Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. Part 3

WalkingAwayGrey

Sometimes when adversity comes, we lie to other people, and sometimes when it comes, we lie to ourselves.

This past month, I published these two posts, to try to share the hurting hearts of people who are leaving, have left, or want to leave the institution of the American Church, with those who lead or attend local expressions of it. It was an effort to, in some small way, let those on the outside, be clearly heard by those within.

The hope, was to give a voice to people who felt they had none; to clear a place at the table for those who had been excluded, or overlooked, or damaged enough in local churches, that returning didn’t seem like an option anymore. Some are departing angrily, some willingly, and all; reluctantly.

These are people who wanted to be part of the solution. They wanted to participate. They wanted to live and work alongside you. Many still do.

Quite often, they are not rejecting Jesus at all; they just simply are not finding great evidence of Him in many communities or buildings that bear His name.

In the flood of responses that followed these posts, there’s been a conspicuous lie that’s surfaced over and over again on behalf of those objecting; the sad refrain of a familiar song that I’ve heard far too many times before as a pastor. It’s a lie of convenience, told by those in power in the Church, as they face the worrisome truth of their own reflection.

The great lie they tell themselves, and then parrot out to the world, is that the only reason people are leaving churches, is because they’re all lazy, spoiled, self-centered consumers, who only want to be entertained, and catered to, and pleased.

Hundreds of times this week, a variation of this self-deceit has been regurgitated throughout Twitter pages and comment sections. The real problem, they insist, is that those in this new Exodus are departing faith communities because they don’t really take that faith seriously, they don’t genuinely love Jesus, and they don’t want to work hard to do God’s will.

The advice they have for these shameful defectors is rather simple:
“Suck it up, stop complaining, and get to work”.
“Be the change.”
“Stop making it all about you!”

The reason this lie works so well for leaders and insiders, is because it lets them off the hook.

If they can convince themselves that those heading out the door, (or those never stepping-in) are all sinful, immoral, selfish heathens, who really never wanted to be there; they can simply wash their hands of them, and continue on with the self-delusion that the Church is perfectly lovely, and that the indifferent narcissists are the problem.

And yes, sometimes they’re right.

Of course this is sometimes true: many people certainly do leave churches every day because they’re looking only for what’s in it for them; because they’re lazy; because they’re entitled purchasers of religious product, who won’t raise a finger to do the difficult stuff required of them by Jesus.

But the vast majority of those who are opting-out of Christianity and her churches, are doing so because they either feel like they are not welcomed, not needed, or not given a compelling mission and then invited into making that mission tangible in the world outside the buildings… so they leave those buildings; not to escape calling, but to find it.

As a longtime pastor in the local church, I totally get it; ministry is tough, draining, often thankless work, and most of the time it’s work that’s being done with too little resources, too much resistance, and at a far greater personal price than one can ever imagine. (I’ve paid that price for 18 years, myself). It’s often done by people who genuinely love God and want to make a real difference in the world. (I do).

It’s completely natural in this or in any area of life, when faced with rejection, to search for any reason for that rejection, other than oneself. It’s a way that we all guard our hearts from the sting of being told we’ve failed in some way; that we aren’t measuring-up; that we don’t cut it.

Make no mistake Christian leader and church pew-sitter; the Church is being rejected by millions of people, and so often rather than own any culpability; rather than admit that we’ve possibly done real damage to people; it’s easier to just blame the victims, throw-up our hands in disgust at their folly, and bury our heads in the sand until Sunday.

This week, in the wake of the massive response to these posts, I’ve been warned that making generalizations when criticizing church people is a dangerous oversimplification. I’ll concede that and repent of it, as I echo the same sentiments regarding pigeonholing the ones who leave.

They aren’t all lost, bitter, lazy, thin-skinned, malcontents, who don’t want to be inconvenienced; not by a long shot.

Millions of them love God deeply or seek God passionately; they are hungry to learn, eager to serve, and willing to sweat, big time… they just haven’t felt welcomed in your church, either in principle or practice. If you give them something significant to be a part of, they will respond significantly.

Many say that all those who are leaving the Church in these days, just aren’t willing to accept Jesus costly invitation to, “take up their cross and follow” him; that they are averse to sacrifice and serving.

I disagree, because I’ve heard them, and have walked with them, and I know them.

Yes, maybe obedience is the issue, Church; but not in the way that the internal self-lie has asserted.

Perhaps, them obeying Jesus’ call to “take up their cross and follow”, is precisely what leads them right out the door.

You want to work? They do too. We all do.

The question is: Are we gonna work apart or together?

 

Note: Part I can be found HERE.
Part 2 can be found HERE.

 

 

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139 thoughts on “Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. Part 3

  1. My experience with some of them who have left our church is that they think it is wrong for us to teach or tell them that they should stop some of their sinful actions and try to live a lifestyle that is pleasing to God according to the Bible. Some of them want to come to church and worship God without obeying his teachings on repentance from sin.

    • Bishop, it’s that exact attitude in your agreement statement that’s driving people out the door. Too many times Christians forget that the church is not a fortress for the saved, it’s a hospital for the hurting.

      • I agree with both of you. Tom I think what your saying is not what Bishop means.

        I am a horrible sinful person. I deserve judgement and hell fire. I go to church to repent, to say what I have done is wrong and beg for mercy. Cause Jesus and the Cross is the only hope I got. Jesus and the Cross is the only hope any of us have.

        That being said I think many people are not willing to admit there actions are sins, are not willing to turn away from them. To try and conquer them. Instead there not sin to them. The churches teaching they will say is old, dated and do not represent the modern world.

        The Church is the place for us broken people to go. We all are in need of forgiveness. Just some people do not want to admit there sick. They do not want to repent and strive to live a life in the shadow of the cross. You ask them and there not sinners. That is the problem.

      • And the problem with hospitals is that the mission is often thwarted by the patient. Whether it’s the man like me, obese and apparently unable to control the sin of gluttony, or the hypochondriac who needs not just Protestantism, but Catholicism, so that they can go see the priest for private confession every other day; many of us are truly hopeless cases.
        We should all be welcome anyway. The first step to curing sin is admitting that you have sinned, however. And that’s a lot easier to do praying a Confietor than praying the Sinner’s Prayer, from my point of view.

      • @Tom
        When we sin; we need to be corrected, in a loving way. And when we are corrected; that person ( elder, teacher & pastor) needs to stick with us through getting out of that sin.

      • You can’t even begin to imagine how much your three part article has resonated with me. Thank you for putting words to my feelings in a way that never before have I been able to express. This is why I walked out of the church, I no longer felt God in the church, but in the quiet of my own thoughts. this is the reason I haven’t come back in over 15 years since I was 13 years old. I have tried and extended that reach to multiple religions, with multiple churches and everyone of them has failed me. It’s why I haven’t tried at all in 6 years. The church as failed me, but God has most assuredly not. He has continued to fill my life with joy and promise and I have grown so much with him outside the church, i doubt I can define my relationship with him inside the walls of a church ever again.

    • Sorry you perceived it that way. We have had people come to our church who were hooked on drugs, alcohol, and other vices, who were delivered from those things by the power of God through prayer. They came desiring to be set free by the Lord Jesus. Since then they wanted to live a life pleasing to God and he has helped any to do so. Many are tired and hurting because of the way they have lived their lives in error and want to know that there is abetter way. Some of them that don’t see the benefits of a better way of living decide to leave for some reason or another, or remain with us and choose to stay the way they are.

    • Excellent stuff, John! Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide… . John, today people in the church has lost their ability to discern. You divided very clearly. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do…. . You remind me Joshua and Caleb – two guys against the crowd. John, the church will never accept you, they will rather wander and die in their parameters than stepping out to face reality. Remember, the church needs followers not the thinkers. God need’s thinkers to reach the followers!

    • Respectfully, I think you truly don’t get what your approach seems like to many people. It comes off as judgmental and holier-than-thou. Many are aware that while elders and pastors are correcting someone else’s sin, they are hiding and ignoring their own sin. In other words, worrying about the sliver in someone else’s eye and not the mote in their own. If you could just love, and not judge, perhaps people would stay.

  2. Perhaps, them obeying Jesus’ call to “take up their cross and follow”, is precisely what leads them right out the door.

    YES.

  3. I’ve followed all 3 of your blogs about this and am appreciative of the courage you showed posting them. It’s considered so taboo to criticize the church establishment and yet people are leaving it constantly. Should the church have to put on a show to entertain and woo? No and I know that isn’t what you’re saying. Should they spice things up? Not in the way some of the commentators misinterpreted. But I agree that some things should be brought up to date with the world today. The average family is now single or divorced parents, kids struggling with a drug, sex and violent daily world that doesn’t promote Christian values. We deal with teenage pregnancy, computer pornography, and a hundred other issues our grandparents didn’t have to. Yet most churches are still exactly the same as they were 50 years ago. The same scheduled programs.
    As a mother of teenagers I can tell you what draws my children to want to attend church and what makes them view it as some form of torture to be a thing that they feel forced to attend. When they are expected to attend and merely fill a seat while quietly listening to some adult preach at them they can’t wait until the weekly chore of church is over and it’s a battle to get them to return. They feel invisible. They feel judged. When they can actually have discussions where their voices are heard, their opinions actually listened to then they make sure that we are going to church. When there are outreach programs that they can actually participate in that help their community they get excited to join. Some of their best memories are of times they helped fix an elderly woman’s back porch and cleaned up her yard as well as helping clean up after tornadoes ripped through a neighborhood a few miles away. It made them feel like they mattered, like they made a difference in someone’s life. It made them feel needed and important.
    But isn’t that what all of us want to feel? Isn’t that what you have been trying to say? Instead of judging us and tearing us down help us feel useful and find a real tangible purpose to serve each other? Let us feel like God actually wants and needs us? Not just to fill up the pews but to help, to really help our neighbors, our community?
    Of course we’re sinners. Why would we need church if we weren’t? Don’t ridicule us for not being perfect. Don’t make us feel like you just want us to help pad your attendance numbers and fill your offering plates. We have so much more to give than a few bucks once a week. And that’s what we’re really looking for. Somewhere to matter. Somewhere to give our real gifts.

