people to Jesus that’s what we do
Thanks, Thom. I’m very interested in reading this book. I have a couple of observations/questions that you may have already addressed. The first is, in the “old days,” people would sing slow, hard to sing songs, sit on uncomfortable benches, and listen to a lecture (sermon), then go out and live basic Christian values. And it seems people would flock to these “houses of worship.” What changed? How is that we as a society suddenly said, “Hey, I have needs and my house of worship isn’t addressing them, so I’m leaving!”?
My second question is, how does the large/mega church phenomenon fit into this? Most of these huge churches still have a standard type service with a lecture style sermon (albeit painted in a more “hip” style). What are they doing that seems to attract hundreds and thousands to their churches?
Thank you for your ongoing work in helping equip believers and leaders alike! I’m putting your book in my next “book allotment” budget!
I have talked with people that reflect these same ideas. While many people will make time for the things they feel are important, “going to church” is bring preempted by an overwhelming need to be home. Families are always out doing something and it is taxing. The opportunity to stay home and refresh is a huge need. After reading the comments, I also agree with Clyde’s statements regarding church as an event, etc. Thanks for the post.
I’ve been intrigued by your last few posts. The balance of being ‘just a Church’ and being the living and active Bride of Christ can be a tough road to walk. Those who have grown up in the church want to be comfortable and enjoy the familiar. (Personally, I don’t find “comfort” to be particularly Biblical.) Those who have not grown up in the church, don’t connect with that which others like wearing as a warm, fuzzy blanket.
How do we become the real Bride while not compromising our Vows?
Looking forward to reading the book and seeing your ideas.
Re: hypocrite comment: when you go to a doctors office you don’t assume all of the people there are healthy people getting well check-ups. You assume they’re sick people to see the doctor and get better. Think of it as going to see the great physician. Don’t worry about the other people’s problems. You’re there to get yourself well.
Re: lecture comment: I like to be sure I’m both in a teaching setting (being taught) and a group setting even when I sometimes serve as a teacher. I have a great adult Bible Fellowship that’s very interactive and everybody participates and vocalizes. But I also enjoy the worship setting where the pastor teaches us.
General: I agree that sometimes our teachers/pastors can sometimes put an air on that suggests they’re smarter than the rest. But sometimes we label them that way, not themselves. and we need to remember they’re human, too, and not make assumptions about them.
Intrigued and would enjoy reading the rest of your book. As one involved in worship planning, I find it frustrating in this time of Burger King-“Have it your way!” demands of many congregants… not too preachy, not too traditional, not too contemporary, not too demanding, not too relevant, not too irrelevant, not too much “in my face”, not too much about others beyond our walls or community, and please do not expect commitment. of attendance, energy, or financial giving. How does one reach a “balance” while staying true to the responsibilities of being true Christians?
This is something more Christians need to hear and internalize, especially church leaders and pastors. I am a lifelong church member and a pastor, but I have attended congregations where I have felt judged, lectured to, bored, and that the message presented and the general attitude of the church was not welcoming but demanding. Why would a person come back to such a congregation. When I spoke to my last congregation about growing the church spiritually and numerically I told them that there were changes we needed to make in the worship service and in how we did things as a congregation. One of my members stated, “Why do we need to change? Why can’t others change and be like us.” That was the moment when I realized that the congregation did not want to change, they liked who there were and did not care if they slowly died. To me Christianity has always been about growth, not just in numbers, but in faith, heart, soul, love, etc…If we do not grow we shrivel up and waste away.
The challenge to me is building a new church from the old, old vestries, old priests, altar guilds, old liturgy and old theology. Maybe it is the new wine old bottles problem but most everyone knows that there is more to life than making money, more to me than what I do every day. Jesus offers the way through that; but how do we avoid repeating past mistakes? It cannot be an episcopal PAC, nor commandments, it is surely a daily religious or spiritual practice which opens up and searches our heart . . . .
