Why Christians Leave Church, Why They Must Return & How to Find the Right One
I wrote a Facebook post on May 11, 2015 asking if my readers went to church regularly and if they didn’t, why. I wanted to understand the general situation ‘out there’ among Christians. If you think about it, the people on my personal page are what you might consider, ‘staunch’ Christians. Therefore, if a percentage of them aren’t going to church, then there is even a larger percentage of ‘regular’ Christians not going. Whatever reasons are keeping them from church are effecting ‘regular’ or weak Christians even more. I just wanted to know. The results were very interesting. Those who wish to see to see the conversation can go to my facebook post here.
I would never judge or look down upon anyone who is not going to church. Especially if you left a church because they deeply wounded you. I, myself, was hurt almost 30 years ago by many churches, culminating with a Born Again Christian Church, and never returned until about three years ago. I was completely alone, without family, ‘weird’ and desperate. Not one person in any of those churches cared if I lived or died. I attended almost every denomination in my search for a soul who might care. No one even noticed me. Then came the coup d’etat – a gaggle of Born Again ‘ladies’ gossiped about me in a church corner saying, “She’s not a Christian because she doesn’t speak in tongues!” They all started in horrified guilt when they saw me, hearing them talking about me. I guess I was dressing a little too brightly, a little too sexy in those days. Nothing over the top, but probably not to their aging taste. You gotta love old church ladies….. So, I am the last one to judge anyone who flees the judgment of judgmental Christians. You so-called atheists really don’t understand how much I do understand you! lol. I don’t agree with some of you out there who say there is ‘no excuse’ for people who don’t go to church. There are many reasons people don’t go to church. Good ones. Just read people’s comments on my Facebook post. That being said, everyone still needs to go church.
A few of you asked why I asked this question. I asked because I am worried that many Christians will be unprepared for the difficult days ahead. Many of you know that I believe we will be here for Christ’s return. I was getting this uneasy feeling from too many of you that you weren’t attending church regularly. Also, the Holy Spirit just prodded me to ask out of concern. This is not the time to dally. The time is growing near. I needed to hear why you weren’t going so that I could address your concerns and give proper advice.
After all those years in the ‘desert’, as I call it, I did go back. And I found out what I had been missing. My logical mind can’t escape one thought: “Surely, this wonderful thing I am now experiencing in my church didn’t just start up now. It has been going on for the 25 or so years I sat nursing my hurt feelings! I missed out on all this fellowship, company, worship and friendship for decades!” I left and never looked back. I did what so many of you are describing. I called my isolated worship part of the Greater Church. And it was. I also called talking to others about Jesus part of the Greater Church. And it was. I called my Bible Reading and constant prayer my Daily Church. And it was! I called hiking and gardening and being in God’s
beautiful nature ‘church’. And it was. But it wasn’t Sunday (or Saturday night!) local church. And you know what? I was missing out on something huge. Something powerful. Something truly, truly important for every single Christian: a local church family. That is what I learned by leaving for over 25 years and then finding a real church family. I regret that I was alone for so long. There is no comparing all those other church-like experiences with belonging to a group of people who know me, love me, care about me and accept me as part of their Christian family. One is good, the other is gold. For those of you who say that all those experiences are good enough or equal to having a local church family, I attest to you now that you are flatly wrong. It isn’t the same and it isn’t equal. It isn’t real church. At all. Christ is there with you, yes, – but it isn’t church as it was meant to be. Church is more- and you desperately need it. You can’t give up. Don’t do what I did. You need to get and stay connected.
Many of you know that I don’t believe that there is any guarantee of a ‘pre-trib’ Rapture in the Bible. Believe me, I have looked! Who doesn’t want that to be true? But it just isn’t in there. Some people have simply made a very hopeful translation based on a lot of loose, broad logic. All one can say is that it is possible we might be ‘raptured’ before some of the really bad stuff happens. There is a ‘taking up’ into the sky which we have come to refer to as the Rapture. ‘One will be taken while the other will remain’- we assume this is the same as the ‘taking up’ mentioned in the Bible- although, again, that isn’t clear. The word, ‘Rapture’ is not in the Bible. The timing of that event is in great question! To me, it looks like that doesn’t happen until the very end of time. But it just isn’t clear. That being said, I believe Christians must be prepared to be here during the dangerous times. If we are here, we must be huddled closely together, not isolated and alone.
