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Sunday, August 12, 2012

10 Reasons Why People Don't Go To Church

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10 Reasons Why People Don't Go To Church

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Times have changed. Back in the early 1900s a majority of people in western world countries went to church. Sunday morning would arrive, and the 'Sunday best' clothes would be donned, and off the family would trot to church.
This post makes some assertions. Firstly, this post is predominantly relevant only to first world countries. For some African countries the post might rather be, '10 reasons why people flock to church!' Secondly, while obviously a number of people still go to church, the numbers continue to decline in the U.S.A., Australia, European Countries, and more; thus this post.

Let me explain some things before I go further. Let's firstly define the meaning of the word church. The word church is used three times in the New Testament (Grk: ecclesia), and is not referring to a building in which people frequent once a week, typically on a Sunday. The church is a group of individuals who gather together (where ever, and when ever), to worship God, grow in their faith in Christ and partner with God in mission. When I refer to why people don't go to church, I think most people might think of why people don't enter a church building on a Sunday morning, but I don't think the following points are limited to just that. With a correct view of what the 'church' is, this post should possibly be, '10 reasons why people are not part of a church community'.
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See also: 10 Reasons Why People Don't Believe in God
8 Reasons Why Churches Don't Grow
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One further point is that I think the church is important. The church is God's primary vehicle for transforming the world. God chooses to allow us to partner with the Creator in life transforming mission. The believers gather together regularly to be empowered by God, and through their faith in Christ, others are drawn to discover God themselves, because of the inner working of God in that believer's life.

That being said, let's explore the reasons why less people are attending church today and whether there is validility in such reasons. Also, see Pete's Beginner's Guide to Attending Church.

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10 Reasons Why People Don't Go to Church

Reason 1 - Why people don't go to church - The perception of Christians is one of judgmentalism and negativity.

One young lady said once, I don't like working in the cafe on a Sunday, because that's the day the Christians come in. What was the issue? The issue was, the Christians constantly complained, weren't happy with the food, and we're generally tough customers to deal with. Is this is a valid observation of all Christians? Well, no, not of all Christians, but this young ladies' observation of the Christians she saw in her cafe was valid! They were judgmental and negative.

Reason 2 - Why people don't go to church - Church is boring.

For many church communities, the assertion is probably correct. Though, you could argue, since when was the church meant to be entertaining? The church has changed dramatically over the years, and there are many great churches, with relevant music, relevant preaching, welcoming people and the like. The issue is probably again the perception that people have of the church. Trying to convince people in my part of the world, that the church is an exciting, welcoming place, where lives are transformed, is hard for people to grasp. Their built up negative perceptions of the church is difficult to unravel.


Reason 3 - Why people don't go to church - The church is exclusive.

I always say, the church has an exclusive message, which is available to anyone. There is undoubtedly a tension between a message that is for everyone (inclusive), but the message itself being exclusive. This will never change. Jesus offers salvation for the world. What must change is the Christian's communication of such an exclusive message. Bible bashing simply gives people headaches.

Fill out my online form.

Reason 4 - Why people don't go to church - Christians are homophobic.

Maybe we are, maybe we aren't. Nonetheless this is one factor on why people don't go to church. I believe that Christians, while taking a conservative approach to homosexuality, have quite often failed to show grace in expressing their differing views to those around about them. The disturbing pictures of fundamentalist Christians holding up their placards does not do the message of hope found in Christ any favours. 

Reason 5 - Why people don't go to church - 'I don't like organized religion'.

People are not advocating that the church not be 'organized', that is, that the filing cabinet not be sorted out, the money not banked properly. The issue here is that those who don't go to church hate to see an abuse of power. I write about five sources of power here, one of which is coercive power. The abuse of power has been too prevalent at times, especially when you consider church history, but I must say, how much of this coercive abuse of power was under the guise of Christianity, but was not real Christianity? Nonetheless, organized religion turns people away. 

There is much to be said. It is a difficult one. You have an organizational system that cannot help but develop, for example, when The Salvation Army began it did not seek to have a bureaucratic system, but then someone came along and said, 'We want The Salvation Army to do our wedding'. So The Salvation Army applies to the Government for approval. Then, there is money flowing in from donations. The Salvation Army open a bank account, employ an accountant, etc, etc. I think you get the point. The 'organizing' of the organisation was important. I don't think this is why people don't go to church. I think the organized religion part is more so related to the abuse of power by a small minority of individuals, rather than the mere organizing of a faith community.

