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Dear Church, Here's Why People Are Really Leaving You

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  • Dear Church, Here's Why People Are Really Leaving You

    Being on the other side of the Exodus sucks, don’t it?
    I see the panic on your face, Church.
    I know the internal terror as you see the statistics and hear the stories and scan the exit polls.
    I see you desperately scrambling to do damage control for the fence-sitters, and manufacture passion from the shrinking faithful, and I want to help you.
    You may think you know why people are leaving you, but I’m not sure you do. You think it’s because “the culture” is so lost, so perverse, so beyond help that they are all walking away. You believe that they’ve turned a deaf ear to the voice of God; chasing money, and sex, and material things. You think that the gays and the Muslims and the Atheists and the pop stars have so screwed up the morality of the world that everyone is abandoning faith in droves.

    But those aren’t the reasons people are leaving you.
    They aren’t the problem, Church.
    You are the problem.
    Full Article

    #2 is increasingly a problem for my wife, who wasn't raised in church yet follows Christ as best she can because she loves people.

    My parents balked the first time they wanted to play Bible Trivia because my wife didn't know who Samson or Jehu or Aquila or Ananias were or where Paul was bitten by a viper.

    Yet as she pointed out (later, because even after five years of marriage she's still uncomfortable voicing a contrary opinion about religion around my parents), how would that knowledge make her better at loving people and living selflessly, as Christ commanded and lived by example?

    Yet church people treat it as VITAL to living a Christ-like life, and have built up such a store of platitudes and insider cliches over the past hundred years, in addition to the various over-quoted Bible verses, that it seems to require concentration to speak in everyday language.

    I've learned from experience that because so many Atheists and Agnostics in this country are former church kids, throwing Bible verses at them in an attempt to witness is exactly the kind of buzzword-based (hehe) platitude spewing that sent them running from church in the first place, yet so many church people refuse to say anything in their own words (God forbid their personal testimony carry more weight than a four thousand year-old collection of writings), and when outsiders don't respond positively to platitudes blame it on the outsider "not really listening" or "living in sin."

    Even if the problem is me, it’s me who you’re supposed to be reaching, Church.
    So, for the love of God; reach already.
    “In many ways the evidence of our faith is found in our ability to control our tongue (or our keyboard)."
    -Adam Hamilton, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White

  • #2
    Many consider it a prediction fulfillment
    "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole, it was like... we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." - Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State (source).

    Comment


    • #3
      The article's a little scattershot. The rock-n-roll light show churches are typically not the ones who use a lot of Christianese and require a concordance. One thing I like about Orthodoxy is its unapologetic commitment to tradition. I do wish it were mission-minded; I think it would help in that area if it were more organized here (which is an area which is slowly being addressed).
      Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

      Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
      sigpic
      I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
        The article's a little scattershot. The rock-n-roll light show churches are typically not the ones who use a lot of Christianese and require a concordance. One thing I like about Orthodoxy is its unapologetic commitment to tradition. I do wish it were mission-minded; I think it would help in that area if it were more organized here (which is an area which is slowly being addressed).
        The (blind) adherence to tradition is one of the things killing the American church regardless of denomination, since it leaves no room for personal experience or interactions/connections with those of different backgrounds.

        Not to say that the rock 'n' roll churches aren't also to blame for the decline, but in both there is a lack of a sense of authenticity.

        It doesn't help that the conflict tends to fall along generational lines, especially given that we now have at least one generation of adults who grew up with the Internet, and were not (could not be) locked down to only interacting with people in their immediate physical vicinity who tend to have the same point of view as they do, which seems to be a common tactic employed in years past by church people who wanted to ensure that their prejudices were passed to the next generation.

        We are seeing more and more examples of the Experience pillar of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral taking center stage over the Tradition, Scripture, and even Reason pillars, because one's personal experiences cannot be disproved.

