Tuesday, July 18, 2017

10 Reasons Why People Don't Go To Church

10 Reasons Why People Don't Go To Church

The church growth data is pretty clear. The Western church is struggling.
The 2016 Census data in Australia shows that only 6% of Australians go to church at least once a month. The new data also show a sharp increase in the number of people (29%+) who identify with 'no religion' on their census report. Similar trends can be seen across the Western world, showing people for the most part, are less inclined to be inspired by attending church or the Sunday mass at the Catholic church. Is church growth happening? We can say, in the West, the church is definitely in decline. There are pockets of growth, but the established church continues to be in dire straits.

Let me explain some things before I go further. Let's firstly define the meaning of the word church. The word church is used three times in the New Testament (Grk: ecclesia), and is not referring to a building in which people frequent once a week, typically on a Sunday. The church is a group of individuals who gather together (where ever, and when ever), to worship God, grow in their faith in Christ and partner with God in mission. When I refer to why people don't go to church, I think most people might think of why people don't enter a church building on a Sunday morning, but I don't think the following points are limited to just that. With a correct view of what the 'church' is, this post should possibly be, '10 reasons why people are not part of a church community'.

See also: 10 Reasons Why People Don't Believe in God
8 Reasons Why Churches Don't Grow

One further point is that I think the church is important. The church is God's primary vehicle for transforming the world. God chooses to allow us to partner with the Creator in life transforming mission. The believers gather together regularly to be empowered by God, and through their faith in Christ, others are drawn to discover God themselves, because of the inner working of God in that believer's life. 

That being said, let's explore the reasons why less people are attending church today and whether there is validity in such reasons.

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

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

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

For many church communities, the assertion is probably correct. Though, you could argue, since when was the church meant to be entertaining? The church has changed dramatically over the years, and there are many great churches, with relevant music, relevant preaching, welcoming people and the like. The issue is probably again the perception that people have of the church. Trying to convince people in my part of the world, that the church is an exciting, welcoming place, where lives are transformed, is hard for people to grasp. They have built up negative perceptions of the church. 
Now, if your ecclesial structure is based around common interests, hospitality, craft, tools and handiwork, etc, and less about a one hour time slot of entertainment, then maybe one may be more inclined to be interested. 

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

I always say, the church has an exclusive message, which is available to anyone. There is undoubtedly a tension between a message that is for everyone (inclusive), but the message itself being exclusive. This will never change. Jesus offers salvation for the world. What must change is the Christian's communication of such an inclusive/exclusive message. Bible bashing simply gives people headaches.
The church would do well to stop acting like a country club that only welcomes visitors if they fit their unsaid rules of participation.

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

Maybe we are, maybe we aren't. Nonetheless this is one factor on why people don't go to church. I believe that some Christians who have taken a conservative approach to homosexuality, have quite often failed to show grace in expressing their differing views to those around them. The disturbing pictures of fundamentalist Christians holding up their placards does not do the message of hope found in Christ any favours. The tension for the church today is balancing truth and grace. The church struggles in defining the former and living out the later. 

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

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

It is a difficult one. You have organizational systems that mature over time, where processes develop, and policies and procedures are enacted. Take for example The Salvation Army. When it began it did not seek to have a bureaucratic system, but then someone came along and said, 'We want The Salvation Army to do our wedding'. So The Salvation Army applies to the Government for approval. Then, there is money flowing in from donations. The Salvation Army opens a bank account, employs an accountant, and needs an auditor to look over the finances. I think you get the point. The 'organizing' of the organisation was important and essential to good governance. I don't think this is why people don't go to church. I think it's that organized religion is related to the abuse of power by a small minority of individuals, rather than the mere organizing of a faith community.


Also: Why Australians Don't Go To Church 

Reason 6 - Why people don't go to church - Churches are full of hypocrites

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

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

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

I heard recently that the financial situation in the U.S.A., shows more people are on lower incomes and unemployed than years before, and this has affected the income of churches across the States. A new outlook of faith and trust in God's provision is needed and a greater focus on volunteerism rather than employment of 'professionals' is needed. The emerging church would suggest on taking a look at creative ways to be the church, that do not include such an enormous outlay of capital.

Some may say they don't go to church because the church just wants its money. I do wonder though, how many are feeling a level of conviction about the importance they place on their own finances?

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

The perception is that life will be worse with religion than without it. Though I have issues with the word religion. I know that technically it relates to faith communities, but the word is so wrapped up in cultural perceptions, that I prefer not to even use the word. I don't care much about religion, in the negative sense, but rather a relationship with God.

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

The Simpsons have done well to characterise Christians, haven't they? Some churches are like the modern day Amish, but other churches are just normal, everyday people who love God. No doubt if you look to the education system, for example, you will see some schools who are behind the times, and others who are pushing new ground, and are forging ahead. You look at big business, you see some that are fledgling and others that are booming with relevant products and up-to-date systems. The church is no different. Unfortunately the media like to pinpoint the most flawed church in the country and then flaunt it like it characterises every church in that country.

Don't let one brown sweater put you off. 

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

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

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

All I can say here, is that if you had a different perception of the amazing nature of the God who created you, you would very quickly find ways to reorganize your priorities around such a wonderful God.
Conversely, you could argue the church should do more to deal with its obsession with Christendom styles of church governance, and look at establishing faith communities within the established fabric of society. You will always have time to be the church, if your expressions of faith are genuinely embedded in the every day life of the people.

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


    1. In regards to Christians being judgemental abd complaining, etc, I'm frustrated by the amount of anti-Trump postings that Christians mashes or "like". Yes, he's imperfect - just like you and me. Yes, he has character flaws - just line you and me. Yes, Jesus loves him and died in the cross for him - just like you and me. The fact remains is that he is POTUS and he had an enormous responsibility. He needs prayers, not criticism, just like you and me.

      1. Peter, thanks for your reply mate. I think the same grace and respect needs to be shown right across the board for politicians. People do feel they have a right though to speak out against actions and policies they disagree with. It's when the speaking out becomes vitriolic that there is concern.
        Bless you mate.


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