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10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often

It comes up in a surprising number of conversations these days. And no one’s quite sure how to respond to it.

The issue? Even committed church attenders are attending church less often.

Sure, the trend has been happening for years (gone are the days when people attended 50 out of 52 Sundays), but the issue is reaching a tipping point in the church today.

I first wrote about this two years ago in a post called 7 Ways to Respond as People Attend Church Less Often. In the last 24 months, the conversation has come up far more often and, to many leaders, feels much more urgent.

This isn’t a post about why people have left the church (that’s a different subject.) This is the first in a series of posts about church attenders who love God, appreciate the local church and are even involved in the local church, but who simply attend less often.

This post is the first part of a 5 part series on why people are attending church less often:

Part 2: CNLP Episode 23: Why People Are Attending Church Less Often—An Interview with Will Mancini.

Part 3: 5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

Part 4: 10 Predictions About the Future Church And Shifting Attendance Patterns

Part 5: CNLP Episode 24: Churchless: Why and How America is Learning to Live Without The Church—An Interview with David Kinnaman

If you want to access the podcast interviews easily on your phone or other device, the best way is to subscribe to my leadership podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher

So why all this attention?

This trend isn’t going away…in fact (as the podcasts will show) it’s accelerating,

It impacts almost every church regardless of size, denomination or even location.

It probably marks a seismic shift in how the church will do ministry in the future.

Of course, church attendance is never the goal. But attendance a sign of something deeper that every church leader is going to have to wrestle with over the next few years.

The first key to addressing what’s happening is to understand what’s happening.

So…why are even committed attenders attending less often? There are at least 10 reasons.

1. Greater affluence

Money gives people options.

If your church is at all engaging the middle class, the upper middle class, or a suburban demographic, an interesting trend is developing. The middle class is shrinking, but as this New York Times report shows,  it’s shrinking (in part) because more of the middle class is becoming upper class. Both US and Canadian personal disposable incomes are at all time highs.

There are simply more affluent people than there were decades ago, which may in part explain why so many “average’ people indulge their obsessions with granite counter tops, designer homes and decent cars, even without being mega-wealthy.

Naturally, this leaves a huge theological void about ministry to and with the poor, but it helps explain what’s actually happening in the suburbs and increasingly with the re-urbanization of many cities as the affluent move back downtown. Please…I’m not arguing things should be this way. I’m simply showing that this seems to be what’s happening.

And again…people with money have options. Technology options. Travel options. Options for their kids. And, arguably, that affluence may be one of the factors moving them further away from a committed engagement to the mission of the local church. It’s perhaps fuelling some of the reasons outlined below.

2. Higher focus on kids’ activities

A growing number of kids are playing sports. And a growing number of kids are playing on teams that require travel.

Many of those sports happen on weekends. And affluent parents are choosing sports over church.

It’s as simple as that.

3. More travel

Despite a wobbly economy, travel is on the rise, both for business and pleasure.

More and more families of various ages travel for leisure, even if it’s just out of town to go camping or to a friend’s place for the weekend or a weekend at the lake.

And when people are out of town, they tend to not be in church.

4. Blended and single parent families

Fortunately, more and more blended families and single parent families are finding a home in church.

So how does this translate into attendance patterns?

Church leaders need to remember that when custody is shared in a family situation, ‘perfect’ attendance for a kid or teen might be 26 Sundays a year.

Similarly, while the affluent might not be in church because of access to reliable transportation, single parents (who, not always, but often, struggle more financially) might not be in church because they lack access to reliable transportation.

So here’s the strange twist. People who have a car are often not in church because they have a car. People who want to be in church are often not in church because they don’t have a car or because it’s not their ‘weekend’ for church.

Sadly, people who want to get to church simply can’t.

By the way, I lead a church that virtually requires a vehicle to get there. I love how we often see people with reliable transportation helping out those who don’t have a vehicle. That’s at least a partial remedy to this problem.

5. Online Options

Many churches have created a social media presence and many podcast their messages like we do at Connexus. Churches are also launching online campuses that bring the entire service to you on your phone, tablet or TV.

There are pros and cons to online church (I outline 7 here) and there’s no doubt that churches with a strong online presence have seen it impact physical attendance.

But whether or not your church has online options doesn’t make the issue go away. Anyone who attends your church has free access to any online ministry of any church.

Online church is here to stay, whether you participate or not.

6. The cultural disappearance of guilt

When I grew up, I felt guilty about not being in church on a Sunday.

The number of people who feel guilty about not being in church on Sunday shrinks daily.

I regularly meet people all the time who haven’t been in months but LOVE our church.

If you’re relying on guilt as a motivator, you need a new strategy. (Well, honestly, you’ve always needed a new strategy…)

7. Self-directed spirituality

People are looking less to churches and leaders to help them grow spiritually, and more to other options.

We live in a era in which no parent makes a visit to a doctor’s office without having first googled the symptoms of a child’s illness and a recommended course  of treatment. Just ask any family physician. It drives them nuts. (Google, doctors will tell you, is not a complete replacement for medical school.)

Similarly, when was the last time you bought a car without completely researching it online?

In an age where we have access to everything, more and more people are self-directing their spirituality…for better or for worse.

Similarly, another characteristics of the post-modern mind is a declining trust of and reliance on institutions.

The church in many people’s minds is seen as an institution.

I don’t actually believe that’s what a church is. I think it’s a movement…not an institution. But many churches behave like an institution, and the post-modern mind instinctively moves away from it as a result.

8. Failure to see a direct benefit

People always make time for the things they value most.  If they’re not making time for church, that tells you something.

Even among people who say their love the church and who say they love your church, if declining attendance is an issue, chances are it’s because they don’t see a direct benefit. They don’t see the value in being there week after week.

That could be because there isn’t much value (gut check). Or it could be because there is value that they simply don’t see.

Either way, failure to see a direct benefit always results in declining engagement.

So what are you doing or not doing that leaves people feeling like there’s not that much value?

9. Valuing attendance over engagement

I’ll talk about this more in the podcast interviews and in the next posts, but when someone merely attends church, the likelihood of showing up regularly or even engaging their faith decreases over time.

At our church, I find our most engaged people—people who serve, give, invite and who are in a community group—are our most frequent attenders.

More and more as a leader, I value engagement over attendance.

Ironically, if you value attendance over engagement, you will see declining attendance.

10. A massive culture shift

All of these trends witness to something deeper. Our culture is shifting. Seismically.

Church leaders who fail to recognize this will not be able to change rapidly enough to respond to the shifts that are happening.

If you want more on how the culture is shifting, I outlined 15 Characteristics of Unchurched People Today here and outlined 12 Cultural Trends Church Leaders Can’t Ignore (But Might) in this post.

Change is unkind to the unprepared, so prepare.

That’s why I’m so passionate about this upcoming series of blog posts and podcasts.

Will Mancini and David Kinnaman With More

If you want more context for the attendance changes we’re experiencing in the church and culture today, listen in on the two podcast episodes below.

Your can listen here in the browser window below, or click here to listen to Episode 23 with Will Mancini to listen on your phone or other device.

Click here to listen to Episode 24 with David Kinnaman on your phone or other device.

Want more? Get a fresh leadership podcast episode delivered to your devices every week by subscribing for free.

You can subscribe to my podcast for free here on iTunesStitcher or Tune In Radio.

What Would You Add?

These are 10 reasons I see for even the committed church attender attending less often.

What do you see?

Really looking forward to the dialogue on this subject over the next two weeks.

Before you leave a comment, remember, we’re talking about why people who love the church aren’t attending as much.

