Barna Study: Even Christians Are Leaving Our Churches

Why Christians are Leaving ChurchThe church may want to stop focusing on those elusive and extremely sensitive “seekers” for a while, because now, even believers are starting to leave the church.

We were warned back in 2005 that this was coming, but few paid attention to it then.  Many scoffed and pretended it could never happen.  But it is happening. That is what a recent poll by the Barna Group has uncovered, and the implications of it are alarming.

In this article, I want to share some of Barna’s findings with you.  I warn you:  Brace yourself!

I invite you to join the discussion in the comment section, as well as answer the polling questions (there are two polls at the bottom of the post) so we can get a better idea of what is going on from your perspective.   In the next post we will offer our analysis about why it is happening.

“What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith?”

When the Barna Group asked this question, people offered a variety of answers:

  • Prayer
  • Family or friends
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Even having children

But CHURCH did not even crack the top 10 list.

That is staggering in its implication.  Christians of all persuasions don’t believe attending a church is an important activity to help grow their faith.  Why would we feel that way, and how did we come to those conclusions?

Why We Go To Church:

The Barna study found that most people who DO attend church, do so for three primary reasons:

#1  To be closer to God (44%)

#2  To learn about God (27%)

#3  To Fellowship with other believers (22%)

That seems about right.  We go to church to learn about God, to get to know Him better and to be with other believers who can sharpen our faith and help us be more faithful followers of Christ.  That is why we go.  But is that what is actually happening when we do attend?  Not according to the research.  Far, far from it.

What Actually Happens When We Go To Church?  Not Much!

According to the report, “less than 20% of people who attend church actually feel close to God on even a monthly basis.”   Over 80% of church goers DON’T feel close to God.  How is that possible?   Of the almost two-thirds of people who attend church to learn more about God, only 6% say that they learned anything about God or Jesus the last time they attended.  Translation:  a whopping 94% of us didn’t get much out of Sunday’s meeting!  Worse still, 61% of church goers say they “did not gain any significant or new insights” about their faith when they last attended services.

Here is what Barna concluded:

The data shows two trends, often a crosscurrents.  Adults are aware of their very real spiritual needs, yet they are increasingly dissatisfied with the church’s attempt to meet those spiritual needs and are turning elsewhere.

These statistics should stop every pastor and leader dead in their tracks and force some serious contemplation.  I suggest the first question we ask is:   “What the hell are we doing wrong?” ( I do think hell is the right word here)

What are those who have left the Church Saying?

It get’s worse.  The study also asked people 30 and younger who are no longer attending church services, why they have stopped attending.  The number one reason?  They “feel God is missing in church”.   Another reason cited was the lack of relevancy.  That makes sense to me:  What is the MOST relevant aspect of a church service, if not God?  If God is missing in a church service,  that service is irrelevant!

We are Attending Church Less Often

According to Barna’s tracking data, there has been a 7% drop in overall church attendance between 2004 and 2014.  Those numbers don’t really tell the whole story.  What is actually happening is that you and I are attending church must less often that we once did.  Not too long ago, we defined regular church attenders as people who went to church three or more times per month or even several times a week.  Now we consider people who show up for service every four to six weeks as the typical or normal church goer.  That is a big change in definitions! Given what this study has uncovered, it is not surprising that Christians are beginning to leave the church.The Great Decline in Church attendance

Houston, We Have A Problem

This study raises a gigantic red flag for all of us in leadership.  People are not finding God or learning about the faith in our services and they are leaving in large numbers.  People who currently go to church and those who have stopped going are saying the exact same thing!  He who has an ear, let him hear what these stats are saying to the church!

The study concludes with a compelling challenge:

“The early church leaders didn’t have the things we now consider essential for our faith. They didn’t have official church buildings, vision statements or core values. They had no social media, radio broadcasts or celebrity pastors. They didn’t even have the completed New Testament. Christ-followers were often deeply misunderstood, persecuted and some gave their lives for their faith. Yet they loved and they served and they prayed and they blessed—and slowly, over hundreds of years, they brought the empire to its knees.”

How could the early church capture the imagination of the Roman empire while we, with all our resources and rigor, are slowly losing influence in our culture?”

Indeed how can we be losing so badly? It is not that we are losing influence in the culture at large.  Of course that is true.  This study shows that we are losing influence even among Christians.   Church leadership needs to consider why this is happening.  I have seen some of their suggested solutions to this problem.  Unfortunately, they are pointing their fingers our way and blaming us for this decline.  It is our fault!

In my next post, I am going to share some of my observations about why believers and seekers both are leaving our churches.  Until then, please share your thoughts on this study, as well as why you think it might be happening.

Also, take the polls about your own church attendance below.  Let’s see what our responses are.  Be honest.  Don’t answer the way you think a good follower of Christ SHOULD answer, or the way you would like to be able to answer.  Tell the truth, or the poll means nothing.  Of course, all answers are anonymous, we can’t see how you vote or even who votes.  We just see the answers.

                                                   

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on January 21, 2015, in Christianity, Church Leadership, Contemporary Church Culture, The Seeker-Sensitive Church Model, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 84 Comments.

  1. Jim.
    In my experience there is covert undermining done by church leadership toward those who seem to have an influence in a congregation. Leaders are self protective to the point of opposing God.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim, this is no surprise. And great article. But I think we err if the focus is put too squarely on the institution rather on the hunger (or lack thereof) of the believer. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness seek out fellowship with others who are “separate” from darkness, etc (which is “eclessia” – the called out ones), whether it be in homes, cars, parks, etc. Those who are hiding themselves in the Elect One – Jesus Christ – are not leaving the church, rather they are seeking for and BEING a group of holy, peculiar people in peculiar ways to American Christianity. They are leaving strange institutions that bear no resemblance to what Jesus or the Apostles instituted, which was and still is (must be) an organic, living, “made without hands” mobile-temple movement that in every age turns the world upside down.

    Btw, I don’t see anywhere on the poll to enter “attending more”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good points!

      I think what the data says is that church attendance is down in the institutional churches. That doesn’t mean attendance is down in every single church body in the USA, obviously.

      Some churches are growing, while others are shrinking. I have not seen any polls about what is happening in more organic, house church types of fellowships. THAT would be a great study.

      The study resonates with me, as I find myself attending church less these days, for many of the reasons cited in the study. Everywhere I go, things are essentially the same. But I love Jesus, want to follow him, and want to be around others who are of like mind in that regard. It is getting harder and harder to find.

