top ten reasons to leave church.

It’s been over a decade since I joined Grace Assembly and never once did I consider leaving church for greener pastures or stiller waters. Grace, like ACS, has played a big part in making me who I am today and there is little possibility that I’d want to leave. Of course in the last 13 years, I’ve seen countless people – both pew-warmers and high-profile leaders alike – leave church. Some exit for legitimate reasons and some do not; I’m not in the place to judge. I’ve never been one to hold people back should they opt to venture elsewhere – I’ve always seen it as a personal choice.

This “Top Ten” list looks like it’s going to be a weekly release (you can read the previous list on the desired ingredients of a worship leader here). For this week, if I may, I’ll muse about the top ten church-exiting justifications I’ve gathered over the years. I won’t elaborate on each point because I want to leave its details to your interpretation and imagination. My adapted observations are based on an official research conducted. If people do leave church, this is what they might say:

  1. “The church doesn’t seem to be growing spiritually.”
  2. “There’s little significance in my meaningless ministry.”
  3. “My church friends are so judgmental and critical.”
  4. “The preacher is weak, non-expository and not engaging.”
  5. “There are too many changes – no stability, no consistency.”
  6. “The environment is so superficial and artificial – a bunch of hypocrites.”
  7. “I don’t even know if my church is doing God’s work.”
  8. “Socially, it’s such an elitist and exclusive culture – not my cup of tea.”
  9. “There’s no grace when I share my problems with my pastors and leaders.”
  10. “My pastor doesn’t walk his talk – he’s just another hypocrite.”

You can find other variations and a more methodical breakdown here, here, here, here or here. However, allow me to turn the tables a little – here are the top ten reasons why you should stick around in your church:

  1. “The church doesn’t seem to be growing spiritually.”
  2. “There’s little significance in my meaningless ministry.”
  3. “My church friends are so judgmental and critical.”
  4. “The preacher is weak, non-expository and not engaging.”
  5. “There are too many changes – no stability, no consistency.”
  6. “The environment is so superficial and artificial – a bunch of hypocrites.”
  7. “I don’t even know if my church is doing God’s work.”
  8. “Socially, it’s such an elitist and exclusive culture – not my cup of tea.”
  9. “There’s no grace when I share my problems with my pastors and leaders.”
  10. “My pastor doesn’t walk his talk – he’s just another hypocrite.”

Believe it or not, should you choose to go, you will always be able to identify another problem with your new church. At the end of the day, there is no perfect church; but if there was one, you wouldn’t be in it. So, be loyal, be patient, stick around and be the difference in your church (but if God tells you to leave, do it quietly and quickly). Don’t jump ship on a sinking boat; there’s no pluck in that. (But maybe, just maybe – no offence here – when you do jump ship, the original boat may actually start to float! Then maybe we’d say, “Good riddance to bad rubbish”.)

I’ll conclude this post with something I found on the net – “Note to pastors and youth ministers who choose to live in denial: this list does not apply to YOU and YOUR church, only to other churches and other youth groups that are not as spiritual, strategic, relevant, cool, committed or emerging as you are.”

I hope my second top ten list was helpful in expanding your perspective of being in your church.

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About Joey Asher Tan

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ.

Posted on April 6, 2010, in Attempted Provocation, Top Ten & Other Lists and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. It would be nice if it were that easy. But butting heads with those entrenched in places of power doesn’t seem to me to be the way. If they don’t do the things of the church why even call them the church? A tree is known by it’s fruit, not what the tree wants to call itself.

    We who choose not to go to church as believers, are the church. Just as much as those who attend church and do what Christ wants are the church.

  2. Wandering Wonderer

    ‘I hope my second top ten list was helpful in expanding your perspective of being in your church.’

    No offence here — but I simply have to disagree with this statement not least because you’ve tagged this post under ‘hypocrite’ and therefore dismissed what may be truly legitimate reasons why people leave church.

    I’m not saying that leaders are wholly at fault nor am I saying that I fully agree with members’ departure without first addressing the issues that they face in their former church. But to dismiss people’s reasons for leaving church as being hypocritical simply because they express their sentiments does not bode well.

    My question — rhetorical — is: Have these concerns been addressed, looked into or are they dismissed as, what your tag indicates, as being hypocritical, and therefore traitors are undeserving of attention?

    Frankly, from a wholly neutral perspective, I didn’t find this post as uplifting as your other posts simply because the whole post, very honestly, adopted an extremely condescending tone. For instance: ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish.’

    And it is precisely because of unwelcoming comments like these that give credence to reasons 3, 8 and 9. I think that that simple statement is classic because it assumes that everybody has the spiritual depth you do and it reeks of condescension. Furthermore, as leaders, shouldn’t the challenge be, since you’re aware of the spiritual immaturity and implications, to do one’s utmost best to serve and reach out? Or is my statement wrong?

    This isn’t to say that criticism isn’t helpful, my point is, have you considered the issues people deal with before such remarks are made?