        You cannot rationally tell a person "No, you DIDN'T experience that" and expect them to respond positively.
        Thus personal experience and relationships becomes the foundation for the faith of more and more former church members, instead of church tradition or knowledge of scripture as was for their grandparents, or reason and apologetics was for their parents.
        “In many ways the evidence of our faith is found in our ability to control our tongue (or our keyboard)."
        -Adam Hamilton, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Buzzword View Post
          The (blind) adherence to tradition is one of the things killing the American church regardless of denomination, since it leaves no room for personal experience or interactions/connections with those of different backgrounds.
          Why is it, then, that the churches which hold least to doctrinal tradition are hemorrhaging members the fastest? And "personal experience" is why many are attracted to Orthodoxy.
          Not to say that the rock 'n' roll churches aren't also to blame for the decline, but in both there is a lack of a sense of authenticity.
          The authenticity of the Orthodox Church was a draw for me.
          It doesn't help that the conflict tends to fall along generational lines, especially given that we now have at least one generation of adults who grew up with the Internet, and were not (could not be) locked down to only interacting with people in their immediate physical vicinity who tend to have the same point of view as they do, which seems to be a common tactic employed in years past by church people who wanted to ensure that their prejudices were passed to the next generation.
          These days, there's the opposite problem - churches in general are doing a terrible job of teaching the faith; when people are exposed to a different way of thinking, they're ill-equipped to explain their own POV.
          We are seeing more and more examples of the Experience pillar of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral taking center stage over the Tradition, Scripture, and even Reason pillars, because one's personal experiences cannot be disproved.

          You cannot rationally tell a person "No, you DIDN'T experience that" and expect them to respond positively.
          Thus personal experience and relationships becomes the foundation for the faith of more and more former church members, instead of church tradition or knowledge of scripture as was for their grandparents, or reason and apologetics was for their parents.
          One reason I like the Orthodox Church is that it is much more balanced than what I've seen elsewhere; experience, tradition, scripture, and reason are all there in complementary quantities.
          Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

          Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
          sigpic
          I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

          Comment


          • #6
            A pathetic, completely false article.

            Originally posted by The article
            Every day we see a world suffocated by poverty, and racism, and violence, and bigotry, and hunger; and in the face of that stuff, you get awfully, frighteningly quiet.
            Just more liberalism.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
              A pathetic, completely false article.



              Just more liberalism.
              Care to do more than just namecall?

              Because his points pretty much match up exactly with my experiences in the Bible Belt.
              “In many ways the evidence of our faith is found in our ability to control our tongue (or our keyboard)."
              -Adam Hamilton, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Buzzword View Post
                Care to do more than just namecall?

                Because his points pretty much match up exactly with my experiences in the Bible Belt.
                If there's one place in which chuches are REALLY dying, it's the Bible Belt.
                "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:12

                There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Buzzword View Post
                  I'd have to agree with OPB that it is a bit scatter-shot, but not terrible. For example, church's that are guilty of the first one, are not usually guilty of some of these other points (1 would go better with point 3). Point 2 is alright, but you are dealing with people of many different levels that could end up being rather board and unmoved when you present messages without more meat (I'd be board, with a stream of milk type sermons). Point 3 has merit too, a church that doesn't have an active community relationship and isn't doing some sort of missionary support... I'd see as having some serious issues. Point 4 I do think is a stronger point. Such people that engage in easy protest and make it their only mission I do have to wonder about it. While issues of freedom are important, they can't be all we do. Point 5, I think is alright when you are dealing with those who are first making the journey to Christ, but can be an issue for mature believers. The sign of being brought closer to Christ is for us to leave those sins of our past behind. A drunk who becomes a Christian should start to find themselves taken away from their own life and brought into a new life. Will they still struggle with temptations, including excess drinking? Of course they will, but I would have to question somebody who claims to be a Christian, but doesn't act like they are. Sooner or later, you do have to ask the question. Now on the rest of it, to a degree, I think we all should be challenged in our church and we shouldn't always come away from church in some 'feel good manner'. Once in a while, you do need to squirm in your seat and be challenged to change our ways.

                  #2 is increasingly a problem for my wife, who wasn't raised in church yet follows Christ as best she can because she loves people.

                  My parents balked the first time they wanted to play Bible Trivia because my wife didn't know who Samson or Jehu or Aquila or Ananias were or where Paul was bitten by a viper.

