Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lifeway conducted survey of former Churchgoers

The research division of Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Conference took a survey of former churchgoers. They wanted to find out the reason that many evangelical Christians stopped going to church.

469 adults, who formerly went to church all the time, were polled this past summer. They asked the reasons why they left and also wanted to find out what it would take to get them back into regular attendance. Here are some of the reasons cited for leaving:

  • 59% said they left because of changes in their life situation
  • Schedules became to hectic to allow for church attendance
  • Family responsibilities at home
  • The feeling that other church members were hypocritical or judgemental
  • Perception the church was run by a clique which discouraged involvement

The director of LifeWay Research believes the exodus of many adults from church may be the result of certain church practices, or that certain practices may at least contribute to the problem.

"In some cases," he asserts, "we've done a poor job of grounding people in their faith and making sure that their own understanding of scripture and their own commitment to the local church is where it needs to be."

Waggoner says some of these concerns may have come because of nonexistent or immature faith. But, he does not discount the some of the concerns of those surveyed. He says there is concern about the facts that some of our churches are not healthy and have poor involvement. He says there has to be a real investment by the church in the people so they will become committed. But, he says it will never happen until the church fosters a culture of concern, fellowship, and involvement in those people.

I cannot understand how people could lay out of church for so long, after going faithfully. But, the survey says that the churched adult surveyed had been out for an average of 14 years. But, it looks promising that, in 2/3 of those adults, they are ready to entertain the idea of coming back.

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David said...

Sadly, you can count me in that number. As our church pulled into itself and became a place where we no longer had any place to serve; as swimming upsteam against the tide of an ever-increasing flow of pablum and outright unbiblical teaching grew, we became disafected with what had been "our" church--a place where we could go an fellowship and express our worship life.

Even sadder, the other churches in our area seem to also be appealing to the lowest common denominator in our culture instead of challenging it.

As William Willimon put it in an article in the Winter 1997 edition of Leadership magazine,

"...the concept of "user-friendly churches" often leads to churches getting used. There is no way I can crank the gospel down to the level where any American can walk in off the street and know what it is all about within fifteen minutes. One can't do that even with baseball! You have to learn the vocabulary, the rules, and the culture in order to understand it. Being in church is something at least as different as being in a baseball stadium."

But that's exactly what has happened: the Gospel has in all too many cases been "cranked down" to a level where it is no longer the Gospel, and in most others cloaked in so much human (cultural, traditional, etc.) baggage that its voice is muffled beyond genuine intelligibility.

Henry Haney said...

I think there is something that research fails to take into consideration. On the one hand, I think David makes good points about the "dumbing down" of Christianity, and the endless quest to become "relevant" to a post-modern world.

But I also believe we live in a day of tremendous selfishness. If we believe Paul's (and Jesus') admonitions about conditions of the last days, then we must seriously factor this in. Jesus said that the love of many would grow cold- Paul said that there would be a great apostasy in the end.

Many people simply don't have a love for God and His people and so they have the Elijah syndrome (as I have coined it). They believe they are an island unto themselves and everyone else is either inferior or backslidden. But God quickly let Elijah know that he had seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

Sorry to ramble so much- I'll hush now...