It seems many leadership and church blogs are talking about people who leave churches. I’ve read about the types of people who leave churches and the types of things churches are doing that cause people to leave. It seems everyone has an answer as to why people are leaving and there are a myriad of people who know how to fix these issues. I’m not sure that the issues are as simple as we’d like to believe. We have to understand that church attendance is on the decline in part because the social expectation of church attendance has eroded, people are more busy and active now than ever before and their priorities are elsewhere. There are more churches and new church plants than ever before and the enemy is at work to keep people from anything that will draw them closer to Jesus.
I’ve seen people leave small churches and I’ve seen people leave mega-churches. Some Christians blame shallow music and entertainment driven worship and some blame a lack of willingness to change and become cutting edge. However, despite all the specifics regarding a church’s worship style, ability to welcome new people, size or other such details, I’ve noticed three types of churches that people leave:
The Member-Pleasing Church
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)
The member-pleasing church is concerned with keeping those in the pews happy. Change often ruffles feathers and reminders of the “good old days” keeps this church from moving forward. Leadership is in a constant battle to move changes forward. This church could often be described as “we shall not be moved”. This attitude drives visitors back out the door and prevents forward-movement which leads not only to numerical growth but to spiritual growth. This church often forgets to think about visitors who might not believe or new christians. This church is concerned with maintaining.
The Seeker-Obsessed Church
He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:65–66)
The seeker-obsessed church builds everything around those who wander in the door. Each and every message, song, lighting, building proposal, and ministry suggestion are all thought of in terms of how it will impact the new person. This church thinks like an ongoing evangelistic campaign focusing on making sure there is never a weekend where the gospel isn’t presented with an easy-to-respond-to-time. The seeker-obsessed church can easily lose focus on the fact that the church is made up of believers. The danger is that the seeker sensitive church will water down the message and the discipleship/depth will be shallow or non-existent, driving away the mature believers.
The Directionless-overcomplicated Church
“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained…” (Pr 29:18)
The directionless church has a vision, values and mission statement. This Church hasn’t rethought their mission. They’re so busy in the trenches they don’t think to re-evaluate who God is calling them to be. They’ve got a half-baked ministry to replicate ministry other churches have in town. They think they must be all things to all people. By attempting to be everything to everybody they end up just being so complicated that visitors might not even visit after checking out their over-inundated website.
We don’t want to see people leave the church. But as the church we cannot always blame those who leave. We must be willing to re-evaluate ourselves. We must be willing to look in the mirror and ask God for some honest perspective. How might God be challenging your church to change to reflect His call on your local church? We’re not to copy the church down the street or the popular one we read about. We’re to embrace God’s call for the local body and that might mean realizing the way we operate our church is driving people away.