Top Reasons Why People Stop Attending Church?

Core Value Two: Relevance

Two years ago I had the privilege of speaking at the European Leadership Forum in Wisla, Poland about the need and opportunity for sports ministry in a local church. As I tried to think of a good way to communicate the strategic importance of sports ministry and its relevance to the unchurched, I shared some examples from my own journey to paint a picture for these leaders of how, at times, we can miss the mark as the church.

Here is what I shared: When I was nine years old my family moved from one community to a neighboring community where I enrolled in the local elementary school for third grade. Everyday from third grade through the end of sixth grade I walked the three blocks from our home to the school right past a church that sat on the corner adjacent to the school. In the four years that I walked past the school (before school and after school) I truly don’t remember anything going on in the church. I don’t remember one event, one outreach, one activity, or anyone reaching out to the roughly 600 students sitting a few hundred feet across the street. Sadly, the church was irrelevant in the community.

Growing up I also loved sports and played little league baseball, youth football, and basketball. We had numerous parks in our city where these activities regularly took place yet never did I experience a church, any church, make a concentrated effort to be around these activities or reach out to these kids or families. Yet this is precisely where thousands of people from our community regularly congregated and found meaning, purpose, and community. I don’t share these stories out of angst or as an indictment on all churches but to make a point that growing up the church was pretty much irrelevant to my life and the lives of a high percentage of those around me. It just wasn’t important. Unfortunately, it is also irrelevant to a growing number of Americans.

Take for example a recent survey from the Barna Group that listed “the church is irrelevant” as the number one reason people stop going to church. They also listed things like “we aren’t learning about God” and “we can’t understand anything the pastor is saying” as two additional reasons they stopped going (see Carey Nieuwhof’s article at http://careynieuwhof.com/2014/04/5reasonsmillennials/). Additionally, between the years 2010 and 2012, more than half of all churches in America added not one new member. Each year, nearly 3 million more previous churchgoers enter the ranks of the “religiously unaffiliated.” Ouch! It doesn’t have to be this way.

You see, the issue really isn’t about sports ministry per se but about the bigger issue of the church being irrelevant in the lives of people. Here is another profound statement from an article by Carey Nieuwhof titled The Evangelism Conversation No One is Having. “People are having spiritual conversations every day…they just never think of turning to a preacher or the church for answers. I’m not talking about people who have other religious backgrounds. I’m talking about neighbors, your friends, maybe even your family members as well as cultural leaders and thought leaders in our cultural context who are unchurched. It’s not that people aren’t interested in spirituality; it’s that they don’t think the church can help them.”

Relevance is one of the greatest challenges we face in the church today and something we have a firm conviction on at Renovate Church Austin. We are committed to doing Biblically faithful yet culturally-relevant ministry in our city. We believe the gospel in itself is absolutely relevant in the lives of Austinites as it deals with all the important questions and issues of life like who am I, where did I come from, why am I here, where am I going, how do I find meaning and purpose in life, how do I change? In the next post I’ll further unpack our core value of relevance.

As always, thank you for your prayers and support. We couldn’t do this without you!

Dave and April