      I made the change to the poll, as you suggested. You can only vote once, but you can change your vote at any time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely would be interesting to see that data. And for what it’s worth, it’s obvious you do love Jesus “from all your power” (OSB/LXX rendering in Deut 6:5) and surely want to follow him. That’s why I’m following your posts 🙂

        In fact, it’s interesting to read your posts about the Early Church and Orthodox theology and so on. I have been enjoying the Septuagint found in the OSB and studying the Early Church for sometime. For me, the Early Church is a bit of a bitter sweet study. I love their heart and spirit. I love a lot of what they wrote and the way they lived. However, I find great conflict with the way they began to interpret scriptures and form doctrine over the years leading up to 325AD. If the Lord ever gives me the time and IF it’s His will, I’d love to chart some of the doctrines of the EC, when they showed up, by whom, how often, etc. The common threads of free will, total devotion, holiness, etc. are good. But the more I study them, the more convinced I am that they misunderstood or too literally took some of Jesus’ teachings rather than seeing them in the backdrop of the Law (to which Jesus was often referring) and their intended audience – how they would have heard Jesus. I love the EC believers, writers, overseers, and martyrs, but I know of no one today who claims to be an Early Church proponent and yet follows what Clement of Alexandria or Origin or Turtullian (et al) believed and aggressively taught, and would even disfellowship over. I simply want to rightly divide the Word and do what would please the Lord. But, alas, this is another topic. Just find our common pursuits interesting.

        Love in Christ, brother!

        Liked by 1 person

        • “For me, the Early Church is a bit of a bitter sweet study. I love their heart and spirit. I love a lot of what they wrote and the way they lived. However, I find great conflict with the way they began to interpret scriptures and form doctrine over the years leading up to 325AD.

          If Restless Pilgrim shows up here, he is going to challenge you on this one. :)

          I agree with the bitter sweet part of it, that is for sure. I often, look around at the way the church looks now and think "How did we get so far away from that", pointing to the early church?

          I am reminded of Justin's words "We don't teach great things, we live them." We seem to have it backwards now. We don't live great things, but we sure do know how to teach great things!

          Like

        • Restless Pilgrim

          If Restless Pilgrim shows up here, he is going to challenge you on this one. 🙂

          Well, since I’ve been invoked…

          However, I find great conflict with the way they began to interpret scriptures and form doctrine over the years leading up to 325AD.

          Would that include the Trinity and the Hyperstatic Union?

          If the Lord ever gives me the time and IF it’s His will, I’d love to chart some of the doctrines of the EC, when they showed up, by whom, how often, etc.

          There are several volumes that do this already, even at a popular level. My main suggestion would be “The Fathers Know Best” by Jimmy Akin. If you’d like to contact me over at my blog I’ll send you a free copy.

          I love the EC believers, writers, overseers, and martyrs, but I know of no one today who claims to be an Early Church proponent and yet follows what Clement of Alexandria or Origin or Turtullian (et al) believed and aggressively taught, and would even disfellowship over.

          That’s because the Churches which really care about the Fathers don’t assign to them individual authority. We look for the Consensus Patrum. Where is their clear consensus and where are there lone voices? (There’s a reason that Origin and Tertullian aren’t St. Origin and St. Tertullian).

          I’ve written a little more about this topic here

          Liked by 2 people

        • I’ve written a little more about this topic here http://restlesspilgrim.net/blog/2013/05/30/paternal-protestations/

          I highly recommend that article!

          Liked by 1 person

    • I really enjoyed your comment! I think there is definitely a movement of people leaving the institution of the church in order to better become a representative of The Church. I often believe these people (myself included) need a name other than Christian. Or perhaps it is those that stay within the institution of the church that need a different name… as Christian actually means “little Christ” and Christ himself was rarely if ever found “within 4 walls”. Unfortunately, we live in a world that thinks that a pastor and deacons are Leadership rather than trusting that God can lead a person without weekly attendance…

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    • I disagree — to imply the Christian who can’t abide the organized church is therefore not a part of the church – the body of Christ – is wrong. Just because an organization can’t meet the needs of it’s congregation doesn’t make it’s congregation any less Christian! Those of us who have left still find fellowship — just in a different location — here on WP, on FB and in the greater world … Christians do live out here in the world…

      Liked by 1 person

    • No one attributes the current slide in attendence with the idea people have simply awakened to the idea God is not a religious deity?

      Religion in general are attempting to stay relevant while at the same time being oh so tolerant of whatever might fill the pews is not actually the cause. Free flow of of ideas and social media is the reason religion has become irrelevant. Who needs to meet on the pagan day of rest, when FB is the modern replacement for coffee hour?

      If one would take the time to study the scriptures it would be so apparent God does not ask for worship as we do not also worship our earthly father. Praying is a fools folly, Proverbs 28:9

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      • Hi Dennis,

        Thanks for adding your thoughts to this discussion!

        Clearly, you make a good point. Some people are not just leaving church, they are leaving Christianity. But I think those numbers are smaller and don’t explain this exodus that Barna documents in his study.

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  3. Hi Jim: I was researching some things for my blog just a couple of months ago and ran across statistics on this very thing. According to those studies all these reports about people leaving the church is false. They were showing more and more people are turning TOWARD the church, not leaving it. I don’t remember who all was doing the studies but I’m not putting a whole lot of weight on these reports. Who can say any of them are right? It is interesting though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue,

      I don’t doubt there are Christian leaders who will challenge this. The Pharisees and Sadducees challenged God himself!

      I don’t doubt the study at all. In fact, it resonates with everything I have seen in the over 40 churches I have attended in the past 10 years.

      Not every church is experiencing this trend in attendance, obviously. What is important about this study, is that it shows that people are attending church a lot less than they once did.

      My question is why? Why are we going to church less? I have my thoughts, which I will share in our next post.

      It also shows what we already know and that young people are abandoning church.

      Every study that I have seen, from numerous sources, is saying the same thing: People are leaving the church.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure many are leaving but it would be interesting to do a study on how many have joined churches, too. There was no intent in challenging your report or your findings. Just stating what I have read. 🙂

        Like

        • Sue, we love being challenged on things we say. It sparks healthy debate! Some bloggers censor their comments, we pretty much let everyone say anything.

          I think the study does address this. If I leave one fellowship to attend another one, then overall church attendance is not down. What the study notes is that overall attendance is down. That means that more people are leaving and NOT going somewhere else than there are people who leave a church and begin attending somewhere else.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I have attended three different churches in the last five years. I left the first one because the pastor controls everything and doesn’t allow the Spirit to move except in pre-approved ways. I have not really left the second one because there is an arm of ministry available where I can lay hands on people and pray for them and preach the Word, but that only happens twice a month. The big service is too big for intimate growth, so I rarely attend. I’m not interested in big bands and light shows. The third church is smaller, very friendly, but also doesn’t allow for the Holy Spirit. However there is hope for a ministry arm that will be more flexible and not bound by tradition. I think people need to be directly involved, either discussing and confronting in small groups, or ministering to the needs of others. That is exciting and will bring more people into the Kingdom. Just sitting and listening to a band concert and a lecture by the same person week after week is boring, stifling, and stagnating.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Tenney,

      Thanks for adding your thoughts.

      “I’m not interested in big bands and light shows.”

      Me either, but I just put up with them, because they are everywhere!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Restless Pilgrim

      Hey Tenney,

      I’m interested, a question arose in my mind as I read your comment. As a Protestant, would you say that the congregation’s leadership has any authority over you?

      Thanks,

      David.

      Like

      • I can answer that with one word, and I am going to say it in Spanish so as to give the full force of the word: No

        A congregations leadership only has the authority that we delegate to it on a temporary basis. As soon as something hapenens that we don’t like or agree with, we can rescind that authority.

