Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity


What Kind of People Leave Church?

posted by Carolyn Henderson

All types of people leave church, but an increasing number of them are strong Christians seeking a firmer relationship with Christ. Spirit of the Canyon, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print available at Framed Canvas Art, iCanvasART, and Great Big Canvas.

Years ago, when we still attended weekly church services, a longtime acquaintance (that’s generally what we are in church situations — we’re rarely given time to freely mingle and get to know one another as friends) left.

If you attend church, you know how this goes: Bob and Allison aren’t there one week. Probably sick, or out of town. Because we’re only longtime acquaintances, we don’t call and ask, and besides, isn’t that what the visitation committee members do? It’s their ministry.

And then another week goes by. Must be a family emergency. We’ll pray for them, when we have the time.

Another week, and another, until six months later when we think, “Bob and Allison haven’t been here for, whoa, a long time. How sad. They must have left the Lord, and they’re backsliding.”

They Leave for a Reason

What’s sad isn’t that Bob and Allison have left, it’s our reasoning of why. The people who leave are difficult. Unsatisfied. Impatient. Unrealistically expecting the church to be perfect. Weak. A problem it’s best to be rid of.

In the case of Bob and Allison, my Norwegian Artist husband decided to call one day and ask: “What’s up? It’s been a long time, and we miss you.”

“We didn’t like the way the church was feeling,” Bob answered. “It’s hard to put my finger on, but it was cold and sterile, and what attracted us initially — the friendly atmosphere that everyone was looking out for one another — was replaced by something else.”

Hopping, Shopping, and Stopping

He didn’t sound difficult or strident, just hurt. His thoughts also echoed those we had been having for a long time; he just made his move sooner. Bob, however, made his to another church: he “hopped” as some pastors condescendingly put it. When we left, we left altogether: two lifetime’s worth of church attendance had brought us to the point of acting out the answer to a statement too many people are increasingly making:

The people who walk away aren’t doing so lightly. There is much thought and prayer behind their decision. Catching the Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print available at Framed Canvas Art, iCanvasART, and Great Big Canvas.

“If this is Christianity, I don’t want any part of it.”

The good news, my friends who say this, is this: it isn’t Christianity; that’s why you’re revolting against it. You’re agitating, and kicking, and complaining, and agonizing, not because you’re weak, but because you’re strongly seeking the truth, and you’re not finding it Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Thursday afternoon.

“The capacity of the ‘church’ to chew up and spit out people is beyond my comprehension . . . .all in the name of ‘building the church,'” a woman recently wrote me. “My husband and I have been in a weird Twilight Zone state for a couple of months, and we finally couldn’t take it anymore.”

Elders and Deacons and Ordinary Sheep

These particular backsliders both held prominent leadership positions in the church they just left. Another woman, a former deaconess whose husband served as an elder for many years, told me,

“We were pushed out. We no longer fit anymore. I resent the pastor and the new leaders because I feel as if they took our church from us.”

“That’s how I felt when we left the last church we were in,” I replied, “but then I realized, the people within the church allowed the changes to be made.”

“So they did,” she stopped, surprised.

Who are the people who are leaving the church? If you’re still in the pews, don’t pass judgment until you’ve picked up the phone, called them, and asked them why they left — not because you’re trying to get them back, not because you’ve determined that they are apostates, but because you genuinely want to know. If you haven’t noticed, more and more people are leaving — they can’t all be renegade heretics.

Why Did They Leave? Ask Them

If you are still within the church, then be awake. Stand up, speak out, don’t accept that the leaders are the shepherds and you are the sheep — we are all children of one Father, and the purpose of meeting together in a church situation is to strengthen and encourage one another, so that we can live in a world that hates us. If you’re not finding this, sitting in a Small Group circle and staring at the thighs of the person across from you (we all look fat, sitting in chairs), then go ahead, try to change it.

You may make some changes, and that’s great. You may also find that the system is set against you, and you’re tired of speaking to people who don’t listen — so you leave. Not defiantly, but generally reluctantly and sadly, because you’ve tried and you’ve tried and you’ve tried, but it’s time to do something different now and seek Christ, grow in your faith, and answer a call.

