It would seem that many people are seeking to renounce their faith in a more official way. Reports out of England tell of over 100,000 people downloading a De-Baptism certificate. Yes, that is right. Read it for yourself—a certificate to make their departure from Christianity a black and white matter.

I have spilled quite a bit of ink here on the blog talking about the anatomy of those who leave their faith. I suppose, reluctantly, I will continue to do so.

I am a Calvinist. I believe very strongly in the perseverance of the saints, meaning I don’t believe that a true believer will ever walk away. Certainly there will be times of doubt, discouragement, and skepticism, but these, for the believer, are often times of significant growth. My sister, for example, died with a copy of Chuck Swindoll’s Day by Day in front of her. She was crying out to God with her last breath, but I believe that she was still hanging on (or, from God’s point of view, He was hanging on to her (Jn. 10:29)). But, when someone truly walks away from the faith, I believe that we, as a church, must assess the situation and take it very seriously. That is why I take the time I do to read stories of the deconverted, often at the brink of tears.

However, this does astonish me that people are going so far to denounce their faith. It implies not a peaceful departure, but a exodus in bitterness and resentment.

I have found that there is a particular process when people leave the faith and I think it is important to see this. Here is is:

Step one: Doubt
Step two: Discouragement
Step three: Disillusionment
Step four: Apathy
Step five: Departure

Step One: Doubt

Here is where the person begins to examine his or her faith more critically by asking questions, expressing concerns, and becoming transparent with their doubt. This doubt is not wholesale, but expresses an inner longing to have questions answered and the intellect satisfied to some degree. Normally this person will inquire of mentors in the faith, requesting an audience for their doubt.

Step Two: Discouragement

This is where the person becomes frustrated because they are not finding the answers. They ask questions but the answer (or lack thereof) causes them discouragement. Their church tells them that such questions are “unchristian.” Their Sunday school teacher says, “I don’t know. You just have to believe.” Others
simply say, “That’s a good question, I have never thought of it before,” and then go on their way on their own leap-of-faith journey.

Step Three: Disillusionment

Now the person begins to become disillusioned with Christianity in general and proceeds to doubt much more deeply. They feel betrayed by those who made them believe the story about Christ. They feel that much of their former faith was naive since not even their most trusted mentors could (or would) answer basic questions about the Bible, history, or faith. In their thinking the intellect has become illegitimized and the church is therefore an illegitimate contender for their mind.

Step Four: Apathy

At this point in the journey, the disillusioned Christian becomes apathetic to finding the answers, believing that the answers don’t exist. They are firmly on their way to atheism, agnosticism, or pure skepticism but don’t have the courage to admit it to themselves or others. Many times those in this stage live as closet unbelievers, believing it is not worth it to come clean about their departure from the faith. They want a peaceful existence in their unbelief without creating controversy. Therefore, they are content to remain closet unbelievers.

Step Five: Departure

At this stage the fact that they have left the faith has become real to them and they are willing to announce to the world. Because of their sense of betrayal, they feel as if it is their duty to become evangelists for the cause of unbelief. Their goal and mission becomes to unconvert the converted.

It would seem that most of these are at stage five.

My life and my ministry is committed to one thing: rooting people theologically by presenting the intellectual viability of the Evangelical faith. While I understand this is not all there is to the Christian faith, it is an absolute vital part of discipleship and foundational to everything else.

Everyone will go through the doubt phase. Everyone should ask questions about the faith. If you have not asked the “How do you know . . .” questions about the message of the Gospel, this is not a good thing. We should be challenged to think through these questions early in the faith. The Church needs to rethink its education program. Expositional preaching, while important, is not enough. Did you hear that? Expositional preaching is not enough. It does not provide the discipleship venue that is vital for us to prevent and overcome this epidemic. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that it does.

The church has been on an intellectual diet for the last century and we are suffering from theological atrophy. What else do you expect when we have replaced theological discipleship with a gluttonous promotion of entertainment, numbers, and fast-food Christianity that can produce nothing more than a veneer of faith seasoned for departure?

