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By Jack Wellman

People are leaving the churches in increasing numbers. Why is this happening?  What do people say is their reason for leaving church?  How can pastors and church leaders address the problems of dwindling church attendance?

Church – The Called Out Ones 

The church is called the “called out ones” which is what the Greek word “ekklésia” means and is a compound word of “ek” meaning “out” and a derivation of “kaleo” meaning “to call” so it is not actually called the church but literally the “called out ones.”  The church, as you know, is not a building but the living stones being built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets laid atop the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Eph 2:20).  Clearly the Bible teaches that no one comes to Christ on their own but is drawn by God (John 6:44) which says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  The Greek word that is used for the word “draw” is “helkō” but it doesn’t mean draw at all so the word “draw” is a mistranslation and should actually be “to drag, to lead, to impel,” or “to draw by an inward power” and this power is the power of God so the question is, if God is dragging or impelling men, women, and children to Himself, why is the church declining?  Why are people leaving the church?

The nation’s two largest Christian communities, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Catholic Church continue to decline in numbers but so have many of the other Christian communities.  Tragically, the fastest growing churches today are not actually Christian at all since they don’t have the right Jesus and they include the Mormon Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.(1)  This is according to the latest studies which were compiled in 2009 and so the trend is likely even worse today.  The U.S. Census Bureau reports that between 2001 and 2008, congregational church membership dropped from 1.3 million to 736,000 in one church alone (the Zion Congregational Church).  First of all, we know it is not the fault of God so there must be a human cause and that is what we are going to examine in the hopes that pastors and church leadership can address them.

Reason 1: Starving Sheep

If you read or are able to hear sermons from the 19th and 20th centuries, you might notice that expository or verse by verse Bible preaching has shifted to topological preaching.  That is, messages are more typically centered on the family, society, finances, and other areas that are may not be outside of biblical doctrine but are not the focus of doctrine.  The Bible has Scriptures based upon these subjects yes, but the congregation often has to page-hop from one Bible verse to another.  The danger here is that Scriptures can easily be taken out of context and you have probably heard that text taken out of context can easily create a pretext and a false one at that.  Certainly preaching on particular subjects is helpful but when verse-by-verse preaching is left out of the sermon, the flow of the book, the chapter, and the paragraph of the Bible verses are left out.  Context is everything in Bible preaching.  It would be like lifting out one paragraph of a novel and then going to several chapters later and taking another paragraph out and then going back six chapters to take out another line or two.  What are left out are critical components of the novel and this makes it difficult, if not impossible, to find out what the book is about.

Feed Them

A good shepherd will move his sheep around from one pasture to another.  The shepherd doesn’t just let them graze in a small area and then take them out quickly to another field just when they are starting to graze.  The sheep become restless, they become hungry, and they are never fully or properly feed.  They become undernourished and begin to lose weight, becoming more susceptible to disease, and if they continue to get weaker, they are more vulnerable to predators.

Reason 2: Dictator Shepherds

The pastor is actually an under-shepherd to the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ Who is the Head of the Church. This is His church, not the pastor’s church. I have all too often had a slip of the tongue and said “Well, at my church…” but it is not my church at all. It is Jesus Christ’s church.   I am only an under-shepherd and am accountable to Him.  Someday I will have to give an account of how I pastored the church that He put me into.  I never really noticed until just this year that the 23rd Psalm talks about the Lord being David’s shepherd.  Notice in verse 2 it says “He leads me beside still waters” or literally in the Hebrew, “He leads me beside waters of rest.”   The Shepherd doesn’t force the sheep or make the sheep go to the waters of rest; He leads them.  The church will never go where the pastor doesn’t lead.  You cannot force the congregants against their will, particularly if the shepherd is not leading the way.

Inspire Them by Leading

When I was first called to the church I am presently at, they didn’t have an outreach or in-reach program, they didn’t have a children’s ministry and they didn’t have a visitation program.  I unwisely passed out a sign-up sheet for these things but what I didn’t do was sign-up myself.  I finally started a nursing home ministry and Bible study on my own and passed out a sign-up sheet but no one signed it.  I had to do it by myself at first and then I would periodically report how it was going.  It wasn’t until I was willing to take the lead in areas that others would eventually follow. 

