Let’s face it. People are leaving the church. And we don’t blame them.
If you ask any number of people why they are deciding to leave the Church, you will probably get a lot of the same answers.
People Don’t Feel Respected
Some believe that they aren’t respected at Church. People simply do not want to be told what to do. And they especially don’t want to constantly be told they are going to Hell if they don’t follow a complete list of rules. A lot of times we allow fear mongering to get in the way of sharing the true Gospel. We should never try to force religion “in the name of Christ”; that is now how we show the love of Christ. When we allow the Church to be nothing but a rulebook to follow and focus on law and order, people see right through it. People feel disrespected because there is no real joy or peace we preach on pretty street signs.
People Don’t Feel Accepted
Other people will tell you that they are leaving the Church because they simply don’t feel accepted.
According to a Barna report, 70% of non-church going millennials believe that the Church is actually insensitive to others. When people walk away from Church, it is often because they felt rejected in some way. Whether it was because of the way they dressed, their tattoos and piercings, or even their alternative views on the Bible, a lot of millennials simply don’t feel like they belong at Church.
So many Churches hold signs every Sunday morning with cute calligraphy sayings like “you are welcomed here” or “welcome home” but a lot of people don’t actually feel welcomed. Sure, there are great Churches out there who do an amazing job at accepting people and bringing them in. But, it can be really hard to know which Churches are actually accepting of others before it is too late.
People Don’t Feel Discipled
There will be people who will tell you that because they don’t feel discipled, they will leave the Church.
I know what you’re probably thinking. Isn’t that the whole point of The Great Commission?
You would be surprised, though, at how many people who don’t feel like they are getting anything out of attending Church services. Generally speaking, people don’t like to be told what to do or how to live their lives. However, many people would love to have a guideline for their life. We should never force to choose between an ultimatum, but we should help people make certain choices for their lives. But a lot of times, this looks like having to answer the hard questions. People, especially young people, have a lot of questions and doubts that they struggle with. When you think about it, this is completely normal behavior, even outside of religion. However, a lot of times the Church’s answer to these hard questions is: “well, read the Bible more” or “you should pray more”.
Sure, reading the Bible is a great place to start. But if you don’t already understand the Bible or even believe the Bible is 100% factual, how will you be able to deal with the really hard questions, like, “why do bad things happen to good people”? A lot of times, we tell millennials that they want an easy faith or that they don’t really care about the Bible. You know what? I think this is way far from the truth. People tend to leave the Church because they don’t feel like they are discipled well enough to be able to find the answers on their own. We can be so afraid of asking the hard questions. In actuality though, Jesus isn’t intimated or offended by our thoughts and questions. But so often people are.
People Don’t Think Church is Relevant
Other times people leave the Church because they don’t feel like the Church is relevant. So often we are fixated on the best light shows or the most moving worship sets that we forget that people truly just want to be loved. We desire a deeper love that goes far beyond fancy stages and aesthetically pleasing prayer rooms. People see right through the mess that we have made Church out to be. When it comes down to it, these things aren’t relevant and people don’t want to play a part.
People Don’t View Church as a Place of Rest
Another reason why people might leave Church is that they don’t see Church as a place of peace or rest. When people are constantly running around overworking themselves over fundraising events and mission trips, Church seems really busy. More times than not, people already have busy lives and they want to find a healthy escape from the noise. So many people are looking for a place to rest where they can dump load all of their stress from the week and feel at peace, even if just for an hour and a half. You know, there doesn’t always have to be a super fun event for the youth group. There doesn’t always have to be something going on at the Church to have people walk in the doors. Sometimes, all people want is a place to be able to freely be themselves without judgement.
People Don’t Have a Strong Community at Church
Most of all though, I think the biggest reason why people are leaving the church is because there isn’t a true community to be apart of.
People want authentic relationships, not a bunch of information and systems of how to be a better person. There aren’t many places people feel both encouraged when they’re struggling and praised when they’re thriving. People are yearning for strong relationships they can turn to. But instead, we waste so much of our time on things that aren’t essential to our hearts. We don’t always have to leave Church having heard a feel good message. However, we should always have a community of people we trust and feel close to. But so many people don’t have that community. People don’t feel like they have authentic relationships so they try joining different Churches. But when a place that should feel like home feels more like an awkward stranger’s house, people will run far away from it as possible.
People are great at being able to tell if a place is genuine or not based on the atmosphere. So many people are leaving Church behind them because a lot of Churches are not who they claim to be. If we want people to know the love of Christ, we have got to do a better job at representing who Jesus’ love to others.