In an open letter to the church posted May 2019 John Pavlovitz re-visits the question “Why Are People Leaving Church?”

His words four years after his first foray into the land of church departures, are even more challenging and radical than his first attempt to explain to the church why we seem to be hemorrhaging so badly. Below are some excerpts from Pavlovitz with my reflections. But again, do visit his blog and read the entire post:

This is simply self-evidently true. All the signs point to the Christian church of the future being smaller than it has been in the past. We may ring our hands, point the finger and identify the culprit, but we will be better situated to deal with the future if we start by acknowledging the reality of the present.

The important question is how we respond to the reality of what is. Pavlovitz suggests a number of possible reactions to a shrinking church:

For Pavlovitz it is clear, tweaking the surface of how we do church will not stop the departures. The causes for church-leaving are deeper than the mechanics of how we do church. But here is where I slightly part company with Pavlovitz. When he tries to listen more deeply to what is causing church leaving, he comes up with an answer that, while an important concern, does not seem to me to go deep enough. Pavlovitz wants the church to believe that:

For Pavlovitz, people are leaving church because of the church’s failure to speak out on certain matters that are important to the human community. He lists the topics he believes church people want to hear the community of faith address:

Make no mistake, these are all vital concerns for the whole human community. We ignore them at our peril. And, if we fail to live consistently in relation to these very real challenges, we do a serious disservice to the well-being of the human community and our relationship to the physical environment we inhabit.

But, the first task of the church is not to focus its primary attention on even the most important social concerns. Church exists before anything else, to draw us to an awareness that there is a reality of love, truth and beauty that exists beneath the turmoil, unrest, pain, injustice, and brokenness that so often afflict the surface of the human community. At the heart of what it means to be truly human there is a strength, light and beauty that no violence, darkness, or horror can ever extinguish. Church calls us again and again to acknowledge the deep mystery at the heart of life and to live in tune with the Spirit of love that is our true nature. Church exists to help us open to an awareness of that love which “never ends” (I Corinthians 13:8).

When our hearts open to the abiding love and truth that, in Christian faith we say we see embodied in the person of Jesus, we will live more genuinely and compassionately in relation to every dimension of life. As we seek to surrender to the Spirit of God, our lives will conform more fully to the power of love. We will naturally live more truthfully and courageously in whatever context we may be challenged to live out the reconciling power of Christ. As we encounter in our own lives the transforming presence of Christ we will live more authentically the sacrificial path of love to which we are called by Jesus.