Christians are leaving church in record numbers

Author and journalist, Julia Duin, says that people are leaving church in record numbers.  I believe this is true, especially in North America, and it has been happening for decades in Europe already. Duin, author of Quitting Church (Baker Books, 2008) said in an interview at Rutherford that:

People who are leaving have been in church for some time. They’ve been believers more than ten years and are burned out. They’re not getting anything new in their churches. They’re not seeing the three major things—decent preaching, good community and feeding. Full interview…

By feeding, she meant content and spirituality.  The whole seeker-sensitive movement is part of the problem, she says:

The seeker friendly movement started in the 1980s. It was the effort to dumb down a lot of church services, make them shorter, easier to grasp, cut the number of hymns, cut the preaching time and get it to a kind of package deal. The idea was to get nonbelievers interested in going to church because it would not take up too much of their time and wouldn’t challenge them too much. But what happened is that a lot of people who had been believers for some time suddenly found that the sermons were like milk instead of meat. They were so simplistic. Many were finding that what they were getting was pabulum.

Well, this problem is not only symptomatic of mainstream evangelical churches, but has also been a common symptom in most mainline churches for decades.  If the steep decline in attendance at mainline churches is any indication of the dangers of dumbing down content and spirituality, then mainstream evangelical churches better wake up and smell the coffee!

We are not teaching the important truths of the faith.  Neither are we forming real community.  Moreover, our churches seem to be doing a lousy job reaching out to people who are suffering or going through trials.

We need to begin to raise the bar and give people what they are looking for when they enter our churches: content and spirituality!

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

17 thoughts on “Christians are leaving church in record numbers”

  1. We are not teaching the important truths of the faith. Neither are we forming real community. Moreover, our churches seem to be doing a lousy job reaching out to people who are suffering or going through trials.

    This is the truth. People are leaving the church when it is not genuine, and entertainment is a bigger draw than hypocrisy.

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  2. Nathan, I feel that Christians in general have lost our first love. We may know how to do theology and ministry but if our love for God is not there, no matter how hard we work in ministry, the people’s love for participating in God’s mission will not be there. This may be one of the reasons why people are leaving church too.

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  3. I believe one major factor in people leaving the church in a disillusioned state is that true community is not being provided. Great expository preaching is good, activities and programmes can be helpful if truly initiated by God, and a few other things can be helpful. But without a relational understanding of the community of Christ as part of the foundation, I don’t think it will last or be truly fulfilling.

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  4. It is certainly true that many are leaving their churches, but I also feel that many who are staying are disillusioned and fed up with the church they go to. Many of us who still go to Church do so because we recognize it is the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean we think the Church is doing everything it should.

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  5. A couple other points: 1) This is more true in North America than the rest of the world. The ‘developing’ world is seeing droves come to Christ. 2) If people understand church a a place to go, then I do not think we will ultimately be able to put deep roots into such.

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  6. I went to church for several years and then quit. I found that early on in my Christian walk, church was a great place to learn and fellowship with other Christians. But the learning curve was rather steep and the church became less relevant in my life. The sermons seemed to repeat the same themes and after hearing them hundreds of times they became old and stale. I asked the pastor once why he never preached a sermon on greed because greed is mentioned as a sin in the bible. He took umbrage at my suggestion and said he would take it under advisement. He never did preach a sermon on greed and I never learned why. I also found that churches specialize in doctrinal disputes. They may say they agree on the important truths of the faith, but they are quick to claim that the church across town has in some way erred and missed the mark. It seems that whatever church gets to a new Christian first shapes that Christian’s doctrinal belief. I left the church disillusioned and disappointed.

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  7. Like you I am also disillusioned and disappointed. However I am trying to figure out if there can be some sort of shift within the existing church structure, or not. It is not the ideal situation, but I haven’t given up yet.

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  8. When one fell that going to Church is the right thing to do: do it, then he/she will feel good about what he/she must do to make life inspirational for oneself.

    I agree with you on Preaching on Greed; that is a good Subject to Preach on, but one must understand that it it not always what we feel needs to be Preached. Evidently you can understand and welcome such a Sermon, I could myself. Many other people maynot be ready to hear such a Truth. After receiving a calling on my Life, I wait on the Leading of the Holy Spirit to lead me, to do and say certain things. I fell as long as I wait on that Leading: I will go right Spiritually..

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  9. Good stuff.

    That’s why I’m a big proponent of expository preaching, going through books of the Bible, and not being afraid to dig deep down. We need to let the Spirit apply the Word as we exposit it.

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  10. The real problem is the “church” as we know it today is nothing like what the apostles established after Christ’s ascension. Time to start over as many Christians around the world have done. Meeting in homes under the headship of Christ alone. Human headship (pastor) is not even a Biblical principle. Paul was a church planter not a Pastor (and certainly not paid!). Time to focus on Christ instead of the organization. I know, what a concept! 🙂 See http://www.ptmin.org/

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  11. We have left church for these reasons:

    1. lack of biblical teaching
    2. busyness of the programs and conferences
    3. lack of dicernment- false teaching
    4. Jesus Christ not being the focus
    5. Celebrity preachers
    6. Immorality without true Christian accountability
    7. Churches becoming big, bloated business corporations

    This was the reason my husband and I left- that in a nutshell.

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  12. I am sorry you had left your church. Remember that no church is perfect, not even the ones where people have left to start new ones. The church is comprised of sinners who are forgiven. It helps to always be aware that we are constantly in need of God’s forgiveness and sanctification.

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