Yes indeed, recently a local pastor retired and a young person was appointed priest in charge. The change inspired many of us newcomers but slowly he seems to be more concerned with the old established views and ways. There also appears to be Episcopal pressure to ‘comply’ at least while he waits for permanent tenure. I could be quite wrong in this assessment but I do know I feel discouraged. I’m no longer sure that the mainstream or Episcopal model is viable although the RC model of schools is different. Maybe the old temple simply has to be destroyed. There is no shortage of thirst for the Good News nor those able to preach it: never has been, never will.
You are right on with your points! looks like a great read!
Leslie echoes my thoughts. People avoid church because they are – in their own way – avoiding Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ. A congregation that builds their worship and preaching on the foundation of the Bible is going to reflect a person’s sin back at them like a mirror and then bring them the glorious forgiveness that comes from Christ’s sacrifice for them (in short, preaches Law and Gospel). I believe that most people avoid church because they are trying to avoid being told – or found out – what they really are: sinners in need of redemption.
No one avoids something that is producing the goods. We are no longer in a time when religion and church was almost compulsory. We are facing post modernism and we don’t like it so we have retreated into our cloistered cells to avoid disturbing our pleasant Sunday morning.
Jesus did not say “Go into all the cloistered church buildings and hide away.” he said “Go into ALL THE WORLD and make disciples” i.e. followers of Jesus, NOT make pew warmers. which most people who attend church are.
When this happens, the goal is to fill pews, not make disciples so the meeting becomes the emphasis, not righteous living, dying daily, living the life, giving away all your worldly goods etc. etc.
You have arrived if you tithe faithfully, attend faithfully, do your bit faithfully, and are nice to everyone faithfully and when you are asked how you are you always respond “fine” even if you are in the depths of despair.
I read a book written by a Christian psychiatrist who told of an Elder who came to see him. The church he was in leadership of has a Pastor who was considered a saint and and an authority on scripture and is know worldwide for his books.
The Elder said he had to speak to someone because he was breaking up emotionally and could not cope anymore.
Asked if he had said anything to this pastor and he said no as he believes that Christians do not have problems and to admit to such is seen as failure.
The system rules and when it does, we know about God but we don’t know God.
Very good reality check indeed! I have been a Christian since I was 13 but really only lived as one since about 30, and yet never been to a church nor come from a churched or Christian background or community of any kind. In England where I am from the church and some denominations seem far more about being part of a social club or clique and not much more than being suburban and respectable. And churchgoing is something people do on Sunday, sing a few hymns and say hello to the vicar! It is for many people deadly dull and why many British people do not go to church nor want to either. Worship then is more about tradition and so faith itself is seen as something you do one day that is no more than going to the shops or going to the pub, a pleasant few hours that doesn’t mean much, a routine that doesn’t really affect anything one way or the other. Is this the faith Jesus Christ came to earth and lived and died for? I would suggest not.
It is also seen usually as something well to do folk do as well, so instead of reaching out to the poor, the lost, the hurting, the suffering, those who need help, it is about ‘us in the church against everybody else’ when Christians should at least be engaging with others, regardless of whether they are Christians or not.
Jesus can transform lives and save people from addictions and poverty and hopelessness and all kinds of alienation that the modern world is more and more about. Perhaps instead of building expensive cathedrals and mega churches and building personal empires for charismatic preachers and leaders, we Christians need to remember that the church is the people who believe in Jesus, and we could meet in cafes, restaurants, libraries, each others homes and even now and again in the pub!
Great post! Can hardly wait to read the book!
@Ed, couldn’t agree more. I believe it is Satan stealing our freedom in Christ. The church needs to teach love and forgiveness first, then mentor through relationships change of attitude and actions. Christians aren’t perfect and we need to stop acting like it is too much of a burden to get into the trenches and help them up with love though real physical service.
I love this article and it touches on reasons I started a ministry on FB called New Covenant church. It’s for Christians who are not attending a church for different reasons but still want to connect with God personally and maybe find their way back to church when their ready. It is a way to become whole again after an offence, a way to be encouraged to seek God and not just a building full of believers, it is a way to get past the people and find him. I pray that churches will buy this book and see where the revolving door can end and growth can begin.