Reason 3: No Growing without Going

I truly believe that any church that doesn’t embrace evangelism will not grow.  I heard another pastor once say that 75% of people that do not attend church have never been asked.  That means that 3 out of every 4 people in your neighborhood, in your community, or in your town or city that does not attend a church have never been asked.  That is a sin of omission in my opinion.  You can’t even spell the word “gospel” without the “go.”  If there is no going there will be no growing.  Evangelism is difficult for most people.  Less than 1 in 10 Christians are active in sharing the gospel so this means that 90% of most congregants read Jesus’ imperative command to go into all the world and make disciples of other nations (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) and think it’s for someone else to do.  One lady told me that she doesn’t have the gift of evangelism like I do.  I looked at the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 and couldn’t find the gift of evangelism.   From what I could read I decided that evangelism is not a gift it is a choice.  It’s not a gift of the Spirit but a command from the Lord.  In a sense, every church member is commissioned to go into all the world, even if it’s next door.  We are all ministers of the gospel.

Go Tell Them

Like the Samaritan Woman at the Well, she went back and told her entire community that she had found the Messiah.  She didn’t receive any training, she was not a Jew by blood, and she was not commissioned or gifted by God. She simply went and proclaimed Jesus Christ to a lost community.  This may be the primary reason that the Mormon Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses churches are growing.  For the most part, they are the only ones going into their community which is why they are the only ones growing.

Reason 4: There’s No Encouragement for Ministry Involvement

Many church members don’t believe that they have anything to contribute to the church.  One of our ladies loves children.  They love her too. They just gravitated to her naturally.  I suggested that she use the Sunday school time to have a Children’s Church.  I recommended that she give them Bible messages and teach them lessons at their level of understanding (ages 3-5) so that they could begin to understand more about Jesus Christ, His church, and what they can contribute to it. I asked her if she would do this and later she came up to me and asked if they could do short programs from time to time. I said, “By all means” and now they work together as a group and create programs, make banners, and take up the offerings, so that they are participating in church services.  Naturally the parents love it but we know the children do.

Encourage Them

Encourage members to get involved in areas that they already have a passion or desire for. The more the church is encouraged to be participating and not just participants, the more they want to be there to be of service to others.

Reason 5: No One Notices

We don’t post numbers of worshippers nor do we publish the attendance numbers for Sunday school attendees but we do monitor attendance so that we can see if certain members have stopped coming to Sunday school and/or church services.  The larger a church is, the greater the risk of members just disappearing.  I like the Outreach program we have at the church but I also want to include an “In-Reach” where I go and visit former or non-active members or those who have suddenly stopped coming to try and find out why.  One church member at his former church was ill.  His health continued to decline and when he was unable to come anymore due to health considerations, not one single member of that church, including the deacons or the pastor, ever called him or came by to check on him.  He because disillusioned with the church.  It was by accident that I ran into him and he informed me of why he didn’t go to church anymore.  

Notice Them 

I visited with that man that I mentioned above a couple of times after that and I also called him about 3 times and guess what?  He knew that I cared enough about him and so he started attending the church where I am pastor at.  My intent was not to get him to come to the church where I attend but to pray for him, listen to him, talk to him, and tell him the other church members would be praying for his health concerns.  He is still not completely well, but now he comes to our church on a regular basis.  If his previous church had noticed that he’d been gone, he’d probably still be going there or at least listen to the sermon online or on CD or DVD.

Reason 6: No Children’s Ministry?  No Future

Children are the future of the church.  In America’s aging process, churches are growing increasingly older while the younger generation is shrinking in size.  If this happens in the church, then that church may, over time, die.  Churches are like human beings. They are born, they hit their prime, they begin to age, and like humans, they die a natural death.  Without a youth program there will be no next generation in the church.  Here is where we can address a specific problem due to a specific cause; the aging of America.  Young teens all the way down to small children likely have a disconnect with the older generation and if there is nothing that the youth have do to that is specifically designed for them, then they will see church as being irrelevant to their lives.  There is nothing worse for a child than boredom.  When boredom comes, trouble usually follows.

Remember the Children/Youth

Every church needs to be teaching their children the gospel and teaching the gospel to young children is done somewhat differently for them than for the adults.  The essentials stay the same (Rom 10:9-13, Acts 4:12, etc.) but the approach is different.  Invest in some lesson plans and Bible study materials that the youth can relate to while still clinging to the essential doctrines of the faith.  Every one of us has different preferences in studying the Word of God.  Take advantage of them.  Why not just ask the youth about ways that they can better incorporate living the Christian life into their studies.  Value their opinion.


