Why are so many people abandoning churches?

I was part of the Jesus Movement, the Jesus Revolution. I personally knew the people in the movie by that name. Many of those folks are gone now. Some, though aging, retain sweet, loving, Christ-like hearts filled with compassion for those Jesus called “the least” of his siblings. Sadly, others have morphed into ridged supporters of ultra-right-wing politics diametrically opposite the hippies we were. 

The Jesus Movement was an amazing, worldwide outpouring of God’s love. We were so very young, fresh, full of joy, and love after our initial encounters with the living Christ. Church was a place that welcomed everyone, judged no one, focused on love and grace.

Now, evangelical churches in North America are hemorrhaging members. Most of those leaving still love Jesus and want to follow his teachings. Many are having a hard time finding a community they can be a part of. Those who are thoughtfully reconsidering their faith and affiliations often have prophetic voices to which it would behoove us to pay heed. 

Some reasons given by people who have left or are leaving evangelical churches in North America include (in no particular order):

  • Many churches are known only what they’re against
  • Some churches support far-right-wing politics and are tied to the GOP
  • Some actively promote homophobia
  • Some are not doing much to end racism
  • Women’s issues are ignored or opposed in many conservative churches
  • Women are forbidden to use their gifts in some churches
  • Some churches seem to not care about the environment
  • Many people feel like they just can’t fit in unless they completely conform
  • People feel like there isn’t a safe place to ask honest questions 
  • Megachurches are sometimes seen as full of corporate hype, as a big show
  • The leadership of some churches seems more interested in power than service
  • Some churches are not committed to social justice – alleviating poverty, promoting universal healthcare, eliminating homelessness, helping the mentally ill, addicted, disenfranchised, and marginalized.
  • Some churches are actively participating in white capitalism rather than redistributing wealth with equity by participating in some form of jubilee. 
  • Many conservative churches support war, the death penalty, and the gun culture while claiming to be pro-life.
  • Churches are criticized for their lack of support for immigrants and refugees
  • CEO pastor salaries are obscenely high. It is ludicrous for a pastor to make $500,000 to a million dollars a year, yet many do.
  • The idea of hell as eternal conscious torture is incongruent with a God of love
  • Many people are scandalized by creationism, which holds no scientific validity
  • Some churches are anti-science, anti-vax, and promote conspiracies
  • There has been sexual abuse by clergy preying on innocent kids
  • Single people say they feel like second class people 
  • Abused women were counseled poorly – told to go home and submit, for example
  • The central issue of theodicy: Why would a good, all-powerful God allow suffering?

Personally, I’m grateful that the age of the megachurch and its corporate model is dying. Meaning is found for most people in small fellowships where people who consider themselves family meet, pray, read scripture, take communion, share meals, love and serve one another, and together reach out to others in need. 

In the Jesus Movement, there was simplicity. I don’t wish to return to the theological naiveté or the toxic eschatology, but simple gatherings of people who love Jesus were, and are, nice. 

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on March 1, 2023, in Christianity, Life Coaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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