I think the other challenge, is the church holding people accountable for their actions. This will never be popular. The church must balance carefully truth and grace. There are consequences for some actions, but how we handle them and communicate about them is very important. 

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Also: 10 Reasons why people don't believe in God
8 Reasons Why Churches Don't Grow
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Reason 6 - Why people don't go to church - Churches are full of hypocrites

Yes. The church is full of hypocrites. I am a hypocrite. But with all do respect, you are a hypocrite too. We all say one thing and do another at times. The great thing about the gospel message is that a whole bunch of hypocrites can gather together and find purpose, hope and forgiveness from Jesus! 

Reason 7 - Why people don't go to church - The church just want your money.

When you go to a church that talks more about its offering, than the sermon, then the point is no doubt very valid. I think the church at times finds itself concerned about its financial situation and thus challenges people (maybe too much?) about giving. Leaders in the church would do well to pray more and trust God will provide. I am not saying, Christians should not be challenged to give generously to the local church, but what I am saying is that as we pray God will provide the finances we need. 

I heard recently about the financial situation in the U.S.A., that more people are on lower incomes and even unemployed than before, and this has affected the income of churches across the States. A new outlook of faith and trust in God's provision is needed and a greater focus on volunteerism rather than employment of 'professionals' is needed. 

Also, are some that say they don't go to church because the church just wants its money, are feeling a level of conviction about the importance they place on their own finances?

Reason 8 - Why people don't go to church - Life is better without religion.

The perception is that life will be worse with religion than without it. I don't care much about religion, per se, but rather a relationship with God. Now, let me restate the reason - Life is better without a relationship with God. If this be the case, I will only accept those who have been followers of Jesus, who hold to that assertion. If you have never had a deeply committed relationship with God and hold to that assertion, then, you are like my three year old daughter who says she hates spinach and yet has never tasted it. There are millions of people on the planet who would try to convince you to 'give God a shot', but we know, that this is completely up to you. By the sheer numbers of followers of Jesus around the globe, there must be some merit to their beliefs right?

Reason 9 - Why people don't go to church - Christians live on another planet and wear brown sweaters.

The Simpsons have done well to characterise Christians, haven't they? It depends what church you are a part of. Some churches are like the modern day Amish, but other churches are just normal, everyday people who love God. No doubt if you look to the education system, for example, you will see some schools who are behind the times, and others who are pushing new ground, and are forging ahead. The church is no different. Don't let one brown sweater put you off. 

By the way, mine is still in the wash...

Reason 10 - Why people don't go to church - Don't have time.

This is really a priority issue but a valid reason nonetheless. People are flat-out today, trying to tie off lose ends, and get the house clean and take their kids to sport. Why bother with going to church?

All I can say here, is that if you had a different perception of the amazing nature of the God who created you, you would very quickly find ways to reorganize your priorities around such a wonderful God.


Add your voice below. Why do people not go to church?



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    19 comments:

    1. Most non-church goers realize that no one is perfect. It is when one is an outsider after 10 years, and no one is happy with the person no matter what he or she does to be acceptable to other members. One starts to wonder is anyone really making an effort to be Christ-like. I feel this article is driving people away all the more.

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      1. Hi Anonymous, thanks for your comments. I pray the church and the people who make up its identity, may become all that God wants them to be...

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    2. I'm confused as to how this article would drive people away...? I thought it was a very good article, and one I plan to pass along.

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      1. Thanks Dana. Great idea to pass it on, and have that conservation with people.

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    3. Jesus said go into all the world and preach the gospel. He gave this commission to all His disciples...not a select few...why aren't people going to Church? well maybe when the 'Church' gets back to His first priority - establishing an intimate relationship with The Father....and the outworking of that...catching Jesus heart which is to continue in what He began....receiving salvation (deliverence from all temporary evil) actually believing they are born again and filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit and BURDEN REMOVING, YOKE DESTROYING POWER of God...and manifesting the Word of His power EVERYWHERE THEY GO....totally destroying the works of the devil in people's lives through the Love of God shed abroad in their hearts being visible to all around..well ...selah.....which reminds when Peter preached this on the day of Pentecost and the church was added to daily...what is that book called in the Bible where that is referenced?...oh yeah...'ACTS'....wow..I love how Jesus made this simple for us..being a doer and actually ACTing on His Word....selah!

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      1. Very true. We are struggling with going to church right now, because all the churches in our small town, are more like social clubs. We also struggle to trust the leadership in "spirit filled churches", because of past abuse of power. We commuted for a short time to a larger city, to a seemingly wonderful church, but we can't get past the trust issue. I myself am finding informal fellowship with other believers. I do miss having a healthy church family though.