Personally, I believe that the main reason that churches may be dwindling is that we aren’t evangelizing like we used too.  Also, we are no longer preaching the essential truths of the gospel.  What I mean is that these things must be in place that were in place in the early church; preaching the cross, the blood of the Lamb, repentance, confession of sin, and trust in Christ.  The message must be Bible-centered and Christ-glorifying, not man-centered; man-oriented.  If the glory of Jesus Christ is the central part of and the main focus of worship services, the church should grow because God is still calling out those to be saved from the world.  The fellowship of the saints is essential to the growth of the church and the individual believer.  Let’s allow the Bible to speak for itself to see why and how it grew as declared in Acts 2:42-47 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Consider reading this: Leading Volunteers

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (1)  According to 2009 edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, February 25, 2009.

47 Responses

  1. Mark Rychel

    Sorry , but your six reasons in my humble opinion are way off base. People leave church because it does not give them a sense of community and purpose.

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Thank you so much for your comment. Are you saying that these six reasons are no reasons at all? I am not suggesting that these are the only six reasons but ones that are relevant to what is happening in the churches today. I do agree that a sense of community and purpose is missing and that could have been among the lists but I tried to focus on the primary reasons. I think that reason # 4 & 5 address the component you mentioned but not completely and reason #3 should give us all a purpose for evangelizing because ultimately, we were created to glorify God. I do think you are correct in addressing a huge reason and I thank you for adding that very crucial element that is missing and is indeed contributing to the loss of membership and attendance. Thank you Mr. Rychel.

      • Tony Duhon

        Community, purpose, and by-example leadership from the pastor: Yes, these three things are what is missing from most churches today, and younger people are not blind to the omissions. It is why I stopped attending church myself, even though I am 37: I couldn’t find one with anywhere near a first-church sense of community as described in Acts 2:42-47 (though one came close… for awhile; then it tore apart), or with any sense of purpose — such as in organized political action or striving to do good works on this Earth in other ways, and none of the pastors were the kinds of men that LEAD, and are even too often men who are hypocrites or who fake their faith. (They are atheists in sheep’s clothing.)

        The Church needs Leaders: men who are Presidential in stature, 1st-citizens of the Christian nation. If Christian men will harness the Holy Spirit inside to lead fearlessly, Bible in hand, then people will follow.

      • christoph

        Leaving the church, because it is not 100% perfect, or does not fit my idea what a perfect church looks like, is straight stupid. There is no perfect church. And the church in Acts 2 had some good elements. In essence they ignored Acts 1:8. Actually prepare a sermon with the title: Are you “Jerusalem Church” Christian OR an “Antioch Church” Christian?

      • Tony Duhon

        Nice insult. Your attitude isn’t going to help grow organized-Christianity churches (not to be confused with The Church: the body of all born-again Christians across the world.) I stand by my position.

      • Judy

        I agree with you Mr. Wellman. I am currently trying to find a church for my family to attend and having no such luck. Out of maybe 5 to 6 churches I have tried, each didn’t really teach the Gospel at all. They just jumped around and focused on a topic- which is good but I kinda wanted to get deeper. I learn more just reading the Bible myself and following articles- but even then I feel like I’m missing something. I believe that is community. So what I would like to find is a great community and a deeper understanding of the Bible. Loved your article by the way!
        Judy M.

      • Jack Wellman
        Jack Wellman

        Thank you kindly Judy for the encouragement. It is sad that we don’t preach more about the blood of the lamb, repentance and faith, the cross, growing in holiness, obedience to God, the cross and so on…because the real power is in the gospel (Rom 1:16) and never in the preaching…but the Word has the power to help change us. Keep looking and I will pray God directs you to the right place. I do wish you were near where our church is at…we have a beautiful small body of believers that is so hungry for the Word. Much like I see in you.

    • Jon Harmon

      Sorry Mark. You’re wrong. 17 families have left our church this year because of #2 and 4. Pastor wants total control of congregants.

  2. Aisha Banks

    Great article! I picked up the lack of community in the article especially when you don’t check in on your members to see how they are doing as well as when you don’t invest in the youth and meet their needs. Thank God all churches are not like that but there are so many that miss the mark and the opportunity to make a difference.

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Thank you Aisha for your kind comments. I think that reasons #4 & 5 do address community but Mr. Rychel does make a valid point and one that I probably should have included. Amen to your statement that not all churches do this. I try to take these things to heart and have addressed these issues in the church that I am under-shepherd of for my love of them exceeds those of my own biological brothers and sisters in Christ. Thanks for such an encouraging comment my friend.