        My son attended a church for a short period of time where the worship leader was living with his girlfriend. He told the College group one night, that the reason they come to the new church was because the old church leadership told them he could not lead worship and live with his girlfriend. His response to their authority was to leave and go somewhere else. I don’t know what is worse, the kids attitude or the new church that took him as a worship leader!

        Admittedly, this is an extreme example of the protestant ethic of “who gave you authority over my life?” We have a problem with authority, in more ways than one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Restless Pilgrim

          Ouch…okay, you know the question I’m going to ask now…what about the Early Church? Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians? Ignatius’ writings about staying with the bishop?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Restless Pilgrim

          (It’s fortunate for you I have a Latina girlfriend who could translate the Spanish for me)

          Liked by 1 person

        • “what about the Early Church? Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians? Ignatius’ writings about staying with the bishop?”

          We don’t have bishops, so we are off the hook!

          Seriously, you have pointed out one of the biggest problems in the Protestant church: I am the authority over everything, even the interpretation of Scripture.

          I will let someone less in touch with reality try and explain and defend that one.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Restless Pilgrim

          I will let someone less in touch with reality try and explain and defend that one.

          LOL

          Like

      • As a Protestant, would you say that the congregation’s leadership has any authority over you?

        when you attend a church, the goal (according to Scripture like 1 Cor 12) is to join the community, grow with the people and serve with your gifts. And as a community you are under the authority of the leadership (Heb 13:17).

        the problem is, with a dozen churches to choose from, when the going gets tough (and I don’t like being called out for failing to live as a disciple of Christ) the weak get going.

        that is not to say that leadership may also have problems (like lording it over the community, seeing specks and failing to deal with logs in their eyes etc), but in general I don’t think many church attenders approach church with the intent to join and commit to a community of believers who work together to grow in Christ.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Restless Pilgrim

          I echo all these sentiments, but it basically boils down to “No”, doesn’t it?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Restless Pilgrim

          Slightly different question: if you had lived in the First Century, would an Apostle have any authority over you?

          Liked by 2 people

        • I echo all these sentiments, but it basically boils down to “No”, doesn’t it?

          in practice maybe, but that does not mean that they are not from God’s point of view. I think some will be surprised when they are asked about that at the judgment seat.

          if you had lived in the First Century, would an Apostle have any authority over you?

          yes

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Most every one of these studies I see provide evidence for the decline of attendance in local assemblies. One recent one I read reported that 90% of evangelical churches are either declining or stagnant. There are also forecasts for the matter to worsen. Here’s one:

    http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-trends/the-most-disturbing-trend-happening-in-your-church-in-2015.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_campaign=cwupdate

    This particular study attempts to list some reasons it will worsen, such as the availability to read, watch, or listen to any and every ministry on earth from the home (Online Church); over-busy lives; increased children activities; etc.

    Is it possible that these studies are merely another evidence of we in the west becoming consumed with ourselves, and our incessant need for being entertained? I say this because it seems what attracts a crowd on Sunday mornings these days are mostly those things that attract us to a rock show, or a football game, or even a good motivational speech. Just thinking… sorry that it’s out-loud.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great insight MT!

      ‘Is it possible that these studies are merely another evidence of we in the west becoming consumed with ourselves, and our incessant need for being entertained?”

      I would ask the question the exact opposite way:

      Is it possible that these studies are merely evidence that Christian Leaders have made a critical error in judgment by assuming that what people really need and want is to be entertained, when what they really want is truth and substance?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We just moved a year ago (My job moved) and found a great church where people (seems like every week) are coming to Christ during the week through those people and in the meetings as well. I don’t like to miss out on what is happening in the lives of these people as God is at work in and through them (I like to think the early church had to get together every day because of all the stories to tell and the prayers needed for each other as well as the evangelism happening).
    We wanted to gather with people who do not see church as a spectator sport. The meetings raise the bar for walking with God and being a servant to others all week. We are the Church 24/7, It’s attractive, sometimes messy and definitely exciting. I have found a lot of people who start their day early in the morning reading their Bible and praying.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Restless Pilgrim

    What actually is the Protestant motivation for going to church on Sunday? I would suggest that pretty much every possible suggestion will have a fairly simple “alternative”:

    1. Fellowship? Why do I need to go to a church building for that?

    2. Teaching? I can get the DVD of my favourite preacher and do that at home?

    3. “Worship”? Why can’t I just sing along to the latest Hillsong CD in my car?

    4. Holy Communion? What can’t I just bless the bread and wine myself?

    Like

    • I go for the great rock band and the free Starbucks coffee. I find that I prefer churches that offer real half and half, instead of that powder stuff. I mean honestly, if we are going to pursue excellence, let’s start with the creamer!

      But seriously…

      Even though you are correct that a person can do all those things outside of an official church gathering, it is not as beneficial. There is something about coming to the table with a group of brothers and sisters on a weekly basis that sustains and nourishes us. We need each other for that.

      Of course you have the admonition to not forsake the gathering:

      “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

      It is interesting that the reason given for this is that gathering together can stir us on to love God and one another more, and help us live a godly life. That is pretty important stuff!

      Restless, I can tell you that the reason I go to church, more often than not these days, is in obedience to this verse!

      What is the Catholic perspective? Is it any different than the reasons you cited for Pro’s?

      Like

      • Hi,
        I’m with you Jim. I drop into a church for a ‘service’ based on their coffee bar and what kind of cream is offered 🙂

        Like

        • If you are going to offer milk in your sermons, why not offer cream for your coffee? It makes sense to me.

          As I write this, I am taking a sip of my morning coffee, full of real cream!

          Like

      • Restless Pilgrim

        > Even though you are correct that a person can do all those things outside of an official church gathering, it is not as beneficial.

        Nu-uh!

        1. John Piper is a better preacher than my paster
        2. The Hillsong band is better than my church’s worship team
        3. My church has quite a few people who annoy me – I’d prefer to just hang out fellowship with my Christian friends.

        > Of course you have the admonition to not forsake the gathering:

        Ah yes, but Hebrews doesn’t say it’s on Sunday or at church! (Sola Scriptura! None of this Sacred Tradition nonsense!)

        > Restless, I can tell you that the reason I go to church, more often than not these days, is in obedience to this verse!

        Ah, guilt! See? You’d make a great Catholic! 😉

        > What is the Catholic perspective? Is it any different than the reasons you cited for Pro’s?

        In addition to the reasons a Protestant might cite, we go to Church on Sunday, not simply because it’s a “pro”, but because the Church tells us to. Sunday Mass attendance is one of the the Five precepts of the Church.

        However, the primary reason is simple: the Eucharist. We go to receive the gift of Christ to His Church, the medicine of immortality.

        Like

        • “Ah, guilt! See? You’d make a great Catholic!”

          I was just about to say, based on your answers, that you would make a great protestant!

          Guilt is not the right word for me. It is more to honor and obey the Lord. I don’t feel guilty when I miss!

          Like

        • Restless Pilgrim

          <

          blockquote>I was just about to say, based on your answers, that you would make a great protestant!