                  Yet as she pointed out (later, because even after five years of marriage she's still uncomfortable voicing a contrary opinion about religion around my parents), how would that knowledge make her better at loving people and living selflessly, as Christ commanded and lived by example?
                  It can help out, in many ways when you run into people that are trying to sell you snake oil. About 8 years ago, I was visiting my parents and some Mormon missionaries happened to knock at the door and I answered it. I did listen to them and asked them where the Bible gives their views. They gave some passages and I reached into my bag and grabbed my Bible and went straight to the passages and showed where it wasn't backing up anything they said. They got speechless and left. To this day, my parents have told me that the Mormon's avoid their house. Would I be able to do this, if I didn't gain a further knowledge of the faith? No, but this might not be the path for everybody. Some of us may not become little Bible experts, but that is the reason the church is called 'the body of Christ' because some of us are better than others, in these areas. I personally do think embarrassing people, just for the sake of doing it, is a wrong thing to do, but that is a valid example of how this knowledge can help you serve God. Just as you shouldn't forsake some of the emotional aspects, we also shouldn't forsake some of the intellectual aspects either. I for one, love to discuss church terms and could engage in a conversation over these 'Christian' terms, without a problem.

                  If your wife wants help, in this area, I'd suggest on a good study Bible. It was one of the first books I bought, upon deciding to be a Christian myself and was very helpful for building up some of those concepts that end up getting 'lost in translation'. I'd also suggest to take the time and read the entire Bible, using a good study Bible, as a guide. I bought an older edition of this one and I think it is a great start to building up some of that basic knowledge that builds a good foundation (I still use it today too, although it is falling apart and I should order this edition and retire my old one).

                  Yet church people treat it as VITAL to living a Christ-like life, and have built up such a store of platitudes and insider cliches over the past hundred years, in addition to the various over-quoted Bible verses, that it seems to require concentration to speak in everyday language.
                  I wouldn't call it so much 'vital' as 'important' because it does help to build up a decent foundation. Of course, I think church's can fail in building up this foundation and thus why stepping into some church's can seem like stepping into The Twilight Zone. Some of them might step from basic math, straight up to calculus, is it any wonder people end up getting lost? Like I said, a decent study Bible can be a great start. I'd also suggest on some good reading material too. Mere Christianity is a pretty good introduction in some basic Christian content, without the weird words and phrase talk that sometimes dominates some church's. Even though it is a very old work (it was published in 1952), it is a pretty easy read and easy to understand. Even some Christian scholars, read it time to time.

                  I've learned from experience that because so many Atheists and Agnostics in this country are former church kids, throwing Bible verses at them in an attempt to witness is exactly the kind of buzzword-based (hehe) platitude spewing that sent them running from church in the first place, yet so many church people refuse to say anything in their own words (God forbid their personal testimony carry more weight than a four thousand year-old collection of writings), and when outsiders don't respond positively to platitudes blame it on the outsider "not really listening" or "living in sin."
                  Personal testimony is only part of the story (William Lane Craig does say it plays a huge part and even wrote about it in Reasonable Faith), but the Bible is kind of the writing that tells us very important lessons, teachings, and words that we would be wise to listen to. Besides, even Satan can appear as an angel of the light, so it is important thing to know the basics, so we don't end up falling for things that are false. The answer is that we need both. We need experiences with God and we need some guidance, to our journey. Without both, working together, we can easily be lead astray and run into serious problems. Well, hope this helps.
                  Last edited by lilpixieofterror; 01-10-2015, 10:00 AM.
                  "The man from the yacht thought he was the first to find England; I thought I was the first to find Europe. I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy."
                  GK Chesterton; Orthodoxy

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Darth Executor View Post
                    If there's one place in which chuches are REALLY dying, it's the Bible Belt.
                    The so called liberal churches are the dying churches. The faster growing churches are the so called conservative churches.

                    According to the 2010 census, the Roman Catholic Church while on decline is the largest church group in the USA. The second largest group are the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. The fastest growing church group in about half the states to be the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ aka Mormons*. see here.

                    Source:

                    002.jpg

                    © Copyright Original Source



                    * not orthodox
                    Last edited by 37818; 01-10-2015, 02:10 PM.
                    . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

                    . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

                    Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Not a bad article on the subject. I wishes it was longer on solution and less on problems.

                      I don't think basing a church on people's experiences is going to hold together. How do you determine whose experience is valid and whose isn't? How do you resolve issues when experiences conflict. It just seems like the foundation has become quick sand.

                      Also, I found little mention of God throughout the article. The church exists to serve as God's representative on earth. I think some church issues would resolve if God was taken more seriously.
                      "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                      "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 37818 View Post
                        The so called liberal churches are the dying churches. The faster growing churches are the so called conservative churches.

