6 Terrible Reasons People Leave Church

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As a pastor’s kid, I have watched people come and leave our church many, many times.

Sometimes they had valid reasons, such as moving to another city or state, other times they really didn’t have a good reason, and sometimes that not-very-good reason hurt the rest of the congregation

Perhaps some don’t really see this as a big deal, but it is.

There are many reasons why people leave church, some of those reasons are valid, but sometimes those reasons are just plain terrible. #alittlerandr #church #Christians #ChristianLiving

Church is a big deal because the church is more than just a meeting of a bunch of people with similar interests.

The Bible refers to the church as a body, and in this body each member has his own unique function. Each member brings to the body his unique gifts and abilities – just as a physical body has parts that give that body health and proper function.

Just as every family has some level of dysfunction, so does every church.

Do you know why?

Because churches are made up of people and people are flawed.

8 Terrible Reasons People Leave Church

1. They don’t like the worship

This is one of the worst reasons to leave a church. Whether the worship is too modern, too traditional, too loud, too polished, or too amateur, it is not a good reason to leave.

No matter the style of worship, if we have a desire to worship God, we will worship Him no matter what worship song is being played and how it is being played.

If we allow the style of worship to distract us, our heart isn’t in the right place.

2. They don’t get much out of the service

You will get out of a service what you put into it.

On the Sunday mornings when I don’t prepare my heart to meet with God, I don’t usually get very much out of it. My heart wasn’t prepared to receive anything, so it stands to reason that I wouldn’t get anything out of it.

But there’s a deeper issue here, and that is our attitude that the church is here to serve us. We often think of church as the “filling station”. I’ve heard that analogy many times, but I don’t agree with it because it makes the church a place to serve me – the consumer.

Church isn’t a filling station, it is a place where we gather together to worship God. We go there to serve Him. Yes, we serve Him individually throughout the week, but one day a week we all come together to serve Him corporately.

Church isn’t about us at all. It’s about Him.

We are’t consumers. We’re worshipers!

3. The church is too small or too big

Sometimes people can treat church much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. One church is too hot, another is too cold. One church is too small and another is too big. We go around trying them on until we find one that fits….

…until it doesn’t. And then we go out trying on more churches.

The fact is that there is no perfect church. And even if you find one the right size, that could change at any time.

4. They don’t fit in.

If this were a prerequisite for me, I’d never go to church.

I find I rarely fit in with most groups. I fit in with individuals, but rarely in groups. It’s just part of my personality. And I know I’m not alone here.

I think the majority people feel that way.

But again, church isn’t here to serve us – but to be served. We are called to serve our church and I find that when I find a ministry to give my time and talents to, I fit in better.

5. They don’t like the way things are done.

This is the reason that most often bothered me, because so many times this attitude came from those who didn’t want to help, they just wanted to complain.

They didn’t like the way the church was decorated, but didn’t want to help decorate.

They didn’t like the way the coffee was served, but didn’t want to come early to help set up the coffee bar.

My feeling has always been that if you don’t like the way something is done, get involved, help out, offer suggestions and try to be the change.

You never know, everyone might like your idea better!

Be the change!

6. They had a conflict

This is one of the most painful reasons I’ve seen people leave.

Mainly because most often they don’t leave quietly. Instead, they feel compelled to call people and tell them that they’re leaving and why.

Most often they have to leave with a group, so they spend time gathering people around them who sympathize with their reason for being offended.

By the time they leave, the congregation is split between those who sympathize with the pastor and those who sympathize with the one who is offended. And often this group has, by now, remembered reasons why they, too, should be offended.

This is one of the most destructive things to happen to a church.

I have, sadly, walked through this exact scenario more times than I wish to remember – because the aftershock of a church split can be felt for years.

One of the things I have come to realize in my many years of being a pastor’s daughter, a ministry leader, and simply a church member is this:

No church is perfect.

Every church is flawed.

If we look hard enough we can find all kinds of things wrong with our church, pastor, pastor’s wife, deacon board, and various ministries that are housed in our church.

But if we look even harder, we’ll find all kind of good that we should be focused on!

And as a closing word of caution: if you do choose to change churches – for any of the terrible reasons I’ve listed above or for a truly valid reason – I promise that whatever new church you use will be wonderful. It will be amazing….in the honeymoon period.

But that period wears off.

And then you’ll start to notice that it, too, has flaws. Many of them.

And then you’ll have a choice, to either extend grace to those flawed people or to allow those flaws to get under your skin until you once again go try on more churches.

Extending grace is always the best option!!

And the good news is that the Word of God tells us that it is fresh and new every morning!

Make your search for a church easier with this simple checklist!

Download this free printable checklist to help you find a new church.

More Articles About the Church

3 Things the Church Does When the Glory Has Departed

6 Terrible Reasons Why People Leave Their Church

5 Reasons Why People May Need to Leave Their Church

How to Love the Church In This Culture of Hate

An Open Letter to the Church Post-Election

David Wilkerson’s Prophetic Message to the Church

The Fruit of Maturity In the Church

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  1. I definitely appreciate your point of view but I have to disagree on number 1 and number 2. If the worship is not for me, I don’t receive in the same way. As much as I would like to say that all church should be for every person, I believe that there are many churches for many different people. I also think that getting something out of the service is a necessity. If you don’t get anything out of the service, why do you go. You can read the Bible on your own, you can create the relationship with God on your own. You don’t need to attend a service if you don’t feel that you connect to it

    1. I do think that when we’re in a church-finding stage, it is perfectly fine to take these things into account. My post is more for those who are already involved with a church and start finding faults with their church instead of extending grace and love.