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      2. I grew up in a small rural area in the south. I was made to go to church from birth until I was finished with college (had to go when I came home from breaks). Basically, there were an average of 25 to 30 active members, most not my age. My sister and her husband were my youth director and my sister-in-law was my Sunday school teacher. And trust me, all three of them were not living what they were espousing. We only said a blessing if we had "company" before we ate. We never prayed as a family. The bible was not opened all week. I heard the same sermons over and over. The organist was horrible, most sermons were about going to hell (and I was Presbyterian), and I just started day dreaming about other things in my life to "deal with the boredom".

        I honestly can say that I have never found a correlation between church goers and non-church people living a righteous, selfless, or kind life. Honestly, what I have witnessed is that more someone goes to church the less of a nice person they are. It is a social thing with gym's, pre-schools, meals, Easter hunts, etc. I'm an introvert and don't have children so none of that interests me in the least.

        My husband was raised in a similar manner. We have chosen to pray, read books that give us insight to scripture (we both had read the bible many times), and give what money we can afford to help those in need.

        I moved half way across the US in order to stop the judgement of not going to church. They have no idea now if I go to church or not. But I learned that my so called "Christian" family have made no effort to call me on any religious holidays, if I am sick (one sister I email with who is the voice of the family), or to check in. I called them the first year I moved, but no one answered their phone. My husband has had two serious surgeries, his father died, my uncle passed, and no one called me. But they are busy making cookies for the church bake sale and visiting people in the church they barely know. To me they are mostly frauds.

        At work it seems the people who gossip the most are the "Christians". The managers who are "religious are the most difficult to work with.

        I left the church because I felt like everyone must be day dreaming during the preaching. It was like a free pass to act any way you wanted after you left the church. There was no blessing before meals, no family prayer times, no giving to the poor unless everyone saw you filling up the church pantry.

        I have checked out Buddism, Catholic Church, and many others. I can't go to church because it is not honest. I don't want to be there. I love to pray and think of ways to help people. But church is not for me. I really think it is either a social thing or a habit. Why do churches need gyms??? Why can't they use that money for the homeless and hungry? Why are they building new churches when many sit empty? And the houses that go with them (minister use to get a house next to the church). Why don't they allow them to be run as homeless shelters? Why are churches being left open with 15 members when there is another church with the same denomination five miles down the road with 15 members? It isn't efficient and it is ridiculous. All over small town America this is normal.

        This means that the youth have no money for retreats, the music is horrible, and the pastor is working full time at another job and just comes in and does a hour service at one church and then drives off the next.

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    4. The New Testament makes it clear that Christians cannot attend pagan worship. It is because their faith is a different faith and they want to be true to it. There is no mention in the article of the fact that a person may stay away from Church for he thinks the Church is corrupting biblical teaching or idolatrous - some Christians see the Catholic mass as worshipping bread and wine as God. Or an atheist may have to stay away from church to be true to himself and his principles.

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      1. I wrote before but it got lost. I agree Anonlymous. The main reason I don't attend an official mainline church is what has come in to the teachings. It makes me sad and very concerned to say the least. I am not perfect but the issue is getting very serious at this time. I pray for others to fellowship but the internet and some friends in other parts of the country are seeing what is happening in the "organize" churches. I pray for Godly Widsom, Peace and Godly patience to see how to handle this situation. Thanks for listening and a thank you to Pete in trying to address this situation.

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      2. Exactly. I have been struggling within myself, trying to understand why I am sickened at the thought of stepping into the church doors. I am a Bible School graduate, love the Lord, and his people! I shouldn't have this problem. At first I thought it was me. Of course my church friends don't fully understand either. The truth is, I can't stand the lack of true fellowship and true worship in our local churches. The teachings are another story--Maybe I have been spoiled from past experiences. Then when we do visit a seemingly "powerful" church there usually an abuse of power, dominant and controling atmosphere.

        We were faithful in attending church and actively participating for over 20 years. In the last year, I just can't stomach it. Then comes guilt because I am "forsaking the gathering together of the saints". Not sure what to do. Just keep praying I suppose.

