The Alabama – West Florida Conference has a contract with Mission Insite, a demographic company, to help us understand our ministry area, and one of the reports lists reasons people do not go to church. Here are the top three with some reflections on each.
#3. Don’t trust religious leaders.
To overcome mistrust, clergy must be more transparent and make a continual effort to build relationships with their communities (i.e., outside the church). Clergy in new areas often feel that it is difficult to establish a sense of belonging in a community, and this mistrust of religious leaders is at least part of the difficulty making the new connection. It is important to know that up to 62% of non-churchgoers will resist a relationship with you and your church until you build up that trust.
#2. Religion is too focused on money.
Churches often fall into the trap of focusing on money more than focusing on the ministry that the money enables. In my experience, the people of our communities will gladly support ministries when they are excited about the church’s mission, and trust the church to make the most out of every ministry dollar. People do not want to support churches that are in decline and dying. They want to support ministries that are full of life and will bring hope to the community. Instead of preaching about how much money people should give, let’s help the people of our communities focus on the fruitful ministries of the church and give them the opportunity to partner with the cause.
#1. Religious people too judgmental.
This is the number one reason that people do not go to church today and I think this has been true since the time of Jesus. Christians tend to expect everyone to follow God’s rules whether they believe in God or not. We often will not make someone feel welcome in a church unless they are following God’s rules (or at least the ones that we feel are important). This is the modern-day version of refusing to associate with the sinners and tax collectors of the world because they are unholy. Those “unholy outsiders” look at the imperfect people filling church pews and recognize the hypocrisy.
I try to live by the rule that I only judge myself and those who ask me to hold them accountable. Not only have I not figured out how to do away with my sin, but as I grow in faith, I continually recognize sin in my life that I did not see before. How can I be in the position to judge someone else? Instead, I would prefer to invite all people, including sinners and tax collectors, to take the journey of growing toward perfection (sanctification) with me. It is my hope that all Christians will hear this feedback and recognize that Christian judgment is not helping people to have a better relationship with Jesus, but is instead inhibiting it. Let us not allow Christian judgment to keep people from growing in Christ!
These are the top three reasons people do not go to church in the Alabama – West Florida area. They may be just excuses, but even so, I believe that we should receive them as feedback and take steps to alleviate these concerns to make churches more inviting to our community.
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