The solution: to reform our educational program in the church. To lay theological foundations through critical thinking. To understand that the great commission is to make disciples, not simply converts. And most importantly, we must pray that God will grant a revival of the mind knowing that without the power of the Holy Spirit, no amount of intellectual persuasion can change an antagonistic heart.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    37 replies to "People Leaving the Church: What Do We Do?"

    • Amen, amen, and amen, Michael! Education is deep in my heart as well. I stand with you in the firm belief that we can do better as the church and I applaud your steadfastness and your outstanding ministry. It is truly a privilege to be part of it.

    • Ranger

      Right! And as the church spreads globally in new frontiers (and continues growing in China, SE Asia, Africa, new sections of Latin America), we cannot let them fall into the traps of easy believism to which we have fallen prey.

      Even as these new churches are sending missionaries to our neighborhoods in America, let us assist them in finding means for solid education in the faith.

      BTW, thanks for your ministry in this regard Michael.

    • Nick

      Just goes to show you don’t know if you or anyone else will persevere or not.

    • bethyada

      This is where the person becomes frustrated because they are not finding the answers. They ask questions but the answer (or lack thereof) causes them discouragement. Their church tells them that such questions are “unchristian.” Their Sunday school teacher says, “I don’t know. You just have to believe.”

      I just don’t get this. So some people ask loads of questions for the sake of being difficult and don’t really care about the answers. But if people have genuine questions why don’t people welcome this? I welcome it. I think in children it is a sign of intelligence and interest. I love it when my children ask me difficult questions about Christianity. It shows they are interested, and they can come to a deeper understanding of truth.

    • bethyada

      I am uncertain about your progression. I wonder whether disillusionment and apathy are separate paths. Some get disillusioned and leave, others just drift away. Different reasons.

      While there may be some truth to your comments, I think that at times there is sin involved. Refusal to deal with sin means that they may wish for truth to be otherwise so that they can justify themselves.

      Though I also think refusal to deal with sin may make one more susceptible to deception.

    • Kara Kittle

      Except there be a great falling away and the man of sin is revealed.Michael, there must be a falling away, the Bible says there will be. Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. It’s going to happen because God said it would. The world is in turmoil. The world is like a ship with no anchor tossed around on the open waves. Because we have every wind of doctrine blowing, there is no safe place anywhere anymore. The only hope anyone has is in the promise of God, not in the maybe we could be.

      Today I was thinking of the verse that David so eloquently stated..Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.

      There is no one teaching this anymore.

    • Peter

      In what sense are those who fall away not “true”, when you yourself take several steps down the progression of doubt?

    • Wolf Paul

      I think it is important to note that the folks in the UK who are into this “De-Baptism Certificate” thing are not abandoning their faith. Rather, they claim they never had a faith but were baptized as infants, at the behest of their parents, and thus became members of the Church of England without having any say in the matter.

      This is a similar situation to what we have here in Austria, where the vast majority of babies are still baptized into the Roman Catholic church when they are but a few days old, and are then counted as Catholic Christians, whether they ever come to a personal faith commitment or not. Here in Austria, because the state grants the R.C. Church a favored position (through a concordate with the Holy See) the Church on the other hand is actually required to note someone’s decision to leave the church in the baptismal register — this is what the Church of England refuses to do, thus sparking this “Certificate” craze.

      But in either situation, I don’t think we are really talking about people leaving the faith.

    • Nick

      Peter: In what sense are those who fall away not “true”, when you yourself take several steps down the progression of doubt?

      Nick: That’s the problem, it’s a purely subjective measurement. If someone is on fire for the faith as a teenager but in college gets sucked into sin and yet after marriage and children comes back to Christ, how is that explained? Was the guy never saved until after marriage, was he saved as a teen but went through a period of doubt, apathy, etc, and got back on track later on?
      This highlights the purely subjective nature of this judgment.

      Matthew 24:12f makes it clear true Christians can fall away, thus the original argument does not square with Scripture:
      “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

      Here it states those with agape-love (which only Christians have) can go cold and not persevere to the end.

