(Photo: AP Images / Nathan W. Armes, Pool)
Criticism from people outside of Christianity toward the Church doesn't surprise many. But when negative viewpoints are being expressed by believers, it raises a red flag for churches across the country.
In the latest research report by Sam S. Rainer III, who heads Rainer Research, only 39 percent of people who dropped out of the church perceived their church as "caring." Meanwhile, 51 percent of them called their church "judgmental."
Among other unfavorable views from those who quit their church, 41 percent of them said their church was "insincere." Only 20 percent felt their church was "inspirational;" 30 percent said their church was "authentic;" and 36 percent said their church was "welcoming."
The survey was conducted on 18- to 22-year-olds and is featured in Rainer's upcoming book, Essential Church?.
"The churches that do not demonstrate these biblical qualities and rather become insincere and judgmental lose this generation," Rainer, a young Baptist pastor, commented. "They return to the culture that claims churches are not living up to their calling.
"And, for the most part, the culture is correct."
Part of the church's calling is to reach those on the outside and live out what they preach, but these students who are dropping out are hearing one thing in church and seeing another thing in the lives of these churchgoers, Rainer pointed out.
Polls have shown increasing hostility and negativity toward Christianity, mainly from younger non-Christians a majority of whom have a bad impression of Christianity, according to The Barna Group.
But more reports are indicating that young adults not just outside of the Christian faith, but those in the pews are turned off by believers.
"Yes, we need to be greatly concerned about outside perceptions," said Rainer. "But perhaps more frightening are what our own students are saying about our churches."
National youth leader Greg Stier of Dare 2 Share Ministries believes one of the worst enemies of Christians are Christians.
"When we are known more for what we are against than what we are for what other outcome can we expect?" he said, echoing what many church leaders have expressed.
"If we put down our picket signs and picked up a basin of water and towel to wash feet with then maybe the world would sit up and listen. Or maybe they wouldn't. But either way we would be more like Jesus," Stier noted in a recent interview with The Christian Post.
Young born-again Christians were nearly just as likely as non-Christians (22 vs. 23 percent) to say Christianity in today's society no longer looks like Jesus, according to David Kinnaman of The Barna Group who wrote his findings in unChristian.
Along with perceptions of churches being judgmental, Kinnaman has found that many, including Christians, view the church as full of hypocrites and anti-homosexual.
"If young people view Christianity negatively may it be for the exclusive claims of Christ in the Gospel not because we come off as jerks when we communicate that message," Stier commented.
Despite the bad impressions expressed by those who dropped out of their churches, Rainer found that the churches of young people who did not drop out were viewed very favorably.
A majority of the young people who did not quit described their church as "caring," "welcoming," "authentic" and "inspirational." Only 19 percent of those who stayed said their church was "insincere" and only 24 percent felt their church was "judgmental."
Rainer's Essential Church? releases in the fall.