So Why Have 40 Million People Stopped Going to Church?

Study: Attendance hemorrhaging at small and midsize US congregations

Not exactly crowded, is it?

The Atlantic (of all people!) asks why so many Americans don’t go to church anymore, and cites a survey of some 7,000 respondents… concluding that over the past 25 years, some 40 million of us have stopped going to church.

You could only read a few lines of the article before they said you had to subscribe if you wanted to read the rest. I have no wish to subscribe, so I’ll try to answer the question myself: Why have people supposedly stopped going to church?

I’d say the No. 1 reason is because many churches have stopped being the Church. Is your church up to its eyeballs in politics (usually Far Left politics)? Do you find the Bible hardly mentioned there? Do you hear a lot of “interfaith” drivel about all roads leading to Heaven? Does your pastor dress up as Spiderman? (I wish that were a joke. It isn’t.)

Some years ago I returned to the church that I grew up in, and requested a chat with the pastor. I got a ministerette who warned me against taking the Bible too seriously. I don’t imagine she ever did. She also referred to adultery as “no big deal.”

I’m not in California, so I haven’t encountered any churches where they do “goddess” worship or past lives.

But I am here in cyberspace; and here we share hymns, prayers, study the Bible together, and in some ways function as a church. It is a kind of assembly; and it enables us to get together despite living thousands of miles apart.

It’s simple. You bring the Pachamama idol into the church, and Christians up and leave. You do “gay weddings,” and people up and leave. You preach false gods, and Christians up and leave.

There are a lot of ways to ruin church; but the Church, Christ’s Church, will survive and conquer.

23 comments on “So Why Have 40 Million People Stopped Going to Church?

  1. Technology and social media play a big part as well. Lots of churches during the pandemic relied on services being streamed via Facebook and YouTube. Several church members are lazy now and just “tune in” if their church is still streaming their services via Facebook. Our church used a streaming service but I don’t know if we are still doing it. I think I’ll check because our attendance is quite low and our pastor is an old-fashioned sort and uses the Bible and expounds upon it. His sermons are good .

  2. This is a very sad testimony to what is called “the great falling away” as written in Scripture, describing things that will happen in the last days.. Too many churches have become mere
    social clubs, just when people so desperately need real preaching and exhortation, teaching and warning.

  3. I am finishing the last chapter in a booklet that deals with Christian giving, and this issue is looked into. Most people have the wrong conception and view of how a “church” congregation should be organized. I also had the wrong idea for most of my Christian journey. Below is a bit of what I explore in my book dealing with “church” buildings.

    The answer has always been in Scripture, however, it is hard to see or grasp if you start with the wrong assumption, an inaccurate starting point, and build upon the wrong foundation.

    Due to persecution by Jews and Gentiles, no special houses of worship were ever built for the first 300 years or so of the Christian Church.

    The concept modern Christians developed, the need to erect a church building to hold worship services, meant that no official church or congregation exists without a building, has been around for over a thousand years. Considering that, most Christians would have a hard time relating to, or even how, without a building, or permanent place to hold services in, would the congregation survive, let alone thrive. And yet, with none of those things considered necessary today, the early Church flourished, succeeded, and grew throughout the world.

    The early church was not concerned about plush carpets, stained glass windows, cathedral ceilings, pulpits, pews, organs, new carpets, offering plates, choir robes, pastor retirement or building funds, loans, or rent, and a host of other things. They had none of those things, nor did they need or want any of that stuff!

    The early Church was operated and organized very differently than we find today. How so, and where do we find the answers? It’s in the book of Acts and the epistles Paul wrote to the early Church. It’s there we find the answers and solutions to the problems mentioned in this post.

    Curious? I would be happy to share what I have found.

    1. Well, they did have the catacombs; we don’t. I wonder where the churches under Paul’s care met, if not in members’ houses.

  4. The problem, as I see it, is that few churches really stick to the Bible. My faith-journey has led me to adhere ever more closely to sola sciptura as a standard. At one point in time, I had been influenced away from scripture to the point that I believed in cosmic evolution, although I never believed in biological evolution. I had been influenced by pastors that compromised by fanciful interpretations of scripture which sought to harmonize scripture with atheistic theory.