    • ScottL

      Michael –

      As for considering the question in the title of this post – People Leaving The Church: What Do We Do? – I encourage us to considering waiting, sitting back and see what will happen. I don’t mean for us to be apathetic, but we have to guard against jumping the gun in a reactionary measure. If people are ‘leaving the church’, I want to be available for those who are hurting, are disillusioned, have questions, etc. They need us to be available to hopefully see their hearts and faith restored. But America, especially, is always thinking up new and exciting things to capture people, but they lack the root, as you refer to in your article.

      So, let’s take some time to sit back, contemplate and evaluate what is going on. This can be very helpful as we consider how to more faithfully move forward when it is right to move forward.

    • Aaron

      Michael, your list of steps here seems very descriptive of my own life. I would place myself in step 4. I really don’t believe anymore (even though I’ve tried), but as you said, “it’s not worth it to come clean.” My wife, my parents, her parents, and our siblings are all believers and are active in the church. Most of my friends are believers. When nearly your whole social network consists of believers, what can you do when you stop believing? Do you have any thing you can say to someone like me in the Apathy stage to bring them back?

    • minnow

      I know of very few who leave their faith. I know of many who quite going to fellowships once they are given the freedom by parents to make their own choices or when they move out of the house as young adults. Most lived their parents’ faith and never got one of their own. A few “play” and then return as slightly older adults.

      On the other hand I know of many who are leaving certain fellowships in search of a different expression of their faith such as home groups or missional focused fellowships. I assume from your post you are not talking about this kind of leaving.

      I think if people are not getting answers to their questions and are treated as if asking questions is wrong then they are absolutely in the wrong fellowships! There is no excuse for a organized fellowship being unable or unwilling to answer/address theological or doctrinal questions. I doubt there are people who have been long term members of a fellowship who “suddenly” find out they are in a light on substance group. But I obviously could be wrong. I suppose the “Christian country club” might have served them well for many years until a setting event occurs (the loss of a spouse or child, for example) and they find no answers, no support. But is it really a question of not having the God dots connected or is it a question of not having the Body dots connected?

      The theological answer to “Why God?” is quite frankly often unsatisfactory for a hurting individual. But if the Body dots are connected the tangible presence of Christ’s hands and feet willing to walk with someone through their pain or sit with them in their pain can be the “answer” that makes the difference.

    • […] Read the full post here: […]

    • Jason

      I tend to think of the progression a little differently. The first two stages CMP lists are just like your faith being ill or experiencing growing pains or soreness after exercise–pretty natural parts of life. And I think some people get the answers at stage two–the same answers that convinced many others–and just don’t find them useful or intellectually honest.

      The last three steps CMP gives, I think fit with the 5 stages of Grief and Loss posited by E. Kubler-Ross some time ago (pardon the use of psychology). A person’s faith dies–perhaps God dies in their experience, or perhaps just the viability of the particular theological system they’ve been raised in–and at that point they face:


      Not everyone gets through all these stages or spends the same amount of time in each one. CMP’s characterization of the last stage, Departure, largely reflects people caught up in the second stage. But IMO this characterization may be a bit skewed since these angry people are the loudest and most active (and often seem to have become atheists). Others move on in other ways—they don’t go away mad, they just go away.

      In view of the question, “what to do?” I think CMP has a great point about hearing and addressing difficult questions early. I’m not sure our stock of Evangelical answers will handle all of these, and Evangelicalism may have to develop and change. Or, as we’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog, Evangelicalism may be too entrenched in its status quo, and we may move to a Post-Evangelical era.

    • RM

      It’s the end of the “Cultural Christianism”…

      It’s the end of a folk-religion…

      And I say…good riddance!

      “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

    • John C.T.

      Statements such as “There is no one teaching this anymore” are both untrue and unhelpful. I would think that at least CMP is teaching that.