          Hehehe…already tried it, didn’t work out too well.

          > Guilt is not the right word for me. It is more to honor and obey the Lord

          Hmmm! Purer motivations, hey?!

          > I don’t feel guilty when I miss!

          Don’t worry, we’ll work on that…

          Like

        • Restless,

          I would be interested in your perspective in why people are leaving the Catholic church. I have my hunches about why this is happening in the Protestant world, but those reasons would not explain the Catholic exodus.

          Like

        • Restless Pilgrim

          I would be interested in your perspective in why people are leaving the Catholic church. I have my hunches about why this is happening in the Protestant world, but those reasons would not explain the Catholic exodus.

          I’d primarily say it’s primarily poor catechesis. That’s why we people leave the Church, either to nothing or to non-Catholic congregations. I’d say the pastoral problems flow from that.

          Liked by 1 person

        • So, would you be comfortable saying that people are leaving the Catholic church because they are not being educated about the faith?

          Can you point me to any studies in this area?

          Like

        • Restless Pilgrim

          So, would you be comfortable saying that people are leaving the Catholic church because they are not being educated about the faith?

          Broadly speaking, yes, in the sense that, if we got catechesis right, everything else would fall into place.

          However, the reasons that people give for leaving are usually much more along the lines of: “Mass is boring”, “The music was terrible” etc.

          Can you point me to any studies in this area?

          There are studies kicking around, but I can’t easily put my hands on any of them. Mine is anecdotal evidence, but I have mountains of it. Speaking for myself, if I had understood the Eucharist, I’d have never wander away, no matter how poor the music, cold the congregation or dry the sermon.

          I’d thoroughly recommend Matthew Kelly’s book “Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic”. He’s done quite a bit of study in this area. You can order the CD and book for free from dynamicCatholic.com

          Like

        • I understand what you are saying. People give varied reasons, but the core reason is that they don’t really understand their faith. If they did, they would seldom leave. Does that sound about right?

          It seems to me that many Catholics don’t leave Christ, they leave the Catholic faith and go over to the dark side, where the music is great, the sermons are better, they don’t have to do much and they don’t have to worry about purgatory.

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          I understand what you are saying. People give varied reasons, but the core reason is that they don’t really understand their faith. If they did, they would seldom leave. Does that sound about right?

          That’s my assessment, yup.

          It seems to me that many Catholics don’t leave Christ…

          Many also fall away into nothingness. I’d suggest that your background means that you encounter the ones that wander elsewhere.

          …they leave the Catholic faith and go over to the dark side, where the music is great, the sermons are better, they don’t have to do much and they don’t have to worry about purgatory

          …or the possibility of even losing their salvation, having to deal with the consequences of divorce, rejecting contraception, going to Mass on Holy Days, …

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Growing in the faith is like a lake with the water flowing in and then out. If the water just flows in but has no outlet, the lake becomes stagnant, a Dead Sea. It would be interesting to ask people who go to church regularly or who go less often what they did with their faith this week. Is it flowing out through a prayer circle, a healing ministry team, a study/share group, pastoral care team or whatever? A survey in our parish asked people, ,”What was the most satisfying experience you’ve had in the Church?” The answers were written up on the whiteboard, and we were amazed to see that most of them occurred at different times when the parish was without a minister, and people came out of their shell to take a more active leadership role.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Growing in the faith is like a lake with the water flowing in and then out. If the water just flows in but has no outlet, the lake becomes stagnant, a Dead Sea. ”

      Great analogy, Esther!

      It seems that what this study indicates is that church is not the place where the water is flowing, to use your analogy, into peoples life. I agree that it should be. I also know that people have always complained that they are “not getting fed” at church.

      There is something to what you said though. I have a friend who always answers the statement “I am not getting fed” with: “What are you DOING with your faith? The meat is in the street!”

      So I think people who are more involved in their faith and the life of the congregation are generally healthier.

      Be that as it may, the numbers in this poll are staggering and lack of involvement in the congregation can not explain why people feel God is absent from the services and that they don’t learn anything about God of their faith while attending.

      Like

  9. I’m interested in reading the next post. I spent the majority of my life in church as an “on fire” Christian. I have a gift for prophetic art, I’ve been involved in ministry, and I have witnessed healings take place in front of me. The church that I consider my church is very similar (and at times tied in with) Morning Star ministries. I’m still a Christian who has a relationship with God, but I rarely go to church. Here are some thoughts…

    -Church sometimes has the feeling of being like a cult. If you act a certain way… you’re in. If you leave they will hunt you down in the name of God. However once you’re gone, all of the “friends” that you had… that mind you still consider you friends… certainly don’t invite you to spend any time with them. Unless of course it’s an invite to a Bible study or prayer group. They have a hard time contemplating that your heart could possibly be right with God when you aren’t attending church regularly. In my experience, inviting church friends over to my apartment involved hiding my rated PG-13 movies (oh my!). It involved taking certain books off my shelf…basically it involved hiding certain parts of me in order to avoid “friendly debate” over the things that we allow in our lives.

    -In my experience, I initially stepped away from church because God was doing something HUGE in a prophetic art course that was being taught. This was all asked to be put on hold in order to require the participants in my class to be in an Easter play. They didn’t want to be, but the class was still put on hold. So I will be honest in saying I left due to frustration. Frustration that what God was doing was being set aside for a play (I have issues w/ plays in churches during the holidays… I don’t appreciate going to church for a show. I simply want God… and when you attend a church where God is invited and shows up it makes it even more difficult when they decide to do a play). So yes, my initial reason for leaving was selfish. HOWEVER. it was after I left that I experienced things that kept me away….
    Something happened to me AFTER I left church…and for about 2 months I made poor decisions (mostly involving alcohol) to try to numb the pain. However what I received from church (not just my church – when I say the church I mean CHRISTIANS that I know) was the following…. A note on my door telling me to turn from sin and recounting some biblical story about someone who hadn’t turned away from sin. E-mails expressing that I need to come back to church and repent, get right with God, go through theophostics (which frankly always made me feel WORSE about myself). Then one day…in the midst of trying to numb my own pain, God showed up. Not in a church building, not because my christian friends had rushed to my side (no in fact, MULTIPLE “friends” made it exceeding clear to me that they would not come to my house and pray with me because of what I’d allowed in there… namely a gay boy room mate who LOVED God, who I witnessed be verbally attacked by members of the church the he grew up in, and who frankly was one of two people to stand by me through thick and thin… and point out how beautifully God worked in my life). But I digress…

    -I was bitter towards the church for a year or two… then check this out… I went back to church wit my new boyfriend. I had met him through a friend and what made us hit it off was that he was also home schooled as a child and was a christian. He was college educated, a former nurse. and respectful. After meeting him, and him asking educated questions, I received emails from church members saying that I was settling for less than God’s best. I certainly didn’t feel like I was settling. However, involvement from the church played a role in problems within our relationship.