Can’t wait to read! Thom and Joani, thanks so much for your work on this! I am so blessed to serve as one of the pastors at a”healthy” church. http://www.dayspring-umc.org. We have one of the best traditional worship experiences in valley too. We also are an open and inclusive church that welcomes all people. Seriously, we do! We have the largest PFLAG organization in the state of Arizona too. Now I know many people/churches can’t accept this because of their Biblical understanding of Scripture, however we believe in the historical critical understanding of Scripture. I’m not here to debate this topic because it’s non negotiable for me or the church, however, I can testify the Holy Spirit is at work in an incredible way. On my third day work, I attended the beloved Sr Pastor’s funeral because “she” died of a massive stroke. However, her legacy continues to live on and the Sr Interim pastor and I are constantly amazed at how loving this church is and how people are willing to seek wholeness and healing through this tragic death. I am so blessed to serve here despite this obstacle and journey with these Godly people who have a mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
I do grieve for my collegues who work in churches who are splitting over this issue because eventually gay marriage will be recognized in all 50 states. Ten years from now, I fear the church will be labled as “gay hater churches” or gay lover churches” and this will only divide the church more. I’m so thankful for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s church how the church continues to make an incredible impact in the Kingdom of God! Thanks be to God! Yes, we use group’s incredible resources for our Sunday School too! 🙂
So, I haven’t read the comments of others yet, but I wonder why it matters. If I read it right, three of the four reasons people don’t want to be in church are completely self centered. The hypocrisy excuse has been around for decades, and also has its roots in ego. If those other people are doing it right, I feel judged, and if not they are hypocrites. I am the only person who has the perfect balance of a moral code to live by and human frailty. Really? As for me, I go to church to be judged, no, not exactly. I go to hopefully hear a lecture about how God wants me to do it better. The “Church” as a whole has lost its way. Divorce is more common in church. Why? I believe it’s because we have watered down the truth. If you tell a guy he has to put porn out of his life, you’re judging him. If it destroys his marriage, saying so is condemnation. I don’t want a church where the message is, “repeat this prayer after the pastor, and once you’ve checked that off your list join us as we all wallow in our sin together.” If there’s no longer sin, what are we wanting people to be saved from? If all roads lead to Heaven, I’m staying on the sidewalk, I don’t want to go to the same heaven as John Wayne Gacy, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Barack Obama, etc.
This time of year I get very weary as i am getting ready to start all my kid programs in our church. Sometimes i just weary of church. We try so hard to be relevant, excellent, cutting edge etc.. Sometimes it just drives me up the wall because it just is not working. No more souls are being freed from bondage. We just keep hiring more people, stealing sheep from other churches and the church on our continent keeps shrinking. Whatever is happening is not working and as a pastor I find that very discouraging. Many people will find any reason to stay away from church but then we obviously don’t give them very many reasons to come either. Our upper middle class clubs are not meeting their needs. I wish i could say i felt better after this rant but I don’t. I am going to bed as i am very tired. Good night!
Exactly right, we simply have not figured out how to preach the Good News in these post modern times! Someone else made the same point.
Exited about this book!! It does seem harder and harder to keep people interested in church. We are there to worship God, to grow in Love, to become a mature Christian, I see to many circles, hypocrites, feel judged, it really makes me doubt people. You know they talk the talk but really don’t walk the walk. I am guilty of this sometimes also. Thank you for what you do Thom!! . .
Totalmente de acuerdo con su observación en el sentido de que la gente ya no quiere solo sentarse a escuchar. En mi iglesia tuvimos un sacerdote que al final del servicio habría el espacio para que los feligreses opinaran, preguntaran, sugirieran ideas y dejaba que el comité congregacional diera su informe. Un cambio por su muerte trajo la experiencia de una sacerdota que eliminó ese espacio y solo ella habla, pide, exige y hasta regaña, eso sin duda alguna auyenta a los feligreses.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Totally agree with your observation that people no longer want to just sit down and listen. In my church we had a priest who at the end of the service would have the space for the parishioners’ opinions, ask, suggest ideas and letting the congregational committee gave its report. A change by his death brought the experience of a priest that eliminated that space and only the priest speaks, requests, demands and even scolds, that without doubt frightens them off to the parishioners.
I love the word ‘feligreses’ for parishioners!!