  2. Excellent points, Rosilind! People have left churches because the drums were too loud. Or there isn’t an organ playing. When I was younger, I never really liked the hymns. But, as I got older and Jesus changed my heart, I allowed the words to pierce my heart and those hymns are so precious to me now. My heart of worship changed. This is so important to teach our kids – how to have a HEART of worship. Sure, they might not like every song that is sung, but when we have our own family worship at home, we can pick whatever song we want to. I also know that most worship directors/leaders prayerfully consider the songs that are to be sung every Sunday.
    Point number 2 is the same approach as reading your Bible. If your heart is not prepared to receive what God has for you, you won’t get anything from it. This has certainly been my own experience over the many years I’ve attended church. If there really isn’t something for me in a sermon, then I pray that others in the congregation hear what God has for them. But then I still get ‘something’ – the blessing of praying for my brothers and sisters.
    I didn’t really ‘fit in’ with my last church. But we stayed. We were quite involved in various aspects. We served. Even after 7 years, our family still did not fit in and there was a lot of hurt surrounding some issues. But we stayed until we moved to another town. If we had left, I would have missed out on so much…like the way my sisters prayed over me and gave me Godly wisdom when my heart was shattered. That is such a precious memory for me.
    And the last one…oh boy, I have seen that happen and you are right. The effects of this destruction lasts for years. The way you described it happening is so true. One person is offended – and this can be by anything – and they talk to others about it and get them on ‘their side’. Eventually, after cruel words and heated arguments, the church splits.

    All of this grieves the heart of God. They do not display His design for the Church. In fact, it just shows Christians as a bunch of complaining, easily offended, bickering, nit-pickers.

    1. I love what you said here, because sometimes God will keep us in a situation that is less than what think is ideal because He wants to change US! Sometimes we get so caught up in what we see wrong in others that we fail to see how our own attitudes toward them are wrong, too. And many times when we change we realize that others weren’t wrong, just different. 🙂

  3. I really appreciate this article. I too have seen people leave a church for so many different reasons. I don’t agree with number 1 however. Many times music ‘worship’ services are so flashy and loud that the message is lost. The true reason for us to sing for the Lord is to worship Him. Not draw people in. Sometimes the style of worship CAN be too distracting. If it’s 90% style and 10% message…style has taken over. If you were to strip down the 90% style and keep only the 10% message, people would most likely say it was boring. The message must be the main thing.
    That being said…I think one of the worst excuses (a much more accurate and appropriate word rather than reason) I have seen people leave the church is, “We are just not being fed spiritually”. The same people only come to church once a week and never pick up their Bible the rest of the week. No one can survive on only 1 meal a week. They plop down in church and say “Fill me up!”…but they never get involved in any kind of ministry or help.
    I think when it’s all boiled down, this is the most accurate statement concerning church: We were never meant to attend church for our benefit. We go so that we can worship the Lord, and honor Him. Just like we dont go to a wedding for our own reasons, or a graduation for ourselves, we go to honor the person or loved one we know. We go to honor and pay tribute to them. So many people think church is all about them. But it is meant to be about the Lord! Anything we get out of it is simply a bonus and blessing for us. If we are only going for our own reasons….we will never get anything out of it at all.

    1. Thank you for chiming in on the discussion here. I appreciate it so much. I did write a follow up to this post that I think addresses what you’re trying to say about point #1. I think in this instance, when worship becomes more about entertainment than about the presence of God, the church has lost her vision and purpose, and perhaps even her honor for God’s presence. I wrote about that here: https://rosilindjukic.com/reasons-leave-church/

  4. i seemed to have been going to this church because i came back home from Oregon and it was the church that my mother and sister have gone to.. I have tried leaving several times because i feel like i can not connect with the Pastor. I have been scared to leave because i don’t want to hurt my family and i don’t want anyone to feel poorly about me, and i feel like an out cast in church and that i am going through the motions. I tithe and offer to this church but have been told that my money will perish with me if i don’t get a firm relationship with Jesus. I don’t understand how to have a true relationship with the Lord and feel like i need to start over because of my shaky foundation i don’t know him as my father. I am very open to exposing myself in the Lord and showing my faults. and it makes some of my brothers and sisters uncomfortable. i am not finding fault with my ministry out of respect to my Pastors but i truly think it may be time for me to leave.
    The doctrine is sound but i never felt like this was my church home. i am sad and depressed in church.
    What should i do i have been attending this for close to 6 years now

  5. We want to try and go back to church. I agree that it wasn’t smart for my family to stop going just because we felt we didn’t fit in. Like you said, we should try and go back and be more willing to serve!

  6. Hello Rosilind – thank you for your insightful observations. There is at least one more reason, however, that might be included in a list of why people hesitate to return to church . . . they are broken hearted and find it so painful to be reminded of all they have lost in the name of “Christianity.” Of course, this should never be interpreted that these people have walked away from the LORD – but for some of us who have been wounded deeply by other Christians, going to church causes so much anguish and trauma that it becomes unhealthy. Perhaps some would see that as just an “excuse” but that is not actually true for everyone who has become “non-churched.” Which is different from “unchurched” in that many of us have been Christians for decades, and for many of those decades our church and family were our whole universe – but so many painful and devastating events have occurred in our lives at the hands of others who claim to know the LORD Jesus that we are simply . . . . afraid to go to church. I miss church and will probably try again, but it is terrifying to me to walk back into a place that holds so many memories of hurt, loss, abuse, manipulation, and trauma. I hope that those who judge others for “not going to church” realize that we are still “the Church” but we have to distance ourselves from the ongoing pain that is debilitating and preventing us from functioning normally the other days of the week. Thank you for listening and caring about people who have not been embraced by a church family for whatever reason.

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