    -After my ex and I broke up… I felt a nudge on my heart to go back to church. At this point, No one from church talked to me unless we accidentally ran into each other on the street. Anywho… I’d been in my kitchen listening to Misty Edwards on youtube and doing my dishes and the presence of God fell strong… IN MY KITCHEN…. on a young woman who hadn’t stepped for into a church for 2 years! So I went back to church…I walked in and said “I”m not who I’m used to be, I don’t want to be that girl… this is who I am, take it or leave it because as far as I’m concerned God accepts me as is, and just because I don’t fit your mold doesn’t mean I”m not in His will”. The response? From a few was surprisingly positive… apparently there had been a “grace movement” and I had received the same words, the same guidance from God during this time WITHOUT BEING IN CHURCH OR SURROUNDED BY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS.

    -Since that initial return to church, I went fairly steadily for a few months. I have since stepped back from going to church. I have a few rules… I will not attend church out of a feeling of OBLIGATION. I will not make changes in my life based on what a church member suggests, but instead only based on what my heart is telling me. I only go to church when I feel led to do so. These choices have been interesting… again, I don’t speak with many church members outside of church unless I’m being invited to church. I have discovered that I am closest to God when I am walking… whether it’s around the neighborhood or on a nature trail. I trust and follow peace. I’m flexible in where He will have me go in life. As an “outsider” now I witness so many church members who are torn up over very basic things because they’re concerned with how other church members will view xyz (what will they think if I miss this sunday to be with my family who I haven’t seen all week?). It sickens me. I have a strong belief that ministry is in how you treat those around you…. I’ve ministered to a girl in a bar who would NEVER have stepped foot into a church… not because I walked in and stood up and screamed Jesus Loves You…but because I LISTENED.

    I feel the need to note that I grew up in California (in fact Jim Greer was my pastor for YEARS). In that environment I had FAMILY. I felt loved. I felt safe. I felt accepted even when I was different. Since movign to the south there is a FAKENESS about people…. relationships seem considerably more surfaced while still being in your business. There is an assumption that if you aren’t in church every sunday you aren’t a good enough Christian. however my experience has been that some of the BEST christians with the most effective ministries are those who aren’t in a church, don’t have a HUGE following, and simply LIVE IT in their daily lives. Many of these people aren’t even aware of the positive impact that they have.

    I’m not anti-church. I still go on occasion. But I think it’s become it’s own sort of culture… and you’re either in the club or your not… I don’t know… but I kind of think if Jesus were walking the earth he’d be offended by the vast majority of churches in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Traci!

      As I read your thoughts on this topic, I can’t help but think that the church is not being the church in any meaningful way. I think Jesus would look at the situations you described and look for a money table somewhere so he could turn it over! The things we do to people in His name astonish me.

      I don’t think you are alone in feeling this way. I am curious if anyone else out there who feels the same way will join the conversation.

      Like

    • Restless Pilgrim

      Hey Traci, thanks for sharing your story with us 🙂

      Church sometimes has the feeling of being like a cult. If you act a certain way… you’re in

      Isn’t that the same with any group though? There’s something which binds the group members together, a common pattern, a common behaviour? In this case, following the Master along the Way (“But immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; …” – Ephesians 5).

      If you leave they will hunt you down in the name of God

      The funny thing is that I’d say that we don’t do this enough! We let people wander away from our parishes without a second thought. I’ve heard countless stories where people have said things like “I didn’t go back and nobody noticed I was gone or called me to see if I was okay”. I can certainly say this was true for me.

      Now, the way in which they did this with you was terrible. Leaving you notes telling you to repent?! I’d be insulted both by the message and the fact that they didn’t even have the guts to do it face-to-face!

      They have a hard time contemplating that your heart could possibly be right with God when you aren’t attending church regularly

      There are a few reasons for that, but I think the main reason is that quitting church is usually the first step for most people on the path away from the faith.

      In my experience, inviting church friends over to my apartment involved hiding my rated PG-13 movies (oh my!). It involved taking certain books off my shelf…basically it involved hiding certain parts of me in order to avoid “friendly debate” over the things that we allow in our lives.

      I’m torn by what you say here because, on the one hand, I’ve experienced what you’ve described, but on the other, I think Christians are all-too-eager to turn a blind eye.

      -In my experience, I initially stepped away from church because God was doing something HUGE in a prophetic art course that was being taught. This was all asked to be put on hold in order to require the participants in my class to be in an Easter play… So I will be honest in saying I left due to frustration. Frustration that what God was doing was being set aside for a play

      Is it really fair to contrast these things in this way? I don’t know the church or the play, but these are often events which bring families together and teach the faith the children. Also, might not some people object to the play being cancelled in favour of your course, saying that they don’t come to church to do painting?

      From a few was surprisingly positive… apparently there had been a “grace movement” and I had received the same words, the same guidance from God during this time WITHOUT BEING IN CHURCH OR SURROUNDED BY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS.

      Just in case we’re miscommunicating, I don’t think Jim or anyone else here is suggesting that God’s grace isn’t present outside the Church. After all, Saul encountered Jesus and, at the time, he had very few Christian friends 😉

      I have a few rules… I will not attend church out of a feeling of OBLIGATION

      In every relationship, marriage especially, sometimes it’s only obligation which makes us get up and do something. I’d say it’s true in the spiritual realm too. Some mornings I’m not really don’t feel like I want to pray…but I know I should…so I do.

      I will not make changes in my life based on what a church member suggests, but instead only based on what my heart is telling me

      What do you do about all the Scriptural passages which speak about brotherly guidance and correction? (This doesn’t mean that they can be jerks about it, I’m just making the point that there is a place for fraternal correction).

      Sometimes I’ve given another Christian the benefit of the doubt and assumed that he has insight which I may not possess (particularly if they’ve been walking with the Lord longer than me). From my own experience, when I’ve done this I’ve been glad that I did, even if I have eventually concluded that he was wrong (“Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves” – Philippians 2:3).

      I only go to church when I feel led to do so

      I think this is the sentence with which I have the most difficulty. How do you guard this against emotionalism? i.e. “I go to church when I feel like it”

      I have discovered that I am closest to God when I am walking… whether it’s around the neighborhood or on a nature trail.

      We share that. I feel most at ease praying when I’m walking or driving. Either way, I need to be moving 🙂

      Like

      • “Isn’t that the same with any group though? There’s something which binds the group members together, a common pattern, a common behaviour? In this case, following the Master along the Way ”

        Thank you. That is a very valid point that made me stop and think a bit. You’re right. Which is probably why I tend to limit my interactions with groups as a whole. Common interests or behaviors are one thing… but when lack of “fitting in” results in debates and prayer for one’s soul there’s a major issue there, now isn’t there?

        “Is it really fair to contrast these things in this way? I don’t know the church or the play, but these are often events which bring families together and teach the faith the children. Also, might not some people object to the play being cancelled in favour of your course, saying that they don’t come to church to do painting?”

        I should clarify – the issue was in that there was a non-option of cancelling the class to prepare for the play despite the few people in my class insisting that they did not want to be a part and that God was doing something with that small group. THAT was the issue … no one was ever forced to be in my course…they came and went as they pleased. I often showed up just to pray and paint… even alone. Since then, that particular church has created a place in the primary sanctuary for prophetic art that anyone and everyone is allowed to participate in and it has been a beautiful form of ministry over the years.