                        According to the 2010 census, the Roman Catholic Church while on decline is the largest church group in the USA. The second largest group are the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. The fastest growing church group in about half the states to be the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ aka Mormons*. see here.
                        I think this is the more important map:


                        The article discussing is here: http://www.theamericanconservative.c...ine-northeast/

                        Regardless of the specifics of the beliefs, where is Christianity dying.
                        "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                        "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                          Why is it, then, that the churches which hold least to doctrinal tradition are hemorrhaging members the fastest? And "personal experience" is why many are attracted to Orthodoxy.

                          The authenticity of the Orthodox Church was a draw for me.

                          These days, there's the opposite problem - churches in general are doing a terrible job of teaching the faith; when people are exposed to a different way of thinking, they're ill-equipped to explain their own POV.

                          One reason I like the Orthodox Church is that it is much more balanced than what I've seen elsewhere; experience, tradition, scripture, and reason are all there in complementary quantities.
                          I'm inclined to agree with this response. While I agree with the objections the OP has, as One Bad Pig says, there are churches that don't have those objections, and they are losing members faster than conservative churches. The ones that seem to be growing are, indeed, those that produce some kind of experience. It may be the Orthodox experience, or the Pentecostal experience. Most people who look at the data think the Pentecostals are doing the best. But still, the overall trend is down, with churches that emphasize experience doing the best.

                          I agree with Thoughtful Monk about difficulties with experience. But if (as I'm going to suggest below) the biggest issue with Christianity is just that it doesn't make a difference to people, it may be that a real experience is the most convincing part of traditional Christianity at the moment. What makes a difference for people isn't always something that's philosophically defensible.

                          There's lots of documentation on what people don't like. For the younger generations, "unchristian," from the Barna organization, does an excellent job of documentation. The problem is that, like the OP, there's a Christian group that seems precisely designed to meet the objections they document -- the mainline -- and it isn't doing well. So either people are *so* stuck with their traditions that they'll leave Christianity before they change traditions (which I admit is possible), or there's something else going on.

                          My theory is that Christianity simply doesn’t have a purpose for most people. It’s an oversimplification to focus too much on one thing. But there are a number of purposes that churches served in the past that they no longer serve:

                          * saving people from hell; while most Christians believe in hell, I don’t think even conservatives are as afraid of hell as people were in the 19th Cent. I don’t think it’s entirely intellectual. It’s not just a doctrinal issue (though many Christian traditions are currently uncomfortable with traditional ideas of hell, even if they are maintaining them); it’s a cultural one: you can believe something in principle, but that doesn’t necessarily say how much it impacts your life.

                          * serving as a center for our lives; there are lots of other places people can get together; the church doesn’t play the same key social rule as it used to. It’s in part what economists speak of as a “network effect.” As long as most people go to Church, there are advantages for me to do so: it’s a good place to make friends, to see potential customers, to socialize with my boss and people who might make decisions to promote me. But as soon as only a few people go, the social and most other practical benefits evaporate.

                          * intellectual issues; while this is part of the case from the OP and “unchristian” that I have concerns about, still, I think that more people today find the core Christian message unconvincing. The world doesn’t look to most sensitive people like a place under God’s control. That Christians are known publicly (whether this is fair or not) as opposing science, history, and scholarship doesn’t help, but I think the real issue is more a gut-level issue: To most people God doesn’t seem to make any difference in the world or their lives.

                          We can try various evangelistic enterprises, but at the moment I don’t see much hope of changing these things, at least in the US and Europe.
                          Last edited by hedrick; 01-11-2015, 02:42 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by hedrick View Post
                            My theory is that Christianity simply doesn’t have a purpose for most people. It’s an oversimplification to focus too much on one thing. But there are a number of purposes that churches served in the past that they no longer serve:

                            * saving people from hell; while most Christians believe in hell, I don’t think even conservatives are as afraid of hell as people were in the 19th Cent. I don’t think it’s entirely intellectual. It’s not just a doctrinal issue (though many Christian traditions are currently uncomfortable with traditional ideas of hell, even if they are maintaining them); it’s a cultural one: you can believe something in principle, but that doesn’t necessarily say how much it impacts your life.

