Subscribe to the Gospel Reformation blog by Email

Would You Give Up All Restaurants If You Ate At One Bad One?


I came across another one of those awesome "here's why people are really leaving you, church" blog posts earlier. The link featured a picture of a bald, pretty healthily-bearded dude--so I clicked it. Now, without getting into whether or not people can actually leave the capital-C Church (they can't by the way), I had a few thoughts on this particular author's reasons. The stereotypes and the supposed-to-be-shocking, in-your-face writing style made it hard to finish, but I pushed through and here are just a few of my own brief responses and thoughts about why people are leaving.

The author's first point is that Sundays are just a production now, and one that has "worn thin." People can be entertained anywhere and as long as the church is irrelevant on Tuesday morning when the stuff hits the fan, people won't stay. There's some truth in this one, but unfortunately it reveals more of a selfish attitude on the part of the worshiper. "I'm not getting anything out of this other than entertainment, so I'm gone." However, I don't think this is actually the reason anyone is leaving; if anything, churches have erred on the side of trying to be too "relevant" and they've watered the gospel--and the Bible--down to 5 Steps to a Better Marriage or similar. And that, I would say, is one of the real reasons people aren't sticking around.

Second, though, the author thinks the church's "dead tongue" is to blame for people leaving. We use big, churchy words that no one understands anymore. Instead, we should talk plainly about love, joy, and forgiveness. And we should! But not at the expense of meaning-filled words that have been used for hundreds (or about 2,000) years--biblical words like justification and sanctification. If I agreed with the author, I might actually be offended that he's given me so little credit to be able to understand theological words and themes. And now here comes the real reason some people are hitting the back doors: a lot of churches have already abandoned these big, churchy words! So where the author was concerned that churchy stuff is not making any real difference on a hard, ordinary Thursday afternoon, could it be that the church has failed to teach how intensely practical the doctrine of sanctification actually is?

So the author wants the church to dumb down its teaching and get away from big words and churchy doctrines--just teach something simple and practical. But then blames the church for being little more than flashy entertainment that doesn't really apply to everyday life? This is turning into quite the catch-22. 

His third, fourth, and fifth reasons include a false dichotomy about being "out there" reaching people instead of having a nice church building to actually do some ministry and teach and equip people (to go "out there" to do ministry), as well as doing too much fighting about trivial stuff like Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A while the rest of the world starves and burns. He ends with a long, guilt-inducing rant about everything that's wrong with the church, how unloving it is, how judgmental it is, and how the church should tolerate people who drink, have tattoos, and vote Democrat.

But don't be duped; just because it's on Facebook doesn't make it true. Are people leaving because once they come to church, they're told to stop sinning? Sure. But that's kind of a biblical thing--and most people don't like being told they need to stop doing some things they're doing that aren't honoring to God. Are people leaving churches because they're too shallow? Sure. But that might be a reason to find another church, not leave the church and quit going altogether. I didn't give up all restaurants because I ate at Applebee's one time and didn't like it.

There are good churches out there. Do we get in our own way sometimes? Sure. But if you come in (or write a blog) saying I need to accept you and your flaws, then you better be ready to accept me, mine, and ours. So be encouraged, church! Like most others, this most recent "why people are leaving the church" post was mostly based on stereotypes. Because the reality is that the church could be better at loving and discipling people--but there are lots of churches that love, disciple, teach, and shepherd people well. Lots of churches out there are involved and making a difference with the world's poor, neglected, enslaved, and abused. And there are probably some churches somewhere with some Democrats. Even Democrats with tattoos.

And at the end of the day, as long as Jesus has work for the church to do, the church will be around--so don't let anyone tell you the church is in trouble. Jesus came to crush the serpent's head, not the other way around!