At this point in time, it’s not exactly a secret that Christians, especially young adults and families, are leaving the church in droves. This seems to be a problem unique to the western world, specifically in America. The question we’re all trying to answer is: why?
America is still a majority Christian country (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/). Americans are still interested in spirituality (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/21/americans-spirituality/). Americans still enjoy the company of like-minded individuals. Why, then, is church attendance on the decline? Something just isn’t adding up.
I’ve seen dozens of people try to answer this question. Here I am trying to do just that. Before I give you my thoughts as to why Christians are leaving the church, I want to address why it matters. Why bother talking about this at all? You don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian, right? So, who cares?
The church matters because Scripture says it does. It really is that simple. That’s not an over-simplification nor does it disregard a person’s experience. Scripture is to be our baseline. If the Bible says the church is important than the church is important. While I don’t want to delve too deep into the importance of church attendance, as that is not the topic of today’s post, I will leave a few Scriptures about church you can look up for yourself. (Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42, Ephesians 4:11-13, Matthew 18:20, Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 12:14-20)
We cannot let circumstances or experience justify disobedience. I fear that is what far too many Christians are doing. We’ve had painful and traumatic experiences in the church and now we don’t want to go back. That’s just plain silly. Would you throw your child’s bicycle away if he or she fell off of it? No. You would help them get better at riding their bike so they’re less likely to fall again. The same can be said about the church. We don’t walk away because of a few bad experiences. No. We get back in there and get to work. You cannot complain about the church if you’re not there. As they say, you can’t change the game sitting on the bleachers.
If church is so important, why are Christians leaving? Well. I started listening to what people were saying. I was really paying attention to their explanation because, frankly, I want to get to the bottom of this. When Christians leave the church, it is about disconnecting from church-going Christians. It has nothing to be with the church building and everything to do with the church goers.
Church-going Christians are hypocrites. They’re judgmental. They don’t do enough to serve the community. They don’t listen. All they care about is money. They didn’t like that I wasn’t a Republican. They keep pushing me to have a baby. They’re too focused on appearance. The list could go on and on and on…
That was my attitude for quite a while but it really isn’t good enough. Yes, Christians are hypocrites. We say one thing and we do another. We don’t always practice what we preach. We can be pretty awful. If you’re comparing me to Christ, yes, I look much worse than our perfect and wonderful Savior. (duh.) But, when we leave the church because of the behavioral issues amongst church-goers, who are you really comparing them to? Christ or yourself?
We look in on the church-goers and think, “I’m not like them.” The reality is: you’re exactly like them. If you can’t see your own short-comings, perhaps that’s an issue of your own pride. For myself, the was exactly what was going on. I elevated myself above other Christians and had to get knocked off my throne. When we compare ourselves to Christ, we are all equally depraved and in need of a savior. The cross is, after all, a great equalizer. If we compare ourselves to one another, we’re really playing a dangerous game. We get into a speck/plank situation. We can see the flaws in those Christians, but not our own.
But, the fact of the matter is church-going Christians can behave in a way that does not represent Christ. I’ve talked about some of my own experiences in the church that left me feeling very hurt and betrayed. Upon reexamination, the problem wasn’t with the entire church, rather a few specific individuals. That’s hardly grounds for disconnecting ourselves from the collective body.
All that being said, I do believe some of the claims being made about the church are worth looking into. For example, a church I attended a few years ago was constantly pressuring congregants to put money in the offering plate. Dig a little deeper, folks. You can give more than that. Give, and it’ll come back to you. This made me uncomfortable as we ought to give joyfully, not out of obligation. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). But, when I did give to the church, the money always went to silly things. We never blessed our community or helped those in need. We spent money on things like new theatrical lights. We didn’t need them. We could have gone without them. I felt conflicted giving this church my money when it wasn’t being spent on anything beneficial. This is merely one example of an issue I believe is worth examining. Of course, there are others.
I could write a book addressing every single issue a Christians has ever brought up and thought to be problematic. Instead, I’ll give you the cliff-notes: we’ve deviated from Scripture.
Most of the “problems” Christians complain about really stem from a deviation from Scripture. Instead of doing things God’s way, we’ve designed our own version of the church. Perhaps, so many Christians have left the church because it’s really no church at all. Sure, this is all just speculation, but the more I hear, the more this all makes sense. As a matter of fact, the biggest reason why I left my last church is because the prosperity gospel was being pushed. I actually did bring this up to some of the church leaders and they assured me I was wrong. So, I left. Had they been preaching sound doctrine, I would likely still be there today.
How about the way in which we interact with one another? Do you see a lot of encouragement or discipleship in the church? Sadly, no. You see people exchanging pleasantries on Sunday morning. Should we not strive for more? Again, this is an issue that stems from a deviation from and disregard for Scripture.
So, what do we do? Yes, there are problems within the church and it can be frustrating to be there. No one understands that more than me. But, we should stay connected (because the Bible says so) and get to work. Writing blog after blog about why other Christians are just the worst isn’t helping anything. We don’t glorify God in doing that. As a matter of fact, it’s just some really good ammunition for non-believers who aim to discredit and disparage the church to use against us. See, even Christians don’t like Christians!
The best thing to do is to get connected to a church that adheres to sound doctrine and start being the hands and feet. Start connecting with other believers. Build them up, encourage them, love them, and pray for them. If you see an issue within your church: change it. You have two hands. You can serve. You don’t have to wait around for someone else to do it.
I know this is one of my longer posts, but I believe this is important information. Please, don’t give up on the church. Because the church matters. Because Scripture says so. The church is so much stronger when we, its members, stand shoulder to shoulder. Spending our time pointing the finger is neither productive nor Biblical. So, let’s stop doing that, eh?
I know this is a touchy subject, but we’ve got to start talking about it. So, as always, let me know your thoughts. Leave a comment. Or you can message me privately on Facebook. Or email me. Or send a messenger owl. Your call.
Take care and God bless
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