This isn’t the best place to go on a rant about everything that’s wrong with the church. I’ll have other posts about that, and remember, I love the church and am committed to us fulfilling our mission better than ever, even if that means radical change…which it likely does.

So what are you seeing in your church? Leave a comment!

Did you find this post helpful?

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  • dm

    I’ve struggled going to church over the past few years. I go on Sundays, but it’s a struggle getting there any other day.

    First off, my church is a megachurch. Good luck finding community at a megachurch, especially if you’re an introvert.

    A number of times, I’ve gotten involved in ministry, and a person ends up trying to micromanage me….or pressures me to go beyond my comfort zone and experience level….or snaps at me out of the blue when I don’t even know them…or makes executive decisions about my commitment level, without consulting me.

    When I was a Catholic, no one pressured me. When I attended a church of about 300 people, they never micromanaged me.

    To be clear, I can only count a half dozen people at church who’ve caused me grief…maybe 10, over about 30 years. So, that’s not too bad. (we’re all human, not perfect) But, I still don’t feel motivated to put myself out there again.

    I am also upset to see that the church doesn’t follow church discipline. They need to see the church as a flock of sheep. If a person is living in blatant, unrepentant sin, they’re a danger to the sheep and should be removed. Or if they are sheep, they should be called to repentance, removed from ministry, and asked to come in for counseling each week. But, to keep them in ministry is a Seal of Approval, before the eyes of the congregation.

    So, I’ve visited a smaller church in the area, but it’s mostly married couples.

    Right now, I sense a lot of pressure from family to join their new church, which is Calvinist. But, I lean more toward Arminianism.

    So, right now, I feel like the unwise virgin. Christ is returning soon, and I’m not HOT, but lukewarm. :/ Not FILLED, but barely making it.

  • Rod Koop

    Carey…you wrote, “of course, church attendance is never the goal.” Which is diametrically opposed to the fact that church attendance is almost always the goal. There’s something here that lacks honesty. Can you clarify?

    • Well I hope it doesn’t lack honesty. it’s just if you realize the mission behind every church, you grow. When you grow, you have a larger attendance. That’s the point. Hope this helps.

      • Rod Koop

        It does help, and makes sense as well. I do work with a lot of pastors from many different backgrounds, and though they work very hard to separate attendance as the driver for anything they do, the majority and most honest ones candidly admit they are never able to fully separate their motives from this goal. Thankfully, God is grace-filled and covers this and oh so much more! Appreciate your response.

        • So true Rod. I think you’ve zeroed in on the key: motive. The right result with the right motive = powerful.

  • Mike Slaney

    Reading a few posts here I to must agree with them. I am up in age, very well versed in the scriptures and I love the word of GOD, esp., the Greek, far better than the English. But over all I must agree with the many here on this site. THERE IS A FAMINE IN THE LAND WHEN IT COMES TO THE WORD OF GOD! I have been to many assemblies in Chattanooga TN, and find virtually all feed pablum, I am fed up with pablum(no pun intended) I prefer some MEAT and please keep the grain.
    Most of these Hirelings have Degrees, but teach like children. The emphasis in many Assemblies today is bad music( I mean 7/11 and now more) hipe, lights,

    uninterruptible babel, theater type seats, rock type music with body gyrations, compromise in holiness, biblical nakedness, questionable vocabulary, and more! Now, you wonder why people are leaving. These assemblies are of the daughters of Babylon, off spring of the Mega whore of Babylon the mother. (as stated in REV)

    Of coarse I have been called , a legalist, God cop, a critic and you name it. In return with love say, WHERE? Verses that deals with Holiness, forget, or If eating meat offends my brother, takes a joke, If we love one other, keep my commandments, Oh boy you are a legalist! don’t forget, he that walks in the flesh is an enemy of GOD, Now, your judgemental! These are some of the things I am battling with, do I get angry, yes i do, do i let my wife know it, O yeah, do i let GOD know it, boy, do I. Do i get angry at GOD, yes I do! But I still LOVE them all, and I wish GOD would just stop being slow!

  • Kate Koch

    We quit going to our church because they were focused on making it more “cool” and spending more time worrying about traditional versus contemporary – pushing the traditional services out to make room for contemporary. Maybe it’s the way of the world, but by pushing out the traditional members, they are also pushing out the long time (and reliable) church members.

  • Marcus Taylor

    Why not just go to find truth and bounce ideas off other Christians?
    Activities are what you do outside church, talking to your unsaved friends and trying to make a difference in your sphere of life.

  • Marcus Taylor

    I have a lot of years as Christian under my belt and Bible studies have shown me that I generally know more than most pastors. When others see this they try to get me into different positions within the church.
    Thing is I don’t work to other peoples rules, position doesn’t interest me and neither does being a puppet to line the churches lying pockets.
    A Christian revolution is going to happen and we are coming out of Babylon, the churches are all corrupt at the core with enough teaching slipped in to confuse and drive away less developed Christians. The beast doesn’t care about turnover of people as long as the money keeps coming in but soon there will be a clear divide between Christians that follow truth without an agenda and those that want to buy the stairway to heaven.
    Over a 25 year period (from a child) I have been involved and studied all the main denominations. I’ve taken the elements of truth and the best parts from them and discarded the nonsense. Me and other Christians will use it to help build the true non politically correct church. I doubt I’ll be welcome in a normal church by the end of 2017. Better hated in truth than loved in error.

  • Vicki Hanes

    Rather than a priesthood of believers it has become a priesthood of a few paid staff. There is little opportunity for responsibility of the vision by lay people. If you aren’t a paid, polished professional, your ideas and/or presentation are not seen as “God’s best.” So, you go where you are God’s best, which may not be inside the organizational structure. Not necessarily a bad thing, because you learn or see a different way of “going out.” But you do have less time to spend sitting, listening to someone else talk or sing about God.

  • GREAT stuff! I’d add, “why come physically when I can experience it Socially?” (Facebook, online streaming, etc.) AMAZING preaching and worship experiences are available in your living room like never before. So when people prioritize the church experience above the church gathering (relationships), meeting physically becomes unnecessary. But what an AMAZING opportunity to point people to Jesus through Social media experiences and teach the necessity of relationships through this avenue. As always, keep writing!

  • John Atkins

    A friend sent me one of your articles. I liked it and tried to sign up for your blog… 5 times! I have yet to receive the verification eMail you say you need. Your website provides NO contact link. What gives?

  • HoosierConservative

    I would add one simple reason for my personal household about not attending church: spiritual starvation. If every Sunday morning is a rehash of salvation for the 10 new seekers who stopped by for a visit (or another elementary lesson on not yelling at your spouse), some of us leave the service feeling like the pastor hardly noticed our presence.

    As callous as this may sound, it isn’t worth it to get up early and drive across town for the same nourishment we could have gotten reading Christian blogs in our pajamas at home. Yes, that sounds terrible, but it is what it is.

    • Marcus Taylor

      They already have your money in the bag mate, they need to make new sales.

  • Skinnythia

    My husband and I have been deeply involved in the church all our lives. We are now in our 50’s. Serving as teachers, leaders, and my husband as a deacon in several churchs, we have seen quite a lot of envolvement and change. We have been at the church that wanted us to be there to do all the work, and we learned when to say no.

    We have found the desire for power has always been a huge downfall for the church, by the people and by pastors. But in recent years, the pastors desire for power has seemed to trump the congregation to the point that people in the church who are the tireless workers are destroyed. It seems that even when men of great faith try to help the pastors with their power or leadership problems, the men are castigated for their efforts and that is the end of their service. When people don’t agree with pastors or have a difficulty with them, pastors will even blacklist them. What a Christian thing to do! The entire church becomes a revolving door for leaving workers and others that realize the lowered ethical sitiuation of the leadership, and new people entering, but no one asking why the back door never closes.

