The Angus Read Institute reported last year that in Canada in 2000 30% of Canadians attended a religious service at least once a month. By 2015 that percentage of even occasional attenders had dropped to 23%.

John Pavlovitz thinks he knows why people are leaving church.

Here are three reasons (two more tomorrow) John Pavlovitz suggests people are leaving church with some comments from me and a few quotes from his original piece which should be read in its entirety at:

1.Your Sunday productions have worn thin.

According to Pavlovitz, glitzy worship is not adequate to sustain consistent church attendance. In fact, depending on any external form to sustain church attendance is a recipe for failure. It does not matter how slick the packaging may be, it is worth nothing if we lose touch with the content that church exists to embody in its corporate life.

Church is a body of broken people. We are those who know we fail to measure up to the beauty and light for which we were created. We are a messy community of untidy people united in our awareness of our need for grace and mercy. We gather because we acknowledge our need to surrender our lives to a power greater than ourselves. The more glitzy, flashy, and professional we try to look, the more we risk obscuring the message of God’s gentle grace.

2. You speak in a foreign tongue.

Church, you talk and talk and talk, but you do so using a dead language. You’re holding on to dusty words that have no resonance in people’s ears, not realizing that just saying those words louder isn’t the answer. All the religious buzzwords that used to work 20 years ago no longer do.

This spiritualized insider-language may give you some comfort in an outside world that is changing, but that stuff’s just lazy religious shorthand, and it keeps regular people at a distance. They need you to speak in a language that they can understand. There’s a message there worth sharing, but it’s hard to hear above your verbal pyrotechnics.

So much of what we do in church aims to keep comfortable those of us who are already on the inside. We cherish the warm feeling we get from our familiar language and our habitual ways of doing things. We are not interested in finding out how the things we love may be an obstacle to people who did not grow up with our customs and traditions.

Our unwillingness to take seriously the gap between our cherished little religious world and the great big world outside church, makes it impossible for us to connect with people for whom church-land is increasingly strange and unfamiliar territory.

  1. Your vision can’t see past your building.

Our tendency to venerate our buildings is deadly. When one of Jesus’ disciples leaving the temple commented on the great structure of this revered place of worship, Jesus replied,

Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down. (Mark 13:2)

To the degree that we cling to any external form rather than the God to whom they are intended to point, we are holding on to a reality that will always let us down. Church exists to point beyond buildings, beyond styles of worship, or liturgy, or particular cherished patterns of leadership.

We need to launch out bravely and find the path God is setting for the church today not cling to the forms, styles and patterns that may have worked in the past to point to God.



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