      Education is an essential part of discipleship, but it is neither all of discipleship nor failsafe. Deeper theological education of previous generations (pick any one over the last several hundred years) did not prevent problems nor ensure the education and discipleship of subsequent generations. Western civilization is the most educated civilization in history, and has the most seminaries, the most deep theological books, the greatest number of graduates from seminaries, the most educated pastorate, etc., yet despite that education it is one of the most troubled and sinful of civilizations / generations. I suggest that one of the chief reasons for this is an over-stress on education to the detriment of other aspects of discipleship.


    • J.R.

      Doubt is an emotion all of us should go through in our Christian growth and maturity. I believe without doubt one’s faith may be built upon blind faith. Doubt causes us to question, questions cause us to seek for answers, and answers (prayerfully correct) grow us in Christian maturity (faith).

      Discouragement is an emotion which is fine as well to process. Doubt brought me to discouragement, discouragement left me with no hope. Without hope my illusion (living my life without Christ) became to me Disillusion.

      So for a seeking non-believer, the first three emotions may be fine to go through as long as they are in a church geared to making disciples.

      I too feel as you do Michael in regards to some of the modern evangelical churches. In order to make disciples we must create disciples. Theology classes are no longer vogue in the fast food pace of modernism. We give people what they want and we package it to a situation, not what they need packaged to growth and maturity.

      I personally believe Christian education is sorely lacking in today’s church. This may sound ridiculous to those who only need the Holy Spirit to guide them through the scripture but I wish I would have been exposed to a hermeneutics and exegesis class as a new believer.

    • J.R.

      John C.T.
      CMP is teaching theology. Having been in three of his classes here in OKC you get to witness his passion and desire. Something maybe one does not get a feel for through his blogs.
      I don’t think Michael is advocating education only, just maybe a lack thereof in some churches.
      I too agree with you that education is not the end all/fix all as to why people are leaving the church. If we stop and remember when we were wee little infants in Christ, green to the gift of grace, how did we grow? Did we grow within the confines of someone’s “folk theology” or do we grow in the absoluteness of truth which we are capable of articulating to others? This, I believe is what Michael is trying to accomplish.

    • John from Down Under

      CMP, the Pentecostal circles I’ve come out of, were not on an intellectual diet but on an intellectual hunger strike! I applaud your desire to “root people theologically by presenting the intellectual viability of the Evangelical faith”

      However, I have mixed reactions about your post. If I read it as a non-Calvinist it makes perfect sense and I fully share your concerns that “when someone truly walks away from the faith, …… we, as a church, must assess the situation and take it very seriously” as you said.

      But here’s what I struggle with: If you’re a TULIPian Calvinist why does it matter why they walk away? They were not part of the elect to begin with. And if they were never saved and elected by God, it doesn’t matter what the reasons behind their departure are. If God never granted them saving grace to believe and persevere, regardless of how much we improve or refine “Evangelical faith” they’ll never make it anyway.

      I say Amen 100 times to “laying theological foundations through critical thinking”. But at the end of the day, if the outcome has been predetermined in eternity past, those who walk away were doomed to destruction anyway. So, as an outsider non-Calvinist looking in, your post sounds (prima facie at least) as counterintuitive to your Calvinist theology.

      I am NOT trying to antagonise you but I would truly appreciate you clarifying for me.

    • John C.T.

      In the planning courses I have taken, it was repeatedly stressed that planning that is not implemented is not a plan. The same goes for education: education that is not implemented has no value. The general quality of preaching and teaching in the U.S. is quite good (preachers by and large graduate from seminaries) as is the teaching (lots of quality materials, lots of classes, many classes taught by people who have gone to Bible college or seminary). The problem is that that education is not implemented (and is usually forgotten). I think that Dallas Willard, et al., are onto the greater problem, which is one of improper or lacking discipleship. The knowledge and education that we do have is not being properly implemented in the lives of many Christians.

      The failures of an education approach are well documented in the public sphere (sex ed., anyone, as an easy example), even though public education has been viewed and pursued for over 100 years as a cure for many of the ills of society.