    I realize it probably isn’t every situation, but it feels like there are pastors that have an increasing problem with the need to control every aspect of their church, for their own agenda, and they want no one to ‘outshine’ them in any way. They are not disciple builders. The possiblities for the churches’ leaderships are tremendous, but only youth have the opportunity to grow somewhat. Young and older adults have no such opportunities, as all control for anything brought to the pastors to be begun is shackled. When this occurs, what is expected? The adults will eventually see the writing on the wall, that they are not really welcome – though they may try for a while- but they will move on to find another place that they may become part of something useful. When a person truely wants to work and serve God, they will find a way – even leaving a church they love- and go somewhere else, so they can serve God, and be fulfilled in what they believe God wants them to do. If it happens too much, the next place may not be a church.

    • Thanks for this note…I appreciate your honesty but also the heart behind it. Your experience is so disappointing. As a leader, I understand the desire for control but also the need for freedom…I am so sorry your experience tipped the other way. Pray for grace, would you, for pastors and leaders? We need it.

    • Mike Slaney

      I have a heavy heart with you, and I feel that pain and our LORD is the only one who can fill the void and help the pain. He just calls us to be faithful and endure, oh, that does hurt.

  • Christina Joy Gilley

    My 3 year old and I went to Sunday School this morning but we skipped the church service. Why? Because it is Easter and everyone was dressed like a photo shoot from GQ and we only had jeans to wear. Also, my son doesn’t behave very well in our extremely quiet services and some weeks I’m just too tired to physically wrestle with him to sit in the pew and refrain from making noises.

    • I can empathize Christina. Just a word of encouragement. I wore jeans to our church today, and I lead it. Don’t let your worry take you out.

    • vblow

      Find a church that has a Children’s Church taught on their level. Then your child will love going to church and you will love taking him. Believe me, those churches exist and so do those that don’t care if you wear jeans or shorts.

  • JD Minerella

    I think we are missing the most important reason. Lack of any kind of anointing. Most churches today are glorified rec. centers. It’s become all about programming and keeping people entertained. Our pastors have become nothing more than motivational speakers. Our church services are set up to get people in and out so they lack depth. Church has become so man centered that it leaves little room for God at all. I stopped caring about ho many people came a long time ago. My focus now is to create an atmosphere where people are growing more intimate in there relationships with each other and with God. When people have a passion for God and each other the church will thrive. People who are on fire for God don’t miss church.

    • Marcus Taylor

      Unless people there start trying to manipulate them.

  • Dan Sparling

    For some, the decline itself becomes a reason. People they used to look forward to seeing are gone en masse. Emptier pews beget emptier pews.

  • Guest

    Seems many Christians behave no different than secular or Agnostic folks, one example: Donald Trump says he is a good Christian. Evangelicals have little credibility these days when one cannot tell the difference in some of them and an Atheist and Non-Christians. I feel bad for Jesus. He does not deserve people using his label and name in vain like this.

  • notniceslims

    We also have to account for the overwhelming number of folks not attending church having witnessed or having experienced (as ‘victims’) poorly managed interpersonal encounters either as members or as participants in service groups in church.

    Folks want to come to church to find strength for their journeys; they want to come in partake in an atmosphere of never-ending joy, lasting peace, infectious hope for better outcomes and the assurance of the continuous support of a loving family of God.

    But when they get to witness various scandals, unsavory examples of what ‘christian living’ should not be, contentions of various kinds, double-standard living in both laity and clergy etc; they reliably start losing trust (sadly not only in the leadership/followers but also) in the entire institution. Nobody wants to take chances with their lives hence we start seeing littler and littler of them as they opt for other environments.

    But, scale up the scenario to accommodate those who’d been unfortunate enough to have had repeated experiences of various low standard Christianity over a couple of places and you have people who are ready to “quit all churches all together while trusting nobody who calls themselves church workers/leaders ever again!”.

    While we can not control every aspect of people’s interactions with one another, it might be best to focus on teaching people how best to walk Christlike in the spirit, to love without dissimulation, seeking the best of one another while trying to return back to the Savior’s pattern and the pure agape standards espoused in the Pauline Letters.

    Tall order, but if achieved, am sure we would have a revival and Spiritual outpouring of epic proportions on our hands.

    • Guest

      Your comment was right on. It reminds me of when I was invited to a prayer meeting and all they did was condemn the Democrats, Politicians, The President and promote their right wing political agenda. This was more of a focus than Jesus. It was as if Jesus was totally irrelevant in their church or lives and they looked to Politics and their favorite Politician as their savior and god. Needless to say I did not go back to that so called prayer meeting. If I want to hear politics and political strife I can get it from Fox New, CNN or MSNBC all day. Christians can argue, be petty and mean with the rest of them. I don’t need to go to church and mingle with people who spew that crap.

  • pappawtom

    Through the history of churches there have always been periods of growth and then periods of shrinking. Look around at all the different churches in a community and ask yourself why are there so many different ones out there and you will find they are there because we as people do not agree on everything and end up leaving one church for another or to start another. Our human nature is to blame for that since we usually are opinionated.
    We as Christians are trying to tell the world that we love them because we have the love of the Father in us but we do not get along and that message is being received more than any other by the world. We as individuals are getting tired of all this backbiting that goes on in churches in the name of God. As the songwriter said, “I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” The world is watching!
    When you read the Bible you get the sense, and rightly so, that it is not about church since it was the “church” that killed Jesus but rather it is about our personal experience with the Lord. We are the temple as stated in the Bible and those that love the Father have the Father in them.
    Churches were started after Jesus ascended to Heaven and even in the Bible there were problems in the churches as evidenced by Paul’s writings. Maybe the local church would do better if they simply focused on making the church experience a place of rest and encouragement for the weary Christian and less a place to go to to get your sword sharpened! The Bible does not tell us that we are to fight God’s battles but we are to be obedient to His Will and do His bidding as He gives it to us. He will take care of the enemy if we just obey and trust Him for our needs rather than our wants. We were never promised to get wealthy, as a matter of fact Jesus said that is it easier for camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to Heaven!
    Let go of everything and let God lead you through the Holy Spirit is the mission of the church and when we stray from that then people stray from the church.

    • vblow

      True with the back-biting and clickishness… If there is such a word… We moved across several states, found a church and began attending Wednesday night studies and Sunday services. I worked diligently during each monthly dinner staying until nearly two pm cleaning. My spouse made an off hand comment about our little mini Aussie enjoying some icing leftover from a cake… Nothing I made was touched again. It was blatant too. Would they know my dishes come from near scalding dishwasher setting.. Doubtful since dishes at church are washed in lukewarm water with no need for gloves or rinsing in diluted beach.

  • My concern with #9 is the idea of what engagement looks like. If we have a church with minimal programs, and a large body how do we engage everyone, or involve them in a way where their role in the church is meaningful to them? I see a movement of churches wanting to scrap down to brass tack basics, but then wonder why no one is engaged. We’ve take away the various avenues in which they would be engaging and investing in the church. We need to find the balance between intentional programs that will engage people into community, where they build trust and relationships, and then through that trust they will become invested into the body of the church.

    The culture has changed, we can’t expect the unchurched to understand how to plug into the church as the rest of us do. The culture has also changed to where those invested believers don’t want to just sit in the pews week to week, they want to be active members of the body.

    We need to be spiritual gift testing our members and creating avenues where all can serve. Let’s change the #’s from 10% doing 90% of the work. To 100% invested, 100% actively working in the church in some capacity.

