Why Christians Stop Attending Church
The main reason Christians stop attending church is because they were never Christians to begin with. The Bible says it best: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1st John 2:19). To them, and just like certain businesses during the COVID19 lockdown: church has been deemed a “non-essential service”.
There are many reasons why people may stop attending church. One common reason is that they may have had a negative experience with a church or religious organization. This could be due to conflicts with other members, disagreements with the teachings, or feeling judged or excluded in some way. Other factors are work or family commitments, a shift in personal values, or simply losing interest in organized religion.
In some cases, people may also have a difficult time reconciling their faith with difficult life experiences. Whatever the reason, the decision to stop attending church is a deeply personal one, and can have a significant impact on an individual's identity.
6 more reasons people stop attending church:
1. Lack of connection: some stop because they feel disconnected from God, His people, or both. They lack a Holy Ghost sense of belonging. Without these connections, attending church is an isolating and unfulfilling experience.
2. No vision: many show up expecting the Pastor to tell them who they are and what they should be doing. That is not our place and should only be communicated by God. When someone is at a place where they question the value of worship, they have no vision for their life.
3. Distance/Relocation: people also stop attending because they move away. This is challenging for those who have built deep relationships within a specific congregation. However, when we want to go on vacation, or commute to a well-paying job, distance is not an issue, is it?
4. Changes in life situations: a shift in work schedule, health issues, or caring for a loved one impact one’s ability to attend as well. However, when something is important to us, we find a way to make it work, don’t we?
5. Evolving spiritual needs: As people grow, they may find that their beliefs no longer align with the teachings of their church. I know people who switch churches/denominations for this very reason.
6. Being lazy: most who have stopped attending services are simply lazy. Some years ago on my Facebook newsfeed, someone put a picture up of a NFL stadium. It was below freezing weather, snowing, yet the stadium was packed. What does that tell you?
There are many reasons why you stopped attending church. However, lack of faith, resulting in spiritual laziness, is chief among them. There is no valid excuse, short of a corrupted church/leadership, because when something is important, we make it work.
I was profoundly affected years ago with respect to a congregant who would not attend services. When I became the new Pastor, I went to visit he and his wife often. He was in a wheelchair and obviously somewhat sick. He promised to make it and then would make excuses why he could not.
One day, I was sitting in the cafeteria at a local grocery store. A pickup truck pulled up, and when the door opened, I was stunned. With massive effort, this same sickly man pulled his wheelchair out of a very large truck, mounted it, and rolled down the street. I got in my car to see where he would go. This man drove his electric wheelchair, down the street, at probably 10 miles an hour! I was hurt, but learned church people make a way when something is important to them.
In fairness, if your reason is because of an abusive Pastor, Jesus is going to to deal with them in ways they cannot imagine!
Why I Stopped Attending Church
Years ago, I stopped attending church because I was angry with God. Whether framed as anger or disappointment, the results were the same. My guess is many stop attending church because of anger or disappointment as well. It could be because of holiness demands, struggle to remain faithful, or other reasons.
I know that is a huge statement to make, but sometimes the disappointment is in ourselves. When we disappoint ourselves, that often turns to shame. It is this shame which keeps us out of God's presence. This is not to suggest, however, that we need to necessarily be in a building to experience God's presence. There is value in doing so with respect to being around other Saints, nevertheless. Further, the Bible tells us to do so!
There were other reasons I stopped attending. Chief among them was I was still running from my call to preach the gospel. We must be careful in allowing what the Bible calls “the cares of this life” to lead us away from the Lord. Not only was I disappointed with Jesus, the reason was quite silly. I had worked for some years to maintain a client contract with a company I worked with. Time came that the contract was up for renewal, and the company I worked for did not retain it.
I was shocked, stunned, and hurt because I had done everything right up until that time. It's one of those situations that, while I was still young anyway, I truly believed that hard work paid off. What I didn't see was my misplaced loyalty in the company I worked for. The client wanted me to remain as their contract director but with the new company.
In effect, I was being offered a new position, with a new contract! However, I wanted to maintain the contract for the company I worked for. As you have probably noticed, God provided a way to remain at this place I had come to love but I refused. I was angry at because God didn't provide what I wanted, HOW I wanted! This is the story of most people who leave church.
What are People Who Quit Church Called
People who quit attending church are biblically known as backsliders. I have seen others answer this question in a way which misses this most obvious of answers. This is not, necessarily anyway, to examine the reasons people quit church as we did above either. If, having accepted Jesus Christ, you refrain from following Him, you are backslidden away from God. The reasons do not matter either. There were numerous people in scripture who "slid away" from their God as well.