    • There is so much truth in these articles, but especially in Leah Lawler’s response. I personally do not enjoy being a part of a group looking for benchwarmers. Like Leah’s children, I want to be a part of a congregation of believers where I am safe to voice my own beliefs and feelings without fear of excommunication, where people love me through my own issues and I can love people through their issues, where we can work together in spite of our own differences to make a difference in other peoples live: feeding the hungry, loving others the way we want to be loved, providing needs for needy children, giving compassion to people in all walks of life. In my opinion this is Christianity. We don’t need to be the judge of the world, we need to learn to extend love to all people in the world, no matter their walk in life! I believe that we can never help anyone by preaching and condemning them, only through love can we make a difference. Isn’t that what Jesus did?

      • I don’t recall Jesus repairing any houses or building any fences etc. but He did change lives everywhere he went. He healed the sick, restored the blind and crippled, and raised the dead. Some, like the wealthy young ruler rejected His message, but He never changed. By today’s standard Jesus would be inflexible and harsh because He wouldn’t compromise the truth to make people comfortable in their sin. While I see some truth in this series, it’s a little over the top in being judgemental toward the church. Interesting, but slightly self serving and critical without any practical suggestions for those who truly want to reach the hurting. When I was diagnosed with diabetes I had a choice: listen to the doctor, follow his advice and live, or blame him for the problem, reject his advice and die.

  4. Well said, John. Both thought provoking and insightful. It pains me to think that you may have your choir singing to a room of self-righteous angry deaf people, but I hope your message reaches some straining ears. WWJD? Pretty much as you are. I hope your congregation is thriving. May your God bless and keep you.

    Erin McRoy

  5. I’ve stumbled across your blog recently, I don’t even know how, but I am so glad I did. I am someone who has left the church. It wasn’t so much a leaving though, I just kind of stopped going for many of the reasons you express here (and in the previous parts of this series) except i had bought the lie that there was something wrong with me. i feel so vindicated and relieved reading this blog. I can love, serve, and worship Jesus, and I don’t have to go to church to do it. Thank you.

  6. Thank you for representing the “other side” and presumably taking some flak! I’ve just left my church of 21 years having led ministries and small groups and supported my husband in eldership. We leave with great pain, searching our hearts to see what mistakes we have made, with the shadow of this lie you describe hanging around us. We genuinely believe that God is leading us out of our previous church environment in order for us to enter His rest, yet it does feel like ‘taking up our cross and following him’. I don’t like being misunderstood, seemingly voiceless and sometimes judged. It hurts. Thank you for presenting an alternative view…may others read and allow their perspective to be enlarged.

  7. I have to agree. I am a christian counsellor working mostly underground (without the label) and much of what I hear against the church is from people who are fed up with sundayschool-itis and churchianity (my own terms but people immediately get it… I rarely have to translate). They don’t reject Christ as much as they despise and are frustrated by the church – at least their perception of the church – and what they see as a rejection of them. They know they do not measure up. They need no sermon on how flawed they are, or how sinful… That they know. What they don’t know is if they have any value. If they are worth saving. If God cares about them. And just saying “yes, God cares” doesn’t cut it. They are looking for months and years of involvement and caring for them and their problems – not an hour or a day or two when the crisis makes it look like they might convert if we play our cards right. And we are not really up to that level of caring or paying that cost, we are too busy with our programs to take that kind of time for them. It’s just too much to ask.

    Sometimes they haven’t attended since childhood, or at all, But often they have tried to “taste and see” and have been left with the flavor of sawdust and ashes. They don’t understand us – we don’t seem to make sense when we talk – let alone our walk. No matter how much we say “come as you are” what they see and hear is “get cleaned up (quickly) and maybe we will associate with you once you have a less sinful odor about you.”

    Part of the problem is that they have real and massive problems, anxieties, and fears, that we don’t know the answer (for us or for them). I mean what do you say to someone who took up prostitution as a better life than what was going on at home? What do you say to someone who isn’t living the American Dream through disability, poverty, anger and/or addictions of various types. When trust has been broken at a fundamental level – you have to earn it back. And not knowing how to fix things for these people isn’t the sin it might be if we were more mature ourselves, but we try to cover it up and pretend that “if you just come to Jesus everything will be OK.” Maybe a sermon on not living your life by your feelings will help? … Not likely.

    We need to be genuine and loving and willing to live life beside people who are not like us in a way that communicates our love and caring so much that they are awe struck at our love… and can’t stop wondering “Why do you do this… why do you care?”

  8. One of the comments on the other page got to me. It shamed church hoppers. I am a church hopper. I have been looking for a church who accepts me and actually practices the forgiveness they preach. My first bad experience with church happened as a child in middle school. I was bullied at church. When it was brought to the churches attention they said it was my fault for being different. It was OK for their actions because I need to learn to forgive. How could this be OK in church? As an adult I watched my brother struggle with alcohol it eventually led him into trouble. My brother found a church that preached forgiveness and second chances. 3 years sober and my brother was offered a leadership position in the church that helped him so much. 2 other leaders approached him and told him he was not allowed to tarnish the name of the church by accepting the leadership role. That his history was not forgiven and there was no second chance for him. I have visited several churches since the with a very weary heart. I am looking for a place that will accept me. I may not have the best clothes and they may be put of date but that is no reason to make me feel like I am not worth of God’s love.

  9. There is a great article in the December 30, 2013 New Yorker written by James Carroll about Pope Francis. There are several key topics which are discussed pertaining to the Catholic church; however, his viewpoint on a being truly missional minded is spot on. Some of the comments in your article follow. You might be surprised at just how many leaders see the same challenges, then again you might not. Either way, church leadership should exemplify to any community a sum total of true acceptance of the self. Both itself and to those they minister to.

  10. Good words, John. I came to faith in New England where Evangelicalism is not well received and after 20 years there moved to Old England where I worked as a missionary to the Muslim world (training church planters) as well as trying to reach out where I was to the lost populations of England and Europe. What I saw there was that the Good News that Evangelicals were giving was even less relevant that the church in New England. (Almost always about how to get to heaven rather than how to find His Kingdom here, in this world, live it, and bring it to others who are wandering without hope and without God in the world.). Having been one of those folks until my mid 20s and never hearing a relevant gospel, I know this world! And when someone finally figured out how to be good news to me (a recovering drug addict who found God and deliverance and evidenced a supernatural life of transformation), I grabbed at it since I figured it was better than killing myself if it was true (which I was pretty sure it was not….but worth a try). And He did invade my life and gave me hope, love, and purpose. 40 years on I am still pursuing Him, trying to keep my hand in His, and introducing Him to others……..Thanks for the encouragement!

  11. I remember when my did left the church. He used to give money and time to church. He’s a computer guy and offered free tech support which took up more of his free time than he liked, but he did it anyway. I remember the call that sent him over the edge and he never stepped foot in church again. It was about a week (maybe less) after his father died. The preacher called, offered condolences for his loss, and then mentioned a tech problem that he wanted my dad’s help with. Dad felt like the condolences were an after thought and the real reason he called was about tech. I think he was right. That hurt him deeply and he never went back. Neither did I.

  12. These are great posts John, it is stuff that needs to be said. The insiders are wrong about those of us who leave, we are not leaving God, we are leaving a building. We aren’t trying to get away from Jesus we are trying to get closer to him. I haven’t been to a church service in years and like you, when I first left I felt relieved, like a great weight had been lifted or an annoying sound had finally stopped. I was grateful every Sunday that I was no longer, bored, scared, or merely entertained. My relationship with God has significantly improved since leaving, I doubt I’ll ever go back. Church the way it is currently expressed in our time is more like a corporation or system of some kind and that is not what its meant to be. The church is believers, the body, the bride of Christ, living stones. We act more that church is a place or a thing, but it isn’t, its us. I don’t know how that works its way out in everyday life, but I know it isn’t the way we’re doing it now.

  13. I LOVE your line “…so they leave those buildings; not to escape calling, but to find it.” That IS the very reason my wife and I left. We came to the realization that we were not reaching the lost, but swapping sheep.

    I’m passionate about what you are addressing and beyond my wife, I’ve not found a single person to talk to about it that understands and doesn’t judge or throw out cliche advice. Thank you for sharing. This is a necessary dialogue.

  14. Excellent series of posts. I also left the church as a teenager. I’m wondering if the author or anyone else found a place within the “church of the unchurched,” Unitarian Universalism, like I did in 2007? It’s met many of my needs the author already mentioned in these posts, especially Tolerance, although I’m wondering if it’s meeting others’ needs too? It’s at least an interesting interpretation of what spiritual community can look like. http://uua.org/

  15. I know that I want to make an impact for God in the world. I want to show the world that God still is alive and still cares for us. The vision Jeaus had for the church is to work together in love to show the world God is out there and he cares. We often fail at this concept because our nature wants us to safeguard ourselves. We don’t want to get hurt or don’t want others see our bad side. God calls us to put down our safeguards and let the world see our failures and our wins. When we do let our guard down we can truelly let love for one another truelly shine. I admit that I fail miserably at letting my guard down because I am ashamed of the sin in my life. But how can I heal if I can’t trust others with my shortcomings. As a church we need to learn everyone needs help and work together in love not judgement. But that is what we fear, judgement. I ask the church for prayers to concider how to break down walls and learn to live on love with one another. Be what Christ wants us to be.

  16. Part of the problem, John, lies with the over-inflated egos that many church leaders have. Those who are leaving because they have talents and gifts which are not being used is perfectly understandable in light of the leaders who are very protective of their pulpits, praise and worship stages and committee chairs.

    In any given church there are marvelous speakers, musicians, organizers and leaders whose gifts are being ignored because someone is afraid they will be upstaged. This practice makes those who want to use their abilities, gifts and talents for the church just want to walk out the front door and never look back.

    • That is very true in some cases. In our church, we rotate our ministers, musicians, and singers each month so that they
      all can exercise their gifts and talents in the church. Also, our lay members are encouraged to share their gifts and talents during what we call our testimony segment of our Sunday service.

  17. Love this blog post. I am a life long member of the LDS Church, 4 years seminary, 2 year mission, institute in college, and I just found out that I have been lied to regarding very basic/critical church history. I feel betrayed, spiritually abused, and that the church took advantage of my trust and good will.

    Now, where to go from here? I love God, I believe in Jesus and his teachings. I don’t find God at the LDS church, rather massive amounts of anxiety. Blog posts like this give me hope. Hope that there are others out there that are acknowledging the giant elephant in the room.

    The LDS church is all about money. How do they get that money? Extortion by threatening not being able to be with your family forever unless you go to the temple. Control. Control through guilt and shame. Jesus never used manipulation, guilt, or shame. He was all about LOVE.