The end days are described in detail in the Bible but there is absolutely no strict wording that says it will be in the order described. It also doesn’t say what the time line will look like, nor that the events must happen consecutively. People who go around saying, ‘3.5 years, 7 years, etc’ are simply interpreting the words, “time, time and half a time’ in a way in which they feel comfortable. The Bible never uses the word, ‘year’ to describe the timing of these events, it uses the word, ‘time’. So, it could be ‘seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia, epochs, anything! The word, ‘Tribulation’ (ie, capital ‘T’ or The Tribulation or The Great Tribulation), is not even in the Bible. The Bible says, ‘times of great tribulation,’ but only vaguely. It isn’t described as some grand epoch that has a definitive beginning of which everyone will be fully cognizant. There is no grand flag which is waved, as in a car race. There is no giant bell that rings. Things just get progressively worse and worse. I believe we are already in the days of great tribulation and that the Mark is already upon us. The signs are all around us. (Aren’t Christians already losing their heads? They are already gathering under that altar in heaven!) But many Christians can’t see them- which, in and of itself, is another sign- the great delusion. Worst of all, many Christians remain isolated from their brothers and sisters.
You must not be alone right now or in the near future. You must join up to a local church now for your own protection.
The days ahead- in the next two decades- will be bad. Very bad. Christians are already undergoing an open attack in the freest country in the world. There is no shame among most Americans in attacking us. We are attacked openly on mainstream, highly popular t.v. shows. If that doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what will. The laws are being changed in ways that punish us for our beliefs. Our businesses are being penalized and shut down for our obedience to God. Isn’t that the very beginning of the Mark? Soon, it will be official. We will not buy or sell without the Mark. Don’t be stupid and remain alone, waiting for the perfect church. You must go out and try again.
Now that you know you must find a local church, you must know how to vet a church before investing your whole heart and soul into it. You need to know how to ask the right questions and you must have the bravery to ask them. The bravery is up to you but I will give you the right questions.
The most critical aspect of any church is the leadership and their philosophy concerning the Bible. Do they believe that it is the only source for knowledge concerning God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? If so, you have a good chance that it is a decent church. This was one of the most frequent reasons given for why people left their churches- the lack of adherence to biblical teachings. If they don’t believe in the Bible as the only source for authoritative knowledge, then you are in trouble. What do I mean by this? Well, many cults have ‘additional books’ they use- and even elevate above the Bible as holy. Seventh Day Adventists use Ellen White’s writings in addition to the Bible. Mormons use Smith’s writings. Muslims use Mohammad’s writings in addition to the Old Testament. (At least the Jews only use the Old Testament and don’t add a new ‘god’).
Dear Catholic friends, I do not like to do this, but for the sake of honesty, I must. While I hold that Catholics are Christian, I also must warn you that the Catholic denomination is guilty of adding seven entire books to the Bible at the Council of Trent in in the mid 1500’s for horribly sinful reasons. It has never removed them to this day, nor has it repented of its actions. The original Bible, as we know it today, was set by the Early Church in 393 AD at the Synod of Hippo . Almost a thousand years later, the Catholic Church changed the Bible- one must look at the surrounding political landscape of the Church to understand why.
The reasons for adding these books were predictably sinful- it was to bolster the political power of the priesthood (a sin in and of itself) by giving the Pope the right to forgive sin and deny salvation to kings while enriching itself by selling indulgences by adding the notion of Purgatory. One could now pray for the salvation of the dead- it just took gold. Various sins could be wiped out with various amounts of gold. It was a literal gold mine for the Vatican. Is that not horrible? It was all for the sake of gaining tremendous power over individuals and massive amounts of money- it gave the church agonizing power over kings. The literal definition of monarchy is that God established his rule through genetic bloodlines on earth. The Pope claimed the power to change which bloodline God would select! It created a massive hierarchy of powerful men who were enriched beyond their wildest dreams- they lived wild lifestyles of sex, drugs and debauchery. Becoming Pope was equivalent to becoming King of the World. It was better than becoming a mere king of one country. I am terribly chagrined that the Catholic Church not only is unrepentant, but still accuses the Protestant church of ‘taking books out of the bible.’ That is a great deception indeed. I tell you this to warn you.