    • cheryl u

      What John from Down Under just said reminds me of the question that came to my mind after reading the third comment in this thread from Nick, “Just goes to show you don’t know if you or anyone else will persevere or not.”

      I have been wondering how Calvinists deal with this situation. Do you find it a bit unsettling to think that at some point you might walk away too if that then means that you are not part of the elect? Maybe I’m missing something here as I have been almost entirely in Arminian type church situations all of my life.

      At this point in time, I can’t say that I agree wholeheartedly with either the Arminain position or the Calvinist position. It seems to me that to do either one you have to either ignore portions of Scripture or tie them in knots to mean something other than the obvious reading of them. I think I have decided that there is truth on both sides of this issue and that this may very well be a concept that our finite minds can not grasp in full. Maybe how it all fits together accurately will simply have to remain a mystery while we are on this earth. And I can live with that.

    • C Michael Patton


      “At this point in time, I can’t say that I agree wholeheartedly with either the Arminain position or the Calvinist position.”

      Actually, Calvinism is the only one that allows for tension, even if some Calvinist don’t recognize this.

    • C Michael Patton

      John, good comments. I would say that this is part of the tension that we must accept. However, we are God’s church and as the body of Christ, we are the instruments he uses to teach, disciple, evangelize, and encourage. Just because God has the end in his sovereign plan does not mean that the means to that end are forgotten.

      Our passion for people is a reflection of God’s passion.

    • cheryl u


      I read through the past article you linked quickly but not the long comment thread. I see more tensions than the one’s mentioned above.

      And while calvinsts can say that they are allowing for both free will and predistination, to say that the elect will be saved because of irrestible grace–who can resist something that is irristible–and that the the rest will be damned because they were born into Adam’s race as dead in sin and they can’t do anyhing about it unless God moves–which he doesn’t if they are not elect– doesn’t sound to me like there is any free will involved at all. I mean really, how do we exercise free will when we have absolutely no choice in the matter of what God will do and we can only do what He has decided for us?

      That is but one of the problem’s I see with the Calvinist side of things.

    • Russ White

      “Actually, Calvinism is the only one that allows for tension, even if some Calvinist don’t recognize this.”

      This isn’t true…. Various forms of Free Grace do, as well. What we tend to do, though is build up walls of separation just so we are separate, just we can fully define what “Arminianism,” “Calvinism,” and “Free Grace,” mean, and forget that we cannot know about anyone’s salvation except our own.

      Any system that teaches you can be sure of someone else’s salvation is, IMHO, false. At the same time, any system that teaches you cannot be sure of your salvation is, IMHO, false. There is a middle road, one in which you recognize that growth is normal, but not required, that humans are so imperfect that they can’t even hold to their faith perfectly, in all times, at all seasons. One that holds that I cannot know some things, such as the condition of someone else’s heart, but that my faith in God’s promises assure my salvation, no matter what the season is in my life.



    • John from Down Under

      CMP thank you for your gracious response.

    • cheryl u

      Hi again CMP,

      I just ran across another article of yours on this site about Calvinism allowing tensions.

      After reading this ariticle, I see your point much better. The areas that you said in this article that you and some other Calvinists believe and allow for tensions to exist in are pretty much the ones I have been thinking about. But generally, I have heard the other side of Calvinism–the side that believes in a limited atonement, that believes God doesn’t love everyone, and that somehow explains away God’s desire that all men be saved by saying something like God has two wills–the one that desires all to be saved and the other one that wills to save only some. That last one only succeeds in making God sound schizophrenic to me!

      Anyway, I am glad I found this article because it did help me to see where you are coming from better and that not all that call themselves Calvinists believe the same way on these issues.

    • Wolf Paul

      John from DownUnder writes,

      But here’s what I struggle with: If you’re a TULIPian Calvinist why does it matter why they walk away? They were not part of the elect to begin with. And if they were never saved and elected by God, it doesn’t matter what the reasons behind their departure are. If God never granted them saving grace to believe and persevere, regardless of how much we improve or refine “Evangelical faith” they’ll never make it anyway.