    Throughout the post, I’ve not heard a single statement on how there could possibly/perhaps be — no matter how minuscule — a chance that what members go through are legitimate concerns nor have I come to understand how the environment might be made more conducive for members. In corporations, where’s there’s a turn-over, managers sit people down and express concern? And shouldn’t a church show more love and understanding?
    Rather, I’ve come away with this phrase ‘It’s all your fault. Change yourself. Nothing’s wrong with the leaders. It’s all your fault.’

    And at the end of the post, I wonder, where’s the love Jesus showed Mary Magdelene?

    • Hi there,

      thank you for your comments. it’s always good to have differing perspectives.

      first and foremost, i’m very well aware that even before i posted this article, it would invite controversy. now, as you and i would know, there are countless ways of approaching and interpreting this rather sensitive issue. i have chosen mine and you have chosen yours. we are not discussing right or wrong. this is an exchange of very legitimate and absolutely justified concerns. it stirs a kaleidescope of emotions, doesn’t it?

      i’d like to address only your “hypocrite” query. if you do follow my blog, you’ll realise that the way i do my tagging is simply by the appearance of words/ideas featured in the article. “hypocrite” was tagged because the word “hypocrite” was used a couple of times. nothing more, nothing less. the motivation for your lengthy and passionate reply seems to stem from the mention of this word. for example, in the last top ten list, i tagged “Bondage Breaker” because I had mentioned it, but the entire article had nothing to do with it.

      i have also, at the beginning of my article, put in a disqualifier to state that “Some exit for legitimate reasons and some do not; I’m not in the place to judge. I’ve never been one to hold people back should they opt to venture elsewhere – I’ve always seen it as a personal choice.” and I will continue to remain consistent to my statement. however, do know that i have never held someone back if they have already chosen to leave.

      in fact, very recently, I just had a conversation with one of my closest friends who has decided to leave my church. it was an open, heartfelt dialogue and not once in my response did i coerce him to stay – he had a very legit family-oriented reason to leave. for this beloved friend of mine, i was personally sad to see him go. nothing even close to “good riddance to bad rubbish”. i reserve that statement for myself, first and foremost, should i ever become a cancer to the church and start to slime everything about it. that’s why i advocated that should people decide to leave, they should do it quietly and quickly, for the greater good of the church i.e. the body of Christ (its people).

      i had actually written a reply as long as your comment but i decided against posting it because i think the bulk of your sentiments were aroused by my use of the word, “hypocrisy”. so i hope that clears up this “hypocrite” misunderstanding. hence i won’t address the rest of your comments. (let’s not even get into “traitors” – i think it’d be a far-fetched interpretation of my original intention…) rest assured, if there is any hypocrite, then i’d be the first to raise my hand.

      my friend, there will be as many who will come away with a positive message “yeah! i should stick around!” from this article as there would be negative “it’s all my fault. change myself.” i have deliberately and wisely distanced myself from a definite, absolute stand because everyone joins and leaves church for a plethora of reasons; one blog post will not be able to address them all. perhaps it may help if you re-read this article with a satirical perspective. i’ve always intended it to be light-hearted and self-mocking, never to judge, condescend or condemn. i think after posting over 70 articles on this blog, i’d have communicated my style of writing quite clearly.

      i sincerely hope that i’ve communicated my intentions well. your next response could go either way and i’m totally cool with that. after all, this entry was put into the category “Attempted Provocation” and i think it has achieved that.

      once again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. i want you to know that i hear you and i’ve learnt a couple of things from this exchange as well as your absolutely legitimate concerns but i think you have misunderstood my intentions of writing this supposed humourous top ten list.

      let’s continue to be effective in serving God – in and out of church. cheers mate. (:

      j.

      p/s you posted 2 identical comments so i took the liberty to publish the later one instead and delete the earlier one.

    • I like to sum it up this way,

      I get all excited about what I read in scripture and what can be the life of a believer in the body of Christ, only to look up from the pages and confess, oh yeah, that’s how we do it.

      This is why I quit going to church. Sadly the “church” can’t see it.

  3. Wandering Wonderer

    J,
    I’m not sure how others would take this post but chances are those who are already struggling with their decisions will likely read it the wrong way. But you, most definitely, have the right to write what you feel.

    Thank you for your response, your note of it being ‘satire’ did illuminate your choice of words and explain your, in my opinion, somewhat patronizing tone. I’m glad you explained. It really cleared things up and clarified why I wasn’t sensing that anybody cared about how the people felt at all.

    Continue shining for His glory.

    • thanks for your gracious response. i’m relieved that it wasn’t as scary as the first one. (:

      oh trust me my friend, caring about people who want to leave church – isn’t that why i even wrote the article in the first place, in hope of using the severely-overused method of reversed psychology (oh bummer, i just gave it away…)? i mean, encouraging people not to leave church is the exact reason why i’m even in this full-time job! i’d love to help them stick around. but surely there is pain felt each time a sheep wanders away, no?

      anyway, it was good to hear from you, really. let’s do our bits for our church, wherever we are, whatever it’s called. hope to hear your perspective again in future “provoking” posts. cheers. let’s keep the church shiny. (:

      j.

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