During my devotions last night I was reminded once again. Jesus did not have all the stuff, yet He attracted people unto him. He was with the crowds ALL the time and spoke truth gently with love ALL the time.
We, the church, need to invest time in people. No other resource is necessary. God can make “stuff” out of thin air, there are no needs he cannot meet except one. Your willingness to invest time with love for others.
In time this raises up leaders we duplicate the efforts. Just simple obedience to God’s word. John 15: 23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say (Ten Commandments). My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me (Ten Commandments). And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.
I cannot wait to be part of the church that has created the environment of inquiry. Having sat in one of those (Solomon’s Porch), it was filled with anticipation and very pointed questions and comments. As an outsider, it felt like a tight community. But what a big ship to turn around…I am also excited about the technology available for texting questions during a message and having them appear on screen. There is so much fun to be had. I have also sat in a church where prior to the message they allowed member to participate in small group experiences, like team building. It caused great and insightful conversation. It seems to boil down to “what is worship?” Such a hot conversation. I have heard too many times “such and such church may be growing and engaging their community but they hardly have anything left of a true worship.” Hmmmm.
My husband and I are struggling with many of these feelings right now. We see so much hypocrisy in the church it scares us. The American church is very sick right now. It will take the fire of the Holy Spirit to bring cleansing and revival to those with willing hearts to make a change. Thank you Thom for bringing this topic into the light.
I would love to see more relationship development within our congregation and being able to connect better with neighbors. I loved your message on Kid’s Hope and the importance of being in relationship with others. Christianty isn’t a religion it’s a relationship.
I think it is important to define church and who a Christian is. There are a significant number of folk who think church is the building and not a gathering of believers. We went through a period of time we didn’t attend a service regularly for some of the reasons stated but the real reason was we were thinking of how we could benefit instead of how we could serve others. Jesus came as a servant and it seems to me our role is to reflect servanthood. That being said all of us are in different stages of our journey but if we forsake the assembling of ourselves…how will we grow?
I really like what you’re saying, Thom, and am very much looking forward to reading your new book! I wonder how the Sunday morning community worship and gathering time can become most effective for everyone–or do we need to only add new opportunities and methods of connection, care and outreach.
So glad that you and Joani have written this book! We, the church, need a a huge wake-up call and the way we’ve always done things no longer works so your efforts in this direction are much appreciated. I hope this will spark debate within our leadership and a willingness to look outside the box — just like Abraham had to get out of the tent to see the endless possibilities in the night sky.
Just a thought. Isn’t it time we as believers got together en masse and decided what sort of church we wanted and more to the point what sort of church Jesus wants us to have? Why are we always being led from the front? Isn’t democracy to be part of the church?
I’ll grant you that there are flaws in the church and we are not always open to change, but the gripes may still be excuses rather than answers. We had people come Easter who we rarely see and they commented that the service was terrific. But we have not seen them since. Those not attending are often looking for excuses to not go rather than reasons to go.
Many of us just can’t get our heads around church Kenneth.
Kenneth, I understand the difficulty of being a priest. Our church has many ‘one time’ visitors: Easter, Christmas, Baptisms, Weddings. I also understand tradition. But until the ‘leadership’, for want of a better word, realizes 1) there is a thirst for the Word, 2) many come and listen and do not return 3) there is something wrong 4) the thirsty need to hear the Word differently 5) being different means we have to change – we may stop blaming them and instead start changing. The question a priest might ask his parishioners is this “why do you not invite all your friends to hear my homily?”.
Michael, in England at least, traditional Christianity is very much something that respectable people do, almost like a social club or going to the pub, or something they do because it’s what is expected of them or because their parents were churchgoers. Many people who may have a genuine hunger for Jesus and His Word may feel that going to church on Sunday is missing the point somewhat as I do. There is also a tendency for churches in England to be rather Middle class and many poorer people and people from less affluent or cultured backgrounds like myself feel we would be not wanted. This is a big problem here. Like America has a problem with race and has many black churches and white churches, here there is a tendency for people to be separate where class is concerned. The fact is, the church should be tackling these issues and bringing people together and not acting like precious cliques who are all going to Heaven because they sing a few hymns on Sunday! When people think that is all there is to Christianity, a social club for nice people, no wonder many shy away from it, even other Christians like myself! I’d like to hear a real debate about this, not just why churches don’t attract people, but why organised Christianity has lost its appeal even to many Christians.