    • Marcus Taylor

      You could start by spending more time in practical studies where everyone can speak in groups as part of the service rather than it all being about a handful of people.

  • Cheryl

    Irrelevance. Many churches are now led by the very old. As a single parent, i was never let into the “inner circle” and made to feel less than sufficient. I just got tired of it. There also seems to be a huge disconnect with reality. The last small group I attended (now years ago), the leaders wife, in response to a question to the group about how we could give more, to be more of a help to the poor, was, “You know I get that, I look at my seven sets of tableware and now I’m thinking, do I really need 7?” I was so stunned, I nearly fell off my chair. There were very very poor single moms in that group who walk miles and miles because the extra $3 in bus fare buys 2 litres of milk for their kids. I found myself wondering why I hung out with them two or three times a week. Now I don’t go at all. Is Christianity real for you? I’m tired of hearing that there are broken people everywhere and the people at church are just human beings. Let me tell you this: if I don’t see a difference between bible believing Christians huddled together on a Sunday morning and a random bunch of thugs hanging out at the 7-11 on Friday night, it’s unlikely you’ll see me on Sunday huddled in there with them (on the periphery, along with the other single parents).

    • Marcus Taylor

      Most Christians talk a good game, but there are the odd ones that do try and help where possible. They are usually the ones that don’t keep talking about how to help as it doesn’t take a lot of working out.
      Why didn’t the poor mom’s form a little group where you could all be realistic about things you could do? It’s not all about money, showing Jesus love and letting people know he died for them is the great commission. You can do that the same as anyone else.

  • Jason Anthony

    I don’t go because people are ever increasingly going for the wrong reasons. There are wolves in church and church is a place to get away from that. I would rather stay home in quite peace. Yes! The Sabbath Day is to be kept Holy. I am sure I will be held accountable for this. The other reason I don’t go is that it can complicate life on several unseen levels. The Devil and his minions are all about. The closer I get, the more chaotic my home and life become. I have had church leaders tell me I need meds. Like I said about staying home–I can stay here and be at peace and not socialize with the unexpected.

    • Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

      Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”

      – John 10:22-30 NKJV

      Accountability is an interesting thing. Justice is a conclusion, a point of recompense, and doesn’t necessarily speak to any certain moment now. Basically, in any waking moment, you’re well able to do just about anything you please. We all are.

      The gift of the Spirit is such that if you choose to listen, if you wanted to leave the comfort of home and find challenges that help you grow spiritually, you would likewise have discernment in order to avoid a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. Sometimes your wolf is a sheep, and your sheep is a lion; part of faith is confidence, a trust in the Father, a trust in the Son, and especially a trust in self.

      Nobody here may rightfully judge you; even your peers. There’s one fount with the right rhythm, the right tempo, and it’s always in time and on-time. Anything else is rather noisy, nor will it sound quite right, as it isn’t.

    • Marcus Taylor

      Agreed, I try to keep leaders especially at arms length. Often if they can’t use you they will try to do you down so they don’t look like a failure.
      Don’t give up on Jesus, people out there need the truth and you might be the only person some people meet that has it in a way that is presentable to them.
      At some point you will have to step out into the trenches one way or another, it’s just better to do it on your own terms rather than someone else’s.

  • nick hodge

    I’ve said it many times. The true Sabbath is Saturday since God rested on the 7th day. It’s outlined in the Ten Commandments and is Jewish Hebrew Theology. Jesus was a Jewish Hebrew. Why does the Church follow this Sunday Vatican law they’ve changed around 560 a.d. (approx.)? To me, church is not just four walls. If you see me on the street and can’t even acknowledge me, aren’t you a hypocrite of your own right? Jesus went into brothels preaching! Try doing that now and see how downcast you get…

    • nick hodge

      P.s. Only follow God’s laws and Jesus’ teachings. For the ways of God are eternal life through hope in Jesus, but the ways of the world, and man, are destruction and death.

    • The early church started gathering on Sunday morning in the first century…it was the day of resurrection.

      • nick hodge

        I sure hope so. I would not want to be following Vatican stuff. They try to replace God, which is what Lucifer got kicked out of Heaven for.

      • nick hodge

        I sure don’t want to believe wrong or anything. I try to picture Jesus through the words of the Bible. Jesus really didn’t like synagogues. He turned over tables at one. Churches do yard sales, food plates for sale, and other things.

  • Ellen

    I believe that part of #8 not seeing the direct benefit can often fall on because people want to connect with people in the church, but not be depended on every single week to do something in the church. At a church that I used to go to, it was always you should come to church more often because we need you to do x, y or z. When a church tries to utilize the same people week after week, they start to feel used and burned out. If a church needs to get more people involved to doing things in church, first, make sure that they are interested and can actually commit. Second, offer adequate training so that people aren’t thrown into the ring to handle a task that they may not be familiar with. One of the things that I have to come to realize in my own life is when I attend something, I am more attentive when I am not responsible for handling tasks than when I am responsible for a task. That would be because I am focusing on what I am doing or going to do, and focusing on my queue to step in. I then miss important or interesting points in the program or whatever the event is.
    I did not yet read your article on cultural changes, but I think that one of the things that churches need to start doing is recognize that there are other religions and cultures out there that people in your own congregation are connected to in some way. It would not hurt to become educated about other religions, even if you do not practice or believe in them. So, if a church is so accustomed to bashing or judging other religions because they are not Christian or perceived as non-Christian, that can rub people the wrong way and they might not come back to your church because of that. My mom is Christian and my dad was Jewish. After my dad died, my mom raised us Christian, even though we did not go to church that much. She always wanted to raise us Catholic, but never got around to it. I have gone to a variety of Christian churches, and except for the Catholic Church, the Protestant churches spent so much time judging other religions. It got to a point where that it what I believed that this is what Protestant churches do, bash and judge other religions, condemn them to hell. I have not seen that in any Catholic church that I have been to. You can imagine how that must make a person feel when they go to a church that condemns a religion or belief that a person has or practices.

    • Julia Hannigan

      Huh? It sounds like these Protestant churches are merely following what the Bible says. Sadly, people from other religions are going to hell unless they repent and follow Jesus. The church cannot condemn anyone – people condemn themselves. All the church can do is point them to the truth. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

  • Brett Starr

    Not sure if this has been said yet, but I wonder if, with those who love the church and who regularly attend church, the root problem is that they don’t understand or have not been taught the authority of the Word of God. So when it says in Hebrews 10:24,25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” it is seen as a good suggestion from the church they love and not the authority of and from the God they love.

  • Brian Zehr

    I know i am late to the conversation but i really appreciate this article as well as the additional resources. I find that many committed church attendees see the end result as what the church offers in its programs instead of the on-going transformation of Christ. Unfortunately church cultures often seem to emphasize “steps” and programs so people hear of transformation but catch attendance and involvement. If only we can get our culture aligned to where our behaviors match our values. If we do, maybe engagement in church on a more regular basis has a chance.

