Many Churches Are Driving Away Their Own Congregations Without Even Realizing It

Most Modern Churches Drive People Away From God Without Even Realizing It. Talk About Being Clueless!

By Minister Paul J. Bern (Proverbs chapter 15: 22; chapter 19: 2)

It has been my observation, ever since the January 6th insurrection at our nation’s capital, that the majority of the rebel forces involved in the storming of Congress are claiming to be “conservative Christians”, “Oath Keepers” or “evangelicals”. Many modern churches (regardless of denomination) who portray themselves as “evangelical” or “conservative”, are unintentionally driving people away while claiming to do the opposite. I've had more than 6 weeks to consider how to put together a rebuttal to these kinds of perpetrators without making these ‘holier-than-thou’ folks really upset. Church leadership has forgotten the old adage, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15, verse 22)

After considerable analysis, however, I find myself forced to the conclusion that it is simply not possible in this case. So instead of pandering to these types of phony Christians who condone violence, including the murder of a police officer, committed in the name of the Lord, I'm simply going to post and publish the unvarnished truth, warts and all. After all, the Bible does say explicitly in both the Old and New Testaments that “judgment will begin in the house of the Lord.” Do I have any right to appoint myself judge, jury and executioner over these US capitol perpetrators? On the contrary, I would be derelict in my duty as a Christian man in a position of leadership if I did not point these things out.

In the first place, there is a whole lot more to the teachings of Christ than merely being zealous, as it is written: “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way”. (Proverbs 19, verse 2) On the contrary, God wants us all to think for ourselves in a rational and logical manner. That's why He gave us brains in between our ears, and the freedom to choose, when he created us. So for a religion to not be intellectually challenging or mentally stimulating is to be contrary to the intentions of God. We have a word for that, it’s called ‘sin’. Secondly, it is equally difficult for any church or minister to proclaim themselves as leaders and visionaries when they fail to acknowledge that water has already been discovered on the moon, Mars, Io, which is one of the moons of Jupiter, and the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt. If life is discovered in any of those places, what will they do then?

Organized religion continues to teach that only man was made in the image and likeness of God, implying that Earth is the only place in the universe where life can exist. When life is finally discovered on another planet in our own solar system, which is inevitable, what will the mainline church denominations do then? As for myself, I would continue worshiping God through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, just like always. In fact, I would praise God all the more because He saw fit to populate as many other planets, and many of their moons, as He wanted. For the universe is the Lord's, and everything in it, because He made it.

But, chances are that if you are in your 30s and younger, you are not a member of any church. In a single generation, the Christian church dropout rate has increased five-fold. In the past 20 years, the number of American people who say they have no religion has doubled and now tops 20 percent. Polling data continues to show that a dramatic exit is taking place from American Christian churches. The blame for this falls squarely in the laps of pastors, bishops, and all the other self-bestowed titles of various church leaders.

Beyond those numbers, denominations across the board are acknowledging loss of membership, but it is worse than they are reporting. Many churches report numbers based on baptized members, yet actual Sunday morning attendance doesn’t even come close to those numbers. Simply put, churches and their various denominations are no longer a reliable source of their own membership information. The mega-church movement also has flattened, with people leaving mega-churches as fast as they are being recruited. The only real growth among Christian churches appears to be in the home church movement, in which small groups of independent believers gather in private homes to worship.

While the polling numbers listed above are in dispute, the actual debate about the reasons why is only just beginning. When a pollster asks if a person has left the Christian church, the answer usually starts out being answered 'yes' or 'no'. However, when the pollster asks why, the answers become mushy and the numbers lose their significance. Why are people leaving churches so fast? I am not a pollster, but rather an observer of the American political and religious scene. While I am heavily involved in Christianity as a minister and published author, my impressions are anecdotal and not scientific. I receive personal responses to my blogs, and I carry on conversations with a steady flow of people by e-mail or on social media. I believe we church people and clergy need to look at ourselves for many of the reasons for the decline in membership. I realize there are some smug and self-righteous Christians everywhere who will take offense at what I write and say. All that notwithstanding, there are three main reasons, as I see it, that people everywhere are abandoning churches and organized religion in droves. Allow me to offer these 3 observations:

[1] Churches are not intellectually challenging because they lack effective leadership. More and more of our young people are college-educated. In the future, even more will accept the challenge of post-high school education, even if it means going into debt. They are critical thinkers who continue to expand the limits of their curiosity and knowledge. Many young people today often conclude that they know at least as much, if not more, than the person in the pulpit. Unfortunately, in at least some of those instances, they are correct in their assessments. Consequently, they are not willing to accept the church’s rigid catechism or denominational beliefs, an educational method that teaches only religious questions and the ‘correct’ answers. As an educational tool, catechisms and apologetics are grossly outdated, and so they provide no challenge at all to students eager to question and discuss the real Bible. Ministers must re-establish themselves among the leaders of the intellectual community. It is our responsibility, whether one is a pastor or a janitor or anywhere in between, to LEAD!

[2] Churches are no longer leaders in moral and ethical discussions. Young people from every state in the country have grown weary of churches that cannot get past secondary issues such as homosexuality and abortion. I was once a member of such a church for a brief period until one Sunday, on the first week of November, everyone received a flier in their church bulletin that specified who they should vote for in that following Tuesday’s election. The very next week I went and found a better church. To this day, I don't think anyone in that first church I attended has any idea why I left. This was, for me, a glaring example of how utterly clueless some modern Christians can be.

Twenty-first century church drop-outs are still very interested in alternatives to the selfish, hedonistic society portrayed on television and in the movies. Justice is high on their agenda, and they are clearly looking for opportunities for public service. Today's young people want to be involved in solving economic inequality issues, environmental problems and in peacemaking. By contrast, pizza parties and rock concerts – techniques that have been used to make churches appear more relevant to the young – are not high on the agenda of young people concerned about society’s deep-seated problems. In other words, too many churches are concerned about same-sex marriage or the abortion issue when the preacher should be talking about the unacceptability and immorality of the American Empire's global war machine. What about that, ministers? Your congregations are waiting….

[3] Churches are no longer visionary. Churches have remained focused on offering rituals tied to perpetuating theologies that no longer seem relevant to many people, including myself. Churches are no longer significant players in shaping the life of their communities. If ministers and churches will not lay out what the kingdom of God on earth might actually look like, young people will continue to look elsewhere for other models. Hey, they may even decide to construct their own. To that I would say, “Go for it!” In that sense, I am less concerned about the young adults who are leaving the churches than the churches they are leaving behind. It's up to us to shepherd the flock. If church leadership doesn't step up to the plate and take some swings, the people they are supposed to be ministering to will go find themselves a better ball game.