Here is a list of some of them:
1. King Solomon - Despite being blessed with wisdom and riches, Solomon turned away from God and followed idol gods. (1st Kings 11:1-13)
2. Asa the King - Though Asa had been a faithful king by removing idols from the land of Judah, he later relied on alliances with other nations rather than trusting in God. (2nd Chronicles 16:7-9)
3. Joash - After the death of his mentor, the priest Jehoiada, Joash turned away from the Lord. (2nd Chronicles 24:15-19)
4. Ahaz - Ahaz disregarded God's commandments and instead worshipped idols, even sacrificing his own children to them. (2nd Chronicles 28:1-4)
5. The Israelites - Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites repeatedly turned away from God and followed the way of sin. Who can forget the worship of the Golden Calf? (Exodus 32)
6. Demas - A fellow “laborer in the faith” with Paul, Demas abandoned Christianity to pursue worldly interests. (2nd Timothy 4:10)
7. Judas Iscariot – This man needs no description! (Matthew 26:14-16)
In summary, whether biblical kings or modern day Christians, people who quit attending church service are backsliders. The reason is irrelevant to the act of rejecting God. I thought my reasons valid as well but I was still a backslider.
Can I Believe in God and not Attend Church
You cannot refuse to attend corporate worship and claim to believe in God. Let’s explain the “why” of that statement. You believed in Jesus, so you are reconciled to God through His death and resurrection. Maintaining a relationship with God is only possible through the resurrection of Jesus, accepting salvation. Being a true disciple of Jesus requires doing what He says.
The Bible tells us: “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” We know this “Word” to be Jesus Christ because later in that same chapter (Gospel of John) it says: “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Further, the same Bible reminds us: “forsake not the assembling together of yourselves as is the manner of some.”
When I package that with Jesus’s own words: “why do you call me Lord and don't do what I tell you”, anyone who doesn't follow that biblical process could not possibly believe in God. The disobedient reading this will declare: “I don’t care what you write. I know who God is”! So does the Devil but the pertinent question is: “does Jesus Christ know you”?
Here are seven (7) more reasons some use to refuse obedience in worship:
1. Intellectual doubts – by questioning the value of worship, you've intellectually challenged God and demonstrated disobedience. This is not to say God should never be questioned. The difference is are you seeking Him in earnestness for answers, or accusing HIM of not providing them? There is a world of difference between: "mother, why did we get lost on the way to the park" vs. "mother, we are lost because you never knew where we were going anyway"!
2. Personal hardships - you will experience personal hardships that directly result from the lack of fellowship with other Saints. As was pointed out above, “forsaking the assembling of yourselves” is a direct challenge to God’s authority.
3. Hypocrisy - although you may not be aware, those who regularly attend church can be hypocrites as well. Whomever you are watching on the Internet, or television, cannot provide accountability nor fellowship. This can only be achieved through in-person interactions. While "remote" work may be best for you, "onsite" work provides human interactions and more personal growth.
4. Lack of knowledge - people who believe they do not have to attend service suffering from a lack of knowledge. This is compounded by a lack of faith with respect to who God is.
5. Influence of secular culture – Many who do not go to, or have left the House of God, have allowed “the world” to gain control of their lives. The Bible says: “anyone who loves the world is the enemy of God”. You cannot follow God and be His enemy at the same time.
6. Spiritual doubts - although we all have spiritual doubts, they must not be allowed to overwhelm us!
7. Personal Disobedience - all the above result from personal sin. The good news is we are all disobedient, daily, but must turn back to God in repentance.
In summary, you cannot say that you believe in God and not attend a worship experience of some kind. As was pointed out, it does not have to be in a commercial space and can be in a small setting such as a home. Sitting in front of your television or computer screen just isn't going to cut it! In love, people hide behind computer screens and televisions because they are lazy, have been hurt, or simply don't believe God.
How People Lose Faith in Church
In previous sections, I shared valid reasons why people stopped going to church. One of those was lack of faith. It is, however, important to discuss one of the largest reasons why people lose faith in the church. People lose faith in church because their hope was misplaced to begin with. Let me explain. Jesus, according to scripture, is the “Bride Groom” and the church is “His Bride”. Explaining the historical and cultural context here is beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, only the bridegroom is perfect while His bride has not been perfected yet. Jesus is without sin but those who follow Him still struggle through it.
When we put our faith in anything less than perfect, it will always return hurt and void. I draw more comfort, and less worry, purchasing a brand-new car rather than a used one. No matter how well cared for, used vehicles almost always cause problems more quickly than new cars. We are flawed and broken people, and putting our faith in something that is so flawed will always produce heartache.
I have recently been exposed to just how corrupt church leaders are. Those who claim God sent them to lead and preach to others, should be less apt to continue in a lifestyle of disobedience. Well, or so I thought. This is far from true. I put my faith, even as an experienced Pastor, in church leaders who would later try to destroy my Pastorate and my family. I was angry, and hurt and not because they did so.
My hurt came from the fact they claimed to follow Jesus. If I had less developed faith, this would have caused me to leave the church! However, I was wrong for putting my faith in the church and not exclusively in Christ. The job of a flawed church is to simply point people to a perfect Savior. Do not allow what little faith you have to be overthrown by focusing on what is flawed while forsaking that which is perfect.
Header Image Courtesy of Moshe Harosh @ Pixabay