Jesus expressly forbade anyone from calling another man, ‘Father’. And yet, you Catholics do this regularly. Far too many of you still worship Mary- completely and utterly unacceptable! This is a violation of the number one commandment!! I’ve heard just about every Catholic explanation about Mary. But facts are facts. Right along with Mary are other saints you pray to. Also a no, no. Jesus instructed us to pray to God only. Periodo. No one else. In fact, he never, ever told us to pray even to him. He said, “When you pray, say, ‘Our FATHER, who art in heaven….” There shall be no other God!! I believe the theory that the Catholics used Mary & the saints to more easily attract the pagan worshippers into the Catholic fold. Polytheism & Mother Earth worship were widespread, popular & deeply held in Northern & Eastern Europe at the time. Fertility rites were wildly popular as they included unrestricted sex, drugs, alcohol- who doesn’t like that? In the Bible, God detested the female goddess, Asherah more than any of the other pagan gods because it was she who caused the people to commit the worst of the sexual sins due to the horrible fertility rites. Like the European pagans, the Israelites of old really didn’t want to give up that particular rite. The historical theory is that the Catholic Church created a sort of ‘mother worship’ with Mary. They created Easter to coincide with Christ’s resurrection for the same reason- but Easter is derived from the celebration of the mother goddess, Ēostre; rabbits and eggs are both symbols of fertility. Christ has nothing to do with fertility. That is why I believe the theory that the Church melded their calendar to the pagan calendar. I think they were pragmatic. I definitely believe they would use Mary and the Saints to help transition the pagans into Christianity. It is a logical explanation for why Catholics pray to Mary so much and why they pray to the saints. As no other plausible explanation has ever been offered by Catholic historians, it seems the most reasonable to me. And it is a big no, no. They must repent of this pagan based worship.
Listen, I know that most Catholics don’t out & out worship Mary or allow a priest to come between them and God. But the Church itself is sinning greatly against God. To change the Bible is expressly forbidden by Jesus. That is why the Catholic Church has erred throughout history and continues to do so, despite its love of Jesus. It has opened its door to sin from the very beginning. I know this angers you and I am sorry. Most of my family are Catholic and I love them dearly. I know they are Christians and every one of them are saved and going to heaven. This isn’t a personal condemnation, but rather, a general warning. I must speak the truth and I can’t leave out the Catholic Church when describing denominations that use other sources than the Bible as their authority. The Pope has no more authority on this earth than I do. This current Pope, I fear, will lead millions to their spiritual death. He may even be the Second Beast. And if you Catholics are incorrectly loyal to a MAN, the Pope, over Jesus, your Lord and Savior, then you will die and go to hell among so many others. God would condemn me for not speaking up to warn you.
Many Protestant denominations have gone astray as well because they adhere to their Denomination’s Doctrinal books as the ‘only’ valid interpretation of the Bible. They have actually elevated that book above the Bible as more ‘holy’. Although they would flush red and puff with indignation at this accusation, it is true nonetheless. Why else do we have denominations in the first place? When people worship the denomination above the Bible, that is immoral and wrong. It has become a cult. Again, my apology to denominations out there.
No man may interpret the Bible for another man and call it ‘Truth’. Jesus forbade that when he told us to call no one else, ‘Father’, ‘Rabbi’, ‘Teacher’ or ‘Priest.’ No pastor is above us. They are not more holy or more spiritual. They are not our teachers. They are not more ‘good’ than us. They are not closer to God than us. It is vital that we all understand this. Their role is to run the church. To organize it and to lead us. Leading is not teaching. Leading us means keeping us from falling into sin. It means keeping our feet on the righteous path. It means inspiring us to obey the Bible. It means demanding the very best of all of us. It means cultivating a boldness of spirit among the members of the church to speak out about Christ. It means making the hard decisions. It means holding us together with wisdom. It means standing strong upon the Rock when the terrible winds blast us- It means taking us boldly into war if that is necessary. It means listening to God when God orders him to do something with the church. He leads us, but the Holy Spirit teaches each one of us- just as it teaches him. The Bible teaches us. We all obey God and his Word in the Bible. The Word is for every man. Man- Holy Spirit,-Jesus- God. No other man may stand in between. Churches that adhere to their Doctrinal Books above the Bible are cults in my mind.