    One day, I took a good hard look at the fruitage this was bearing, and realized that this course had diluted the message. I distanced myself from this church and prayed for guidance. Ever since, I have learned from scripture alone and fellowship informally with others whom treasure God’s word.

    1. Cosmic evolution would be that the stars formed by accretion of gases from an undirected big bang. I’m fine with the concept of a “big bang” from where all matter emerged, but I don’t even for a moment, any longer believe that the stars and planets were formed in an undirected manner. From the standpoint of an observer, it may have looked like a big explosion from a point of singularity, but I am convinced that every atom was deliberately placed where God intended it to be.

    2. I can’t help wonder–is there anybody who actually understands these things? I mean, we say “big bang” or whatever–but how real does that make it? I can’t help being skeptical about all things Science.

    3. Somewhat echoing Michael’s comments; it’s a story. None of us were here to witness the creation of the physical Universe, but I don’t find it hard to believe that all matter may have come from one place, which would have looked a lot like a Big Bang. But equally, I could just as easily believe that all matter just came into existence simultaneously, in all locations.

      A lot of theories strike me as being much more a tale than the product of any actual application of the Scientific Method. Some of these “stories” are well crafted, and quite compelling to the listener, but may have a fairly flimsy relationship to reality. I’ve watched science shows that told detailed stories about dinosaurs, but were mostly fabrications.

      Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether or not we understand the details of how creation came about. We are here, we have knowledge of the Creator, and can place out trust in Him.

  5. The catacombs were in Rome. As far as I know, there were no catacombs in any of the other cities where Paul founded Churches.

    “I wonder where the churches under Paul’s care met, if not in members’ houses.” Yes.

    That is for the most part, how all the Church operated the first three-hundred years. Small house churches under the care of Elders, not one pastor over one congregation! And they turned the world upside down! There were no large congregations with thousands of attendees, and no mega churches!

    The biggest problem, is the lens we look through when we read Scripture. When we read about the New Testament Church’s in Scripture, we equate those churches and how they operated and were setup, with all we have ever known, a big building where many gather each Sunday to sing a few hymns, hear one man preach a sermon, shake a few hands, and go home, until the next Sunday.

    If we want to turn the world upside down again, perhaps we should follow the pattern given to us in God’s word. Which worked so very well for hundreds of years.

    Again, curious? I would be happy to share what I have found. Oh, by the way, I haven’t found something secret, a hidden message, a code, known only by a select few, the Chosen Ones. Numerous groups, Christian organizations, godly men and women have been using for a while, and many others are beginning to give heed to the New Testament pattern already laid out for us to follow.

    1. The highly organized religions we see today would be unrecognizable to early Christians. Meetings of small groups, without elaborate meeting places seems workable, especially in our day, when abuses by some churches have called into question even the tax breaks afforded religious groups.

    2. Yes, you are correct. And if they stepped into one large denomination, where their buildings are elaborate, have statues, and much ornamentation all around, with the ministers’ called priests dressed up in robes, Paul or Peter, would have probably thought they were in a pagan temple.

    3. Lest we go overboard on the virtues of the early Church, remember that Paul wrote most of his epistles to correct practices and notions that very badly needed correction.

  6. “I can’t help being skeptical about all things Science.”

    Science is not a thing to believe in or be skeptical about. Real science is just a method used to study things around us.

    “The scientific method usually has five or six basic steps that are taken before scientists can come to any kind of conclusion. Scientists will generally follow these steps when considering a problem. First, they conduct observation, formulate a question, do background research, and then develop or construct a hypothesis (a testable prediction). They will then refine the idea and make predictions according to the hypothesis. They will devise experiments and tests (which must be repeatable) to confirm or prove their hypothesis, and then analyze the data from the tests and experiments. They generally try to falsify the hypotheses by the tests they devise, as the purpose of their experiments is to determine whether things observed in the real world agree or conflict with the predictions derived from a hypothesis. Lastly, they will draw conclusions from those experiments and make a final analysis and statement.” – Reindeer Don’t Fly” –

    How would you test, measure, observe, or experiment on the “big bang? What kind of experiments or tests could you devise or design concerning the “big bang”? Thus, anyone dealing with that idea, is not dealing with science, but simply science fiction.