  • Greg Kittredge

    What we suffer from is a deficient ecclesiology as well as the lack of a deeply passionate love for Jesus. Unfortunately, blogs like this are what can unwittingly foster the idea that everyone is an expert when it comes to the theology of the church or theology in general. Why is it that when it comes to brain surgery, we would feel foolish trying to tell the doctor how to do his job. But when it comes to the church, everyone no matter what level of training in the Bible or theology, feel free to speak as an expert. How deluded for instance to say that I love and am committed passionately to Christ and yet on the other hand to speak as though I do not need to be just as equally committed to and passionate toward His Body, the Church. How grotesque to suggest that we love the Head but do not equally love His Body. An organic relationship exists between Christ and his Church.
    They cannot be separated. To love one is to love the other. To despise the one is to despise the other. So real is this connection that the apostle John in his first epistle teaches that one of the indicators of Christian impostors is that they do not love the brethren and do not have fellowship with the body of believers– i.e. “they went out from us because they were not of us.” The Church as the universal Body of Christ as well as the gathered local body of believers is God’s idea. I don’t know, I think that what the writer of Hebrews says still stands– but just call me one of those old-fashioned Bible thumpers: “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (10:24,25). Could it possibly be that the elephant in the room–the thing few seem willing to say– is that the North American church is backslidden? That instead of capitulating to the downward trend of church attendance and involvement, we should uphold the standard of God’s Word no matter how many bristle at it? It is certainly true that the “day” the writer to the Hebrews was referring to is closer now than when he first wrote. Then certainly, we should be meeting together “all the more”, not less. Or maybe I’m just getting ever-changing cultural shifts confused with the unchanging eternal truth of God’s Word.

    • Technically the Day draws nearer continually. Imposters may be many, but even bona fides to some may mean a preposterous requirement of proof. Even then, it wouldn’t be enough for others. And someone required to view the Bible as inerrant in all ways finds themselves with a load of working contradictions.

      God’s ideas are unfathomable to the mortal mind. It’s difficult enough for people to understand their own written doctrines and the bonds of their covenants which if held to with a bi-directional binding would be a curse, it would be death. Before Him, when drawing lines in the sand with respect to one’s own or anyone else’s judgment, there is little perspective on the part of society which would impart its own requirement for being compos mentis. There is little to be prideful of, when not a thought in one’s head is one that is much more unique than any other one’s kind has, let alone what the Father might in the time it takes to form such a thought. And still, there is hope, believers can one day even judge the angels.

      We’re left largely to self in our judgments. Stuff like adhering to the Bible should be secondary to one’s own understanding from a relationship with God. Plenty of people imagine such things. They often enough think themselves into their beliefs or imagine it. Yet, there really is God, beyond the realm of madness, beyond chaos and confusion, beyond the noise floor of reality.

      Many people claim to speak for Him. Nevertheless, true Authority rests with God. The Word isn’t some recent idea, it was in the beginning as it is now. Not with the formation of some big ball of mud, but ancient in such a way as to defy enumeration. The Day many people think of as the End is one that is lost with people always looking ahead to their past, conjuring up all sorts of ideas for when and what that is.

      “Remember this, and show yourselves men;
      Recall to mind, O you transgressors.
      Remember the former things of old,
      For I am God, and there is no other;
      I am God, and there is none like Me,
      Declaring the end from the beginning,
      And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
      Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
      And I will do all My pleasure…’

      Mortal pleasure has an end. And immortal pleasure isn’t a guarantee. Would it be that one would have unending glee if they can simply flee the pleasure of sin we let in? Not if then this pleasure would cut the Body off at even one knee.

      Faith is one that holds conviction, even if only in passing or even when facing certain death. No true doctrine should put one of God’s children in harm’s way. Yet some parts of the Body still support politicians and even leaders that take on banners of both extremes of things, up to and even abortion. These things are abhorrent without any written rules, so what is it do we think that God sees? Should we need an obnoxious sign from the heavens, some catastrophic end, for this not to be? Just because a law allows it and such people exist, should any of that be necessary for a society with a faith firmly rooted by the reality of their beliefs?

      Does any man think he has Authority over the Gate? Is it that one can walk to the door and tell those passing by whom can and whom cannot enter? No man, yet there is an endless line of those that think they could take that for which is not rightfully their own, making rites and covenants with death, on their own accord. What should come of those that try to hop over the fence?

      Even still, God doesn’t have to send hail and brimstone to destroy. A false doctrine doesn’t stand the test of time. That’s simply because the truth needs no defense, it literally speaks for itself. Even if humanity were reset, it survives even a loss of record. There are those that know it and go their entire lives telling nobody about it. Does that make them apostate? Are they unworthy of being saved? Those that are most vocal can often use God as a lever. Should they also be held unworthy?

      If one is to speak for God on matters of such profound consequence for all parties, they better be right. Find a man who would like to take a perfect stand, and you will find a Devil waiting to fall. Jesus didn’t and people killed him simply for making them think. Even the truth of what may come of one that knows God and denies Him would be enough for some. So then, in the End, should the Son come with a sword or a shield? Based on the criteria of many people’s expectations, He would need to turn into superman and by those merits might as well also wear a cape. Nonetheless, even if He came a second or hundredth time, nobody, and I mean not a single person would know, without first having His Spirit with them.

  • David Ish

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi

    He might have been living in Pgh Pa. I am a church drop out I am 57

    • Marcus Taylor

      A true Christian is Christ like, most just have a form of godliness.
      Think of it like athletics, if everyone did what they learned in gym class there would be no top athletes as a basic teacher doesn’t know bio mechanics or human physiology or psychology and they probably never achieved much themselves. The guy that loves his sport so much that he will do whatever it takes to be the best even if it means ignoring conventional wisdom which will only take you so far will be the one that is ultimately better than the rest.
      To be a Christian takes not just looking at Christ but practising to be like him and so breeding more understanding and better ability to do God’s will, it’s a positive circle. This would mean ignoring those that have got so far and are happy with their place, ultimately we can never believe we are where we need to be spiritually only that we are moving in the right direction.
      It’s probably easier to focus on not doing the wrong things such as being unnecessarily angry or harbouring grudges etc.
      It’s easy to look like a Christian in the modern sense but actually being the real deal is a career in itself. Don’t give up!!
      At 57 you are still young enough to become an 80 year old Christian guru.

  • Ellie

    Read Todd Horrigans post (posted 1 mth ago) about shift workers. I am in UK but in similar position I’m a nurse on permanent nightshift 4 on then 4 off. I would love to attend every Sunday morning but doing this in the middle of 12hr nightshifts is hard. My rota means I can attend 5 Sundays then there are 3 I can’t without making myself very tired at work that night. To become a full member you must attend a course every Wednesday for a good few months which I can’t do either neither can my future son in law who is in the Army, when he spoke to the pastor about this his reply was can’t they adjust your duty!! We can’t all as soldiers, nurses etc just expect our duty to be adjusted to suit rigid church services but it is a problem when it means you cannot become a full member of your church, there are 700 in our congregation do they all do Mon-Fri 9-5 or are they all fortunate enough not to have to work??

    • Marcus Taylor

      Why do you want to be a full member? Will it make you a better Christian?
      If Jesus rules your life you are a full member of the church, don’t worry about pleasing some man made organisation flying the Christian flag.

    • Julia Hannigan

      Shift workers have it very tough. Could you ask your pastor if you might be able to do the membership class online or at an alternate time? If the pastor cannot accommodate you in some way, I would seek another church if membership is important to you.

  • Scott

    I discovered your blog this morning and have spent an astonishing amount of time (3+ hours) delving into past entries. I have come away from this, admittedly cursory, examination with this opinion: you have little, if any, experience with the NON-churched like me. Your analysis of the reasons for and the solutions to the decline in church attendance indicate a deep-seated ignorance about people like myself.

    I have read the bible cover-to-cover twice now and will begin again soon, but while I have found much that is interesting and even inspiring, in the main I have failed to find the source of awe that motivates yourself and those around you.

    In contrast, the laws of physics as currently understood, most strongly suggest that the iron in my blood and the gold in the ring I wear on my finger were created in the cores of exploding stars and that the atoms in my right hand came from different stars than those in my left. This thought generates an almost overwhelming sense of awe in me.