    The LDS church has literally gotten away with murder (mountain meadows/blood atonement) and it feels as though the are the modern Goliath that those of us who value truth and honesty must face. As long as more and more voices keep standing up for what is right, the LDS corporate bully machine will weaken. The truth always surfaces, everyone deserves the right to know the truth.

    Right on John, keep fighting the good fight!

    • Just for my clarification, are you saying that the LDS church is teaching heresy and is in fact not a Biblical church? I read your comment and I totally understand that you have been burned by “a church”, but was also unsure if you still consider LDS a denomination of Christianity.

    • Start by reading “Finding Church” by Wayne Jacobsen, and lots of prayer. It will be a dark night of the soul for you, brother, but you can get through with the help of Christ. Try to take your previous “Church and temple” time and volunteer for a mission you have passion for and you will meet other brothers and sisters. I will pray for you in this time. -A sister in Christ

  18. I have been struggling to get a message out to my church that I believe I received directly from God. It really is a simple message — God has called our church to go out to the people of the city and meet them as Jesus would meet them. To essentially be Jesus to them. It asks the people to make a choice to choose to follow God’s command (not the church) or to choose to be left behind. Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commands”. Actually, He only gave three specific commands related to this: 1. To love thy neighbor as thy self; 2. To love one another (by this they will know you are my disciples); 3. GO into the world and make disciples, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (And tell them, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”).
    Basically He wants us to do exactly what John has been talking about in his excellent blog. This blog is a Prophetic Message direct from God to those who read it.
    But, in addition, God calls the people who have stayed in the church to choose whether or not they are willing to do this. It also means that the leadership must choose to follow God’s Will, teach the people how to do this, and to create the ministries need to help the people of the community.and lead the people to GO, or the church will surely be left behind. As a favorite song of mine says, “A heart to God and a hand to Man, here begins the healing of our land. Jesus created the Christian church to take over for Him, and for it’s people to be a reflection of Him to the people of the world. As Gen. George Patton said, “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the way”, because one way or another, God’s Will will be done!

  19. I’ve been a Christian since the age of seven (I’m 45 now) and a sincere Christ follower since the age of 28. I left the church 3 years ago for various reasons. We had a FABULOUS church! Our pastor was incredible at diving into the word and bringing out things that I had never seen before. I would joking say to my husband, “When did God put that in there?” We were very active in our church. In fact, our lives revolved around our services, meetings (my husband was an Elder and I was a department head), and anything that was happening, we were there. Then, over the course of six months we noticed that some of the sermons were repeats. Sometimes he didn’t preach in order to “let the Spirit move through the songs” (nothing wrong with that if it is truly what is going on). He lost interest in things that were going on in the church. My husband met with him one night and asked him if something was wrong and how could we help him. He became irate and said nothing was wrong and said if my husband wasn’t getting anything out of the messages, then he needed to examine his own life and see where he was sinning to where he couldn’t hear God’s voice. Three weeks later it was revealed that our pastor was in the midst of an affair. He chose to leave the church and move in with the woman. After six months, the pastor came back and wanted to be reinstated. Half the church wanted this, the other half didn’t. My husband and I could forgive the affair, but he never showed any remorse, blamed it on his wife and had a spirit of pride that would not allow for any type of accountability in order to reinstate him to his position. For a year there was so much discord amongst the parishioners. After much prayer, we decided that we could not stay. It was not our place to remove the pastor (that’s God’s call. God dissolved that church within six months of us leaving). So we went to another church. Within three months of joining that church, the music minister revealed his affair with one of the church’s youths (he had been caught) to the congregation on a Sunday morning. Turmoil ensued there and having not yet gotten over our previous experience, we left that church. Over the next year, we visited over 20 churches. If I could say one thing that is wrong with churches today, at least the ones we visited, is that the church goers are “surface friendly,” but do not make a real effort to speak to visitors for any length of time. We were never asked questions like “Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?” or even “What is your name?” Other that a quick handshake and a “How are you today?” we were left alone. Another thing that we saw lacking was diving into the Word. My goodness! We even went to one church that the Bible wasn’t opened, no scripture was read or even referenced! We need God. We need Christ. We don’t need a pep rally. We don’t need a scheduled service where we sing one song, do announcements, sing a second song, take up the offering, have a special solo, 45 minutes of preaching, sing another song then dismiss. I have a feeling that’s not how Jesus taught the multitudes. Most Christians today are ignorant of the Bible. They cannot even defend their beliefs because they are not familiar with the Bible. Pastors like to preach against sin, but not many like to TEACH. Although I have left the church, I have not forsaken my beliefs or my God. I still serve Him. I daily show God’s love to the people I come in contact with. I travel to third world countries with a medical mission team to use the skills God gave me to help the ones truly in need. I do not look down upon people based on lifestyle, sin in their lives or whether or not they attend church on a weekly basis. I have not been able to find anywhere in the Bible where God said I was to be a judge for Him. I have several sources online where I am fed God’s Word. I do miss the community of “church”, but not enough to sit through a shallow service where it is a social gathering and everyone has their assigned seat, has their part to play, gossips about what sins may or may not be happening in someone else’s life. I love the Lord with all my heart and I fear we disappoint Him with our version of His church. I don’t know if what we have today is the “Bride” Christ wants when He returns.

  20. Many of us who find the church stultifying have found Jesus out there in the crowds and have followed Him there, where the great need is. I discovered how to cure mental illness with music. Cured our son’s schizophrenia and now he is starting to help friends in the punk culture who have ears damaged from birth or from loud sound or alcohol or from some other assault on them. Dan doesn’t know the neurology I learned (yet), but he carries his personal experience of recovery from severe mental illness (for 10 years) and dyslexia before that, and in getting control over his addictions and other kinds of behaviour that most Christians expect you to have before you darken the door of the sanctuary. People who can learn to control their behaviour have good to excellent hearing. Who knew? Well, maybe Jesus, because He said, “Let those who have ears to hear, listen to me.” Those who couldn’t listen needed to have their ears healed. Just as those who couldn’t see needed glasses. It took over a thousand years for Christians to learn about lenses to correct vision. It has taken over 2000 years to learn how music cures auditory deficits (not the deafness that ends hearing but the distortions in frequency perception that scramble sounds). People who are incapable of learning to control their behaviour have audio-processing deficits, especially in the right ear. People who are depressed have deficits usually in the left ear. Some people have deficits in both. Focused listening (the right ear, using headphones) to high-frequency sound (e.g., Mozart violin concertos) will cure most forms of mental illness and a great deal more by conducting more sound energy to the left brain. Focused listening with the left ear allows more sound energy into the right half of the brain. When we teach these people how to strengthen their middle ear muscles by listening to music (not low-frequency noise), they have stronger left-brain dominance as the two halves of the brain integrate. They receive the sound energy that prevents depression and produces healthy emotions. They become able to experience life like people with excellent hearing and start to think like normal people. They have the energy to make better choices. At that point, they will be able to hear the good news about Jesus like other people who have always had good hearing do. I sometimes wonder if the people who are still keeping the pews warm but little else are similarly disabled and need the same kind of healing sound. Maybe our punks who are discovering their direct line to God, hearing His voice, receiving his visions, and changing their behaviour will carry the message of Jesus back into the shadows of the sanctuary.

    • Where did you learn about this hearing/ listening phenom? I’ve never known ANYONE cured of schizophrenia, much less by the manner you describe. And, believe there are lots of people with schizophrenia and depression who would like to know this simple cure. Is there some more reading you can point me to that will give me more/deeper understanding of how it works??

      • My 19 year old son has schizophrenia and I am convinced that getting back into playing the piano regularly has been helping his brain heal from the assault it suffered during a psychotic break two years ago. Playing a musical instrument engages all major areas of the brain at once and helps build all sorts of neural pathways.

        His interest in the piano was jump-started on the very first Sunday after we switched churches from one with a garage band worship team to one with a formal organ which incorporates classical music selections every week. As soon as we got home, he headed straight for the piano and played for hours every day for weeks before leveling out to a more normal amount of practicing. I could actually listen as the healing began deep within his brain.

        He is now composing beautiful piano pieces and has also taken up the violin. Completely on his own, he decided to start taking college classes this fall and he wrote all the emails and made all the phone calls needed to bring this about.

        My son will always deal with the cognitive challenges caused by schizophrenia but it is my hope that through music and steadily improving socialization skills he will be able to permanently avoid having another psychotic break (delusions and hallucinations).

  21. Love your posts and could not agree more. I have been in the Church for close to 40 years, and have always been a very active member (perhaps too active at times). Through all those years and in every church that I have been involved in (without exception), the one thing that I truly needed from the church, true fellowship, was the one thing that was never offered. Oh, there were plenty of pot-lucks and other organized “fellowship” opportunities, but true fellowship was nowhere to be found in the church, and the few times that it started to happen outside the walls, it was either discouraged or scheduled over, almost as if the leadership was afraid of people getting what they need out from under their control.
    A quote from Robin Williams probably put it best, and immediately put me in mind of this very subject “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone”. Sometimes it’s less painful to leave than to keep on banging your head against the wall. I think that is one of the main thing that the world is looking for in the church, but unfortunately, I think there is more true fellowship that happens in the local bars.

  22. I’ve read all three of the blogs and I see where you’re coming from and I can partially agree with you. Here’s why: The first blog, puts a huge generalization on the church (I know you fixed that over generalization so I forgive you). The church you’re talking about is most likely a church group that 1) is all about the numbers or 2) is all about rules and tradition and kind of like a small town church where gossip is everywhere.

    I say this because I want to make sure you understand that not everyone that says they’re a Christian is a Christian. And, not every church that calls themselves a church is a church (there’s a lot of false bible teachings).

    I’m not saying this because I think I’m right; Jesus actually says this straight up by saying that there will be people who say, “Lord, Lord” didn’t I do the right thing? And, Jesus will say, “Depart from me you evil-doer. I never knew you.” The same section of the Bible talks about how “the road that leads to life is narrow and very few find it. But the road that leads to destruction is wide and many enter it.”
    With that said, a majority of “churches” and “Christians” act this way because they’re still walking the “wide road” and never really knew who Jesus was or followed His commands which is to love God and to Love people.