  3. JP

    Interesting article and very important things to consider for anyone who is concerned about saving souls from the clutches of sin and degradation. I do have to wonder about the membership records and the way the numbers are tallied up in the Jehovah’s witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints, however. I do think that they’re outreach strategy of going door-to-door is probably the single most effective method. I believe Dr. D. James Kennedy developed a similar evangelism strategy.

    But, I still think that the biggest problem is that from 2001 to 2008, the fastest growing religious category was religious-nons. Although the majority of these dropped out of main line denominations in which the local churches are dying of old age, there is also the factor of modernity in which not only does travel and relocation seriously effect the churches’ retention rate of the family unit, but also the mere issue of everything that is vying for our attention such as videos, gaming and the like (not to mention the shortening of the attention span itself).

    Leadership is an obvious critical element. Where are the praying Hydes, Leonard Ravenhills, David Wilkersons and Keith Greens of yesteryear? A passion for God and passion for people is of the utmost need. We have to rekindle the kind of passion for God that will leave our sacred cows burned in the ash heap instead of being revered and worshiped at our alters, a fire that will burn away our desire to be respected and esteemed, while at the same time, not relegating the intellect to the secular establishment as some sort of unholy alliance. “Worship God with all your heart, mind and strength,” anything less is convenient Christianity, a glass cathedral, a fragile museum, full of empty heads and empty hearts.

    And here’s another thing, the church wasn’t created to be a social club where we can sit back, relax and enjoy sipping some iced tea, waiting for the rapture! Come on! Where’s the church’s sense of adventure? How did pastoral care become the respectable vocation where good Christian men could hope to earn a decent living? If you want to be a pastor, put away this idea of it being a nice job for Christian workers. It’s not a job, it’s a calling! And if you are unwilling to forsake A-L-L for that calling, then you have no business even considering stepping into a pulpit. You’ve got to put away your video games and childish things! Cancel that TV subscription!

    Was there ever a day when Jesus and the apostles were not on an adventure? I’m not suggesting the church abandon the arts, Christians should make an impact wherever they are! Be useful! Be creative! But think about it, the apostles weren’t playing video games and watching movies, eating pop-corn, waiting for the Holy Spirit to come. No, they were fervently praying and seeking God! And they understood that a life of ease, entertainment and luxury would be the furthest thing from their lives thereafter.

    Now, I’m not against movies or video games, but I would like to discover just one preacher under the age of 40 who has made a vow to abandon all recreational videos and gaming for the sake of Christ. I’m not talking legalism here or a boring life, I’m talking about passionate living! You want to be a church leader? The leaders that I know to be successful, just don’t have time to waste on TV. They may watch a movie occasionally, maybe one or two in a year, if that. They don’t have cable or satellite. They don’t waste their time on Facebook. BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO BUSY LIVING AND THEY ARE LIVING THEIR LIFE TO IT’S FULLEST!

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      JP, excellent observations and spot on the mark as for rescuing the perishing. How can a person who has been redeemed from the pit of hell by a loving God Who allowed His own Son to endure hell on the cross for 6 hours not want to participate in the Great Commission is beyond me! I agree….we are too often in Facebook instead of having our face in THE Book. I also totally agree that the reason that these cults are growing is because they are going and growing. We often have the sin of omission and evangelism has become the Great Omission. I wish I had included much of what you wrote in this article for are we truly seeking the Kingdom first and His righteousness if we spend most of our time on earthly things? Is He most precious too us if we spend little time in prayer, in His Word, and in His labor of love in the harvest? Great points JP and thank you for your insight. Spot on.

      • JP

        “we are too often in Facebook instead of having our face in THE Book.” Great pun and too true.

        My comment is fueled from recently having witnessed a change in leadership in my own church. The pastor who left was a very good Christian man and I truly appreciate his desire to reach our community. He was well educated and sat comfortably in the roll of management. He was real and he was genuine, but I don’t feel like he consistently stoked the flames. A couple of times he remarked from the pulpit about some of his gaming. It just seemed a bit immature and distracting. The pastor who replaced him is actually younger, but he is a very rare old-fashioned preacher, who comes across as totally sold out to God. Passion seems to emanate from him. I don’t know how else to say it. The old adage attributed to Wesley comes to mind, “Set a man on fire for God and people will come to watch him burn.”