                            * serving as a center for our lives; there are lots of other places people can get together; the church doesn’t play the same key social rule as it used to. It’s in part what economists speak of as a “network effect.” As long as most people go to Church, there are advantages for me to do so: it’s a good place to make friends, to see potential customers, to socialize with my boss and people who might make decisions to promote me. But as soon as only a few people go, the social and most other practical benefits evaporate.

                            * intellectual issues; while this is part of the case from the OP and “unchristian” that I have concerns about, still, I think that more people today find the core Christian message unconvincing. The world doesn’t look to most sensitive people like a place under God’s control. That Christians are known publicly (whether this is fair or not) as opposing science, history, and scholarship doesn’t help, but I think the real issue is more a gut-level issue: To most people God doesn’t seem to make any difference in the world or their lives.

                            We can try various evangelistic enterprises, but at the moment I don’t see much hope of changing these things, at least in the US and Europe.
                            Fascinating breakdown.

                            Though I would differentiate between the purposes which churches serve vs. the purposes Christianity (as a belief system) serves.

                            The first two are obvious purposes of the physical church building and the weekly meetings.
                            The third is a little more vague, especially given that we have a glut of evangelicals pushing a political agenda which to most rational people seems counterintuitive because among other things it demonizes scientific advancement, while spouting its agenda though social media and the Internet.

                            Oh irony of ironies.

                            The hope for change requires a change in methodology.
                            We can no longer spout Bible verses or our little store of pat answers and platitudes and expect to make a difference.

                            We can no longer treat church buildings like ships in a tossing sea, in part because too many church people have added to the tossing.

                            We can no longer fall into a weekly routine of "going to the house of the Lord" and assume our little institutional participation will be enough.
                            Which isn't a new concept; pastors were railing against "playing church" when I was a kid, but I bet they expected people to either continue playing church or get genuine in the church, rather than leaving.

                            We can no longer expect a conversion.
                            Tough truth, that.
                            But if we truly take a stance of valuing persons with whom we build relationships (which is and always has been the only truly effective form of witnessing), we must do so whether they accept Christ or not.

                            All we can do is our best imitation of Christ, and pray that the Spirit will work through us, all the while pledging to love the person no matter what they decide to believe or not believe.

                            If it seems to most people that God doesn't make a difference, then we must demonstrate that the difference in how we treat people is due to Christ's presence in our lives.

                            I've lost track of the number of Atheist and Agnostic friends who have told me "I wish there were more Christians like you," and while it feels uplifting, it also hurts my heart, because most of these friends were raised in a traditional church environment.
                            “In many ways the evidence of our faith is found in our ability to control our tongue (or our keyboard)."
                            -Adam Hamilton, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I would argue that the experience while the most dangerous, is also the thing that will actually get the attention of the unsaved. I had an experience and then I explored Scripture, came to understand it through reason and tradition, and I trust Scripture ONLY because I had an experience that conformed to it (It was before I learned the apologetic reasons to trust it).

                              Experience is why the EO are growing from the loss of traditional Protestant churches. And experience is why the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is growing. I think the EO over emphasize tradition, but us Pentecostals under emphasize tradition and sometimes use faulty reasoning leading to heretical sects, Oneness, and Prosperity being the two notable out growths.

                              All five criticisms could be sent toward us, but I just haven't experienced it at my home church or the churches I've visited (with one notable exception that was a general Evangelical non-denom.)

                              1. The closest I've seen is the independent church I mentioned that had a rock band instead of (even a modern) worship team.
                              2. I've occaisionally heard about being washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and I've heard the even more modern terms like "prayer channel" the older stuff is not particularly prevalent other than calling people "brother" or "sister" which I like. I am weirded out that we are developing codified language as short hand for spiritual truths based off metaphor. I want this to change, and become more real, but it's not "scary" just foreign.
                              3. Again, that independent church I visited had plushy couches that didn't seem fit for sitting, a coffee bar, basketball hoops, chic wooden stage, and weird religious art.
                              4. I think a valid criticism of the American church at large, since this finally seems to be addressing the Church instead of churches.
                              5. I can kinda see it, I don't like talking politics at church because I'm more liberal than usual, but I know tattoos are not nearly as common away from Southern California, but they are not made a fuss about, should Christians divide over doctrine? Maybe not. Should we divide away from the world's ideas of heaven and hell and doctrine where they are contrary to the churches? Yes, and that is why I don't give as much credence to this criticism.
                              Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

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