Kenneth, what you call organized religion, I would term institutionalized religion. The process of decay is typically as follows: a movement appears to meet a need, the movement is highly successful and becomes an institution, the institution becomes self serving and disappears. What is required is perpetual revolution or a drastic rule for its member such as vows of chastity and obedience. Otherwise, only when the institution is totally bankrupt will drastic rules be put in place.
Amazing how God works out His plan in His time! I have been burdened for some time over families who send their kids to our youth programs while they stay home. Over the past several months, God has put resources (people, books and events) in my life which have made a plan come together for a ministry for these folks. Your book sounds like just what I need to add to my collection. Thank you, Group, for being an awesome source for all kinds of ministry materials!
Charlanne, our church also has this issue. Would you mind sharing your plan?
Excited about this book.
The western culture has become very self-centered and materialistic, as have previous cultures. Jesus chastised the sinners of his day for the same reasons listed above. The true church doesn’t get offended, because Jesus is at the center of our lives and worship. He said, He would build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it! Our battle is not against (or to attract) flesh and blood, but against the unseen spiritual powers of evil! Wake up and get ready!
A few random thoughts. I have noticed that the building used for services usually tells the world the people that are acceptable in their church. Generally speaking cathedrals attract the high and mighty. The modern church attracts the middle class. The non descript church building attracts all those the other churches don’t want.
In fact one could say that the building sends a “not welcome here” if you don’t fit the demographics.
Now if we dispensed with buildings and met in homes, offices, schools, cafes, parks, riverbanks I feel sure that we would be more interested in each other than a building and our growth personal and corporate would increase at a rate of knots.
Of course it is silly of me to suggest this as our routines and religion might get dumped and then where would we be?
Do you think this is a result of the demographics or could it be simply because this is a more neutral ground. It is not home turf to the church or the non-churched. Does that make sense?
Not really as I read a book about an American Anglican church who focused on the people who they normally do not welcome. The lower class and down and outs. They opened the church to connect with people, not for meetings and the rest is history as they say as it ceased to be a church for the upper class only.
I can’t wait to read it, we are having some of the same issues at our church and are praying daily for guidance, asking God to help us be better fishers of men.
I’ve looked over the table of contents, browsed a couple of sample chapters and read all the reviews I could find. Looks like an interesting book, but I suspect there’s another reason why many (most?) avoid church: there’s no “there there.”
Michael Horton’s “Christless Christianity” (by way of example) draws attention to the fact that in many churches deep questions, troubling theological issues and mystery are left untreated. Instead we’re given a steady diet of “do this, don’t do that” sermons that are therapeutic rather than transformational in intent.
When an unchurched person who is “in process” with the Holy Spirit attends the average church in America, chances are greater than not that this person will go away convinced that American Christianity is preoccupied with enjoying life to the full rather than dealing with the real questions that gnaw at the human soul.
I have been a member of 3 mainline denominations in my lifetime. While I have grown in my faith and am a committed Christian, volunteer, lay speaker and servant I have a number of other observations. Here are a few and please don’t shoot the messenger but these are real..
1. Members often feel lectured to and ‘driven’ by the denomination ant IT’s goals and objectives rather than listening to the needs and trying to understand the goals and objectives of the local church in meeting the needs of the local community and local population.. It’s true.
2. Mainline denominations today are often driven more by their need to take action to save the ‘denomination’ from incremental and consistent decline in money and attendance rather than concentrating on being visible in local communities and responding to the needs of the people in these local communities who have fallen away from an institutional church. Many of these people are choosing local fellowships with little or no ties to the institutional church…
3. Young people by and large ARE very spiritual people and hunger for the truth…but they want to see the the church witness the truth to everyone …not just the poor,.. but the marginalized and maligned in our society. We have to understand that LGBT people have already been accepted by young people at large as friends and family and they feel that If these friends and family members are not accepted and embraced by “The Church” at large, then THEY will Stay Away from the Church at large. It is true..
