The No. 1 reason true believers leave a church

Church in Spain
Church in Spain | Getty Images/Jesus Gonzalez

In the course of just a few days, I’ve had multiple Christian friends who I hadn’t seen or heard from in a long time independently reach out and ask the same question: “Do you know of a good church where I can go to worship?”

To be sure, the round-robin activity of church hopping has been with us forever, however what is new is the disappointing trend of outright church dismissal by some. Believers seem to be throwing in the towel and giving up altogether, with new converts sometimes skipping church from the very beginning. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennials are among that group, according to a study by the American Bible Society.

As I listened to my friends explain their church dilemma feelings, and then thought about the angst my own family has experienced with the exact same thing, I got a small epiphany that I believe explains the problem.

True Christians leave a church when they’re unable to properly worship God.

Hitting the ejector seat   

When the topic of why church members bail comes up, pastors commonly roll their eyes and for good reason. The petty nature of reasons given by some attendees for discarding a church can border on the bizarre.

The choice of carpet color in a church’s foyer and the pastor’s clothing selection are reasons I’ve had people give me as to why they hit the ejector seat on a church. I’ve bitten my tongue so hard during those conversations that I’ve actually drawn blood.

But the people pinging me most recently about their church predicament are the antithesis of that kind of spirit. These folks are solid, mature believers who prioritize God in their lives and aren’t ruffled by trivial matters that go on in a local body.

For them (and me) it’s all about being enabled to submit to God an acceptable form of worship while they’re present in the assembly. When that can’t happen, the Spirit within them demands action.  

Before I continue, let’s define terms so we’re on the same page. When I say “worship,” I’m sure many of you think about the music that’s played during a service. While music is one of the ingredients of worship, it is much more than that.   

Worship, or “worth-ship,” is defined by John MacArthur as, “honor paid to a superior being.” The Greek term used for worship throughout the New Testament, proskuneó, confirms this and connotes the idea of kissing another in a prostrating manner.

The secular world balks at worship, but C. S. Lewis reminds us that praise and worship flow from all of us for many reasons: “The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game. I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.”  

While the juvenile come to church for what they can get, mature believers attend for what they want to give, which is true worship to God. And when they’re disabled in that pursuit, they’ll seek a different setting.

The reason, as John MacArthur explains, is that, “worship is not an addendum to life; worship is at the core of life.” It wells up and is something that cannot be denied expression.

That worship expressive involves the intellect as well as the emotion, which is why worship is much more than the music selected for a service. Sadly, much of church today involves mindless delivery and rote participation that does not bring a person before the throne of God.

When the message is devoid of the Word, demonstrates a lack of deep study beforehand, quotes Psychology Today more than the Bible, and is more concerned with funny stories than truths about God…

When the music lacks theological meaning, is void of biblical references, and is delivered in a manner that focuses wrongly on the external presentation…

When meaningful sacraments like baptism and communion are mangled and handled in an irreverent way…

When church attendees dishonor God by openly demonstrating their smartphone and social media addiction during the service…

When born again experiences are absent and/or are extraordinarily rare…    

Then you are left with a state of affairs that makes it extremely hard or impossible for a believer to worship God. And when that happens, because worship is at the core of their life, they will instinctively seek out another venue where they can offer to God the worship He deserves.

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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