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    5. Great article! I actually have an 11th reason. I am a God fearing woman. I love Jesus with my everything. However I am weary with my siblings in Christ. I see people mpre concerned with quoting scripture and speaking in tongues rather than connecting with the Holy Spirit and displaying His LOVE to people. I am weary with my brothers and sisters and their outward showmanship which seeks to impress PEOPLE. I have experienced abuse in the church. I've witnessed others abused and ignored in the church. And though I love the church dearly I am simply hurt because of things that occur in the building called church. So temporarily, I choose to withdraw from the church. I will go to church online because I need to get the Word and be able to cry without hearing offensive statements about how crying means I'm depressed. Only made because I shared that I was diagnosed with a mental illness. I'm more concerned with the fact that those who gather would rather gossup about it, speak in tongues but lack the power to do the "greater works" that Jesus said we would do. I am seeking God for healing of my soul (mind,will,emotions). God bless and please visit/comment on my blog at empowernetwork/aprilkay.com. I am a newbie but I am learning! :)

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      1. I know how you feel. I was hurt by the church in my own way. One MUST get the Holy Ghost to be validated in this church and I tried to tarry at the alter. Long story short, it wasn't happening and the people were not too compassionate. I could not repeat the words as fast as they wanted and the just left me feeling like I failed and didn't try hard enough for it. That cut deep.

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      2. Anonymous my heart ached when I heard your story. To realize that His Holy Presence is real, that you can have the Holy Spirit to abide in your heart in cleansing power is the greatest knowledge in this life. And yet other people no matter how well meaning will try to stipulate access to God on how YOU have to do this or that activity. It is not by our might nor by our power. It is God's work in us. He wants more then anything else to impart His Spirit to you. His only condition was love. Our responsibility is not in working but surrendering. He said if you will become as a little child in your faith and simply trust Him he would give you the desires of your heart. And when your desire is to have HIM in complete control-HALLELUJAH- nothing can stop HIM from giving you His Holy Spirit. Glory to God. "Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word. Just to rest upon His promise. Just to know 'Thus saith the Lord'. Jesus, Jesus, How I trust Him. How I've proved Him o'er and o'er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! Oh, for grace to trust Him more!"

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    6. The real Church is the body of Christ, a people, not a place! No one can "go to Church". Religion is BIG business in this country, but that doesn't mean that we are a Christian nation.
      I no longer participate in organized religion. I've found absolutely nothing there. The teaching is so watered down that it's on the Mickey Mouse level. Over the years, I've taken many inductive Bible study courses which taught me how to dig it out myself on a much deeper level than I've ever seen at Church. What you dig out for yourself you truly believe because God is the One who shows it to you and He does this at progressively deeper and deeper levels as you diligently study. You are transformed by a renewing of your mind as you learn His word and meditate upon it. When Jesus taught He spoke to the very core of man's heart where the real issue lies. He did some mighty powerful teaching without the aid of big fancy buildings with lavish furnishings, paid employees, or programs.
      Anyone can be religious and go sit on a Church pew every time the doors are open, but to receive eternal life, you MUST be born again! This is not born again plus a religious system.

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    7. Thank you Pete for this short list of reasons why people do not attend church. I found your blog when I was searching for my own answers to why we are no longer attending church. Out of your list I mostly identified with #5 and #8. #5 because we have experienced spiritual abuse in the church an a number of occasions in many churches and denominations. There is something about one person or small group being in such powerful positions in peoples lives. There is opportunity for healing if they pull their sources of power from the Lord, but usually world tattered broken people end up more broken by church dictatorship. The truth is the ministers are hurting so badly and just as broken.

      #8 because my life is much less messy and peaceful without the drama I have experienced while attending church. That may be a selfish excuse but it is true.

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    8. These are the things, that as a Christian, I strive to change. Our church is not the most modern or forward thinking church, however, it strives to include everyone who wants to come, to be non-judgmental, and to show God's love in any way possible. We open our doors to anyone who wants to come, and do not judge them, as that is not our job. In our congregation, there are two gays, people with mental health issues, alcoholics, visitors, young, old, everyone welcome, and these people are not treated differently for any of these reasons, they are treated as brothers and sisters. I even held a sermon about this subject (even though I am only 17) as I think it is a real issue within the Christian faith, that some 'Christians' have lost the plot, and just judge people as sinners instead of showing the love and support everyone needs.

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    9. Absolutely brilliant post guys, been following you.

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    10. The most obvious reason the the growth of science and technology. Church teaches something, and science prove them wrong.examples:
      1. Genesis has no credibility anymore. Most bishops now believe Adam & Eve a myth
      2.No one really can prove creation. Evolution has tons of evidence.
      3.Conspiracies. If Jesus is only one God, why there are hundreds of other religion and millions of other Gods thriving?
      4. Inconsistency. Church never stick on one single statement. It keep changing the views according to the growing world, sometimes against the scriptures.Even the leaders have no common stand.
      5. And the most visible reason, is human think more rationally.

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