4. Save a small percentage, our youth sees the church as one reaching out to them to come in to or back to the church. Young people see the church as the world and Jesus the example of one who doesn’t need them to come in to a place to be accepted and asking to give money (in addition to giving to the local church) to causes managed by the denomination every Sunday they attend..
5. In reality there is an increase in attendance by people who have fallen away or who may have never been committed to Christ or His church. Where are they going? They are attending Non-denominational fellowships where diversity is apparent, where local concerns are met, where there needs are listened to.and they are working in concert with pastors and local leadership to achieve local and regional goals and objectives…
6. The “church” needs to understand that One Size Does NOT Fit All”. If you are going to grow you have to listen and understand the needs and desires of the people. Most of these people are not ‘UN-Christian’.or UN-saved. . most are unfulfilled and disillusioned by a leadership that only sees with blinders and hears but does not listen..
7. Please don’t shoot the messenger.. You wanted straight talk.. Let’s not defend the status quo but look for new roads populated by people who are on the same journey..
Great points, Methodist2000. To this timely discussion I would add:
A) for better or worse, Americans are less required by society to make weekly and public affirmations of their Christian affiliation. The role of the church as a defacto fourth branch of civil society – I.e., the assumption that you are immoral if you don’t attend say you are Christian and attend church (although politicians still seem required by voters to make these claims). Given the unprecedented degree of choice, people are exploring non-churched faith. It is no longer impossible to have standing in society if you are not seen in a church once a week.
B) The societal requirement that legitimate American babies be babtized has relaxed, for better or worse. This means more people are aware of choosing their own faith, rather than being required to grow up in a tradition by birth (people under 18 yrs old might have some agency to guide their faith lives, but going against your family as a child and/or exploring your own faith in an objective way is extremely challenging for a majority). This had lead people to non-churched faith, for better or worse. In general, the repercussions of living outside the guidelines of a male religious hierarchy are getting less with time. This might be a product of the separation of church and state.
C) increasingly, American Christianity is becoming both more hierarchical and more political, for better or worse. It is interesting to watch Protestant traditions – formed out of concerns of the dangers of requiring leadership hierarchies in the Catholic Church – strengthen hierarchies of quasi-leaders and spokespeople. For many youth raised in a democratic civil society, it can be a challenge to accept this leadership and political positioning. For others it is correct.
Anyone read ‘American Grace’ by Putnam? A very good objective analysis of religious activity in the US, Jewish, Mormon, Black Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic etc. Why do each one of us go to church or not, who do we invite and why? In truth, what does it mean to us? Note Mark (a male I assume) questions male ministers, yet the majority of ‘his’ churches are 60%+ women. It is a huge mistake to assume that our views are the same as others. At least Putnam who seems to me a secular liberal is objective, In my heart, I feel that Christ’s life and teaching is really, really important, specifically leading to reconciliation and forgiveness through love and detachment based on developing a spiritual life. I wish I knew where this is taught and practiced to and by Christians in S California.
This is just true. We as Christians, believers and followers of Christ should be able by His grace to love and show love around. Love is our ID to recognize us as His disciple. As the good shepherd only minds for the one lost sheep of hundred, as we with love should try to get our brothers and sisters back to JESUS. May GOD help us. Thanks for this article. I actually need it.
First, there needs to be a take home message from the homily, not just teaching some obscure aspect of one of Paul’s missionary journeys. Give the people a choice to consider or something to think about. Secondly, most younger people do not think anyone has ever faced problems. Every generation’s problems are different from dealing with the Great Depression to WWII to Vietnam. Most of the older ministers aren’t dealing with unemployment, putting off their lives because of a bad job market, and paying off student loans. The ministers are seen as people who criticize but don’t have a sense of the modern world and what is really happening. If you are a minister, write a blog that you do understand or ask some people between 23 and 39 to talk to you. Also, most ministers cater to a particular group of people who are generally over age 55. The rest of the people feel like they get nothing from the minister. Now the females look at a male minster and say that he really does not know what is going on when healthcare for women is under threat and there are those who want to ban “the pill” and the morning-after pill, and the minister as well as the church/denomination might be supporting the restrictions.
