Why Do People Leave the Church?

Someone asked me the other day, in a conversation we were having on a completely different topic, ‘why did so and so leave the Church?’

There are, as you can imagine, a lot of reasons usually given for why people leave the church but they all boil down to two basic reasons.

First, people leave the Church because – as Jesus explained in his parable of the seed – they have no spiritual depth and let other concerns dominate their lives:

“Behold, the sower went out to sow, and while he was sowing, some seed fell on the side of the path, and the birds came and devoured it. And other seed fell on the rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up at once because it did not have any depth of soil. But when the sun rose it was scorched, and because it did not have enough root, it withered. And other seed fell among the thorn plants, and the thorn plants came up and choked it. But other seed fell on the good soil and produced grain, this one a hundred times as much and this one sixty and this one thirty. The one who has ears, let him hear!”

That’s probably the most common reason. People leave the Church because they simply don’t have interest in spiritual things (except for a moment) and they let other things take the place of God in their lives.

And second, more tragically, some folk leave the Church because in their hearts they were never really there in the first place, never really committed to God but simply appearing to be in order to profit from their appearance in the congregation. These are the sort of people who leave the church because they’re ‘mad’ about something or because the church has ‘done’ something to ‘hurt their feelings’. Such reasons are, however, a smokescreen for the authentic reason- they were members and participants simply long enough to use the church for their own ends.

Let me illustrate with something that every Christian in every church has seen. A young girl wants to get married but she isn’t a member of any church. She hears, through friends, that members of such and such a church get married at their church at no cost and so she joins such and such a church and once the wedding is over, she and her new husband (who was never a member in the first place) are never seen again.

Examples like this could easily be multiplied, from the politicians who show up just before elections to the seekers of gas who attend the weekend gas cards are given away to those wanting a rifle who enter the church gun giveaway. The cold terrible fact is that such ‘attenders’ are treating the church, and God, as though it existed for their benefit rather than that they exist to serve and worship God Almighty. They have mercenary dispositions and wish only to receive rather than fully participate.

1 John expresses it this way-

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us. But they went out, in order that it might be shown that all of them are not of us.”

The fact is, people leave the Church either because they are actually disconnected from God and have no interest in being connected to God; or they have gotten what they want from God (and his Church) and no longer have any use for either.

Consequently, when people tell me that they are leaving the Church or when someone tells me that so and so has left and will never be back, I always say ‘I hope one day they will really love God as much as they want people to think they do’.

But such persons also need remember that ‘God will not be mocked’ and that, in sowing what they have sown, they will soon enough reap the consequences.

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About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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