Updated: May 9, 2020
People are Over Church & Leaving
Unpopular Observation: people are leaving Christian churches in America. More and more, I am noticing America is becoming a place that is over church. (Note, this is something happening in much of the West. It’s a whole different story in the East, but that’s for your own google search another day.)
A bit of my background/experience with Christianity and church: I’ve been following Jesus since I was 23 years old. So I’ve been involved with church and church culture for only six years. During my faith journey (and before), I’ve experienced my share of the unfair, people hurt, church hurt, loss, pain, depression, and manic mood swings to name a few. So keep that in mind as you continue to read along.
Now to the matter at hand. Americans, especially young adults, are leaving churches in droves. From those that I know that have walked away from church, I found recurring themes:
The Lack of Community
*Note: This is all based on personal and anecdotal experiences. However, I’m sure there’s a statistic somewhere to back me up.*
The Lack of Community
The Christian faith began with Middle Eastern people witnessing the resurrection of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, that claimed to be fully God. That was the starting point. He predicted it and then did it. This group of people then began to tell everyone they could about it and live in a way that matched with what this man, Jesus, said while He was on the earth in their presence. These early followers were meeting together on the regular, eating together, doing life closely together, and dying together.
The community and sense of “togetherness” was undeniable in those early gatherings of Jesus followers. Fast forward to now and you can easily find church buildings, but the sense of awe and community is hard to spot. Why does that matter?
God made us communal beings. (“It is not good for man to be alone.”) Regrettably, what once was the rule, has now become the exception. People sit and listen to teaching from a pulpit, have an encounter with God, but sadly have no one to do this new life in Christ with.
There is a saying “belong before you believe.” Unfortunately, many church-goers have a hard time finding belonging even after believing. We all desire acceptance and community. It is hard to stick around and be part of a family that you don’t feel connected to.
Here’s the thing about being a follower of Jesus: we still have all of our mental capacities and life experiences that have shaped our reality and view of the world. Also, while following Jesus, the external factors that help shape our worldview are still there, shaping our worldview.
Why does this matter? It matters because our opinions on right and wrong are still there. I’ve encountered plenty of young adults ditching church or downplaying their relationship with Jesus because He offends something they hold to be a core belief.
From personal experience, there are things that Jesus is documented as saying that are HARD! Love your enemy? Put God and others before myself? Rejoice in persecution for His sake? Who wants to do any of that!?
These examples sound very noble and righteous. However, there are other parts of the Bible that clash directly with views many have in the current culture. Same-sex attraction, sex outside of marriage, abortion, gender identity, and any other topic that’s causing division. What is someone supposed to do when their views on these areas go against what they are being told from the platform? When the struggle between what we hold to be true and what the words of Jesus say becomes too much, people are choosing to walk away. With the lack of community, specifically discipleship, it is hard to have real conversations surrounding these topics.
If we don’t have genuine relationships, we have not earned the right to try to change someone’s mind about anything.
We have access to thousands of men and women teaching on the word of God through the miracle of the internet. No matter our preferred style, we can find teaching and preaching to match whatever we like. Shouldn’t this be growing church attendance? Many are exiting church because they cannot see how the teachings have any implications on their day to day.
Why does that matter? Without application, teaching is not relevant. We have access to more information than any other people at any other point in history. All of that extra knowledge does not guarantee a life changed.
A well spoken sermon can make anyone “feel” something. However, what does the message mean for people’s bills, debt, relationship issues, family drama, and anxiety? Jesus may have spoken to a woman at a well that was messy, but how does that relate to my daddy issues? Despite the urge, people are not looking for flashy, people truly want to know the truth and what it means for them.
These three reasons are just my thoughts based on my own experience and that of others I know. Are there solutions? Yes, bring community back! The easiest way to disciple, have the tough conversations, and learn from one another is through community. The Gospel is still good news worth sharing and living by. But it is displayed best, when lived out together.
So tell me what you think. Have you noticed the same things? Do you think other things turn people off from church? If so, share below.