    You may succeed in showing a few “lost souls” back to your church (or even THE Church) through the “map” you offer, but I seriously doubt you will influence those who were never “lost”, don’t accept that they have a “soul” that can get “lost”, and those who believe they were born right the first time. And until you are reconciled to the fact that these fundamental differences exist and must be acknowledged, you will only see your church’s membership decline with the aging of the population.

    • Andreas

      Interesting points. Of course, that people have rejected the notion of a personal soul, a personal God and a host of other “religious things” through the ages have little or nothing to do with pastors trying to tell of the Good News of Christ. Jesus didn’t exactly have a huge following at the cross, as you have read yourself.

      Yes, physics and the natural sciences do indedd provide much information that is awesome. I’m not sure that they have declared it a fact that life evolved from matter. In fact, I’m confident that they haven’t. So there is that.

      Understand that God draws all people to himself. That is how it works. Some resist, some don’t. It usually takes a tragedy for people to see this, but no matter. The Bible is but one way that God can draw people to himself. A pastor is another. God moves in mysterious ways and one day you will have a chance to reject or accept him. Choose wisely.

    • Marcus Taylor

      I wouldn’t worry too much about unproven laws of physics, if Stephen Hawkins was as bright as he makes out he would have found a cure for his disease rather than daydreaming about universal expansion, blue shift and time travel.
      Just because people are gong to church doesn’t mean their souls aren’t lost, many of them don’t get the Bible either.
      It is sort of in a code that you won’t really understand if you do not have the Holy Spirit. That is why pastors can easily mislead a lot of people and use fear tactics to control them.
      The standard churches are referred to as Babylon in Revelation and they are full of corruption. People want to find God and the truth but they realise they are only getting a diluted version mixed with error. Even though they might not know exactly what is wrong they can sense it is there. I was the same, in and out of church for years, now I know enough to put my finger on things but it has taken 25 years.
      I actually think church congregations will increase as terrorism increases but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Satan is controlling all the pieces on both sides of the chess board, it’s a case of people picking their flavour of whatever makes them feel good.
      Surely you know enough to know that homosexuality and divorce are not acceptable from what you have read?? Yet many churches don’t have a problem with it. To me that is worst than being atheist!!
      If you are going to follow something, follow it, don’t change it to suit yourself.

  • Scott

    “Even among people who say THEIR love the church…”!!??

    Do you actually expect me to take you seriously when you don’t even care enough about your message to proof read your own work?

  • Korgul

    #1 is completely wrong. Replace it with, “More people realizing that all religion is man-made nonsense.”

    • Scott

      Spot on! CN needs to address the positive correlation between the number of years of higher education received and the likelihood that an individual will lack any religious faith.

      • Andreas

        Well, Christianity claims that the more people trust themselves (and their wonderful diplomas or talents or abilities) they don’t see a need for God…which says nothing concerning whether God exists or cares about them.
        Believing has nothing to do with education or talents or abilities, or the lack thereof. We don’t believe in God because he fills in our lack of understanding. We believe in God because we believe that he is real and true and beautiful.

        • The truth is that if you don’t have faith in yourself, then your faith in God sits on equally shaky ground. Taking the leap of faith is having the confidence for going from point A to point B, then actually going in the right direction. By that, for where your faith is placed will dictate the acceptance of obstacles to navigate fully or the pursuit of shortcuts to circumvent.

          Simply put, one has to engender a trust in self, in order that their choices are fostered of by a sound mind. Faith in self and the Father are intrinsic, and it requires all of one’s heart, soul, and mind.

          As trust is formed, so does one’s perception of self and our Father. It is when there is singular purpose that obstacles may crumble, before they’re ever encountered. Sometimes the shortest path home is all the way around.

          • Marcus Taylor

            Or in my case when frustration has overwhelmed me I just threw caution to the wind and prayed God would help me.
            I mean life is boring without risk anyway and the worst that can happen is you will die which you will anyway,

        • There’s more than what was said previously. In terms of confidence of belief, there’s no separation of trusting yourself with trusting your faith. The leap spoken of is not found by way of rational thought; tethered rationality will never allow you to take any leap or with that, pull you back to where you began, once the tether tightens.

          There are two basic kinds of faith. One that is knowing, with a blossomed understanding, given by the merits of growth: having been firmly planted, having taken root, being well nurtured, and producing good fruit. The other precedes it: a seed.

          Believing has everything to with knocking at the door of a fertile garden and asking how to till the land. You can believe everything the gardner says, or not. When put to practice, it is by the fruit that sustenance is found. There’s nothing stopping you from relying on the rains in drought, even if you’re told there’s a well that must be visited continually.

          Taken as simply fair advice, without moving, the belief is emboldening, and still of little value outside of interesting conversation. And as the seasons turn, so do the opportunities of planting and harvesting. In the cold, rich and poor alike starve, without proper preparation or by paying or begging those that have done their due diligence.

      • Marcus Taylor

        There seems to be more educated people in church than ever these days. Which makes it all the more strange that they struggle to grasp the truth of certain scriptures.
        Few people seem to have the gifts of discernment, common sense or critical thinking.

    • Marcus Taylor

      Bang on!!
      True Christianity is a way of life, not turning up to church for an hour listening to one man’s opinions.

  • Lisa Major Elders

    I am wondering about the influence of living away from families. Many of us live states or countries away from our families. We are torn between caring for parents and children. Also, many of us do not have traditional Monday thru Friday work schedules. I am a minister’s child who grew up attending regularly, but now I minister in a hospital and am often pulled in many different directions. For me, there are many reasons that even committed Christians are attending Sunday worship services less. Many churches have even added Sat night or other opportunities for worship to adapt to challenging schedules. But I also know that God knows my heart and He meets me wherever I am.

  • Phillip

    Has anyone come up with a tool to measure these metrics within their churches. I would be interested in hearing from those who attend our church if these reasons for attending church less often are a reality within our community.

  • Todd Horrigan

    I found this in a web search to see what churches are doing today to attract regular attendees… just to see if anybody has any new ideas. I have been in and out of church(s) over the past four decades not because I don’t like church, I truly love going to church, it is because of the type of work I do. I have worked the all night shifts, the Sunday shifts, the evening shifts, and the ‘I-never-know-when-I-work-shifts’ which is my current situation. I could never commit to any ongoing class much less get involved in any sort of regular ministry work because I knew my work schedule would interfere with such things. If I get a chance to attend a Sunday morning service, because I rarely am able to, I feel left out of the loop without any relationships with the people who attend even though I have attended that church for years and years. I see Sunday churchgoers as having been blessed to work a Monday through Friday dayshift job where they have the time to attend Sundays and weeknight events. I strongly feel that there are many unreached people who would go to church regularly if they could, they just cannot go Sunday mornings or even Saturday nights. My search was not to see if churches changed their regularly scheduled lineup. Rather it was to see if any church has ways to reach out to the lost-at-work church members who would gladly come to church if they could.

  • John Crowe

    I find these 10 to focus totally on externals that we can blame for people not coming to church like we can blame for churches not gaining people to come to church.

    How about looking on the inside? I
    would consider these.

    1. The secularization of pastoral leadership whom seminaries now train in a performance and technique model of Chruch, Inc and thus lack any ecclesiology to think of that shapes their pastoral theology from a biblical foundation. Thus, they so often see themselves as the CEO of non-profit run like a franchise.

    2. With the secularization of pastoral leadership has come the secularization of church life molded by a market driven business model which has eroded the earlier theological foundation of ecclesiology due to growing biblical illiteracy.