This is like in the early days of the Blitz when London was being bombed but Buckingham Palace wasn’t. The English did not think the King knew what was happening in the city or felt badly for the commoners. Once the Palace got bombed with his family in residence there, the English thought more of their King.
I am probably the hypocrite that the 85% are talking about. I wish to be perfect, but continually fail. I go to church to worship with others that continually fail, not to find someone worse, but to encourage each other, and thank the Lord God for Jesus, and His Mercy.
people in the Western world are no longer hungry for Christ. We want entertainment, small groups, youth groups, connection with other like minded thinkers. We don’t want to be preached at or told what to do. I am currently in a tiny congregation of about 15 -20. We don’t do programs, events or the usual stuff to attract but neither are we growing. I’ve seen it all, mega churches, small churches, home churches. In the end, we use this faith as an add on to our lives instead of making it the foundation. When I look for others who feel this way, many agree but none will move forward. We are apathetic and lost. No wonder the non-believers look upon us in dismay – we are no different to them!
The Church is not a building, nor an organisation, but a Body.
First the Church was a Body, in Judea.
Then that Body moved to Rome, and became a Religion.
Then the religion moved to Europe and became an Institution.
Then that Institution moved to America and became a Business.
When a Body becomes a Business, it becomes a Prostitute.
Read Revel. 3:14-22 (to Laodicea), and then Revel. chapt.17 and 18 (the description of Mystery Babylon: encompassing and End-Time world religion and political base).
God’s remnant is scattered amongst it, but separate.
Those who run from Church, are either running from commercialism, or from Christ.
Roger – I agree with more than 1/2 of what you posted (although your message seemed a bit more pedantic and absolute than you probably would be in a live conversation). However, I don’t quite get your final comment. You clearly point out a path from body to religion to institution to business to… This is what is **presented** to the world as the “Organized Church”. Why would ANYONE who runs from that be running from Christ?
Certainly, anyone who runs from Christ-centered fellowship with other believers isn’t following Jesus with all their hearts. Wounded hearts and the effect of disenchantment with what calls itself the church may often account for that. I hope that my fellowship with wounded believers may help them find their way back to deeper fellowship with our Heavenly Father and with other believers. I hope you feel the same way.
My husband and I are part of the “left the church” crowd. There was a time when the church was the core of our being. But, through a series of extreme suffering, we have been ripped from the church. It became very obvious to us that the church is an empty plastic shell, with nothing of substance inside. I resisted leaving because it was so center to my identity, but I finally faced the fact that what we’re calling the “church” is not the church at all. After four years of living outside the walls of any church, I finally feel that my soul is coming back to life. My perception now is that churches don’t generally care about you as an individual- they just want you to come inside their walls. I don’t think God wants us inside walls – that just blocks you from the people who you’re supposed to be reaching. I get so tired of people preaching the “do not forsake the assembling together” verse, indicating that where I am at is wrong. What they don’t see is that sitting in a room of people, everyone facing front and listening to empty songs and someone else talking, is NOT what is meant by that verse. If it’s wrong for me to be outside those walls, then why am I so much better now that I’m not inside?
Hi seeksthetruth! I think the heart of “do not forsake the assembling…” is that people who are currently encountering the reality of Christ’s love in their lives need to understand that dedicating ourselves to sharing our lives with other believers is essential to what the Father wants His love to do through us. He longs for us to experience *real* community with other believers in having meals together, dropping by when we know someone is struggling with something, offering to help when someone needs babysitting, etc. Of course, talking about what He’s teaching us in our own lives may often happen at those times, too. Going to “meetings” isn’t necessary. However, I find that some of the gatherings at Christian places of worship provide more opportunity for fellowship and the development of real loving relationships outside the meetings than others do. Casual, non-directive “Bible-studies” with a relaxed, non-judgemental environment at the POWs are one place we still try to connect with people. Have you read the book “Authentic Relationships”? It’s good!
[…] population, particularly men and younger generations. One of those most often mentioned reasons cited by the non-churchgoing majority is, “I don’t want to be lectured.” And the […]