Who are the people who are leaving church? An increasing number of us are called out. And we’re answering.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where, quite frankly, I’m trying to find the people who are frustrated with a system that isn’t working, but don’t realize that they’re not the problem.

We are in the end days, my brothers and sisters, and God’s Church — the real one, not an assemblage that meets in buildings — needs to be strong and awake. Wherever you are, grow. Seek His face. Abide in His presence. Walk on the path He is showing you, regardless of how weird it looks. You may find more people on it than you ever dreamed.

If you have left a church assemblage, it is lonely, and you may feel bereft and confused. But God will lead you to other members in the family — it just won’t look the way you think it should. Do things ever, when we follow God?

Posts similar to this one are

Unchurched — or Church Free?

The Wrong Gospel and How It’s Chasing People out of Church

Four Lies Creeping into Today’s Church

 



  • Donna Whitfield

    How right you are! We felt that way for years-isolated and alone. How refreshing to realize there is such a community of believers online!

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    Online is a growing opportunity for Christians to connect, from all over the world. The hardest thing about anything, is thinking that we are all alone, and when we live in a small town or circumscribed area, it can be easy to think that we are isolated and alone. But we’re not, and the online community brings us to a greater awareness of this.

  • Donna Whitfield

    I am more encouraged than ever! It’s so wonderful knowing I can connect with other believers even online! Thanks for sharing your heart in your response to my comment. :) I’m thankful that I began reading his word myself as soon as I became a Christian. It sometimes caused great confusion for me when church leaders didn’t interpret what it said in the same way that I did. Being a young Christian, I think it’s easy to assume that, simply because someone is in a position of authority in a church, or even that they are older than you in the Lord, they are automatically more mature, wiser and you should accept what they say as right, because who are YOU, after all! What struggles ensued while I was making my best efforts to “accept” and “fit in”, all the while wondering what was God and what was me-ha! I’m so relieved those days are behind me in great part.Now I can truly seek God for the truth He desires to reveal as we look to Him, and trust him to provide for us what wonderful blessings he is waiting to bestow upon us-to KNOW him!

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    Donna — be encouraged that you are definitely NOT alone in this journey — I’m beginning to think of this as the underground church of modern day, and an increasing number of people are joining it.

    I began seriously writing about Christianity as an outcrop of our experience with the Christian church establishment, and like you, I felt that we were all, all alone in this journey, Like you, because we made the natural mistake of forming all of our friendships within a church environment, we found the first few years away from the corporation lonely — but God used that time, richly, as a way to teach us without our being assaulted by a conventional message, every week.

    And like you, I would never go back. Now that we have walked through the valley of darkness and loneliness, we find ourselves basking in the warmth of the sun, finding Christians in all sorts of places — in and out of church — and in many varying degrees of their walk. The fellowship — however it comes — is truly beautiful and satisfying.

  • Donna Whitfield

    I just read this article, since I’m new to your site-and so thankful to have found it. We first left the organized church due to a chronic illness, but years later, we finally came to this conclusion as well “the answer will be in individual, ordinary Christians standing up for themselves and following Christ, regardless the cost! It’s been very lonely, heart wrenching, as we lost many “friends” when we no longer agreed and went to the same church, but we have found that, even in our painful circumstances, God still is with us and guides and directs us, and allows us to love others in his name and share with them his love for them-just in a different setting-either our home, or, for me, because I’m homebound-via email, phone calls, FB, etc. Even though we greatly miss corporate worship (and a few other things), I wouldn’t go back to where we once were and watch in wonder as God unfolds HIS plan for us each day! Thank you for sharing your story and insight. It’s great to know we’re not alone in this journey!

  • Pingback: “My Church Is Being Stolen!” - Commonsense Christianity

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Good points, Scale Lily, and yes, there is valid teaching in the buildings. There is valid teaching outside the buildings — the valid teaching comes from the Holy Spirit, and inside or outside of the building, if His words are not the priority, then we’ve got a problem, Houston.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Angela, you don’t sound harsh, you sound honest — a person who is searching and striving and moving and aching for the truth, and not satisfied until you find it. Because you’re not finding it in a setting where you are traditionally told is the only place for it to be found, you’re understandably FRUSTRATED. You’re on the right track — frustration is the impulse that gets us moving.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, Laura. I would never want to belittle people (although I’m sure I unintentionally do, all the time) — but especially people whose struggles mirror my, and my family’s, own. We’re not alone, you’re not alone, in the dissatisfaction with today’s establishment church, but the answer will not be another organized “movement” involving a new set of leaders with a new message, but the answer will be in individual, ordinary Christians standing up for themselves and following Christ, regardless the cost. Definitely not as popular or fun as a “movement.”

