Church Health

15 Reasons People Walk Away From the Church

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Most, if not all, of us know someone who attended church but then simply walked away from God’s people. The pandemic, I believe, has only increased that number. Based on my work with churches and the unchurched, here are some of the reasons I’ve heard:

1. They see nothing different in Christians. They come looking for the difference the gospel makes, but they find only people who act like the rest of the world acts.

2. They hear nothing but judgment. Presented lovingly, judgment is part of helping people see their need for Jesus. The problem is that they too often hear it presented unlovingly.

3. They hear only stories and humor. They come to church desperately wanting to hear something from God to help them with their chaotic lives, but they instead hear little or nothing from the Word.

4. Nobody connects with them. They may come with some desire to be anonymous, but most do not come with a hope of being ignored. When nobody talks to them, they see little reason to keep coming.

5. Dramatic life change has turned their attention elsewhere. You would hope changes like the death of a loved one, breakup of a marriage, loss of a job, etc., would drive someone to church, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

6. They see no relevance in its message. Frankly, I lay this issue at the feet of preachers. If we don’t help folks know how to apply the Word in their lives, they leave with head knowledge rather than heart change.

7. Somebody hurt them or their family. Sure, they need to forgive and press on – but some folks aren’t there yet. They carry their anger with them straight out the church doors.

8. Life responsibilities have pulled them away. Having dealt with the care and loss of two parents last fall, I understand how increased (and often unexpected) responsibilities can get in the way of attending church—and you just get out of the habit.

9. They have other options today. Via the Internet, they can “attend” church virtually and listen to sermons electronically. And, they can do that without putting on their “church” clothes.

10. Everything is “over their head.” Nobody taught them the basics of Christianity. They struggle understanding what they hear – and they’re too embarrassed to ask for help.

11. They’re tired of church drama. Some of the most ridiculous interpersonal fights I’ve ever seen have been among believers. It’s no wonder some people walk away from the silliness.

12. Nobody answers their questions. “Just because the Bible says so” isn’t always the best answer for seekers who are asking honest questions in their spiritual quest.

13. They feel unneeded. They’d love to get involved, but no one’s asked them. As far as they know, the church doesn’t need them.

14. They are choosing to live in sin. Giving up on the church is only the by-product of, and “spiritual” excuse for, their personal disobedience.

15. They’re not ready for the commitment. When they really do hear the gospel, they hear its call to give up self. Those who aren’t ready for that commitment avoid its call by leaving the church.

What other reasons have you heard?

Editor’s Note

This blog post was originally posted on Dr. Chuck Lawless’ website on February 4, 2022.

  • Church Health
  • Church Membership
Chuck Lawless

Director of the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership

Dr. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Doctoral Studies, and Vice-President for Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary, in addition to serving as Team Leader for Theological Education Strategists for the International Mission Board. He previously served as a Vice-President for Global Theological Advance for the IMB. Prior to that, he was dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he also served as Vice President for Academic Programming and the Director of Professional Doctoral Studies. He received a B.S. degree from Cumberland College and M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Seminary. He is the author of eight works, including “Membership Matters,” and “Spiritual Warfare,” and has contributed numerous articles to denominational periodicals. He and his wife Pam have been married for over 25 years and reside here in Wake Forest, NC.

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