    Not that I’m saying that real Christians are perfect in knowing who Jesus is or doing what He commanded. In fact, if Jesus didn’t die for us, then we are everything that the blogs says we are because we would still be guilty of our wrongs against God. But, because I believe that Jesus did die for us and the Holy Spirit is helping us be better servants of Christ, then I can say with confidence that our sins are covered and although we make mistakes, we have hope that we’re going to get better and start loving more like Jesus. When we mess up and fall down, we look up at the cross and forgive each other and keep on loving because Jesus loved us first and died to show His love and came back to life to show His victory over death and sin and all the mess that you’re talking about, John. Thank you for the posts and I thank God for the posts and hope that you can learn to love the “church” because Jesus hasn’t stopped loving anyone. To God be the Glory.

      • That’s awesome that I share your daughter’s name. 🙂 My dad named me after Psalm 23 (even though “Selah” isn’t found in this particular passage). I was a premature baby (the smallest in the hospital) and the doctors didn’t see a lot of hope for me, but after two weeks we went home :).

        I’m not sure of your understanding of the gospel, but I ran across this preacher a while back and just today was listening to this sermon. It reminded me of this blog because he talks about the true church and how it looks nothing like the majority of church goers and he goes deeper into understanding the gospel.

        I thought I’d share, but just a heads up, it is lengthy because it’s a sermon. I hope it blesses you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KtvJpSBxrQ&list=PL7D7DAE0DF9E2D2B0&index=2

  23. Teens are leaving the church. My teens WANT to leave the one we are at. The reasons are not that they are not saved . They are and we’re baptised. Praise GOD. Teens are not finished creatures but adults can be judgemental. Our previous associate pastor left when he was there my teens PARTICIPATED in serving. My oldest served in the choir and in nursery. She helped with summer children program and with teen camp . My other teen overcame a lot of shyness and helped with trunk or treat and garage sales.
    Then they were no longer allowed in in Choir because she could not make Sunday night practice and service. The previous director was aware she was in college advanced courses and got up at 5 am and also was on medication for depression. He saw her need to sing in am choir and that she was in choir all through school and port Charlotte honor choir but her sining in church praising God was her favorite. SHE SANG WITH A BIG SMILE .The person taking over the choir told her if she could not make practices like the adults in church she could n ot sing as she was not going to blend in well enough. This same person calls her at home to serve in nursery every other Wed. She gladly accepted. Every week she is told on arrival she is not needed. She goes to youth group wishing she did not have to worry about volenteer hours for school as the nursery no longer gives c her needed hours. She is however on good note serving children’s library program at local library two and half hours each week on tuesday. She does not serve nursery or choir but listens every week to there need to have people serve. My thought is we make teens fit into the schedule that comforts us and forget the joy of serving. The choir would not sound good on Sunday with an enthuastic 17 year old singing her heart to God? The nursery is better served by two adults and they can’t see the value of an extra person who gets in the floor and actually plays with the kids?
    The kids have passed on to me the disappointment that our youth pastor left as well as all the new my way or highway rules of My present church. I have told my children sometime change is hard. I am hard pressed to answer why the above occurred in church so I tell my children.God has a service for you it does not always have to be in walls of church. Finding a place to help children has helped my daughter. I praise God for that but there are times it’s hard for me to justify staying at a church and not thinking. My children might be more welcome at another. The fact my daughter has depression came out and she wanted to sing a special song in pm service. Jesus take the wheel. She was finally allowed to sing if she came Sun night but was told she did not sing well enough for am service. She was not great. The job of singing a joyful noise was judged not worthy. This us very hard to explain Christian behavior. We as parents have to show service and we volenteer to clean church and change sign. Do the pr as yer list. Little ways. We are 70 and 61. My husband and I are raising our three adopted grand childre. We do not want them to be church leavers. We know the value of serving and we attempted to show our children. This type of separation of teens and adults is why this is making me question our choice of churches. How long do I have to show them there are churches that let them serve in ways they are comfortable also. You can’t shove c serving down their throats by picking how you determine they serve. We have tried to ride out recent changes. We are praying for our current church but you should also have another view on why these kids leave.

  24. Excellent articles, I to have been involved in Church for over 40 years and I think it is more of a natural Spiritual immigration that’s leading people out of the present day Church model. Just like the human immigration from Europe to North America for a better life. Part of being created in the image of God is to progress toward his Kingdom, that’s is what is occurring today. The Church will be there, but totally unrecognizable as to what today’s Church looks like.

  25. Great post, once again. I have been a Christian since about 3 or 4…have never walked away from Jesus…not one second. But church just has hurt us one too many times…too me church is not a representation of what Jesus is.

  26. G’day John, interesting take on what you see, not sure many of your respondants, perhaps anyone, actually looks at their own church community in a critical manner because it too often brings all those unresolved hurts to the surface and too often church is about “being nice” at the cost of honesty.
    In Australia people left 30+ years ago, most that are leaving now are going out in a box. Our problem is how to introduce them to God and we generally make a mess of that too.
    I find it odd that people expect church to reflect only the soft, gentle, loving side of Jesus everybody seems to forget that He might have met them in the street, but He doesn’t leave them there, nor does he stay there with them. The parable of the lost sheep is the best analogy, not that I am saying we are good at that either.
    On a side point the parable of the prodigal son is actually about the older son that stayed and that is where the church so often is, bitter and feeling hard done by because that did all the “right” things, but never enjoyed the freedoms inherint with being in the father’s house.
    Anyway, a good read and food for thought an prayer.

  27. You’ve discovered our secret–we’re as flawed as you. Our lives have been touched in devastating ways by some of the same things yours have: drinking, drugs, sex, violence-you name it. We too are willing to work and seek compelling and meaningful ministry. We struggle over worship styles and interpretations of scripture. As afraid of it as we are, we still sin. Jesus, as he did on Earth, probably looks down and judges us more harshly than he does the unchurched. I don’t know why I ran to the church instead of the other way in my struggles. I don’t mean to hurt those outside and I love them and do all that I can inside and outside of the church to just simply present Jesus as I learn about him myself. I’m not always good at it; I’m not a great leader, but I love those outside as much as I love the ones inside. To me, we don’t sound so different. We need The Lord. Can’t we find each other without finding fault.

      • I recently read a shocking statistic—As psychologist Robert Leahy points out: “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/01/its_not_the_job_market.html

        We come battered, broken and bruised. We need a soft place to lay our weary heads. After our son “came out” we had no place to turn. Our church preached ridiculous James Dobson theories on homosexuality(absent father–overbearing mother—we are neither), our son was cutting and suicidal. Nobody had read ANYTHING outside of “conservative” commentaries. I literally found myself so devastated that I crawled around my bedroom looking for the lap of Jesus. The church was the last place we could go—THIS SHOULD NOT BE SO!!! The church should be a hospital in the best sense of the word—a place for broken hearts to be given the soothing Balm of Gilead–

        Another FANTASTIC article!!! Christians are killing Christianity and it is breaking my heart—

  28. One of the reasons the Church is in danger of becoming irrelevant is that it has missed the fact that the world paradigm has shifted. The culture, including the level of scientific awareness, of Bible times is not relevant to today when we have seen the pictures of the Earth from outer space, taken beginning in the late 1960s. The widespread availability of those images shifted the paradigm. People of biblical times could talk about “Heaven above” — but now that it has been proven that the Earth is a sphere hanging in space, where exactly is Heaven, one might ask? . . .

    Also, the images of deep space now available from the Hubble space telescope are awe-inspiring. Is (the cosmic) Christ — the one who teaches that “the kingdom of heaven is within” (and not necessarily in any particular building) — not there too? Does God not fill the entire Universe? Is an eternal, unlimited, infinite yet at the same time personal God not also the Ultimate Scientist? . . . A God that big can solve a lot of the world’s problems. In order to become relevant, the Church needs to move out of the culture of biblical times and expand its horizons.

    • Thanks for this, Neall. Too many Christians see Science as an adversary; they don’t know how to reconcile the faith of their childhood with the things you bring up. I see Science as helping understand the complexity, vastness, and beauty in creation, and these things help me know God.

  29. Post 1 and 2 were way too “us vs them.” Solid points but wasted by a lack of love and grace in the tone. Glad to see you took a different approach to (3). It’s important because so long as people have an “us vs them” mentality, conversation and actually working together for solutions are not going to happen. Regardless, we’re all still “the church”, as we know!

    • Thanks Ryan. However, 1 and 2 were really trying to give voice to those who have been damaged and who have no way to express that, so that tone and that sentiment is appropriate. For many who have been hurt, excluded, or pushed-out, they have been made to feel that “us vs. them” feeling you talked about.

      The us vs. them, is that feeling of in vs. out.

      Thanks for reading!

  30. These were three articles that deeply touched my heart…I’m that person that has been in the church her whole life. I actually have seen exactly what you are saying. I am so thankful to be part of a church that really tries to be in the communities around us and globally. I actually kind of felt prideful that my church wasn’t like everything you wrote! That we were different. But no church is perfect. I know that. I want to be just like the song that says, don’t tell them Jesus loves them, till you’re ready to love them to…….to everyone searching, for someone to love you no matter what….it really is Jesus. I pray that God puts someone in your life, that shows you to come just as you are…you don’t have to change first! He loves you. We, as Christians, are not your judge. We should be loving you and showing you Christ’s love. I know that there is sin and there needs to be repentance, but it is a journey…help people heal and feel safe and loved. It’s what He wants of us.

  31. I have a huge amount of respect for you blogging on this topic. I struggled with it for years. It takes an amazing amount of courage to take a position that not 100% church focused or 100% atheist. Well done! I wish you luck on your journey where ever it might lead you.

  32. Jesus was rejected in his walk on earth but that did not stop him from serving us and finished his work when he died on the cross and rose from the grave and sits at the right hand of the father, he didn’t make excuses but spoke the truth ,we speak half the truth which makes it a LIE .Jesus prayed to the Father and said Father sanctified them by your word for your word is true. Where is forgiveness when he tells us to forgive back 7 times 70.Lets get real and learn to forgive so when we come before him, he in like wise forgive us ,lets make this about him and not our selves or others, who’s glory were seeking or love or attention when he said HE Is All SUFFICIANT.HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIANT. What thorn is in your side, He truly is the answer regardless where you at he is there,no matter where you lay or when you rise in heaven on earth or even in Hell God is all present. God speed to all and may his Grace continue to allow us to go from GLORY to GLORY. Much love and prayer for us all.

  33. It’s so refreshing to hear your constructive criticism of the church. I think most church cultures don’t really allow or encourage honest dialogue and self-analysis. If you tell the truth (as you see it), you’re “being negative” or, worse, “creating dissension.” I’m so weary of Christians that subtly or explicitly critique other faith traditions (let alone “sinners”). Sorry for lapsing into church-speak, but it makes me want to say, “take the plank out of your own eye”! Thank you for your blog.