      I think this reflects the fact that Evangelicals of all stripes are too pre-occupied with the question of salvation to the exclusion of everything else.

      Someone can, to our perception, walk away even though he is part of the elect and will eventually be saved. In the meantime, he is walking through a God-less, Christ-less wilderness, and we should not be concerned?

      That is not the attitude I hope we take towards our brothers and sisters who are struggling and going through tough times, especially as the chances are good that faults of the church contributed to driving such a person away from the church and the faith.

      One of my problems with Calvinism as it manifests itself much of the time is precisely the fact that it leads to speculation of who is and who isn’t part of the elect, based on what we, as humans, can observe. But our perception is incorrigibly flawed, we “see through a glass darkly” and we really have no way of knowing, this side of eternity, whether someone else is part of the elect and saved.

      And to come back to the question of the church’s culpability in driving people away from the faith: we had better find out what we are doing wrong, and with God’s help fix it, because I believe that Ezekiel 3:17 ff applies here, and even though a person may not be part of the elect, and is responsible for his own decisions, we, as the church, will be held accountable for the warnings we did or did not give, and for the way our warnings were credible or not because of what our lives reflect. And of course Jesus had something to say about being a stumbling block, too.

    • JohnFOM

      There is perhaps a more militant, and to my mind more worrisome, order for the stages that I have observed. The order is:

      Step one: Discouragement
      Step two: Disillusionment
      Step three: Anger
      Step four: Doubt
      Step five: Departure

      This is a process in which the church is an active agent in a person leaving thier faith, in which the weeds of the parable of the sower is the church as it presents itself.

      What to do though? Still trying to work that through with some folk I know.

    • Mike B.

      Could one of the reasons people are leaving the faith be that science (name the field) has all but disproven the first book of the bible?

      It kind of puts a few holes in the later books since they are all founded upon Genesis, which is harder and harder to take seriously in any kind of intellectual way.

      Mike B.

    • John C.T.

      I don’t think that Genesis, correctly understood, is at all disproven by science (and I’m no young earther).

      But on to other matters.

      In looking at why people leave the church, one has to think about at how God would have us respond to it, especially from a TULIP Calvinist viewpoint. From a TULIP perspective, what God does and what we do in relation to someone leaving the church is purely coincidental. What we do does not in any way affect or determine whether someone leaves the church / faith. God elects who he elects and the elect will be in the new heaven and earth regardless of what we do, and the non-elect will never be. Both of those actions (leaving the church, relating to someone who is leaving) are caused by a third: God. God determines who stays in and God determines how we relate to those who leave. We witness to, talk with, empathize with, etc. those who are thinking of leaving because God in his Word tells us to, not because what we do will affect their salvation. That is, a TULIP’s motivation is directed toward God and his commands and not toward changing the other person. Only God changes the other person (irresistably, if God wants him/her in His kingdom), or leaves him unelected (in which case nothing can change their mind). What we do is incidental, and for our benefit and the glory of God. We might be an instrument (like a baseball bat) that God uses, but our personal and particular involvement is neither necessary nor sufficient to change whether someone leaves the church.

      In short, it doesn’t matter what we do in terms of whether some leave or stary. What we do will not change who God has foreordained. It only matters what we do in relation to what God has commanded we do. Changing our education program will not change the numbers of people who leave or stay, nor will it change what people do with their doubts. From a TULIP perspective, it only matters if our education programme conforms to what is revealed in God’s word–if it conforms then it glorifies God and it does not matter how many stay or leave. Those who leave may claim that they left because the teaching was bad, or they did not have their doubts effectively responded to, but in reality they left because they were not elect in the first place.

      All of which further illustrates why so many (including early church writers) reject TULIP Calvinist understanding of the relationship between God and humankind.