    3. The secularization of pastoral leadership has also been seen in the lack of training in seminary concerning spiritual formation. This has resulted in churches viewing pastors less and less as spiritual leaders and to an abandonment of the spiritual formation of a church as a body.

    4. The secularization of churches is being propped up by looking to church growth techniques and family systems theory to attempt to build healthy churches. We do this as if ecclesiology and the bible have nothing to do with it. Like a voice in the wilderness crying out to the contrary, there like four books asking churches to ask what does theology/the bible have to do with church health?

    So, I think many of the faithful are no longer attending like they once did for they are finding less and less of the biblical/spiritual ecclesia when they go and more of a secularized religious body that has form and function without real spiritual power grounded in a biblical/theological foundation that comes from an applied ecclesiology of the church being the church by the grace of God through the empowering of the Holy Spirit which shapes the body of believers via the Word of God in a living discipleship that goes beyond just skin deep.

    For more about this see my article online,

    “Doctrine and Church Health” which is based on my dissertation
    “Preaching for a Whole Person Response in Developing a Healthy

    • notniceslims

      If I may put it another way, however incompletely, people are realizing that fundamental factors are missing on so many levels in our spiritual and church lives.

      While, the Church of Jesus Christ started out by the Holy Spirit and power as a Living Organism in the Book of Acts; we are systematically building Church organizations sprinkled over in places with politically-correct market strategies while incoherently spouting “Christenese” in confusion as we labor confusedly over some of the Babel Towers that we label as Christ’s.

      The people may not know or may not even be able to put their finger on it right BUT they sure end up wandering off in reaction to the funny after-tastes such encounters leaves as legacies to them.

  • Tim Cooper

    I’m a person who has undeniably moved away from the Church, despite my father and mother both being a Methidist Minister and Preacher respectively. (In England, UK). There could be cultural differences and differences of experience in what I am writing to your data but I believe that my experience has some bearing to.

    I agree with a number of your points, yet I believe that there is one extra point that I could make which attaches itself to a few you have made. As technology is improving, and more exciting, and also as kids and young families would rather spend time doing sports or playing video games, or if people are simply unable to make it to Church on a Sunday. The age demographic of the church is shifting (particularly in parts of England) towards the majority of attandees being aged over 50 and in many cases over 60. As such church services are being taillored to appeal to more older members pf the community, little is done to attract youth into the church, even less to retain it.
    A confusion between “engaging with youth and technology” and “putting hymns on a powerpoint” exists, especially amongst more stoic members of the church community in the UK. Simply using technology isn’t a drastic change to the format of a service, and something that doesn’t appeal to a child of 8+ in a hymn book as much as playimg sport or watchimg something on youtube, might not appeal as much on a slideshow either.

    I appreciate that you are advocating that churches respond to the times and adapt, I just fear that those best placed to help (namely people aged probably in their twenties or early thirties) are some of the most deterred from regularly attending, and so are thier children.

    That being said I credit the ELIM Church (in which my Uncle is a Minister) in the UK as one of the only church denominations to grow in number as they have the experience and the mindset to attract and keep younger members and to remain youmg at heart.

  • Christopher Cook

    Wow. I read the comments, and there are just so many things to speak to. I can’t even begin to toss in ‘my two cents’ on them all… I don’t have enough ‘cents’ (pardon the pun).
    So, let me just share a small amount from my experience.
    We go to church service at our local church every Sunday morning (barring illness, etc). However, my three teens and I do NOT any longer attend Sunday school. This is due to a recent understanding about how negatively age segregation (at that age) affects our families. I teach my teens at home. I would be completely open to all of us sitting the adult class, but to lessen the division, I chose this route. Also, we have ceased from Sunday evening worship. Honestly, this came out of a personal study that I did on what the Sabbath really means for us. I am not posting that here, but, in short, the Sabbath pre-dated the law and was for our benefit (spiritually). I decided that my family would attend Sunday morning worship, be involved with the ‘personal care home’ ministries in our area on Sunday afternoons, and have family worship Sunday night (we have long had a family devotion after services Sunday night – we just expanded). Also, we often participate in Bible studies throughout the week. While many would shake their head, this has been fairly invigorating for me. Our church is not very ‘ministry heavy’, so it gives us a chance to put more of our time into some things that could matter in others’ lives without totally ignoring the purpose for 1 day in 7.
    Now, there is also the other problem. Churches today are often NOTHING like what we see in the NT. Church WAS a place to corporately worship, but MORE SIGNIFICANTLY, it was (and is/should be) a place where believers come to get support, encouragement, edification and to add their part to the body of Christ. In today’s traditional American service, there is little room for this. Just saying.
    Having said all of this, I LOVE the church. Not some building, but all of you woderful and broken members of the body of Christ out there (and in here) in the world!
    Remember 1 Cor 13:8. All of the questions of our day: prophecies, tongues, doctrine (yes, doctrine matters, but stay with me)… they will all pass away. Only our love will remain. In heaven, everyone will know and agree with the truth, but/and we will LOVE EACH OTHER PERFECTLY. I have said THIS recently: let me be wrong on any other number of issues, but get love right. I don’t want to have ‘perfect theology’ and be judged one day for my lack of love. Based on the two greatest commandments and on Jesus’ ‘new commandment’, I think love is probably pretty important.
    May our love grow stronger one for another that a lost world may see us shine – not based on our church attendance, but based upon the difference they see in our lives – the difference that love makes.
    The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

    • Paul Earle

      I agree. Well said. Loving the Lord and people is the primary thing.

  • Bob Pace

    I could give you many reasons but they point to the same thing: The death of Protestantism. Since there are now 44,000+ denominations it is kind of hard for a Protestant to talk about ‘having the truth’ and/or “having the faith of the early Christians”. Does speaking in tongues exist or not exist? Truth matters. And you can’t really say that your theology is only about 200 years old when there were Christians worshipping and living a particular way 2000 years ago (and still worshipping the same way). Especially when your theology goes completely against the Christian theology of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. centuries. Look it up. Justin Martyr describes the service from about 135 AD and it is what is still practiced today in Orthdoxy. We gave the world the Bible. the Nicene Creed, the Trinitarian Theology, etc.. Your OT still uses Greek names for the books. You didn’t think Genesis was a Hebrew word, did you? Look around and you will find the best and brightest of young religeous Americans converting to Orthodoxy.

    Eastern Orthdoxy…the best kept secret in America!

    • Noel Anderson

      That sounds both unfair and arrogant. Our church knows, studies and respects Irenaus, Clement, Polycarp, Athanasius, Augustine, etc. They are “ours” as much as “yours.” The past 200 years has given rise to some heresies, but to ignore the work of the Holy Spirit since 1816–let alone ignoring the Spirit’s work in the Reformation–seems arrogant. Have you totally ignored Luther and Calvin? Ever heard of Karl Barth? We need our roots, yes, but only as much as we need many, large, outreaching branches.

      • Bob Pace

        Noel, wow. I leave a message six months ago and you flame me without one bit of real evidence. Please get a grip. I am not being unfair and arrogant. In fact, if you want to argue, then please go and find someone else to argue with. A local Orthodox priest maybe. Or, if you want, I know some lay Orthodox people for you to argue with. I just stated my experiences and beliefs. I find it more than a little interesting (and humorous) that you didn’t bring up one salient, thoughtout, specific example. Just rhetoric.