  34. I find it quite interesting that so many who leave the church are the very ones who are consumers. They go looking for another church that has all the “bells and whistles” thinking that body of believers got it right. Then before long, they are back in the same place….unhappy with the church. Why? Because they have never stopped being consumers. They have all the right answers, but they don’t consider themselves when they talk about “the church” staying within the walls – they are not doing anything to be the church themselves. It is easy to throw stones when they don’t hit you.

    • There are certainly consumer Christians out there, however, that’s not what these posts are talking about. In fact, they resist the show, and want to participate, but are often excluded.

  35. Pingback: We’re trained to ask why and you’re damn welcome

  36. The reason people are leaving church is because they have better access to educational tools and are starting to realize religion is a sham, the sheep mentality is losing out to the free thinkers among us.

  37. Just want to thank you for this posting. 18 years ago I fell in love with a church that had a mission to make that difference. No job or effort too small or unworthy. I loved the outreaches to the needy. Unfortunately, our pastor took a job elsewhere and the church went into a downward spiral eventually closing. That was almost 10 years ago. We have tried many churches trying to replace what we came to love. It is as you said Sunday is awesome, spirit filled, and leaves you feeling loved and refreshed, but that is where it ends. We will continue searching, but in the mean time as a family we are searching for how we can make a difference and share God’s love throughout the week. Again thank you for speaking exactly how I have been feeling!

    • Thank you, Nichole. Been so great to hear so many stories like yours; not because the stories are happy ones, but because they remind us that these struggles are being felt by people all over the world. A new generation is redefining the Church. Be encouraged!

  38. I really appreciate your article. I left my church because I never felt like I belonged. For example, I was walking around on crutches with a broken hip for 2 long years, and was in desperate need of prayer. I asked the Pastor who was part of the “healing ministry”. She was very indignant when she asked “What do you want?” I walked away. This is just one of the things that went on at that church. I am disgusted at the cliques that go on. I have not lost my love for Jesus, as He has gotten me through many tough times, most, without the support of the church.

  39. Dude! You totally hit my thoughts on my comments from the 2nd part of this article! For a long time I felt that the church, as a whole, was failing in its mission and has gotten away from what Jesus intended it to be. And I go back to the original solution……..LOVE! We’ve forgotten how to do it or what it means!

  40. Have read your three blogs, and quite a few of the resulting comments. Sadly, nothing in your blogs, nor in the comments, are surprising to myself nor to my wife.

    Having been converted in 1966 at a Billy Graham (God bless that man) Crusade in London, I became a member of the ‘C’hurch (the people of God saved by Grace). Coming from a completely non-Christian background, my first experience of ‘going to ‘c’hurch (the man-made institution) was uncomfortable. I really didn’t feel that I fitted in because I didn’t own a suit. But after a year of not going, I eventually joined a Bible study group associated with that same church and started to learn about Jesus. It was also where I met my wife (different story).

    I was absorbed into the ‘Institution’ that is church. Our spiritual journey has been long and certainly interesting, including 3 years at bible College here in the UK, where we both had the chance to study and learn so much more. But in October ’99 we stopped ‘going to church’ (long story). BUT we have not left the real Church. In many ways we are freer now than we had ever been in the confines of the institutional church framework. We are now much more involved with our local community, freed, as we are, of the over-arching need to get non-christian-bums-on-seats on Sundays.

    Of course, a number of folk considered us to have ‘back-slidden’, and fair enough, I used to think the same of other folks some years back, and indeed, some had fallen away from God. But we hadn’t. We had simply left the Institution, but not, I hasten to add, before we believed God said, ‘go’. We left with, if not exactly the blessing of the leadership of the fellowship we were in at the time, then at least with no anger or bitterness or ill-feeling.

    What this boils down to is that, you cannot, ‘go to church’ because (in Christ) you ARE the Church. It means that, over the space of a typical single week, we have experienced Church in different ways and in different places with different Christians – where two or three are gathered……. We find that we are sharing Christ in unexpected places and with unexpected people, just because we are not confined within four walls and an Order of Service.

    The real Church was never meant to be confined inside a man-made institution, but to be ‘salt and light’ in a dark world, to be the cup of water to a thirsty soul, to be the healing touch to a dying spirit, to be the tear shed for a sad heart, to be the accepting embrace for the rejected and the touch of hope for the hopeless.

    Blessing to you, JP, on your Journey

  41. I have been a Christian from aged 31 to my now 54 years. 4 years at Bible College, missionary in Zambia, Malawi and Uganda, worked with and founded a charity to the homeless and an aid programme for Romania, I’ve worked on the inner city streets of east London (UK), New York and Phnom Penh. I’ve preached, taught, prayed with, counselled and led many young people and adults to the Lord. I was an evangelical of impeccable credentials.

    But after 16 years full time paid ministry I left the church. Why? Well read John’s 3 parter on why people are leaving the church and you will have some idea why. I am genuinely insulted when someone suggest I left for any of the reasons mentioned in part 3. My heart was breaking for those who wouldn’t come through the doors on a Sunday and for those who left on the Monday and have never returned.

    16 years of scars after banging my head on the table trying by talking with. presenting a pragmatic argument, logic, pleading, begging, leading by example, face to face angry shouting matches, quoting Scripture, praying with and for, any way I could think of to address lack of urgency in acknowledging the problems facing the church. I watched helpless as church attendance diminished and finances became tight and ministries were cut back and people lost their jobs. And still the leaders and influential people in the church have did nothing, NOTHING. To change their theology, plans, habits, thinking, attitude or values. Nothing.

    Do not presume to judge my commitment, my love of Jesus or my desire to stay with the church. I have held the hands of the dying, cried as yet another youth killed themselves, hurt when a homeless friend was murdered or others who died from an overdose, watched as 100’s died of cholera and malaria and untreated water diseases. I have been spat at, shouted at, abused and attacked on the streets by angry disenfranchised youngsters and I would carry on with this work right now. if? If the leadership team and the majority of the church were beside me. but they’re not are they?

    I left the church because it was not doing what it said it was doing and even worse … it actually thought it was doing a great job.

    I left the church to try and find the way to live out the gospel.

  42. Once again, you’re spot-on. Dealing with church destroyed my faith in christianity and once I left I looked elsewhere for spiritual fulfillment. Many of the folks who comment here would probably be surprised by the numbers of people of all religions that started out their lives as christians then had their faith ripped out from under them by negative church experiences. Not just a single incident or a single church, multiple experiences with multiple churches over the years. You get the strong belief after awhile that if you’re not good enough for the christian god’s people, you’re not good enough for him.

    Churches expect their congregations to be perfect. You can’t come in off the street with a past that includes addiction, depression/mental illness, sexual indiscretion or divorce and expect to be welcomed warmly and accepted with love into a church family. You also can’t expect to be welcomed if you have children with a disability, who tend to fidget and make noise during praise and worship – you’ll be asked to leave and take your little noisemakers with you. Jesus may have loved people as they are, but the institutions supposedly dedicated to his teachings do not.

    For many of us, opting out has been the best thing that ever happened to us.

  43. I get my spirit fed now by reading the bible and listening/watching on internet and television. The story of how I stopped going to church is that I went to a large church in the CA Bay Area for over 10 years. My wife and I were separated and we were both going to counseling with different asst. pastors/counselors. One time after church the asst. music minister invited people to come up for prayer.

    While I was up there the asst. pastor I was counseling with saw me. He then went and whispered into the music minister’s ear. The next thing I know the music minister was casting out the spirit of X, the demon of Y, and the devil of Z. Everything I thought was confidential counseling was shouted out loud. I was in shock. When he got done I just quickly left. I felt like I had just been punched in the gut.

    I was naive enough to just brush that off and come back to church the next service thinking everything would be fine. However half the people were staring at me and the other half would not make eye contact. I never went back and never heard from anyone. So when people talk about how you should go to church to have a church “family” I just have to shake my head. At one time I thought I did have a church family but it was all imaginary. I was just fooling myself that I ever did.

  44. I’ve decided to by-pass some of these comments because I am in 100% agreement with the original post. And, I thank the gentle person that wrote it. He put it into words that I’d have probably put a whole lot differently, but, he spoke for me in a more gentle tone. I wish I had that talent in writing. I’m very direct, and have left church for the exact same reason he clearly stated above.

    THIS, and John’s philosophy on why people are and have left the church are hitting the nail right on the head.

    When I was going to church every time the doors were open, Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday PM, I sang in the choir, participated in activities in the church, went on the outings, all was fine.

    But, what happened on that fateful month when a Black couple wanted to enroll their pre-school aged children into our white, Southern Baptist Convention church was the straw that broke the camel’s back to me. The “business meetings” they had to have, bringing the information to the more “controlling” members of the church about every second Wednesday after Prayer Meeting was so embarrassing, I decided to not affiliate myself with organized religion again. That church ended up splitting.

    Guess what the new church’s name was: “New Hope”…sounded like a jab to me at the time, and it still sounds like a jab to this day….only the people that go to “New Hope” today may not even know how they were formed. It was formed by an internal split because they were so busy talking about the little black kids bringing lice into the white church.

    Again, 28 years later, I’ve never become active in ANY church, yet, I will visit when I feel the need to find a connection with my Holy Spirit. I still play piano, I sing, but, I don’t play as the Pianist for a church, or an associate pianist. I don’t sing for a choir, I sing karaoke.

    What I’m trying to say is that I’ve not lost my faith in a Higher Power. I’ve only developed my own connection with that Higher Power, and don’t need any one person in a church or any other person that reads the Bible every other hour telling me how wrong it is that I live my life.

    It just won’t happen, and I know, as for me and MY Lord, WE will live in MY house. If any person doesn’t like the way me and MY Lord work in MY house, you don’t have to enter.

    Thank you for reading this far…and thanks to the blog. You have spoken so many beautiful words and shared wonderful thought about what is exactly what should be known: REALITY.

  45. These 3 articles are right on – we need less of what we are against and more as a church of what we are for: Love God – Love People – Live Like Jesus – these three things are what Pastor Banke has brought to Our Savior Lutheran Church – Tacoma WA – we are changing from being a self centered congregation to one that is discipleship and mission based. Pray for us!

