They’re Leaving in Droves?
The question, “Why are people leaving the church?” raises several issues critical to the health and life of the church, especially the church in North America.
Once possessing a “favored place at the community table” along with other community leaders, with portfolio and reputation to boot, the church in North America is now hemorrhaging members at an alarming rate. Further, the indifference toward the church by non-attenders and unbelievers has been a shock to the often insulated and isolated members of an all too often recalcitrant church. To make matters worse, most people in the church are clueless as to the reasons for this indifference.
Recent studies have recognized the difficulties facing the church in reaching a new generation of unbelievers and unchurched people. In a recent summary of his new book in the Lifeway publication Facts and Trends, Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, James E. White analyzes the challenge of reaching people who are, at best, indifferent to the church and seemingly unmoved by the message of the Gospel.
White notes ten characteristic of the “nones”:
1) he is a he — women tend to be more open to spiritual things, while men are more skeptical, less committal;
2) he is young;
3) he is white, although a growing number of non-white persons are showing interest in religious traditions other than Christianity;
4) he is not necessarily an atheist — God, at best, is a universal spirit, a deist theological position;
5) he is not very religious — choosing not to identify with an organized, religious body, while, at the same time he considers himself spiritual;
6) he’s most likely a Democrat;
7) he thinks abortion and same-gender marriage should be legal — thereby turning traditional definitions of marriage and family upside down and inside out;
8) he considers himself morally liberal to moderate at best;
9) he is not necessarily hostile toward religious institutions — institutions, he might say, too concerned with money and power; these institutions are non-essential; and,
10) he is more than likely a Westerner — someone located west of the Mississippi River.
White’s analysis of the current religious terrain reflects the research by such respected institutions as Barna Research Group, Lifeway Research, and other reputable groups that analyze such data.
In sum, White said people are leaving the church because:
1) the church is too narrow-minded and unbending on moral issues;
2) the church is more interested in propping up the institution of the church rather than fulfilling the mission of the church;
3) the church is legalistic and not gracious and merciful enough;
4) the church has isolated itself from the lives of real people and is, therefore, disconnected from the reality of life;
5) the church is anti-intellectual, rejecting the claims of science and modernity;
6) the church is antiquated in its methodologies, methodologies that were effective at one time but are no longer essential and effective;
7) the church is not very warm and loving, failing to recognize people want intimate and personal settings for relationship building in order to work out their spiritual and personal issues, not systems that are large, cumbersome, and unwieldy — and the list could go on as to why people are leaving the church.
The church in North America is in trouble.
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SOURCE: The Christian Post