    • Dozie

      We are just beginning to witness the impact of what Luther did. He officialized rebellion in Christianity. With Luther Christianity started winding down. At the moment, Christianity, as far as I see it, is in the “Going Out of Business”, thanks to Luther and the Protestant ideal of “I am the final authority”. I regret it is turning out this way, but this is where Christianity is now. Nothing will stop the tide and those who wish to remain Christian will have to run to the caves to practice their religion. There is nothing in this culture that is Christian – not the workplace, not the internet, not the television, not government, not the schools, not the language, not the movies. People are looking for a sign there is God somewhere, all they get is senseless defense of God who is by all human senses, absent. Yes, all we have are our human senses.

    • Cynthia

      This was thought provoking.

      I believe that the reason “believers” leave is because they signed on to a moral lifestyle…they agreed with an ideology. Jesus is a magnetic personality afterall and the clearness of His call for radical differentness is appealing to many who feel lost in the masses. But unless a person truly sits with Christ and has an actual personal encounter on a regular basis, it is easy to fall away. I have loved Jesus from childhood. I could not walk away from Him…as Peter said “Where else would I go?” So I too am on the verge of tears when I hear of those who thought they were true followers and chose to walk away. It is very hard to convince those who go through the stages from doubt to desertion, that Jesus is worth a second chance.

    • Wolf Paul


      Your mental image of Luther and Protestantism is a sorry caricature, not too unlike the mental image of Catholicism which many Protestants have.

      There is no Protestant ideal of “I am the final authority”, the Protestant ideal being rather “Sola Scriptura”.

      What is your authority? It can’t be the Pope, because he has a much more positive view of Luther.

    • Chris Skiles

      Michael , I couldn’t agree more. Our churches are starved to death for doctrine . Even those who think they want something else. When a child of God gets a taste of what the deep truths of God can do for the sheer enjoyment factor of God , they will only want more.

      I am a little confused though concerning your approach to those who abandon the faith. This is all connected (and you have aluded to POS) to Perserverence of the saints. (which you will note from other posts I do not hold to—-remember I’m the 3 pt Calvinist. Eteranl Security —yes. POS—No) Now that we are clear.
      In your opinion are those leaving still part of the fold regardless of whether or not they return. Or have they never been saved to begin with? I’m reminded of the lady you mentioned in one of your videos from your child hood who was such an encouragement to you and yet she struggeld with an alcoholic husband for so long that she finally gave up and joined him in his alcoholism. (tragic, sad story)
      If you believe these people are not true believers then they don’t need the be discipled they need a clearer presentation of the gospel and ultimately an effectual call from God. I agree with someones previous comment that this is all so subjective.

      Michael , even though I know you and I will probably never agree on some of these issues please know that I hold you in high regard.(and we do agree on MOST everything) Thanks so much for your ministry.

    • JohnFOM

      I’m still stuggling with one of the foundational presuppositions in both the post and the meta here… that the leaving of the church equals the leaving of the faith. The title of the post is about leaving the church, the body of the post is about leaving the faith.

      I know, I know, the post is about people being de-baptised, thereby renouncing thier association with the church, and many of those will be doing so as a protest against thier ‘brainwashing’ in thier childhood and the associated unchosen inclusion into the church, but there is another reason, especially in the UK, to become de-baptised.

      It is a political decision. In the UK, more so than in the US, the church is intrinsic to politics. Bishops sit in the political upper house, the head of state is the head of the state church as well. The numbers ‘on the roll’ of the church help to determine the political power the church can exert. If it is the baptism roll that is used to count the numbers (officially or unofficially) then the Church of England may be able to exert more power than would be entitled to based on numbers actually associated with that church.

      I know of some Baptists, Pentecostals, Independent, etc, church goers who have or are going to download the debaptism certificate and check the wording to see if that is a way to remove themselves from contributing to the political sway of the Church of England. I suspect there well be a significant proportion (by no means a majority, but a not insignificant number) of people who have changed denominations doing that.

      They haven’t left faith, but they have left the Church of England.

    • Michael L

      Interesting topic. I’ve been busy for a couple of days, so I’m a little behind.

      I think JohnFOM makes a good observation. Personally, I think it’s a little of both.