        “There are a few reasons for that, but I think the main reason is that quitting church is usually the first step for most people on the path away from the faith.”

        While initially stepping away from the church was due to frustration. Ultimately stepping away from the church expanded my faith. It exposed me to atheists who CHALLENGED me. It exposed me to a variety of people who thought differently. and It re-exposed me to the people that I used to be like. It made me seek God’s face wholly and without excessive outward influence. It made me become a stronger person spiritually and in my daily life.

        In reference to my remark on faith – I didn’t think anyone was suggesting that God’s grace wasn’t present outside of the church. But there is a grace movement… a using of people who aren’t the cookie cutter norm ( just think of Jesus’ disciples) being used where they are and exactly as they are. I guess my thought in sharing, is that God was (and is) doing something in me that is parallel to those who still attend church who I know/trust as being people who seriously seek God’s face (this is a very small group of people when I look at “the church” as a whole).

        “In every relationship, marriage especially, sometimes it’s only obligation which makes us get up and do something. I’d say it’s true in the spiritual realm too. Some mornings I’m not really don’t feel like I want to pray…but I know I should…so I do.”

        I just can’t function that way. Admittedly when it comes to things like work I have obligations. But my relationship with God? It isn’t so much work as it is passion… a WANT to be with Him. a WANT to invite his presence. I should note that in my world, a feeling of obligation also comes with a feeling of guilt (much like attending family dinners during the holidays). Thus – I should re-state what I wrote as I will note go to church out of feelings of guilt. Or because it is what is expected of me. But insteady, only at times when I feel God nudge my heart to do so.

        “What do you do about all the Scriptural passages which speak about brotherly guidance and correction?”

        I believe you may be referencing Galatians 6:1 “”Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” although I know there are other scriptures that also reference this. I believe in brotherly guidance and correction. At one point in my early 20’s when I was making poor decisions, I had a friend (Also a Christian who walked away from ‘the church”) who had the courage to say “I love you, but I don’t love what you’re doing, when you’re done, I’ll be here for you” … and she did and she was. What she did was simple… but purely in love. Her heart was tender and it pained her to speak such honesty to me. In turn there was a time later in life where I did the same with her (just as tenderly). Her simple statement to me spoke volumes above anyone who told me to repent, anyone who refused to come to my home when i needed a friend, volumes above any sermon that could’ve been given. Her statement was LOVE… her statement was God… it was full of life and it saved mine.

        I keep a small group of friends. VERY small group of friends. And within that group are people who rest in God’s presence and seek his face DAILY…. all day…. but they don’t (or rarely) attend the institutional church. And… I have an even smaller percentage of those friends who fall into the same category but DO attend church. It is this small group of people that I trust. gentle guidance and correction has nothing to do with the institutional church. In fact…I think there was another post on her (by Esther?) which said that the congregation grew the most when it had no “leadership’.
        I actually seek out intelligent conversation with other Christians on a weekly – almost daily basis. I love bouncing things off of people and I’m comfortable with gentle correction.

        “I think this is the sentence with which I have the most difficulty. How do you guard this against emotionalism? i.e. “I go to church when I feel like it””

        Because… I go to church when I feel GOD pressing on my heart for me to go to church. it is the furthest thing from emotionalism. I don’t know how to place into words what God does… but He does it. And when he says Go. I do. I go with an open heart. Often times God tells me to go and I don’t want to go…but I do. I wish I had the words to express what goes on in my head and my heart – but unfortunately I don’t.

        I like that you mentioned that you need to be moving as well! I’m the same way – walking or in the car I have had some amazing interactions with God.
        I’ve also had amazing interactions with God in a church setting. and in my kitchen. and in my bedroom.
        When I have to “stand still” I get distracted. I also love to paint after I pray…. sometimes I just need to ‘get out” whatever visual God has placed on me… so that usually gets me “moving” in a calmer manner.

        Like

        • Restless Pilgrim

          Common interests or behaviors are one thing… but when lack of “fitting in” results in debates and prayer for one’s soul there’s a major issue there, now isn’t there?

          Hmm…this is a tricky one. For example, I have a group of five guys with whom I meet twice a month. It’s like a church within a church. We call it “The Men’s Huddle”. Its purpose is to pray for one another, encourage one another and, most importantly, call each other out when we need it. We don’t always agree and sometimes it gets a little tense, but I would say it’s how we grow best. Of course, it helps that we’ve given each other this permission.

          While initially stepping away from the church was due to frustration. Ultimately stepping away from the church expanded my faith. …. It made me become a stronger person spiritually and in my daily life.

          I can understand that, but I think it still stands that departing from regular fellowship is the normal path for someone falling away from the faith. I don’t know your situation very well, but I would hazard a guess that this is what was going on in the minds of those who came after you when you left.

          I just can’t function that way. Admittedly when it comes to things like work I have obligations. But my relationship with God? It isn’t so much work as it is passion… a WANT to be with Him

          Passion is great, but feelings don’t always run high. If you’ve ever read The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis calls this “The Law of Undulation”. Don’t get me wrong, having passion for God is great, but I would argue that love reveals itself most beautifully when we choose to love, even when the feelings aren’t present. I think marriage, friendship and prayer are all good examples of this.

          I believe you may be referencing Galatians 6:1… I believe in brotherly guidance and correction

          Excellent. I didn’t actually have a particular passage in mind as there are many.

          I keep a small group of friends. VERY small group of friends.

          I don’t think that’s not a bad thing.

          …gentle guidance and correction has nothing to do with the institutional church

          While I’ve had many negative experiences, I would suggest that it can be found in institutional churches.

          Because… I go to church when I feel GOD pressing on my heart for me to go to church. it is the furthest thing from emotionalism…. Often times God tells me to go and I don’t want to go…but I do. I wish I had the words to express what goes on in my head and my heart – but unfortunately I don’t.

          As an Eastern Catholic, I have other motivations to go to church on Sunday, but I think I’d find it very strange if I had to discern each week whether or not to go.

          I like that you mentioned that you need to be moving as well!

          My blog is called “<a href="http://restlesspilgrim.net/blog/2011/05/16/paroikia/"Restless Pilgrim” for a reason 🙂

          Like

  10. Just sort of a follow up thought here…
    I wonder… while the decline in church attendance may be down – there is no real study as to how many of those people have broken off to start small prayer groups or Bible study groups that would not be considered “church”. I know of quite a few. I occasionally attend them… they are powerful… yet they wouldn’t be considered church, now would they?

    It’s almost like there is an “underground” happening…

    Like

    • Hi Traci!

      As a matter of fact, George Barna wrote a book called “Revolution” in 2005 that covers this in great detail. They had begun to notice a drop in church attendance and decided to do a study on it. The hypothesis was that those who were leaving churches were lazy people who didn’t want to serve, give their money or get out of bed on Sunday’s. What they discovered was that many of these people were vibrant followers of Christ who were leaving church to keep their faith.

