3 Seldom-Discussed Reasons People Are Abandoning The Church


In several past posts I’ve been very candid about some of the legitimate reasons so many people are abandoning the institutional and organized forms of church.

But in this post I want to look at the other side of the issue. I want to offer 3 seldom-discussed reasons people are abandoning the church.

Our Culture

I believe that many people who profess to be “Christians” are not aware of the effect that our post-modern and post-Christian culture is having on their commitment to Christ and their commitment to His Church.

It’s the “frog in the kettle” syndrome.

Little by little the values and voices of our current culture are influencing our thinking, rearranging our priorities, and changing our choices. Our culture is influencing many of us to such a degree that our clarity in the gospel of Jesus Christ and our committment to the Body of Christ continues to be compromised.

I think most people would agree that almost all of the values in our culture are opposite of and increasingly opposed to the beliefs and behaviors of our Christian faith. As Christians we are constantly “swimming upstream” in our culture, and I believe that many people (many more people than realize it) are allowing our culture to dilute their faith and drift from the church.

Our Human Nature 

We are all by nature self-centered. As I heard someone recently say, “The most popular radio station in the world is WIIFMWhat’s In It For Me!

However, the gospel, at its very core, runs counter to our self-centeredness and many people—even those who call themselves Christians—in the end want to do what they want to do when they want to do it.

In my 30 plus years of pastoral ministry I’ve never had anyone who has decided to abandon the church approach me on their way out the door and say,


No one has ever said that to me, but in essence I’ve seen many, many people do just that— live for themselves.

Our Enemy

We have an enemy! …but I’m not sure how many “believers” realize just how constant and cunning he is in distracting us from our commitment to Christ and our commitment to His Church. Satan will do anything he can to destroy us, but if he can’t do that he will at least try to neutralize us.


Granted, there’s nothing inheritenly wrong with sports, or entertainment, or pleasure, or leisure, or work, or a host of other such things. Yet all of these things, if they are not kept in their proper priority, in the end can be just as damaging to our faith as overt acts of evil.

PLEASE, Don’t be naive.

If you think the only reason people are abandoning God’s church today is because of the faults and failures of the church (which is true and there are many), you should think again.

Committed To Christ and His Church,
Ken L Roberts

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment!


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14 thoughts on “3 Seldom-Discussed Reasons People Are Abandoning The Church

  1. Writing from Wyoming. Biblical Christianity is counter culture as your post has outlined. The most recent discussion I had with someone who was considering leaving their church had to do with not being able to use their gifting's. Some problems simmer below the surface and cannot be flushed out until some healthy discussion takes place…the couple thinking of leaving relaxed quite a bit after being heard out and were given opportunities to use their gifting's beyond the cookie cutter obvious options. Fresh wind has filled their sails…and they are once again engaging their faith and getting involved.Please continue to write!

  2. Steve

    Great "testimony" you gave in your comment. If the church would only return to a true loving-spirit-gifted-community that would help so much! Where I pastor, we've redefined the church as "a band of disciples on journey together, with Christ in the center of us."

    Thanks for the encouragement!


  3. Ken, your assessment is "spot-on." I'm still believing that, in my lifetime, we will see an overwhelming percentage of the body of Christ passionately in love with Him and faithfully committed to doing His will in all He has given us to do. You and Missy are wonderful examples of "real" Christians. It is an honor to call you friends!

  4. Diane

    Thanks for the encouragement! We miss you and Jim and think the thing of you. You guys were always the "real thing."



  5. I do think that there is some apostasy happening today. But I also think that people are coming to Christ as well. I also know that you and Missy are true and sincere, and have been like an anchor. A strong pastor is like a beacon, and something so reassuring in this dark world. I have so appreciated your ministry.

  6. Not sure I really agree with this, maybe this is true for people in different demographics than I….but as a 44 year old never-married single, none of the above are the reasons for slipping away from church. I don't feel I've slipped away from God, only church (some of you might think that means I've slipped away from God, I know). I pray more, study more, listen more, research more – and feel like I've grown closer to God outside of church than when I was faithfully going every time the doors were open. And it helps that i don't have the underlying sadness that I had in church. I tried for years to fit in to the church, but once you are single and over 30…you just don't! I'm not bitter, but sad. I wish the church wouldn't divide people by their age and/or marital status for Sunday school and other events. I wish that couples and families would be encouraged to invite singles for dinner when they have people over for fellowship. I wish the singles group would be disbanded! forever! LOL I like having friends of all walks of life, young, old, married, single…. why can't it be like that in the church? Why do we have to have the marriage Sunday school class, the "young adults" (18-30), and then the singles are forced to go to the random "adult" class, which consists of the seniors who feel too old for the marriage class…. and why do the only dinner invitations or phone calls come with strings, like babysitting or (in my case since I work in IT) fixing a broken computer or electronic item. I'd gladly do this as your friend, but it hurts when the invitation only comes when you need something. These are the reasons I've "abandoned" the church. It was too depressing to walk to my car alone every Sunday after church. I tried to be a part of things, was very active…but…had to come to the realization that I didn't "fit". I only wish I didn't have this massive guilt or feel like my life is incomplete b/c I can't find a church I belong in, and am not satisfied to go just b/c I "should"….I want to go with a cheerful heart. I did try, and I will try again to work up the courage to open myself up again. Just wanted to give you another perspective on church abandonment! If you doubt this issue exists – I challenge you to read the book "Single, not Separate" – if I had the money, I'd send it to every pastor in my area! http://www.amazon.com/Single-Not-Separate-makethe-church/dp/0884199290

  7. Sharon

    Thanks for your honest input on this from your own experience. I especially agree with your input about we have split up age groups and stage of life groups and splintered the true "fellowship" and "spiritual family" that the church should be.