  • Carolyn Henderson

    That’s a really good question, and hard to answer in the space of a comment. Jesus Himself told His disciples that the world — those who do not follow Him — would hate us because His message is one people don’t want to hear: you’re not number 1; stop being deceitful; you’ve got problems, yeah, you, even though you don’t think you do, and you hurt people. NOBODY likes to hear this, but until we realize that yes, we do hurt people, we won’t stop, and we can’t stop without God’s help. The leaders of the Jews strongly opposed Jesus for the reason that all people in power oppose someone who calls them up: they didn’t want to be seen as weak, frail, selfish, greedy human beings (like the rest of us), and His words made them look bad, and worse, to their eyes, potentially affected the profits. Follow the money, follow the power — that’s what we do outside of Christ, and it’s what He calls us to walk away from.

    That’s a short answer to a difficult question, but I hope it does something toward elucidating.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Your church and congregation look like mine! And I belong there. From that sense of belonging, we reach out to others, and do the work God gives us to do. People — they mattered to Christ and He wants them to matter to us. Focus on people.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, Rebecca — Christians need to realize that we are in a relationship with Christ, not a building, and wherever we are, we need to look to Him as our teacher and our guide.

  • http://www.momsmustardseeds.com/ Rebecca Brandt

    Why do we think the church is a building? The ‘church’ is the people – that’s the Bride of Christ. A building is a meeting place where believers can come to worship and those who don’t believe can come and learn and be loved on. People change, buildings change but Christ never changes. We should not place legalistic views on anyone, but find all joy in the Bible. No building of worship is perfect, nor are the people inside. Once people begin realizing, they themselves are the church, they can take a different look at the imperfections they have and those around them. This is a great article… you give some really great points and there are so many more to consider.

  • MeinOhio

    Why do you say that the world hates you?

  • Shawna

    For us, the weekly church services have been extremely difficult for my child with sensory issues associated with autism. Read about us here at http://nottheformerthings.com/2014/05/12/when-church-hurts-2/.
    This has been a very serious topic for our family.

  • Joanna Sormunen

    I wonder where God is leading us and what will His people and body look like in the future. My father always says that the church isn’t the building, or the walls, it is the people, the Christians, and they are what is important. I haven’t found a church (building, pastor and flock) where I feel I belong for some time. So my home is my church and my family is my congregation.

  • http://lauraconnell.com/ Laura Connell

    Thank you thank you for this post! Finally a piece on leaving the church that doesn’t belittle the people leaving. Sometimes there are serious reasons people leave their church.

  • anwilhite

    Awesome post! Just awesome. I really enjoy your writing, have I said that? :)

    I’ve been confused and unsure about the whole “going to” church thing lately. It’s not at all like it was in the New Testament where the whole purpose was to encourage and edify. I don’t see how sitting passively in a pew, listening to one man’s opinion about scripture can encourage spiritual maturity. In fact, I just don’t think it does, and that’s what most Christians equate with following Jesus. We are a priesthood and we all have access to the truth if we seek Him and His Word – not just someone who went to Bible college.

    I sound harsh, don’t I? I don’t mean to be. I really have learned so much more and matured much more (of course, I have a loooonnnggg way to go) outside of what our modern society considers “church” – when I finally decided to read His Word, talk to Him, and seek to understand His love myself.

    Thank you!

    Angela @ http://www.angelawilhite.com

  • Pingback: Leaving Church — Why Do People Do It? | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

  • Scale Lily

    Pondering…we are rather quick to throw up buildings, and I stepped out of those a long time ago. But I’m not so radical as to think there is no valid teachings that occur in such places. Interesting, is it possible that when we reformed we did not shake free the structure or did we possibly return to Egypt? I’m sure to come across this again.

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