      I read an advance copy of the book before it come out. It is worth reading. You just might find yourself being described in it, young lady! I know I found I guy that looked like me in book.

      Like

  11. Hi Jim, thanks for your comment on Armor of God and I am sure Preacher Carter will give you an answer when he can. However, I wanted to let you know that Assemblies of God do not seem to be decreasing in attendance, in my opinion they are increasing. I read an article not long ago that said they are growing faster than most other churches.

    I am not sure about the United States, but worldwide their seems to be a great hunger. Locally in my own church, our attendance has increased, in spite of many elderly dying and others like me suffering from major illnesses.

    Our young people are bringing others in an our determination to reach the youth seems to be working well. We live in an area where faith is still strong and letting the Holy Spirit lead the way is encouraged.

    There are times when we simply pray and lay hands on those in need, we welcome missionaries to tell of their experiences, do our best to support them. We don’t care what you wear as long as you wear something. We take time to visit and encourage everyone.

    Like

    • Hi Loopy!

      “I wanted to let you know that Assemblies of God do not seem to be decreasing in attendance, in my opinion they are increasing. I read an article not long ago that said they are growing faster than most other churches.”

      The study is more a big picture thing. What it tells us is that, overall, people are attending church less and that includes Christians. I am sure that what you are describing is happening all over the country. Some congregations are growing like crazy, others are closing.

      In a similar way, assuming that the AOG as a denomination is growing, we would not expect that every single AOG congregation in the USA is growing.

      Like

      • Restless Pilgrim

        Something also to consider is retention rate. For example, I seem to recall that the JWs make many new converts but they fail to hang on to them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree to a degree. Many denominations in my area are only going on Sunday morning, the difference I see is this is something Assemblies of God have made a concerted effort not to give in to. At least the ones I know about. But even with us, we don’t spend the time early churches did in worship. They would often spend all day and long into the night!

        Like

        • I understand what you are seeing in your area.

          This is a survey of Christians that reside throughout the entire USA, so it is not confined to a local area.

          Like

  12. Jim,
    It is interesting that Christians are leaving the church. The same thing occurred after Jesus ascended. The believers tried to stay with the temple and priests, but eventually they had to leave. They certainly were not welcome at the temple as followers of Jesus.

    What will God’s way be today? Will He go back to the dynamics of the beginning church? He may not. I know that the Bible says that there will come times when a person cannot even confide their faith to their spouse. Their faith will be secret. We may be leaving the time of evangelism. I’m just putting this idea out.

    This would change what the believer is to be doing. Their mission might be to do all that is possible to keep their faith in a world that is increasingly oppositional and hostile. Jesus indicates that the end time will be like the days of Noah. Noah had 120 years to try and evangelize others. He did not succeed. Only eight people entered the ark and there is the possibility that Noah’s sons and their wives entered the ark only because they were his family .

    It was a brand new beginning in the days of Noah.
    Just some thoughts from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Jim, I am late on this topic, but I am trying to find out what’s happening today.

    Prophesies are coming to pass. Sure looks like it as Christians are falling away.
    2 Thes 2:1
    – Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him,
    2:2
    – That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
    2:3
    – Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

    In fact most churches are following heresies esp. the mega churches.
    2 Tim 4:2
    – Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
    4:3
    – For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    4:4
    – And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

    When did heresies in church started? During Paul’s time.
    Acts 20:29
    – For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
    20:30
    – Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
    20:31
    – Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
    Paul already knows that after his death, the church will be taken by Satan. Paul said ” For I know this” and he wept night and days for the church. He managed to save some of the church from heresies but not the churches in Asia Minor.
    2 Tim 1:15
    – This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
    “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me”
    2 Tim 4:14
    – Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
    4:15
    – Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.
    4:16
    – At my first answer no man stood with me, but all [men] forsook me: [I pray God] that it may not be laid to their charge.
    “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all [men] forsook me”
    Here, No one listen to Paul but follow heretics leaders. See! Those churches are following false leaders in the First Century. What about Today? EVEN WORST !!!!
    2 Tim 3:1
    – This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
    3:2
    – For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
    3:5
    – Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
    “Having a form of godliness” these are false leaders in the church today.

    Conclusion : Paul said ” For I know this” and he wept night and days for the church. He managed to save some of the church from heresies but not the churches in Asia Minor.
    Paul (after he died) could not save all the churches because of persecutions after persecutions starting from Nero’s rule. True Christians were either killed or were hiding for their lives. True teachings must have been lost as the Rulers would not allow any Christians to preach in public. It is the same today in China as the government wants control over the church, The world hated Jesus and they will hate true Christians. What we have today are letters (epistles) of Paul and the other apostles that can teach us of the Truth for our salvation. The Fathers were trying to figure out the Truth from their epistles. Today we are doing the same, to find the Truth from good teachers which are few. Few finds the way. Mt. 7:14
    Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
    7:15
    – Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
    7:16
    – Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

    Like

  14. Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    I read that Irenaeus (early 2nd century :130 – c. AD 202) Bishop and Not sure if he was a Martyr, also referred to as Saint Irenaeus, was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyons, France), then a part of the Roman Empire (now Lyon, France). who was a hearer of Polycarp,[1] who in turn was traditionally a disciple of John the Evangelist. He is the last to have any direct teachings from the Apostles. Even the history info of Saint Irenaeus are not complete. Lost or Not?

    There is a 120 years gap from 202 to 325AD where no history info of who succeeded Irenaeus. Do you know any?

    I rather trust someone who is directly linked from the apostle time than those in the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. which involve Emperor Constantine and many other bishops making decisions on church matters especially on traditions if they were anti-Semitic. (I heard that Augustine and Luther agree with anti-Semitic views). Though some are true disciples yet they do not have full understandings of the Truth. If they have, we would not be in this Big mess today where heresies and divisions are already in the Church.

    Not sure who distorted the gospel after 202 AD because the false prophets were already doing much destruction in the church in Paul’s time recorded in all his epistles. Very hard to find out now. The bible is our only correct and true resource to find answers and know the truth. Apart from that we are not sure if any writings of the Fathers could be in error or not.

    Like

    • I rather trust someone who is directly linked from the apostles time than those in the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. which involve Emperor Constantine and many other bishops making decisions on church matters especially on traditions if they were anti-Semitic.

      Even though you would rather trust those who are earlier, you still trust those who came later. Because the bible you read this morning, was accepted to be the word of God by these men. Without them, we would all decide for ourselves what Scripture is.

      (I heard that Augustine and Luther agree with anti-Semitic views). Though some are true disciples yet they do not have full understandings of the Truth. If they have, we would not be in this Big mess today where heresies and divisions are already in the Church

      I don’t think we can blame the divisions in today’s church on the Early church. That is like blaming the societal problems we have in the USA today on the founding fathers.

      Not sure who distorted the gospel after 202 AD because the false prophets were already doing much destruction in the church in Paul’s time recorded in all his epistles. Very hard to find out now. The bible is our only correct and true resource to find answers and know the truth. Apart from that we are not sure if any writings of the Fathers could be in error or not

      The Bible, as you and I know it, was not recognized by 202 AD as the Scriptures. There was much discussion by later leaders. So, if you can not trust in the leaders of the church after 202ad, you are going to have to explain why you trust these later leaders with the task of recognizing what is an authentic when it come to the Scriptures.

