So here’s an observation. Turns out that I’m the #3 result on Yahoo for the search string, “why people leave church”. I know this because I finally checked it after seeing it come up a few times in my web stats now… which tells me that people really are asking this question. (They land here.) Whoever is finding this blog by searching for information on why people leave church, you’ll probably start to get the idea from readings here and on some of the links I’ve provided. But importantly, I just want to stop and tell you that you’re not alone in asking this question.
On this subject, the Emerge blog talks about more Barna research:
I like it because of the last sentence, …”we are ton the precipice of a new era of spiritual experience and expression.” That gives me a sigh of relief that something to reach my generation is coming. Barna also says “The young adult between 17 and 35 makes up approximately 35% of our population nationally, but within our churches, most are lucky if they average 10%. This is not a foundation upon which to build the future of our ministries! Echo-Boomers are abandoning the institutional churches they were raised within. Barna tells us the mass exodus is as high as 65% by age 29.
Wow, that’s huge. If you’re in this age bracket, sitting in church, look at the people on either side of you chances are, those seats are empty. At least figuratively: 2/3 are out the door. Maybe, just maybe, the church doesn’t seem relevant to them anymore? Maybe we should tell them that “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship”… but then, Paradoxology just did a fine debunking of that one.
Scot McKnight posts about “A Come-as-you-are Church”; the post is a John Burke book recommendation. Burke pastors an emerging-style church which sounds like an authentic place.
It sounds like Burke’s church isn’t like this, but in general, I’m starting to wonder about the phrase, “come-as-you-are” regarding church. Is this phrase based on a non-incarnational non-missional model? After all, you must come to church, it doesn’t come to you. Church now must be different. I’m going to hack on the phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” as well: I think they say this one in come-as-you-are churches… but mostly I only hear it from people who have trouble showing real love to the sinner because of their sin. An old friend used to talk about “trying to clean the fish before you catch them” and this is the same context… stop sinning, come to church, and get saved. In that order. Uh, it doesn’t work that way.
Final thoughts: I was having coffee with a local pastor yesterday, and we talked briefly about people finding their way into church on Sunday morning… walk-ins that show up without a specific invitation. He said to me that he thinks those days are over… basically, this just doesn’t happen much anymore. There may be an exception or two but I think he’s right.
Church needs to invent the wheel. Church needs wheels to become mobile… to go where people are rather than waiting for people to come to where the church is.
To me this is the heart of the emerging conversation. It is time to stop “going” to church and get out in the world and start “being” the church.
How will we do that?
How will our churches support and equip us for doing that?
What will our churches look like when this is the focus, rather than growing and maintaining our structures?
Personally, I think God is behind all of the questioning about finding a better, more relevant way to be followers of Christ making an impact in the world around us. Sure folks will try lots of different approaches, and some will work, some won’t. But as we each follow His voice within us, I believe we will become the church as He intended.
It’s time to begin releasing the believers to go, rather than consuming their time, talents, money, etc. within the institution. I totally agree, it’s time to be mobile!
Great comments, thanks for that. …and welcome to the world of blogging! Looks like a promising new blog you’ve undertaken.
Gratia vobis et pax,
That’s just what we do..take the church to the people in Cleveland, Ohio. Heaventrain has been running for 28 yrs and we average 1,200 a Saturday. To reach the number of people we reach it would take 50 busses to transport the kids plus a lot more money.