This morning I listened to US author and pastor – and fellow Burnside Writers Collective contributing writer – Christian Piatt interviewed by Leigh Hatcher on Open House Community Radio about Why Christians Leave The Church.
Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published April 1 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.
Christian brings up several excellent points – which I summarise below. These are taken from his blog post Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church.
We’ve been hurt. Emotionally, socially, spiritually, and even perhaps physically and sexually.
We’ve learned to think critically. Which is the opposite of what church teaches us. Sit down, be quiet, and recieve this information I’m about to give you, without question. Yet, when we become a member of a club, or go to university, or join a committee at our place of employment, we learn that change and growth happens when the exact opposite occurs – democracy, discussion, questioning and criticism.
We’re not interested in trying to break into cliques. Exactly who needs that? Then again, don’t answer that.
We’re busy. We have mortgages. We have jobs. We have families and problems and things we need to take care of. Far from being a place of answers, sometimes church is just another set of problems we don’t have the energy for.
We’ve become more skeptical. Years of navigating advertising, marketing, social media and spamming has made us much more cynical about the messages we recieve. And this is to our credit. We get ripped off less often. But we have come to believe the world is a dangerous place, and frankly, the church hasn’t given us many reasons to believe it’s any different.
We’re exhausted. Not many people have the resources many churches demand they give to programs and ministries, because we have enough on our plate already.
We don’t get it. Church over the past twenty years has become progressively less relevant. As it’s grown, it’s become more self-referential. Often, the problems it seeks to solve are the problems only people who go to church have. Church has developed it’s own set of priorities, an exclusive language and a way of doing and being that many people outside of it fail to understand, and have no wish to become a part of.
Authors and commentators like Christian and fellow writer Rachel Held Evans are kicking this topic onto the field and working hard to keep the ball in play, and a lot of Christians and pastors don’t like it. There has in the past been this general attitude that those who leave church and talk about it are committing a gross offence not just by leaving, but by refusing to lay the blame solely with themselves. Many churches defend their steady rates of attrition by saying they are only human and churches are not perfect, as if the ones who left did so because the church didn’t turn out to be full of flawless people who pandered to their every need. The fact is that people are leaving churches – or never joining in the first place – and if those churches wish to continue to exist, they will need to examine the reasons for this attrition and make changes accordingly.
Have you left a church? What were your reasons? What would need to happen – in the church, or in you – for you to return? Please leave your comments below.
If you’ve been hurt by church, please check out Kathy Escobar’s online course Walking Wounded: Hope For Those Hurt By Church.
Kathy Escobar co-pastors the Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith (www.therefugeonline.org). She journeys with people in hard places as a spiritual director, teacher, and group facilitator. A Pepperdine University graduate, she also has a Masters degree in Management/Organizational Development and a Certificate in Evangelical Spiritual Guidance from Denver Seminary. Kathy is the author of Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus (Civitas Press, 2011).
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