i am in the midst of a synopsis of julia duin’s engaging book, “quitting church.” ms. duin’s perspective is especially important to me because she is not “in the ministry.” duin is religion editor for the washington times and her story comes from a deep, personal place. she tells us why people are leaving the church, and she tells us what we (the church/church leaders) ought to do about it. so far, these posts have stirred quite a bit of controversy. that was not my intention, but i look forward to the dialogue.
NOTE: as a single person, duin wrote a chapter on the tendency of the church to ignore that growing demographic (and she had some great things to say about their sexual issues), and another on the church’s attitude toward women. i have chosen to skip those to chapters in this conversation, not because they are unimportant, but because as a married male i didn’t think i could do them justice. i urge you to buy the book and read them for yourself.
reason people are quitting church #3: SUPERFICIAL TEACHING
People never tell me mediocre teaching is the foremost reason for their leaving the church, but it is a huge factor…The heart of the pastor–and the centerpiece of most Protestant services–is the sermon. Pastors generally think their sheep are getting a good meal; however their listeners disagree, according to research by George Barna. In 1993, he found that while only 44 percent of congregations polled rated the preaching they got as excellent, 81 percent of the pastors did so.
duin interviewed several prominent theologians (you would recognize their names) and she bemoans the intellectual laziness and Scriptural weakness of most preachers. One seminary professor said, “They are more into marketing modes for growth, but growth for growth’s sake is the philosophy of the cancer cell.” ms. duin pointed to the mormon’s “system” of aggressively training their children as something evangelicals might consider. she continues:
Many churches have done a poor job of grounding people in their faith and laying down what commitment as a Christian means. The typical church is not educating people by teaching Scripture in an understandable and applicable way…Short of being a seminary student (the one period in my life when i got exceptionally good teaching), I have found little out there besides devotionals and introductory studies.
duin also points to the pew as a source of the problem:
In fairness to those who preach, part of the problem is believers who are too jaundiced to ingest spiritual meat…People who are not being dazzled by new insights at church will soon go shopping elsewhere.
finally, duin quotes chris jackson, pastor of grace church in la verne, california and author of “loving god when you don’t love the church.”
I am running into a lot of people who are disillusioned. They have paid their dues, done all the meetings, done all the involvement, and that is not bringing the life change they thought it would. And we have had elders leave the church, some of our most precious people. They didn’t leave mad, they left burned out. The hunger in people today is a combination of practical truth they can apply and experience. People are looking for Jesus, period. If they found a place they felt embodied a relationship with him, far fewer people would leave the church. We weren’t created for programs or activities.
Most people don’t like to fail, so when they get enlisted into a faith in which they cannot hear the Lord’s simplest directions or get their prayers answered, they check out fast. Most either slide into a costless Christianity that’s easily maintained or simply give up.