  7. It’s true, none of us were there to witness the creation of the physical universe. If you want to call Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The big bang, OK. But we don’t have to wonder about the creation, make up theories, or stories or guess what happened. And it truly does matter that we believe what God said happened. God did tell us, about how long ago it took place (6,000 to 7,000 years ago). How it was done (by His word), how long it took (six days), and what was created on each day.

    I don’t see any kind of explosion in the creation account. But I do see matter (the earth) just “popping” into existence, out of nothing, on the first day. The stars and sun and all heavenly bodies simultaneously beginning their travels throughout their circuits in the heavens on the fourth day. The living creatures in the seas instantaneously forming and beginning their existence of life on the fifth day, and so forth.

    None of this is a theory, story, myth, fairy tale, or yarn. It’s true history. A real miracle. Just like turning water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, raising the dead, feeding the 5,000, healing the sick, and His resurrection from the dead. If someone can believe Jesus did these things, why is it so hard to believe His creation account?

    None of the miracles can be studied by using the scientific method. They must be believed, by faith!

    1. Let me start by saying that talking about the physics of creation, at least from my standpoint for this discussion is talking about what it would have looked like, were we able to observe creation, as it happened.

      My point is that it really doesn’t make much difference. If God had all matter emanate from one place, and then expand from that point, yes, that would look like an explosion, and if you wanted to call it a big bang, you certainly could do that, but that doesn’t cut the Creator out of the picture. Either way, from the position of an observer, the physical Universe would have come into existence in far less than the blink of an eye, and would involve a supernatural source to the Universe.

      The notion of a big bang came from the discovery that there is a Doppler Effect, or “red shift” in the light coming from distant objects, which pretty much means that everything is expanding. If you project this backward in time, that would suggest that it all came from one central point. When this theory came about, it was quite upsetting to atheists in the scientific community, because it demonstrated that the Universe had a beginning and implied the existence of a Creator.

      I don’t advocate the notion of a big bang; in fact there are many problems with this model. All I’m saying is that if God created all matter from one central point, indeed, it would appear like a big bang. However, in order to make this model work, they had to come up with an exception to the laws of physics, utilizing something called “inflation”, which allowed things to move faster than the speed of light. As soon as they have to invoke such a break from the laws of physics, in order to explain physics, my antennae of skepticism rise. However, if we are talking about the works of an infinite Creator who made the rules, He could suspend them.

      The only significance to any of this are the implications for the laws of physics, which are somewhat useful to be aware of. For example, Quantum Mechanics implies some pretty strange action in the realm of the very small, but that theory also governs the behavior of the micro electronics upon which our modern world relies. If you are creating online content, reading online content, or posting a comment (such as I am doing right now), you are utilizing devices which could not have been developed were it not for quantum mechanics. At the quantum level, individual actions appear chaotic, but the probabilities are consistent and predictable, which speaks of the Creator’s hand in all of this.

      Quantum is the realm of the very small, and Cosmology is the realm of the very large. The iPad I am using to make this post absolutely relies upon quantum mechanics in order to function, but it doesn’t rely upon cosmology to function; or does it? Well, the same Rule-Maker is involved in both the very large and the very small. For many, many years, science has sought a unified theory which ties the behavior of the very small to the behavior of the very large. They haven’t arrived at this, as of yet, but the journey has been enlightening, nonetheless.

      While his name is routinely lost in the clutter, Michael Faraday was an absolutely necessary person in the development of our understanding, and although he wasn’t highly educated in a secular sense, his Christian faith was essential in how he interpreted matters. Faraday was initially ridiculed for suggesting the existence of magnetic fields, but he turned out to be right, and the understanding of magnetic fields is an absolute essential in mankind’s ability to harness electricity. Even the Amish are, to some degree, served by Faraday’s discoveries, and for those of us living in the modern technological world, were Faraday’s discoveries not in place, we would immediately find ourselves back in the level of technology characteristic of the Victorian Era.

      My point is that while I agree completely that accepting Genesis as a complete description of creation, there is a very real need to learn more deeply about how the created material realm operates. Whether we like it or not, our modern world is highly reliant upon electricity, and once that “camel” sticks his nose under the edge of the tent, the broader subjects of Quantum Mechanics and even Cosmology will scurry in.