  46. I was raised in the church. I raised my children in the church. I was a sunday school teacher, then Sunday School Supervisor. I started the Church Food Bank in my Garage with some friends. We were very active. When my family went through some very hard times, it was a few individuals in the church that came along side us. My children are raised & are searching for a church family & not finding it. When we go to the church we have attended for nearly 20 years, it’s nice to see people, but it’s not real. My daughter was in a terrible car accident & was in ICU for nearly a month. I called the church as I walked in the door to find out if she was going to live & never heard a word back. My father passed away this year from a long battle of liver cancer. Not a word from the church. The Church motto? Going Passionately, sharing Christ in word & deed. Growing Intimacy, Deepening Relationships with God, Caring Community for the country & the world. Lots of mission trips abroad, as far as I can see, nothing for the community around here. I am far from lazy, and I know my debt to Christ. I seek to serve him daily in any way I can. Church Leaders BEWARE, because you have a mission right here in your community & I don’t mean just the church family. Jesus said…Feed them, clothe them, visit them, pray WITH them. If you don’t, they will go find someone who will.

  47. Thank you, for writing your insightful thoughts and experiences. It has helped me and my wife. Everything you wrote about: part 1,2 & 3 is so very true. Church has become more of a poorly run third world government office.
    I was an usher and loved to serve. The pastor/ leader over usher would always want/ need the ushers to recruit other ushers. The pastor never seem too concerned who was recruited or even t knowing who we were. I could of been; the worst pick pocketer you ever meet, and the pastor would not of ever known. Most times he would not even say good morning or he would not direct someone with the formal name, just a “hey you”. I confronted him about this a couple of times. His reply was either he was too busy or my issue was irrelevant in the “big picture of getting people saved”. Needless to say; after that conversation, my family and I have not been back. Of course we have never received a phone call or a FB like or a FB ” we miss you and would like to…”
    It all bad govern business at most churches now.
    Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the churches court people with big finances to be leaders.
    I’ll probably wrong on the way I feel. I know I need to toughing up a little. It would just be nice if the church would warm up a lot and make time.

  48. If you are searching for the “good news” of the coming Kingdom of God, I would encourage you to take a minute and visit this site. http://www.ucg.org/about/ They trace their origins to the Church that Jesus founded in the early first century and follow the same teachings, doctrines and practices established then. This includes the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, a New Testament application of God’s Holy Days (which Jesus also kept and which the Church believes are a literal representation of God’s plan for humanity) and a firm belief that Jesus Christ will return to earth to institute a benevolent, world-encircling Kingdom of God.

  49. John Pavlovitz,

    Why empower people to leave the church? Is it really your job to be”a voice for the voiceless”? just to simply encourage people to complain about the shit in the church?

    Perhaps you should focus on making the changes instead of riling everyone up who hates the church and their ways. You are making us feel justified in the way we think. Feeling good and heard is great and all, but all your doing is encouraging more people to leave and abandon the church.

    Do you see that you have influence? Why wouldn’t you use it to stir about change for the positive?

    I feel like you are part of the problem of your definition of the church. Your focus is on defying the church and getting justice for yourself and other people who apparently have no voice. You are not helping people come committed followers of Jesus Christ any more than the church.

    Please help me understand your goal, here. Just to stir up trouble? Cause you sure are succeeding friend.

    • There is a common confusion within discussions like this one between ‘church’ the man-made institution, and ‘Church’, the God-ordained Body of Christ. I believe it would be wrong to imply John is encouraging people to to leave the latter, to abandon following Jesus, when the real discussion is about the former.

      • I know, he is discussing the church the man-made institution. (that is exactly what I am referring to) Anybody in the Church is commanded to be apart of the church.

    • I don’t think the article was intended to be critical… perhaps more about giving a voice to those who are in pain and who have’t been heard. I’ve just read your article and think there’s space for both approaches to the subject….I really need to hear John’s message right now, it helps my healing process. There may be others who really need to hear yours. I hope it doesn’t have to be an either/or option though, they don’t appear to be mutually exclusive to me. Thanks for writing.

  50. Dear John…Thank you so much for writing these 3 blogs about why people leave the church. As someone who dedicated the majority of her life to the church, I have recently decided it is not for me. That is not to say that I believe that GOD is not for me, but I am dissatisfied with the cruelty, the inaction, and the inability to get beyond “theology” when it comes to hot button issues.
    I don’t think I can fully express the pain there is when your “family” becomes dysfunctional, but that’s what it is.

  51. John, I saw your blogs via Bob Cook’s facebook page. I remember meeting you at the church I was attending which was near Bob’s 252 Underground. You were the youth pastor of a similar church (same denomination as the one I was attending) before you moved. Would you consider writing blog #4 with a “To Do” list. I’d love to see a list of what I can actually do to keep people from leaving churches. I go to a pretty “old fashioned evangelical church” without all the entertainment gimmicks but people still leave. I’d like to stop that and a list of suggestions would be very helpful to me. Thanks for the info you shared in your blogs.

  52. I am one that after years of being in the ministry, have found Jesus in a more profound and all consuming way on the ‘outside’….I have never been closer to Him than today…I am now a Life Purpose coach and author and find more fellowship with believers in my life of authenticity and transparency than I ever did as a devoted institution goer….keep up the good work!!

  53. You are so right about everything! My church touts we should love God, love people. But that love has not been demonstrated during a critical time in my life. I have been battling cancer for four months and not one person, let alone a pastor, has called to see how I’m doing or if our family could use some help. NOT ONE! And we have been quite involved in the church. Where is the demonstration of Christs love in this situation? I am so hurt, I will never see “church” in the same way again.

  54. Dear Denise,

    You matter.

    I’m afraid though, that sometimes we all get caught up in “life”, which takes a heavy toll on many of us. We get so caught up in our own problems and issues that we become focused on trying to get more (fill in the blank) for ourselves. We forget that what we should also be doing is pouring ourselves out to others. Please reach out to the pastor or pastor’s wife to let them know where you are at, and that you feel alone in this. Let them know that you are wondering if anyone there cares. Hopefully, they will respond with great love and compassion.

    When my wife was diagnosed with cancer a few years back, the church she attended reached out with great caring, and we have not forgotten that even though we decided to attend elsewhere a couple of years later. That said, it is an unfortunate truth that many folks don’t realize just how much cancer patients are weakened by chemo and radiation, and although after awhile they look normal, they are anything but… Don’t be afraid to express where you are to those around you.

  55. Hi John, I’m going to refer to this series of articles you’ve written in a post I’m working on, but I’d like to run a few questions by you first. Can I get an email to contact you?

  56. I have been in on all sides of these issues. I left pulpit ministry over these issues as I became convinced my denomination cared more about church politics than people. I am an evangelical and have been bashed as a “bible thumper.” I have been labeled liberal because I wear my blue jeans to church and minister to some that others will not-in and outside church.

    Simple truth! Dialogue helps us clarify our thoughts and check our convictions. Arguments and accusations are not listed under spiritual fruits. I have read through a lot of both here and make this challenge.

    God did call us to the church. God called us to community because healing, mentoring, etc. are best done there. God calls us to relationship with God and with one another. God is love so if we follow God we are called to love. Love does not organize itself with harsh rules, judgements and meaningless ceremony/productions. Love lives out the “hard spots” in life by people sharing, growing and walking together by looking to God’s Word for direction. These articles and many comments have given us a lot to think about. How about using them to change ourselves and our churches so that they become what God intended–God’s force/ambassador in the world–the balm for a world of lost and hurting people?

  57. I really enjoy your blogs! I often agree with most of your stances, and am always nodding in agreement while reading them. The tough part is that the alternative views we may have are potentially guilty of the same finger pointing attitudes we are against. How do you address this within yourself? Interestingly enough, another reason people are leaving the church (happened just this week) is that there are too many imperfect people in the church, and these people are looking for better role models for them and their kids. To some people, this is what church is. They don’t feel safe when there are too many unsafe individuals around them. However, the church that is close to perfect is surely a disingenuous atmosphere and probably a lie. On the contrary, some feel safe when they can be real, broken and themselves. It’s funny how one persons safe place is not to someone else. Oh, existence.

  58. After 35 years of pastoral ministry, I have been drawn to the notion that integrity of how everyone in a congregation lives out their faith is far more important than doctrine, or polity, or the skills of the pastor and lay leadership.

  59. Great series of blogs, John. My wife and I left our church over a year ago for almost all of these reasons. The clincher was that I disagreed with doctrine and wanted to dialog about it. I was met with defensiveness online and a cold shoulder on Sundays, to the point of being accused of causing division by our lead pastor. My wife was incredibly hurt as these were people who had been in her life since childhood. People on staff would pass her in the hall and not even make eye contact. The brainwashing is pretty severe there…you question the pastor’s teaching and you’re basically questioning God. It was an eye-opener.

    Now we’re completely free from the dysfunction of that assembly and we have much richer fellowship with some close friends, fellow believers that we see almost every week. We’re growing leaps and bounds in our faith because we’re not under the oppressive condemnation, coercion, and manipulation of our former church body. The sad thing is that there are many good people in that church, but their love is trumped by their loyalty to their ideology.

  60. John, what information is this series of blogs based on? Interviews, research, personal experience?

    Also, when you include things like:

    “These words may get you really, really angry, and you may want to jump in a knee-jerk move to defend yourself or attack these positions line-by-line, but we hope that you won’t.
    We hope that you’ll just sit in stillness with these words for a while, because whether you believe they’re right or wrong, they’re real to us, and that’s the whole point.”

    You are stating this this is the only viewpoint you are willing to accept and any dissension if proof that you are right. You imply that you are against defending the faith because it turns people off.

    As I read these article, I can see the relevance and validity of some points. Sunday productions is the reason that my family and I did “home church” for a year. I was stationed (US Army) in a rural area of the country for a year and every church we visited was either a huge, loud, multi media production or bereft of any biblical depth. I think your point about coffee corners is along the same lines. But I also see the gross generalization of others points and it makes me wonder what you think the church should look like. You mention religious buzzwords and dead language. Without clarification, you imply that the Bible is no longer relevant (2 Tim 3:16-17.) You imply that doctrine and biblical scholarship turns people off so we shouldn’t use it. By doing so, you deny the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.)

    “From what we know about Jesus, we think he looks like love. The unfortunate thing is, you don’t look much like him.” This statement, I would say, is in dire need of clarification. Are you saying that those who are walking away from the church have a good understanding of Jesus and love and the church is misrepresenting both? Are we to conform to what the world says love is (Romans 12:2)?

    I agree that the church gets it wrong sometimes and can drive people away with a watered down gospel or a list of do’s and don’ts. It is one thing to say that people are leaving the church because it is not giving them what they need, it is quite another thing to say that the church is losing these people because it is not giving them what they want. Without clarification, this may seem to be what you are saying.