Churches that would set a man, pastor or priest between a man and God are cults in my mind. Only Jesus is between us and God. He is the only passage point. No one else gives us permission or halts our progress. If a church says any other man or woman can give permission or withhold permission, it is a cult. Only the Bible matters. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit as Teacher. Only the faithless need a doctrinal book written by men to interpret the Bible. One may use a doctrinal book as a teaching tool, as another’s opinion– but it is not holy at all. In fact, it must be full of error by the mere fact that it is written by men. By that fact alone, it cannot ever be ‘Truth.’ You must read the Church’s belief statements, mission statements and all other similar documents. You must also ask direct questions about the church’s beliefs and the sources from which they derive these beliefs. If you see any book other than the Bible mentioned, don’t go there.
Also, be wary of pastors that ignore politics and are afraid to speak out about political topics from the pulpit. Politically correct pastors and church leadership are cowards and will not lead you as the times of tribulation worsen. They are already weak and nothing has even happened to them! They will be the first to cover their own bank accounts when the Mark comes. You must ask about political issues you care about. You must ask what your pastors will do when certain political situations come up in the future. Be very specific. Example: “What would you do if a gay couple comes to you and requests for you to marry them? What would you do if they threatened to sue you? What if the federal government threatened to take away your tax free status? What if the government threatened to take away your license to marry & bury people? What would your actions be under each of those scenarios? ”
Next, ask how the church integrates new members. How do they make sure that new people get to know other people? Do they use small groups? If not, what specific process do they use? If they can’t tell you, on the spot, what process they use, they don’t have one and you should leave.
My church uses small groups. It is a modern, brilliant approach. Our small groups run on a semester basis. New people are highly encouraged to join one- they are well advertised and little booklets are made and passed out months in advance. The small group is the #1 method by which our church does three critical things:
1) introduces newbies to friends quickly
2) does all volunteer work in the community
3) does all Bible study.
We discourage people from creating cliques by only having small groups for one semester at a time. They end and completely new groups with new topics & new leaders are created. The new person gets to know a whole new group of 10 -20 people. Our church has an incredibly high percentage of people who attend these groups. They are so interesting and people love the hands on community service projects. If a church has zero plan to integrate a new member into their church, it’s probably not going to be a good place for you- the new member-to-be! You will be lonely there! A good church is where the leadership has cared enough about you that they have a plan in place to make sure you feel at home there, right?
Ask about how the church uses its member volunteers in service to the community. What is a church that doesn’t serve the community? As mentioned, ours uses Small groups to do community service. Some churches handle each separately. Each must be addressed in a healthy church. If you new church doesn’t have a solid volunteer plan, you probably won’t be happy there.
Ask about how the church teaches each member about the Bible- ie, Bible Study. Again, mine does it through Small group. If your new church doesn’t have a solid plan, you probably won’t be very happy there.
If you are disabled or can’t travel for some reason, then you must ask three more questions of your prospective church:
- Do you have a consistent online sermon?
- How do you ensure that immobile people can participate in Small Groups?
- How do you ensure that immobile people aren’t forgotten in your ministry?
- Remember, just because you don’t go to the brick and mortar, you still must give to the local church if you join!
Lastly, it is critical to find out how your church is structured financially. Is it nonprofit? Who makes the financial decisions? Who has the final say on buying and selling assets? Who owns the money/ assets? Who hires/fires the pastor? The Board of Directors? What kind of say do the members have over the money/assets?
Getting the answers to all these questions is simple- just ask right up front! Make a list of questions you have about your new church (including the ones above) and make an appointment with your pastor. Some churches, like mine, have a class for just this purpose. They answer these types of questions in an informal setting. If your new church acts weird or uncomfortable or offended by your questions, then you know you are in the wrong place. You can scratch that church off your list and try the next one.
Your heart won’t be broken because you haven’t invested it yet. I do suggest, however, that you attend the church for a month or so before you fire off these questions and make sure you like the ‘vibe’ of the church in the first place. No sense on grilling the leadership if you don’t even like the feeling of the church, right? Then again, don’t reject every church out of hand because you are impossible to please or because you are a high class musician that can’t stand anything but the best of the best music!!! Be reasonable and obedient to God.
Very quickly, you will find the church that is open and honest about all the most important aspects of being a church. They will care about what you care about. They will appreciate your questions and will know you care about your church too. You will get to know them before you invest your entire life into your new church.