        I humbly ask you, if you think this is both unfair and arrogant, that you PLEASE show me biblically and from the Traditions handed down from the Apostles and NOT from people who I don’t agree with and neither do any early Church Fathers. This might come as a shock to you but I, along with the Orthodox Church, don’t believe the Reformation was the work of the Holy Spirit. Do you also think the slaughter of the Anabaptists by the Lutherans in the years that followed were also the work of the Holy Spirit? It’s a tired trite saying but both Baptists and Assembly of God churches can not both be right. So which one is?

        Read Ignatius and there is no way you can make your claims or truthfully say you are respecting him. He speaks of only unity in Christ: one bishop, one baptism, one Communion, etc. Read any of the early Saints you mentioned and you can’t go down the road you just traveled without twisting their words incredibly. Look at the heresies of the new church like “once saved, always saved” to name just one. But since you asked me, I will give you a brief. quick response. Remember, due to brevity, the following will have holes in it. This is only meant to be an attention getter. A list of things to pique someone’s (yours?) interest.

        Also, I don’t ignore the work of the Holy Spirit since 1816. Nice try. I don’t think the Holy Spirit (which is why I made the comment about the 44,000+ different belief systems of protestants. You must be saying that they are all correct or that the Holy Spirit lies. You can’t have it both ways. This is why there are so many evangelicals and other protestants are coming to the Orthodox Church. People who are active members of the Orthodox Church don’t become evangelical. It is the other way around. Heck, even the Lutherans lost their no. 1 theologian Jaroslav Pelikan. Or do you believe it was the work of the Holy Spirit that led to Luther making critical erros in the execution of his own stated rules on what books should be included in the OT? Seriously?

        Noel, please, I am humbly saying this. Remember, I am just a lay CONVERT. I used to be very similar to you. I am just stating what I have found to be true…and its ugly. Protestant Bible editors have changed/translated words in the NT for their particular political/religious ideologies. Heck, even Luther did that, right? We both agree that he changed a word in the bible, right? Luther also objected to the Books of James, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation (that’s 15% of the books of the New Testament!) and didn’t want them included. Was THAT the work of the Holy Spirit???

        This is not me being arogant. I am just stating facts, historical events and what the Church believes. And since the Orthodox Church is the one started by the Apostles through Christ’s commission of St. Peter, I would say physician heal thyself. Become humble and find out for yourself. Don’t kill me, I am just the messanger. A very ill prepared one, at that.

        As the Apostle Andrew said, “Come and see!”

        • Sometimes the message is found through the resonance in reality that all are witness to. I’ll use the message of the day, from BibleGateway:

          But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

  • Helen B

    Tired of the “same old thing” every week. We need to be interactive at church, and creative.

  • Adam

    The Church or Ekklesia is at its core the assembly of the Body of Christ in Communion with the Head, Jesus Christ. In practice, it is a place to worship God, not sit and listen. It is a place to experience corporately and privately the Grace of God and be healed. It is a hospital for sick people, not a club for elites. Americans have a very soft, cushiony idea of what true Christianity requires. We can look at the Middle East as many are being martyred, or the Russia, which has a renaissance of Classical Christianity having emerged from the yoke of state sponsored Aethism as examples of what Church means and why it matters. If church reflects the secular culture, there’s no need to attend. Its not surprising that the faster shrinking denominations are also the ones that have adopted the modern liberal march to “progress”.

  • Travis

    People “used to” love the church – the sacred space, holiness, spirituality, communion with God, reverence, devout prayer, meditation and soul inspiring worship but all is being traded for musical theater, rock concerts, big screen tv, dancing, lights-camera-action, and fellowship with our neighbors – all of which is available outside the walls of the contemporary Christian “concert halls” If the inside is no different than the outside there is no longer a reason to come inside.

    • judymlowder

      Travis, your description of what church used to be is what I crave today. For that one hour I want to worship, to glorify God, to commune, to send my soul soaring up to Him, or to look quietly within. Worship and communion allow me to be restored. In my opinion that’s the purpose of church: Worship. All the other activities are nice to haves but reverent, sacred worship is what it’s all about. That’s how I get renewed, refocused and re-centered on Christ.

      • Bob Pace

        Then you should go East young man! Go to the Church Jesus Christ set up. The faith given to the Apostles and handed down to us. Depending where you are, I would suggest a former EOC parish (a convert parish made up of evangelicals that came into The Church in the mid-80’s.

  • Odessa

    Here’s my list:
    1. Wolves in the pulpit. Or immature, ungodly, shallow men in the pulpit. Take your pick.
    2. Manipulation and guilt-tripping a.k.a. spiritual abuse
    3. Not allowed to think, question or challenge leadership
    4. Jesus has left the building and the people inside of it don’t resemble Him in the least bit
    5. The Holy Spirit has left the building and doesn’t show up Sunday mornings.(If He did, these discussions wouldn’t exist – people would knock the doors down to meet with God)
    6. Man-made traditions (which Jesus spoke against – and in the OT as well)
    7. Jesus said money is for the poor – not pastor’s vacations and houses that make most of the flock look like slumdogs, and expensive buildings and programs
    8. Prayer has been all but removed from the building and life of the ‘church’
    9. It’s a country club – let’s be honest about how many of our churches are G-rated Christian country clubs.
    10. Sunday is their worst day of the week. After church the ‘grumpiness’ sets in.
    11.Time-set and clocked. The real temple that Jesus would attend on the Sabbath was a ‘come whenever and we’re here’. You would show up when you got there, stay as long as your family was able, and sit, listen, be taught, pick a person to listen to in various areas, pray, give God your tithe, be outside in nature, have discussions with other people, etc. Now it’s “be here from 9-11 and don’t be late. Oh and bring money. Oh and sit, stand, sing this, don’t speak. Come back next week you’re on nursery’.
    12. Many of the people I know have left church for the above reasons and the most important one: They don’t find God or His Spirit inside. They are craving God and His peace and filling. They are deeply in love with God and don’t want to waste time lying to others and themselves by participating in an empty service week after week when they could be out meeting with other believers praying, reading Scriptures, communing with God in nature, resting on the Sabbath, visiting the sick and poor and going OUT to the lost. Not using cheap marketing tricks to invite them IN. They leave because they love God and must serve him with honesty and integrity – not because they’re lazy. They read Jesus’ words and find the church doesn’t resemble them or His life in the least.
    I left the man-made, business model, institutionalized, nothing-like-Scripture church building to find the real God of the Bible. I’ve never been more at peace or more in love with Him. I’ve never had such a deep and consistent prayer life. I’ve never been so loving towards other people. I’ve never had such a deep desire to serve others and my community.
    I found that when I left church… and found God.

    • Tom

      Well said. Wish people would like and reply, because this is the real problem.

    • Cathey Chisholm

      How do you deal with the fact that Jesus calls the Church “His Bride?” And we are commanded not to give up on assembling together?

      • notniceslims

        aThat’s where we often miss it.

        Jesus, in no way, ever referred to “Organized Christianity” as His Bride and neither did He ever widen His Arms to include our understanding and philosophy of ‘Christendom’ in His embrace. Check Revelations 3 well.

        Secondly, when Jesus said “…on this Rock I will build my Church”, He never was referring to any institution or person other than the revelation of Himself by the Holy Spirit to every believer.

        We are not to forsake the meetings of ourselves together per time BUT legalistically putting people under guilt-trips on the basis that attending meeting days is solely responsible for spiritual growth is simply preaching the Word of God out of context.

        In fact, there ought to be room enough to allow people to go digest whatever spiritually nourishment they might have ingested in church from time to time instead of having people compulsively come in week after week ‘hearing much but growing little’.

        Having no desire for attending any meetings whatsoever without any rational or higher cause, on the other hand, might be a sign that a soul was still in need of Christ’s saving grace or healing touch.