When People Leave the Church: 5 Things You Can Do

Church in Novoanninsky.

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What happens when people begin leaving the church? Are people simply “doing” church or are they “being” the church? Recently, a friend and I began talking about this issue and it seems that people leave the church because they are only “doing” church.

Here are some numbers to consider:

  • Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts!
  • There were about 4,500 new churches started between 1990 and 2000, with a twenty year average of nearly 1000 a year.
  • Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. This translates into the realization that people are leaving the church. From our research, we have found that they are leaving as hurting and wounded victims—of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect!
  • From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the USA declined by almost 5 million members (9.5 percent), while the US population increased by 24 million (11 percent).
  • At the turn of the last century (1900), there was a ratio of 27 churches per 10,000 people, as compared to the close of this century (2000) where we have 11 churches per 10,000 people in America! What has happened?
  • Given the declining numbers and closures of Churches as compared to new church starts, there should have been over 38,000 new churches commissioned to keep up with the population growth.
  • The United States now ranks third (3rd) following China and India in the number of people who are not professing Christians; in other words, the U.S. is becoming an ever increasing “un-reached people group.”
  • Half of all churches in the US did not add any new members to their ranks in the last two years. ~ Source: Into Thy Word

So, what is “doing” and what is “being” and how can you make a difference in your church?

Let’s look at “Doing Church”.

We all fall into this from time to time. We “do church” because we have to. Our friends are going, what the neighbours will think if we don’t go. The list goes on to reason why we have to go to church, other than the obvious one of “I want to go to church.”

Sometimes, I think the honest truth is that we do not want to hear from God, so we close our ears to the whisperings of the Spirit, and still go to church, but as empty and sealed jars. Light cannot creep in and change the darkness into light.

Doing Church becomes a tedious exercise that interrupts our sleep on a Sunday morning. Doing Church fails as believers of God and His power and it fails our community of fellow believers. If there is no smoke, there is no fire. Ever.

Let’s look at “Being Church”.

This offers all believers a different way of life. There is smoke and there is fire. Being Church is making church come alive, a place of true worship , of true community and true growth.

If more people started being the church as opposed to doing church, people I believe will be more inclined to stay, to catch the fire that you have when you are the church. I am not saying anything about doing stuff for the church, or any “works” whatsoever, I am talking about Spirit.

To illustrate, you attend a party where everyone is fighting, grumpy, irritable etc., how likely is it that you would want to linger. Not likely. And that is what is happening in our churches today. Churches are filled with back biting, gossip, abuse, irritability, fighting, and division.

Now if you were to attend that same party where everyone was having a great time with laughing, lively discussion and a closeness of spirit, how likely is it that you would want to stay to have that good time as well? Very likely.

So how can you be the church and not just do church? Here are 5 simple things we can all try to practice.

  1. Smile and shake someone’s hand. If you simply sit with your arms crossed, that says a lot to people. Don’t wait to be approached first to have your hand shaken, be bold and say hello!
  2. Laugh.  Do not be afraid to laugh in church. The message of Christ is life, and in that message there is a resounding laughter of joy. Share your laughter with the saints.
  3. Worship. Realize that it is not about the music, or the person that stands beside you that sings terribly. Truth is that you are probably not a recording star yourself. Worship is between you and God. That’s it.
  4. Prayer. Ask people to pray for you or if they need prayer. This develops deep relationships within the body.
  5. Have the heart of David. David danced before the Ark and didn’t care that people could see his underwear. He cared only of his relationship with God. Don’t worry about the person that stands beside you and their relationship with God or what they think of your relationship with God. Be free with a heart like David.
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