Now. Once you find that church, People, you must make sure to give money regularly. Some of you are upset that churches hand you an envelope. Well, they have to, don’t they? Jesus confirmed that the Sadducees were supposed to not only continue tithe but also keep the spirit of the law, did he not? While I agree that the Levite priesthood and their 10% tithe from the other tribes was abolished when the priesthood was abolished, Jesus still said that the new Christian Apostles were worth their wages, did he not? He still said they were to be fed and clothed by those who housed them, did he not? We must house and feed our apostles. Do they live with us in our homes? No, we prefer them to live in their own home, do we not? Do we like to go to a hovel with broken, gross toilets? No, we prefer to have a nice church building. Who else will pay for that building if not us? Who will cut the grass if not us? Who will pay to keep the lights on if not us? That is our facility- we need to take care of it. Our pastors work for God and serve us daily- it is our biblical duty to pay their wages, house them and make sure they are cared for. While some will quibble over the 10% aspect, I will say this: I agree that there is no basis for the 10%. However, how do you know if that is too little or too much? What if it is too little to house and feed our pastors for what they do? Blows your mind, doesn’t it? Ha!
The Apostles used to live with their hosts as long as they stayed in a town. What percentage of your pay would that be if they and their family lived with you? That would cost more than 10% of your income, I think. It would cost you half of what you earn and both you and the pastor would be poor. The Bible never said anything about asking anyone to help the host to help pay for the Apostle’s care, did it? No, it just said for the Apostle to find someone ‘worthy’ and to stay with them as long as they were in town. They were to eat what was served and to live there under their roof. That is called living with them. So. As a church member, what if your name were called and you got the honor of having your pastor, his wife and three kids to come live under your roof? How’d you like that? lol! What we do today is a little more generous and I think, a little more pragmatic and sensible. It shares the burden among the entire church and allows the pastor to at least live as well as his congregation.
I think 10% is an appropriate figure. I feel it honors God because it hurts (me) just enough. That might sound kind of funny, I know. But God is first in my life. Giving that number was tough at first. It was a challenge. But it was a challenge I wanted to meet. It wasn’t about pleasing my church- it was about showing God that he meant so much to me. I wanted to hurt for his sake. And when I looked at it, it seemed so paltry compared to the 90% I kept back from him. It made me ashamed. That shame also felt appropriate. It showed God’s love for me. He graciously allows me to keep all that he gives me. We quibble over 10%. What is 10%? I figure, “Hey, if that is what he asked of the Jews, perhaps that is a good number from me. We still need to pay for our pastors to live and we still need to pay for the building in any case. So if we must pick a percentage, let’s go with the traditional number God used with the Jews. If it pleased him then, it must please him today.” Do some churches take advantage of that number? Do some try to say, ‘hey, that’s just the tithe! Now, you ALSO have to give your ‘offering! AND you have to give ‘gifts'” Yes, yes they do. You need to leave that church. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a church asking members to give more. But it should be asked honestly, with all reasons given and without duress. And the Bible should never be used falsely to force people to give. Once that begins, corruption begins.
The one thing with which I can’t agree concerning money is the notion of giving whatever you have leftover at the time. I once thought that but have come around to thinking otherwise. Giving whatever you have when Sunday comes shows a tremendous lack of respect for God. You plan your finances around your mortgage and car- but you can’t plan around your giving to God? That’s bad. Very bad. If I were God, I would be so insulted. I’m sure he is insulted over that kind of thinking. No. You can and should plan to give to God. In fact, you must give to him FIRST- above and beyond anything else. Before the mortgage and car- before retirement and health insurance. You must show your love and faith in him first. Some of you balk and say, “Hey! What if I don’t trust my church! That is 10% of my income wasted!” I say, “How do you figure that?” Jesus said all the Sadducees and Pharisees were corrupt and yet, when the widow put her two pennies in the giving box he said that she had given more than anyone else and praised her. It didn’t matter about the corruption of the church or how they spent it. It mattered about the heart of the giver. What matters is between you and God, not where your money went. So, tithing is no excuse for not attending church. Be responsible and vet your church properly. Ask the above questions. It is never too late. But put God first, not last. I don’t believe it is right for you to say that you left the church because it asked for 10% of your income. I think you should just pay up. That isn’t reason enough.
I say all this out of love for you. I so wish you would listen and take my advice. I only write because I feel compelled to write. I believe it is the Holy Spirit which compels me. Believe me, I have much to do right now. I have a super important hearing date this Friday for which I should be studying and I have my entire jewelry photo catalog on which I should be working. But I felt so strongly compelled to write this essay today that I couldn’t work on those things until I finished this first. Much love and many prayers for your well being. Susan