    But I want to be clear that this article was only one of six articles on the church and the other five were almost all acknowledge legitimate reasons people are abandoning the church. So this article needs to be read in the context of the others as well.

    Seconldy, I would agree that not everyone who leaves the church is leaving their relaltionship with God. However, many are and so you are an exception to the rule that your relationship with God has increased since leaving the church. Trust me; after watching many people leave God's church over the years and then checking in on where their spiritual life is a few years later, most are not closer to God. Most have drifted further away. So I would say that thank goodness, you are the exception.

    Thanks for your great input…very helfpul.


  8. Thanks for your honest, truthful post. Ken. We've had times where we haven't been connected with a local expression of the body of Christ, and I can say from experience that devotions with the kids in the living room on Sunday morning is not a replacement. I know others who have commented here and on your Facebook link have said that they feel closer to God since they stopped going to church, but I can't agree. I felt alone because we were so isolated, and my opinion of church people slowly got lower and lower. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that most people just want to do what they want to do when they want to do it, and God's will always runs cross grain to man's. What I'm finding out about church is that the experience stretches me out of my comfort zone, and makes me more willing to do His will. Thanks so much!

  9. Cheryl,

    Wow! Great input from someone who's had experience on both sides of the issue. As you being someone who has read many of my other posts about the legitimate failures and faults and shortcomings of the church, you realize that I realize that sometimes (many times) there is a true down-side to being involved in a defined expression of the church.

    But as you said it well, both following Christ and participating in body of Christ (in whatever expression or model it is) is costly and is a sacrifice – which is exactly what goes contrarty to our selfish and self-centered ways.

    Great input



  10. Your illustration of the frog in the kettle is right on. Knowledge of the Bible and facts about social issues have diminished as they are no longer taught in many churches. Liberal values have slipped into the church to fill the vacuum and people are carried along by their emotional arguments. The transition has been so gradual that it hasn’t been noticed.

  11. I agree wholeheartedly. We are bombarded with “God is everywhere, in everything, and is different & yet the same for all people”. In an effort to appease everyone the media, businesses, and even the church has played right into the hands of the devil, the great deceiver. The opening of one’s eyes by the power of the Holy Spirit allows a person to see the world through the eyes of God, but I have to wonder just how many are really having that experience or just feeling something else. Because when it truly takes place the real cost of our sins are made crystal clear. So clear that you can’t stand it. You must take action. We just have to make sure that it is the correct action. Godly in nature, one that gives honor & glory to Him, but at the same time projects a sense of urgency as souls are lost every second of every day for all eternity.
    We have reached that tipping point in America where we are seeing the decline of our once great democracy. A great idea, but one that requires the love & disciplines of God as the glue to keep it all together. Not that it was ever perfect because it is of man but God was in the hearts & minds of the vast majority. Now our focus is on ourselves, I want what I want and I want it now. When your focus is on a reward of such magnitude as Heaven and a loving God, that is willing to do anything for you to see that you get there, your approach to this life changes dramatically. We at Acts 1:8 Ministry have been reaching out to Christians around the world to see the true blessings of this life-changing viewpoint and then provide them with a totally free program that allows them to tell everyone else through the doing of acts of Christian kindness. Loving on others with a simple gift or service creates a joyous surprising moment in the life of the recipient. A perfect time to remind them that like the free gift so is God’s love & grace for them. Both cannot be bought at any price. A sharing card reminds them of what took place and on the back is a warm invite to come and learn more at your church. It works and it is fun to do. It is free, really. Just sign up and the link to the materials is sent to your e-mail account. I have been doing Planned Acts of Christian Kindness (P.A.C.K.) every month for the past 17 years. There have been countless “God moments” that I can never forget as I see the Holy Spirit at work in the people He sends our way, the struggles they are dealing with, and the timing on how He brings us together. That is my prayer for you, to experience these moments so that your faith is renewed and strengthened to a point where you must share it with others. You can’t hold it inside, it is too powerful. That is how we can bring America back from the brink. God promises us that He will save us and bless us if we return to Him. Do it the way Jesus did, through love & kindness. Glory be to God! http://acts18.org/christian-kindness

  12. The aforementioned critiques and solutions may play a role in why people are abandoning pews, but the situation may also be at least to a degree out of Christians control. Still, Schultz argues that believers haven t done enough to meet cultural changes and demands.