      For the record, I have no problem, whatsoever, with a literal interpretation of the Bible, including Genesis chapters 1-11, and that includes the young earth implications of such an interpretation. The presence of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils has upset the apple cart with regard to the timeline, and reinforces the Bible’s accuracy. None of my comments should be interpreted as a challenge to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11, because I certainly do not intend that.

      I believe, quite strongly, that science is entirely compatible with scripture, and I greatly admire the Discovery Institute, which is at the spearhead of the Intelligent Design movement. Intelligent Design is not a challenge to the Bible, but is strictly a scientific discussion of the impossibility of our Universe, and life itself, existing, absent the direct participation of an Intelligent Source. Intelligent Design, however, is not a theological discussion, and doesn’t attempt to define this Intelligent Source. This is not an attempt to depersonalize God; many of the Discovery Institute scientists are men of deep faith and will speak openly of their beliefs, but the discussion of the Discovery Institute itself is limited to the scientific, and how impossible the existence of our Universe would be without some Intelligence directing matters.

      So the question of whether all matter emanated from one point of singularity, or if all things immediately came into existence in their relative locations is not at all about theology, no more than the existence of magnetic fields is about theology. Yes, understanding such things gives us greater insight into the wonderful nature of our Creator, and I find such understanding very gratifying, in that it serves to demonstrate compatibility between my faith and the things we can observe around us. This brings to mind Romans 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” ESV

      There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking knowledge, and in my own humble way, this is a very important part of my life. My work is in data communications, and understanding our Universe can be quite handy in what I do. For example, the earth will be hit by a coronal mass ejection, later this week, and that can disrupt communications. Knowing the presence and timing of such events can save a lot of work, because such events can explain communications disruptions, on the scientific side of things. On the theological side, it gives me a greater degree of appreciation for God; knowing that our Sun is a remarkably stable star, and the life would not be possible if our home planet orbited a less stable star. It sounds like our Creator knew this, and created our Sun in such a way that life is possible on Earth, even in our fallen state.

      The one-time acceptance I had for Cosmological Evolution was the product of a church teaching that compromised reliance upon the Bible in order to appease the fallacious teachings of men. Once I began to question this church teaching, it became obvious to me that there was no need to appease human sources or to seek to distort the Bible to accommodate these human teachings. Sola Scritura is a principle I live by, but I also live in the modern, technologically dense world of the 21st century, and I can’t answer technological questions solely from scripture.

      Michael Faraday has certainly been recognized by the scientific community, and the long-accepted unit of measurement for electrical capacitance is the Farad. That might not seem important, but it serves to illustrate several things. Firstly, this demonstrates that believers don’t need to approach scientific endeavor with their hat in their hand. Christians can, and do, make valuable contributions to science, without compromising their beliefs. Secondly, by reaching forward to gain more accurate knowledge of the physical realm, Christians can help to improve matters for everyone. Kepler, Galileo, Newton and Faraday are obvious examples of men who advanced understanding and made life better for all mankind, but maintained strong faith. While I would never imagine rising to the level of these men, I endeavor to learn as much as I can about our material realm, while keeping in mind Psalm 127:1

      “Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.”

    2. Thank you for this fascinating exposition. Thank you for the trouble you went to, to write it. Certainly there’s nothing I can add to it!

    3. All miracles performed by Jesus, and that includes the account of creation, are outside the realm, scope or possibility of scientific investigation, thus cannot be studied. But the creation, which has been created, is not. And should be studied and investigated.

      Because the account of creation is true, and the record of history going back to the beginning is a true chronicle of events occurring since that time. The earth is not young as many suggest, that is a fallacy, by advocating something 6,000 years old, is in reality very young.

      I think most everyone would agree, anything 1,000 years old or older (most certainly 6,000 years), is old indeed, ancient in fact, be it an artifact or relic, Stone Age structure, coin, civilization, or a redwood tree. Sadly, we have been seduced by evolutionary notions of “deep time,” pronouncements of billions of years, etc. By contrast, 6,000 years, which denotes antiquity, is supposed to represent a minuscule period. However, a 6,000-year-old Earth cannot in any way or fashion, be considered young! I believe in an old Earth, ours, which has been around for an exceedingly long time, 6,000 – 7,000 years. Anything that old is not new or young.

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