    I think Tim Keller said it best when he said, “Jesus invites us to come as we are, but not to stay as we are.”

  61. I just want to say after reading the 3 parts I couldn’t agree more with this stuff. I am in a church, I’m no leader or anything like that, just a part of it in a couple of teams, stuff like that.

    I watch people come a day gi, I see our church being stagnant and I listen to those who lead churches the world over and see exactly what is being said.

    The church as a broad group has lost its identity.

    Its little more than a business or corporate body these days, and genuinely getting down I the muck of life with those hurting is t the goal any more. Guess what – It’s not your place to tell someone what they should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s your place to show them love, compassion, empathy, acceptance, mercy, grace, charity and anything else the makes them feel the love of God. Not judgement. If God wants to judge someone, he’ll do it Himself in His own time and way. He’s big enough to take care of it. He made a point though through Christ of telling us what our jobs are.

    Love one another.

    Thats it. That’s our only job. Let’s do that. Let’s not argue or point to certain theological problems or difference of dogma and point fingers of blame. Let’s just love. If we did more of that, maybe people would come. Maybe they would keep coming, and maybe, just maybe, when the time is right anything that’s not good for them, anything that’s a problem in their life will be dealt with, because they’ll feel loved and they’ll trust and they’ll be confident of the help they could receive.

  62. Is the church becoming judgemental in its superiority using the bible as a base? If you take 1 Tim. 3:16-17 when it says “All scripture” does this mean the Koran or the Upanisads? Times have changed since the Bible was written. Now we are forced to look at the whole of the world, not just our own personal understanding of theology.
    The church needs to move past its biblical tradition and grapple with the current issues of world wide importance. For instance, Jesus was psychic. He had communication with God. Yet we do not believe what psychics’ have to say. What is wrong?

  63. My adult daughter sent me this article and she was excited to have help in putting some of her own thoughts to words and being able then to share it. Thank you for taking the time and effort and putting your heart into this piece. Thank you also for your honesty. I consider it a gift for my daughter and I and I intend to share it with others. I guess I want to say that I very much consider the “playing field” leveled for us humans in respect to our sin and dysfunction. Jesus knew he was enlisting a bunch of messed up folks to help spread the Truth of His love and sacrifice to others, and we’re all hoping to grow as we go. So please be forgiving of the church folks as well. We want to be the real deal. My journey has been hindered by other Christians, and I know I’ve done damage too, but honestly, I’ve found more help than harm-like big help. And the times when people weren’t the avenue thru which my help came, I think that’s when God himself wanted it just to be between us, so He could show that He and I have our own connection and that people ARE NOT God, and it’s messed up when we assume they’re always gonna get it right. We do need each other, and I hope that we don’t give up each other or on trying to make a difference.

  64. I have enjoyed your articles on why the people are leaving the churches. My husband and I left over 15 years ago, and nothing would ever convince us to reenter and be just mere pew sitters again. You see, over 15 years ago, it was prophesied over us that we would be outside the “box”, but somehow, in a confusing way, still a part of the “box”, but overlooking and caretending. We look upon ourselves as Watchmen in the towers. We look over, care for, tend to, but we are not down below in the city. We have a ministry called, FREE STUFF FOR DAILY NEEDS, and now in our 16th year, we gather donations of ordinary household items and give them away to over 2,000 families/individuals in our region every year. From beds to couches, to pots/pans, clothes, toys, anything normally used in a home on a day to day basis. And each and every family that comes through is told a very simple message of love–“these items are not coming from us, they are coming from Jesus and He just wants to show you how much He loves you and wants to pour out a blessing on you”. Countless times we have people crying and saying, “I thought He forgot me.” We are wound healers and seed planters. The hardest people to witness to are the ones still in the “boxes”. The easiest are the hurting people who have never been in the church or have left the church for the very reasons you have identified. I do take offense at the churches at labeling ones such as ourselves as the “DONES” we are not “done”, we are the “DO SOMETHINGS” We are out there being the “hands and feet of Christ” in our community, and loving people right where they are. Keep on trying to get this message out, maybe, one day, it won’t fall on deaf ears of the church. Maybe one day they will open their eyes and see how they have been deceived. Enjoying, although very tired, working on the harvest–yes it is true, the harvest is ripe, but the workers are few. And when people ask us where we go to church, we are upfront with them and tell them, “We don’t”. We then have an opportunity to share with them that it is not about rules and rituals, and “religion”, it is about a “relationship” that is lived daily by walking side by side with the Lord. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront. God bless you.

    • Theresa, well said. Welcome to organic church and calling of the Kingdom of God to serve “the least of these” as Jesus laid out in Matthew 25. I would encourage you and anyone else interested interested in walking out their faith as disciples of the Kingdom to check out “My Brother’s Keeper” at http://mybrotherskeeper.risingrivermedia.org/ I’ll even send you a free copy of our book “The Least of These: The Role of Good Deeds In A Jesus Shaped Spirituality”. Every Blessing. Maurice

      • yes, I would be interested in receiving a free copy of your book, “The Least of These: The Role of Good Deeds in a Jesus Shaped Spirituality”. Thank you for the offer, and my husband and I did not know that the “organic church” movement or as I’ve dubbed it, the “do somethings” has gotten so big–we have been diligent, missionaries here in Canada working without the support of the “church” community these past 15 years and God has never let us down. Financially it is extremely tight, but we have our daily bread so what else could we want? Glad that this article has made it to Canada.

  65. So are you saying that the church should stop preaching Jesus’ message to “take up your cross and follow me”? That we should change the message because its too hard, too confrontive, too difficult, too challenging?

  66. I could be wrong (wouldn’t be the first or last time), but it seems to me that we have several problems within the church that we need to work on instead of working on those who we perceive to be too lazy, disobedient, or whatever critical adjective you care to use.

    I have heard people talk about sinners coming into the church without being willing to admit that they are sinners. That is not a church problem. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts a sinner of his sinful state. We need to stop trying to play God. We need to teach what God says, not attack those who are not following the Law. (If you don’t see the Pharisee that Jesus rebuked in that, you might want to have that beam removed.)

    I have heard people say that those people don’t want to pay the price of discipleship. That may be true, but there are far too many churches that want the apprentice carpenter to do the work of the master carpenter. Far too many churches are looking at seekers and new believers as if they should be finished products. And, then, there is the flip side of that same coin.

    Too many churches want people to become involved in ministry opportunities that have absolutely nothing to do with their spiritual gifts. Instead of calling these people lazy, we need to stop being lazy and find ministry opportunities for those gifts so that they can serve and grow.

    We have people who are so busy defending the faith that they fail to see that no one is attacking it. People who leave the church very seldom attack the faith. They merely find it irrelevant.

    As I look back at the three articles and the comments attached, I find the following conclusions:

    1. We want people to come to our church but stop being themselves. We forget that God created them the way they are, and we have to start with what God created.

    2. We tend to beat people down instead of building people up. Again, we need to build on the foundation that God has provided.

    3. We attack people for not being good disciples when, in fact, we are not giving them anyone to follow. We need to look at ourselves as leaders before we attack those who don’t seem to be following us. The truth is that they may be following us better than we care to believe.

    4. We confuse our roles with those of God. We seem to think that God needs us to help Him with His work. God needs nothing. He gives us the great privilege of sharing in that work. But, that does not make us equals.

    5. We seem to forget why Jesus came. He loves the sinners just as there are. We should, too. He came to help them in terms of their physical, spiritual, and social needs. We should, too. He met people where they were. We should, too.

    In all of the talks to all of the crowds, I don’t find a single instance of Jesus telling them that they had to follow the rules to follow Him. Not once do I find an instance where repentance was required to follow Him. Jesus knew that the time would come for them to repent or turn away. He loved them. He taught them. He even fed them. And, He let them come back over and over without any commitment at all. Eventually, those who would be saved were saved. It happened in God’s perfect timing. Why do we feel that it is our place to rush that perfect timing?

    The primary reason that people leave the church is very simple. They come to find God, and find people playing God instead. They may stay a while. But, eventually, they figure out that we are not the God they seek. And, so, they look elsewhere.

    If you want people to stay at your church, stop playing God. Become the true disciples that Jesus called us to be. Amazingly enough, it does not take a seminary degree (or even a Sunday School class) in order to do that.

    Jesus so loved each and every one of those people walking out your door that He came to earth and died for them. You claim to be a disciple of Jesus. How close are you to becoming like Him in that regard? Maybe, if we work on THAT first, the rest of it would be remedied at the same time.

    Is it worth a try? Jesus seemed to think so. I wonder if we should think so, too.

  67. “Thus says The Lord: And what of you, O churches of men? What has happened to you?! WHY HAVE YOU ALSO FORSAKEN ME?! How is it you have altogether become like the heathen, with the vanity of the world gleaming in your eyes, with the lusts thereof filling your hearts and minds?! I DO NOT KNOW YOU!… Your self-created god is an abomination to Me, and this “Jesus” you speak of is foreign to Me, a great desecration of My image, an affront to My name and My glory!

    My people, look! Look at all these material things you have acquired, look upon all these idols you serve! You are surrounded on every side, you are boxed in with no escape! Therefore I am come down to destroy all these detestable things; therefore I am come to wipe them from the face of the earth! For the multitude of all these idols must I destroy the kingdoms of men!”

    ~

    “Thus says The Lord: Churches of men, have you taken no thought to My judgments?! How is it you have ignored My every admonition, admonitions which you were to ponder on your beds at night and dwell upon while gazing at your reflection in the morning?! Lo, I have whispered to you in a still small voice, yet you had no ears to hear; I have written to you by the pen of My prophets, yet you refused to see; I have shouted to you by the mouth of My messengers, yet you would not give heed!… Rather you think Me evil, and My speech contemptible!
    Yet in My love I spoke to you, and in My mercy I have warned you. And behold, many of My servants were pricked in their hearts, and have confronted these men in authority. Yes, they have pointed the finger at all these perverse doctrines, and are unsettled by all these detestable traditions; for they are The Called Out! Yes, My servants are unsettled and have come out, for I have pricked them in their hearts to the cause of the great division! For I, Myself, have brought this sword!… THEREFORE, LET THE UPROAR ENSUE!

