Leaving the Church

It is no secret that the ranks of the Christian church–the organized Christian church–are thinning. People are less and less likely to be involved in local churches for many reasons. The postmodern ethos is partly to blame (or “credit” might be a better word). Why are people leaving?

Listen to this statistic that I got from a friend who was involved in a survey (it is yet unpublished). When kids go off to college, most of them leave the church for a time. For the most part, worried parents could expect them to come back eventually. Ten years ago, according to this survey, you could expect that eighty percent of those who left church would come back in their late twenties. Do you know what that figure is today? Three percent. . . . (Pausing to let that sink in) . . .

Now, I don’t think that the Proverb that exhorts us to “train up our children in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it” is now false (Prov. 22:6). What I do think is that something has happened to the organized church that has causes people to look for their spirituality elsewhere.

The question is, what has happened? This is part of the cultural prolegomena that I have been talking about in previous blogs. We need to understand the reasons this generation has for their disdain of the organized church. We also need to go beyond the typical (and easy) “Oh, they are just rebellious and don’t love the Lord” answer. This solves nothing. The problem is much deeper and needs to be taken more seriously.

Well, since I started this blog with the intent of only posting a link, let me get to that link. There is a new site out there called “Letters from Leavers.” This site allows those who have left the church to blog the reasons why they have left. I will be referring to this site in the coming months and I encourage you to bookmark it. It is an important study that these guys are undertaking and I am grateful for their commitment to it.

So, why are people leaving the Church? If you have left, why?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon 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. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    14 replies to "Why are People Leaving the Church?"

    • Seeker006


    • C Michael Patton

      Makes perfect sense to me. I agree with both of your comments. I do think that the most radical voices are the loudest. This is often unfortunate. What do we do? Speak louder? Get on Jay Leno?

    • Jeff

      I think all of the above contribute, but I think it goes deeper. The lack of real commitment and support is the main reason. Close, supportive, relationships are what the chuch is supposed to be about. The church is meant to be a family and all that involves. It means sometimes there is bickering and disagreements, but when the times get tough they are there no matter what. Churches welcome families until those familes are put on the potters wheel. When times get tough we’ve seen the church (different local churches) turn away from or even turn on those families. The damage is devastating. Many drop out and the kids watch all of this and wonder if there is any point.

      The emerging church is partly a reaction to the lack of real commitment and compassion found in most traditional churches. People want a safe, committed place to call home. They want a church family they trust.

    • Becky

      Could it be the non-truths that they are teaching in the churches? Like, everyone goes to heaven or hell. Doesn’t Psalms 37 talk about God’s purpose for mankind to live on earth? And if everyone goes to heaven or hell what is the resurrection all about?

    • tscott

      Could this be people( even families) and communities of people who are following the Spirit of God in their hearts and lives?
      We’re probably going through a transition, and not one similar to that in Europe in the 20th century, or the 16th for that matter.
      In the Old Testament the people are required to go to three festivals. You could read them and observe them for years and not understand the spiritual meaning. So there is one called Pesach, or Passover, or Easter. Christians get the spiritual meaning of being saved, and have explored the meaning in many different groups. Secondly there is Shavuot
      or Pentecost. Christians understand having God within…at least they do on many arguable levels. Then there is Sukkot, or Festival of Booths, or The Ingathering. Christians have practiced this in bible studies, classes, support groups, and house churches for centuries, but the spiritual meaning is not as understood….you leave the institution to prepare.

    • BillyDKY

      People are leaving the church because the church doesn’t have the truth. Secondly, they are leaving because the people who lead don’t live what they preach.

    • cheap ghd

      It’s rather awesome,I have been searching materials relate to these stuffs for my paper.and it really helps me.

    • Jeff

      My family and I were faithful church goers since 1993, until one year ago. In this time period we faithfully attended around a dozen churches. The reason we left the church is doctrinal beliefs, hypocrisy, judgemental and “we know it all” attitudes. First, I am in awe at how most any Christian you talk to will tell you how their church is the right way, and their beliefs are correct; be it speaking in tongues, Calvinism, baptism… Christians just love to latch onto a belief and run with it, right or wrong. I’ve seen so much division and other church bashing in my 17 years as a Christian that I can’t take it anymore. The love of many Christians, while up front appears to be genuine is not, it’s conditional, and just wait until you oppose something they teach! You’ll find out how much they actually loved you.