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  15. ” Even though you would rather trust those who are earlier, you still trust those who came later. Because the bible you read this morning, was accepted to be the word of God by these men. Without them, we would all decide for ourselves what Scripture is.”

    Agreed. They who have given their lives for God have contributed a lot for us today. I Thank God for them. Yet false prophets who are to be blamed had done much damage in the church. Much of the rites in the church which are not biblical would be pagan rites. I don’t know if part of the sacred tradition are rites or not. Appreciate if you can comments.

    I don’t blame the Fathers but looks like some (few) of them did not get some theology of the Truth right. Yet they are saved when they gave their lives to died for Christ. Divisions will inevitably occur as God had prophesied the falling away, false teachings and the lust of men, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong. I trust the Bible is absolutely correct and those Fathers who authentic it after 202 AD are true holy saints. But I would not trust many of those other bishops who has power in the many Councils throughout the centuries esp. one that refrains Christians from the feasts, Passover which is the Lord’s supper and (teachings) one that honor not His Laws. Many of these Councils must have turned the church to divisions and wrong theology of the Truth e.g different denominations like Methodist, Lutherans, Baptist, etc.

    The church belongs to Christ alone and All churches shall be One in Theology. This is what Paul was doing i. e. to bring all saints to One and the only true gospel.

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  16. Hi Jim,
    I am wondering if Christians are leaving the church because they are not heard and the leaders do not want to hear from them, etc. Try criticizing a part of the pastor’s sermon saying that you don’t fully agree with it, or you feel that something is missing in the teaching or not fully completed in ‘Truth’, and you will incur distrust, opposition, and undermining from the church (leadership?) or their minions?
    Rather than subject themselves to compromised teaching by leaders Christians are leaving. This is my thought. This compromise compels them out of the church building to try and go it alone or they may try several churches and find that each church is as compromised as another in their beliefs and theology. Christians are not hearing the voice of God in many churches. There is nothing to hold them there anymore. Years ago in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, leaders tried holding Christians in their churches with fear, teaching people that if you leave ‘church’ you are on the path of damnation. People aren’t believing this as much anymore.

    It seems that church leaders have a different objective than the Christian. They are now teaching the ‘new world order’ philosophies and ideas to their congregations essentially saying to them ‘There is no right religion. All people who are religious are part of a ‘whole’ , and we must not judge them but accept them as God’s children. This will bring peace, grace and love”, leaders say. What could possibly be their agenda in doing this? They see themselves at the tables of the elite ruling the world. The fact is these leaders are not elite if they are in Christ. Which begs the question ‘who are they serving’?

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    • Hi lidam,

      Well said ‘who are they serving’? From the epistles we know some leaders are serving their own bellies. We know them by their deeds / works / fruits.
      This is what I understand. Make sure we serve our Lord with our lives. Anything less we could be at risk of losing our redemption unto eternal life i.e. the Promise from God which we have not fully obtained yet until we are fully perfected by Him.

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  17. Frances Handrick

    Churches that I visit seem more concern about how much money you are putting in the church! It is about money , not souls!
    Where is the true love of Christ! Jesus heal the sick.
    Jesus will supply our needs! Preach the Gospe-Mark 16:15.
    Yes, it takes money, too. Don’t let that be push up in people’s face! Love them as Christ did, God will touch their heart’s to give!
    If Christ is the Center of a church, His love
    will show!!!
    We are living in the Last and evil days- their might be a reson someone does not have money, God will supply, PREACH THE GOSPEL, not money! Let God be God!!!

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  18. I have come to believe that there is a certain DNA in our spirit. When the Holy Spirit is filling our human spirit, the match connects and we really know why we were born and born-again. God is Love. People were created in His image. People respond best to Love and acceptance and being valued since they are made in the image of God. In small groups that are not structured or under a certain religious program, people feel more free to be who they are and share what is in their hearts and experiences. Jesus was God and He chose to keep his group to about 12. He also had a special three; Peter, James and John. Life makes more sense as a Follower of Jesus when we have a wonderful mentor always pointing us to Christ as Life and we are reaching out to mentor others as we point them toward a closer walk with Jesus. Sharing the riches of Christ from dwelling with Him in our daily lives should be the mark of gathering together in homes or small groups. If the house meetings get too large, some will shy away and stop assembling. We can trust the Lord to always have another home ready to be opened and used for meetings as the house church expands. The key as always is prayer and intercession for all the saints (Eph. 6;17-18). We should all be, and enjoy being, Ambassadors for Christ.

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  19. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsAfter attending church for many years I noticed how God’s law was being sidelined and even eventually totally removed, and how the church increasingly placed emphasis on what was given to the church, this is the number one reason people are leaving the church. I now belong to an ever growing group of people who discuss scripture online, by email, in small group meetings and various other ways.
    The false teaching that God’s law has been abolished is very critical in the demise of the church and I find more and more people returning to the Torah than ever before, and they are 100% correct in their actions. That is the primary duty of a pastor, to teach people God’s laws, Jesus tells us that in Matthew 5:19, He also shows us in Matthew 15:1 to 9 how churches today are teaching the ‘traditions’ of men rather than the laws of our creator..
    Paul’s teachings are often interpreted to say we don’t need to keep the law because we are now under grace but Paul in fact teaches that we must keep the law and it is explained in 2 Peter 3, the complete chapter but the emphasis on verse 17 which clarifies the matter.
    Let the church return to the truth of the Torah and the people will return to the church.

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    • https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsAgreed. Keep all the laws of God as in obedience to Him though we are save by grace.
      1 Cor 11:2
      – Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered [them] to you.
      1 Cor 5:8 keep feast of God
      Acts 18:21
      – But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem:
      But faith which worketh by love. What is the work of faith?
      Gal 5:6
      – For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
      What is the work of faith? Faith is to obey and Keeping of the commandments of God.
      1 Cor 7:19
      – Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

      Like

    • Agreed. Keep all the laws of God as in obedience to Him though we are save by grace.
      1 Cor 11:2
      – Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered [them] to you.
      1 Cor 5:8 keep feast of God
      Acts 18:21
      – But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem:

      But faith which worketh by love. What is the work of faith?
      Gal 5:6
      – For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
      What is the work of faith? Faith is to obey and Keeping of the commandments of God.
      1 Cor 7:19
      – Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

      Like

    • Not sure what you are calling God’s laws. There are no laws of God, if there were free will would be negated.

      There is no word in scriptural Hebrew that can be translated to mean “obey”, so how could towrah mean law? Every root word of towrah is the antithesis of the idea of law as in something one must obey. Towrah is simply the instructions given those who want desire to come to know Yahowah as a father, and walk the path which He delineated which leads to His home, and nothing more.

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  20. Esther Johnson

    I don’t feel connected with church. It’s no longer about disciplining and caring. It’s all about having 5-6 pastors or staff and about entertainment. The worship songs have no meaning and very repetitive and they threw the hymns out the door. How boring!

    Like

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