    For the name of God has been polluted
    And the sanctity of My Word corrupted, for evil gain!…

    THE CHURCHES OF MEN ARE UNCLEAN!…

    Therefore must My people come out from among them,
    That I may break apart all these false foundations,
    That I may bring down all these high walls and towering steeples!…

    FOR THUS DECLARES THE LORD:

    LET THE SPIRES BE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN!
    MAKE WAY FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD!
    LET THE POWER AND GLORY OF THE LORD BE SEEN,
    WITHOUT OBSTRUCTION!”

    Source: http://trumpetcallofgodonline.com/index.php5?title=THE_CUP_OF_THE_WRATH_OF_MY_FURY_IS_COME_TO_THE_FULL

  68. I’ve read all 3 of these articles and somewhat agree that “church” has failed over and over again. But listen to this our society has made worship about us not about Jesus, has made it about our music as long as it’s not the old hymns. We don’t seem to have a grip on what Jesus really wants from us. How the bible tells us that where sin abounds grace abounds mor but does that mean that we should sin and be happy with our sin (Romans 5 and 6) Today people that talk like this article is are really putting self at utmost importance. If those people are lost then that’s how they think and can’t help it but if they claim to be Christians and don’t know anymore than that, they aren’t reading their bible. It’s all about me is what this article sounds like, hating on the very words the bible says we should follow. What else is there to explain. Sounds like people leaving the church because they want to shape God into what they want Him to be instead of reading His word and allowing God to shape them. Not all who cry Lord Lord will enter the gates and there will be people very angry because they believe that they had the same right to be there as those who are. Go to a church who will love you and teach you the truth and not sugar coat it. The path to hell is full of sugar.

  69. Wow, this really hit home. I have worked in my church for 8 years. My wife and I divorced, because, being a recovering alcoholic, I fell off the wagon for a few weeks. Instead of the church, where I had served faithfully, trying to be a comfort and a help, they ostracized me to the point of leaving. Church has become a place of clicks, and ruled by the ones who donate the most money. We can be pious and think that the things in these articles are not happening. But, I’m proof that they are.

  70. Great thought provoking articles and comments. My two cents. The Church was God’s idea. He commissioned it, He showed us how, He warned us about the enemies attempt to destroy and sidetrack it. But there is no plan “B”. He is coming back for his spotless bride, the Church. This thought has puzzled me for years. How could this be. As pointed out in these articles, “the church”,seems to have lost it’s focus. I have experienced almost every negative church experience that has been described above. I swore that I would never set foot in that place again. “But God,” the loving father, waited patiently for the wandering prodical. He drew me back Home to His home. This was a smaller place that was full of His love and some strange new creatures that loved Him and loved me, warts and all.
    There are places out there where you can fellowship with loving born again new creations. If we believe his Word and will listen to His guidance, He will guide us to such a place or we will build one for others to find.
    The spotless bride is the one who “come to their senses” and receive the Grace that the Groom freely gives us. We as a Church have to quit trying to mix the Law and Grace. This is a love relationship not a list of rules. We serve out of love not from guilt or shame. Wake up Virgins, get your oil before the wedding!

  71. My thought is “because we still crucify our own”. . .

    After over 25 years of high level involvement with the local church, I have struggled to enter one in the past year. I still love Jesus. I’m hurting and wounded from wounds inflicted by the church. When I was grieving, I was told to keep quiet because the people I ministered alongside of me weren’t meant to minister to my needs. When I was sick, I was publicly called sinful for attempting to resign my volunteer position so I could rest enough to get well. During a season of utter darkness and despair in my life, not one soul from my church ever phoned or emailed me, except to “invite me” to come to the ambush/public shaming. I still wonder how anyone can get away with calling my choosing treatment over volunteer ministry “sin”. I no longer feel welcome and do not know where I belong; or if I ever did. I keep praying for emotional healing and a desire to go back, but I just can’t yet.

    My roommate during seminary still calls and listens and prays with me. But what happened is still a real stumbling block I haven’t been able to move past yet. And I often wonder if I even want to.

  72. “that the only reason people are leaving churches, is because they’re all lazy, spoiled, self-centered consumers, who only want to be entertained, and catered to, and pleased.”

    This is ironic when churches claim this, as creating this consumer experience is a huge part of their M.O. How unsurprisingly unaware of them.

  73. This article was refreshing but do not try to print it because you get all the responses which will chew up a ream of paper.. Not good.

  74. Normally I don’t comment on stuff like this. I usually just “Let it pass…”   But since the author happens to be a pastor, I will make an exception. (This is directed at the author of the article)

    I think that one more reason that people are leaving could be that they see Christian pastors, like yourself, speaking so negatively about your fellow Christians in the Church. “Hey they don’t even like themselves why should we like them?” Maybe.

    Know I know it would be convenient not to have your opinion commented on when writing an article like this. You even asked in the article itself that if we disagree with it, to keep it to ourselves. It would be nice to be able to say whatever you want about a vast diverse group of people and then belittle them for wanting to take you to task over your comments about them, so that they feel like they can’t say anything. It would be nice, but I doubt it is going to happen. 🙂

    So I have just a couple of questions. How many Churches have you been to in your life? 10, 20 100? Let’s say you have been to 1000. And do you know that all of them are as horrible as you say? Are you personally aware of every type of ministry those 1000 churches are doing? You know what outreaches they are supporting and/or carrying out in their communities? You know the political beliefs held by all the leadership and all the people that attend those churches? You do know all this about those 1000 churches? Right? So… You feel justified in passing judgement on them all. Good for you.

    Oh wait. No… you passed judgement on all 300,000 plus churches in the US – or were you talking about in the entire world? You passed judgement on all 56 million church goers in the US because you know them all? You know that the thousands of inner city Christian Missions, Salvation Army housing and feeding programs, food and clothing banks, trauma counselors, and disaster relief workers are all just doing it for selfish reasons and not because they truly love and care about people. I am glad you know all that about the Church Universal. You are a very smart guy.

    Or maybe, just maybe, you painted with too broad a brush. Maybe. I don’t know why you seem to have this angst against the church. Maybe someone in the churches you were part of didn’t agree with you or your politics. Maybe you were burnt by someone or some church. Maybe you see a lot of people going through the motions who don’t seem genuine and it is starkly contrasted against the love and compassion you feel for people. I don’t know. And that is my point. I. Don’t. Know.

    And you don’t know either.

    If you notice I am not going to pick apart your article line by line. I could. It ran amuck with logical fallacies. But putting those aside I actually agree with many of the points you made. I just don’t agree that they should have been made in the context of the whole “Church” without exception, caveat, or disclaimer. And I don’t agree that they should have been made without also emphasizing the incredible amount of positive that the church does.

    Maybe pointing out the fact that “the Church” only holds a handful of beliefs in common and on everything else there is as much diversity as could possibly be would be helpful! There isn’t one central leader telling the rest of “the church” how to think, it is true that there is hierarchy within denominations but even those have diversity within themselves!

    So when you point your gun at “the church” without disclaimer, you point it at the 78 year old widow who makes soup every evening and serves it to the homeless out of the back of the Episcopal church downtown. You point it at the ladies group that puts together boxes of baby clothes and supplies to give to at-risk moms in their community. You point it at the church men’s group who spends their saturday to offer free oil changes and tune ups in the church parking lot to single moms and widows in the community to make sure they can get to work to feed their kids. I realize that isn’t who you are aiming at but you are hitting them just the same.

    I realize (it appears) that you now make a living off criticizing the church and I am sure the inflammatory remarks in this articles and others like it you have posted do a lot to boost those speaking engagement bookings and book launches. But if you truly cared about God’s church I would think you would be more careful.

    Maybe I am just a little sensitive because I know what I (and my family) have given up to live to serve others and love people. But you don’t know… I get that you don’t know… I hope you do too.

  75. You are so right John. The reason I stopped attending my church was because I just could never see Jesus there. I have faith. I love Jesus. But I think that church and I had very different ideas of who Jesus was/is. The church, so hung up on dogma, rules and regulations, failed to see Jesus in the face of the people. They have forgotten that WE, the people of faith, are the church. Not their building and their hierarchy. WE ARE THE CHURCH. I don’t miss the hierarchy. I don’t miss being treated like I just didn’t measure up because I came from the poor neighborhood on the fringe of the wealthy parish line. I don’t miss being left out because I didn’t believe that church involved kissing the behinds of the wealthy and “powerful” members. And I don’t miss Jesus because I never gave him up. And I know he has never given me up. I don’t need to sit in a building to be reminded of him. And a building that does not house the actual teachings of Jesus is a place I just don’t want to be. For me, the church should be about marching for justice, caring for the poor, needy, and marginalized. All the things Jesus would have wanted us to do. And a church that meets and pretends once a week is not something I need in my life. I can be a Christian without it.

  76. The topic of why people are leaving the church is an interesting one to me. While all of the points made in this three part series resonates with me, none of the points come close to the primary reason that I semi-left the church as far back as high school (and I’m in my 50s now)…Genesis. There are so many Christians (less and less, in recent years, but still too many) who feel that the Bible needs to be taken literally. …That the world is 6000 years old, that there was an actual Adam and Eve and that the woman was primarily responsible for messing up their sweet deal in the garden… That God is in total control and it’s arrogant to think that something we humans can do that will destroy the planet, and that all of the Earth’s resources are here solely to benefit man in whatever way we see fit.

    I realize there is a good possibility that someone here could call me out for being “off-topic”. Yes- I read the whole 3-part post, and probably every one of John’s blog posts. But, I am one of many, many, many who will continue to seek community with those who actively practice care for all of God’s creation (including seeking right relationship with the ecology of our planet, and care and compassion toward all creatures (to the degree of making accommodations in lifestyle).

    There are Christian communities that are doing this (and I’m grateful to Fred Bahnson and others). But Christians are a little late to this conversation. And I’ve never heard a pastor tackle the topic outside of a special symposium at Duke. In the meantime – to tell many of the non-Christian I know that you are a Christian is short-hand for “science-denying/ancient-myth-believing lemming”. The earth is in peril while the Church is mostly silent. And, even if you feel that our mission is simple to care for “the least of these” – who do you suppose will be hurt the most when resources become scarce?

    And, why do so many people not trust logic? Why do many Christians not trust science? Why is this dangerous message reaching so many Christian ears? … Did you see all those hands go up at one of the first Republican debates when the moderator asked for a show of hands if you do not believe in evolution??

    Genesis is their litmus test. And pastors are not talking about Genesis.

    I care about following Jesus, but my best place to find community in doing that, may be with the wiccans or Buddhists over there practicing permaculture.

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