There is an old joke of a guy who had spent years alone on a deserted island showing his rescuers the buildings he built while stranded. The first building was his house. The second building was his church, and the third building was the new church that he built when he got fed up with the preaching and all the gossip at the other church (I didn’t say it was a good joke, just an old joke). People have always left churches. Folks get mad at the preacher or something or someone and like the church office stapler they are gone never to be seen again.
People were slower to leave in days gone by. If something upsetting happened at church, the people involved (because church was a family) loved each other and worked out the issue. Not always, but frequently. One didn’t change churches like you change socks. You only left your church with much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
People leave quicker today. They don’t try to work out the issue. They just leave. Either in a huff with the obligatory social media posts of all their dirty laundry or a quiet exit out the back door, but either way they are gone. Pew Research just published this:“in reversal from a decade ago, more US adults now say they rarely/never attend religious services than say they attend once a month or more (54% vs. 45%).” We are losing people.
What’s different now (unlike in the old days), more often than not, instead of trying out the church down the road or a sister congregation in the next town, often these disgruntled members stop attending church altogether. People go from faithful to faithless faster than some sports cars. They begin posting pictures of their Sunday outings on social media with the hashtag #SundayFunday. Maybe they tune into a favorite mega church pastor’s sermon occasionally or listen to K-Love in the car, but they have no fellowship of believers. No service opportunities. They don’t receive communion on a regular basis. They pretend “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy” no longer applies. They ignore passages like Hebrews 10:24-25 that says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
If asked about their lack of corporate worship attendance, the response is something like, “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” While technically true, there is no quicker way to become cold, bitter and carnal than to stop worshipping with fellow believers.
I write this not to offer a new church growth methodology to win these folks back, but to acknowledge our current reality and to weep over those who are dangerously walking away from faith. The Church was God’s idea. He knew we would need other believers to lift us up, and that we would need to be a blessing to others. God knows we need each other.