      Could it be there are two scenario’s ?
      1) The ones that have lived / grown up in a Church community and
      2) The new believers

      1) The ones that have lived / grown up in a Church community.
      Step one: Discouragement
      Step two: Disillusionment
      Step three: Anger
      Step four: Doubt
      Step five: Departure
      I think those would follow the pattern as indicated by JohnFOM. Our Church communities have really become social organizations (on which I’m writing a separate article). The Agape/love we are being called to share with one another is quite often far from the daily reality of our fellow believers. Being Christian has become a social acceptance phenomenon, at least in Dallas and other areas of the south, more so than a conscious decision. But since there seems to be a lack of loving fellowship with other members of the Church community, once trouble hits the discouragement settles in. One becomes discouraged because of the loss of a job, the illness or passing away of a loved one, and few fellow Church members reach out to help, console, love or support the one suffering. The discouragement can quickly lead to becoming disillusioned with the community in which the person has invested so much “time”. Never realizing the time and effort invested was little more than a superficial Sunday morning attendance. From there the path to anger, doubt and departure are small steps.
      I think we can turn this tide by engaging with people outside of the Sunday morning worship time. It is no wonder that so many Fellowship / Bible Churches are emphasizing mid-week study groups, small fellowship groups, men’s accountability groups, etc.. I creates a bond above and beyond the Sunday morning worship time. In times of need, hurt or grief, these bonds provide friendship and networks that truly demonstrate the Christian agape to the fellow believers.

      2) The new believers.
      Step one: Doubt
      Step two: Discouragement
      Step three: Disillusionment
      Step four: Apathy
      Step five: Departure
      I do think these are more likely to follow the path CMP has laid out. Once the new believer has “come to the altar call” or “accepted Christ”, too often they become a “notch on a belt” somewhere and are left to fetch for themselves. But once a new believer has come to Christ, they are “babies” in their faith. They need someone to nurture them to the point where they can digest solid foods. Paul makes enough references to that. As the new believer goes back to their normal social environment, which is very often non-believing, they are confronted with tough questions that they very often don’t have an answer to. Some examples may include things like “Do you really believe that this guy Jesus was God ?”, “What’s this Trinity thing all about ?”, “I’m a good person, are you really saying I am going to hell ?”,etc etc… Since the new believer is too often left to fetch for him/her self, they are on unaccustomed terrain and don’t know how to respond to these questions and challenges. This may lead to doubt that they may have gotten it wrong after all. They become discouraged that they don’t know everything and can’t defend their faith properly to those contenders. When they reach out to other believers for help, do we give them a book ? Or an article ? Or tell them to pray ? All good things, but how often do we suggest we go with them to answer the questions ? Offer to answer the questions for him or her ? Indicate that “Look, I realize that you are young in your faith. And these are tough questions that took me a while to figure out as well. It’s not fair that they should put you on the spot. Would you like me to come with you and help you answer these questions ?” Or perhaps even set up a little session with the new believer to go through a series ? (The “Tough Questions” series is a pretty good one for that).

      How do we solve this ?
      I don’t have a magic wand or a magic answer. And I am far from a solid theologian, but can share an opinion or observation or two. I think the answers were given before, yet vary depending on whom we are dealing with. I think the summarized answer would be captured by one word:

      Commitment of time to fellow believers to show we care and love and support them above and beyond the Sunday morning worship. Go to lunch with a fellow Christian, go to breakfast (if you’re a morning person). Meet for coffee. Just show we care by spending time. Ask if they want to talk. Offer help if they are in some kind of straights. Or just offer a listening ear. It would save them the cost of a counselor 😉
      Commitment to new believers. Some kind of “buddy” system. Companies do it nowadays for new hires to make the new employee become familiar with the ins and outs of the company. Why wouldn’t we as Christians do the same ? Help them become familiar with our faith. Train them, help them answer questions. This could fall under the category of “education”.

      Yet, commitment takes time. And we have so very precious little of it. Pray that we may find the time to increase our commitment of Agape to our fellow Christians.

      Any comments ? Do I have it completely wrong ? Am I too pessimistic ? Feel free to set me straight !

      In Him

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