      Most times Christians are the worst people to deal with, whether at work, or in the neighborhood. I have a Christian family in my neighborhood that everyone hates because of their judgemental attitude and legalism. They basically told every family to stay away from their kids, because you don’t have the same values as us. I knew a guy that was always getting on his knees at his desk and praying, and then spending the next four hours in the lunch room talking to his wife he was about to divorce. Yea, good Christian example! Many Christians don’t respect people, are always judging them for their “sin”, and even bashing other Christians because of their beliefs. Their are not genuine, but only into “saving” people and pushing doctrines down their throat.

      Bottom line is, it is the Christians themselves who have turned us away from the church, not from God, but the constant stupidity that Christians display as Christians. Go right ahead and judge me please, and tell me how wrong and misguided I am, and I bet you can even find a Bible verse to prove it; I rest my case!

    • Marcus Sconiers

      Reasons or opinions, we all think we have the answer from our own experience or what we think we are seeing, but the reason is biblical and can be found in the scripture. We should all take heed to a few things and get ourselves in righteous standing with God.

      The Holy Scripture teaches us that before the return of Christ, a strong deception will come to the church. There is almost no discernment prevelant in the church today, and the church has been infiltrated with sensuality and worldly pleasures, so we judge the rightness of things based upon how we feel, or how big something is, how it looks or the popularity of it. Humans by nature are trend junkies meaning they follow the trend. The church through compromise have become trend junkies. There is always the latest move to get your church to grow or to make it a success or a program for this and that.

      Remember that in this last hour of the church, there is something to be said for the steady faithfulness of a church. Jesus didn’t condemn the church in Revelation for their growth. That is fantastic but he did condemn them for failing to hold on when the pressure of their faith was under attack. Let us not forget 2 Thessalonians – Chapter 2:1-3

      Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him,

      That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

      Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

    • John

      I have been a Christian (Baptist) now for some 60 years and I have witnessed several reasons as to why Christians have left their church. These are but some.

      1.The church administration Gay.

      2. The Pastor fails too seek The Holy Spirit in the delivery of the sermons.

      3. The church fails to have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

      My day now consists of 3-4 hours bible study.

    • Jeff

      After reading the book Pagan Christianity, it has now all come together for me. The whole organized church as we know it is nothing more than traditionalism throughout the centuries. It has divided Christians, and made us look like a bunch of fools before a non-believing world. Let me see, which one of the 38,000 + denominations should I attend this week? The true church does not attend a building once a week, it is in us. We Christians gathering together are the church, wherever that gathering takes place. People are flocking away from churches not because of end times or strong deception, but because they find next to nothing by attending church buildings once a week where everyone wears nice clothes and puts on a BIG smile. You can quote as many Bible verses and study the Bible as much as you want, but how about trying to love your neighboor who happens to hate your guts, or helping the person down the street who can’t keep food on the table for her kids, or exerting self control over surfing that porn on the Internet. The definition to be a Christian today is “what church do you attend?” Let’s get back to “what fruits of the Spirit are manifesting in your life”. Keep in mind that a true Christian never leaves the church, because he/her is a member of the church of Jesus Christ. We that have left the organized church are not falling away or under some kind of powerful delusion from God, we are seeking what the original church had in mind; love, joy, peace, patience, self control, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. We simply don’t care about supporting a building that sits mostly vacant throughout the week with our money, when the lady down the street can’t feed her kids.

    • Pamela McCarthy

      I so agree! Recently,a lady I spoke to told me that she went to this church for food (this woman belongs to God) She is disabled, and she told me she couldn’t go get food there because this pastor makes them sit for 1/2 hour and read the Bible to them. That is what church has become! I cleared out my cupboards and am going to tithe anomonously to this dear woman of God.
      I also wrote this arrogant welp regarding this woman, accusing him of putting a price on salvation (and other things he’s false teaching) which, will be rejected, but God will someday, to prove His justice replay, that video to this man of Satan who sets himself up as God in the temple. God is calling His people OUT of the physical church and scourging all the lies “churches” teach, taking His Chosen deeper and gathering them for the end. let the games begin! I’m so excited to see what God will do as He raises up HIS army (who are not sitting on pews in the physical church) for the FINAL battle. Praise…

    • ounbbl

      The priest-centered church (the pastor-centered church) is a typical human power-organization.

      The Bible does not say you trust the church, the pastor, the priest — whatever and whoever wielding power over the believers.

      In other words, the church is not the Church, the Body of Christ. The church is not the answer, but the problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.