        I know pastors are human and sometimes we all need to rest (even Jesus did) and I don’t think a little entertainment is necessarily wrong for a church leader to enjoy once in a while. But, if the church is going to be the living breathing organism that God has called it to be, then we cannot allow the cheap comforts of this world to replace the anointing of the Holy Spirit. If we’re not careful, distractions will become our peril. Walking close to God is a costly endeavor, I certainly wouldn’t suggest that it is easy by any stretch. I know I’m certainly not where I should be, but I know where I ought to be. May God arouse our preachers, teachers and evangelists to stir up the gifts inside of them. May their lives reflect the passionate prayer, “Give me souls else I die!”

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      I think Wesley is exactly right. Even John the Baptist knew what preaching ought to be “He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7). When we preach that God is love, we give people only a tiny slice of God but above all things He is holy and that is the only attribute of God mentioned three times, which in Jewish literature, is the greatest emphasis possible. I am with you….I am nowhere near where I ought be but I believe knowing that is a strength JP. How precious is Christ to us really? It is reflected in what we spend our time on, our money on, and our talents on.

  4. Ian Childs

    Great truths here and somewhat mirrored here in Australia. Many of our church leaders give a very poor account of themselves when faced with arguments and this is inherently due to the liberalism and compromises that they have allowed into their own belief values.

    All too often we edit out those scriptures which we think may offend or we find offensive. An analogy of this is to fire the arrow and then paint the target, we look good but are in fact rotten.
    Get back to teaching the Bible and yes both old & new testament are relevant. Join a bible study small group or start one and bring out the concordance to get the broader insights into the passage as well as putting the passage into cultural perspective.

    Have confidence that He is alive and Living in You and has a yearning to allow you the joy of being part of spreading the Gospel message – what a privilege we have!

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Amen Mr. Childs. I love your analogy and it is so true. We water down the Word so much that it is ineffective and then are surprised when no one is changed by the preaching. The Word cuts like a knife but does so in order to heal. I heard one old preacher say that the Word of God should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Yes, what a privilege indeed.

  5. christoph

    Well, in the introduction the author points out rightly so to the nature/character of the church, ” The called out.” But then he includes the Roman Catholic Church as an example that people leave the church. It would be good come up with proven stats why EVANGELICAL churches, if they actually leave the church. Many cases, perhaps the majority, actually switch church, whatever the reasons. I attend a church of around 250. If all the people who at one point called it their church we would been at least 500 members. All these people “who left our church” attend and serve at other churches. So they did not leave the church!

  6. Barry Phillips

    Great article as far as it goes. I believe mention must be made of the apostasy of many major denominations which are trumpeted loudly by liberal media causing many unchurched to believe that is modern Christianity. Homosexual ordination, same sex marriage, railing against and finding moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas, trumpeting schemes such as government welfare which does not teach sharing but shouts grab from one and give to another, all give absolutely false descriptions of Jesus and his faith.

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Amen Mr. Phillips. You are spot on sir. I totally agree. I gave a message on this apostasy in the churches about 2-3 weeks ago and some of the congregation got mad and walked out. They really walked out on what the Bible says though and not on me personally, as our elder said. That is a very big reason indeed.

  7. Larry Lowery

    Hello, The bishop has brought up many good points especially about the expository preaching, I would like to present some other issues to be considered, i am a foreign missionary that has been serving in Europe for over 20 years, as I began observing the US evangelical church movement in America from a foreign prospective I began to notice some disturbing trends, I distinctly began to see a tremendous influx of secularism in the church, I began to see things happening based upon the spectacular, influence from the entertainment world, influence from the political world, influence from the financial world, influence from the sports world, everything the world system embraces, church leaders chosen based upon their secular status, including church elders, deacons, staff members, even some mission leaders took the title of CEO, we must realize that lawyers, bankers, and business owners do not necessarily or automatically make good church leaders, nor are they always spiritual men, just because they are successful business men, many times they begin to run the church as an enterprize and the scriptures clearly state thats not what the church is, its a body, so many churches I know of have fallen into this trap, with grave consequences, so many churches have abandoned being salt and light on their turf, the local neighborhoods are turning into gang neighborhoods, crime, drugs, killings, abuses of all kinds, and America is going at the speed of freight train heading toward a post-christian society, I see it because I live in a post – Christian society, and there is very little emphasis on social ministry. The younger generation of millienials see right through this, they view the church as just another establishment, or business organization, and they want no part of it, the bishop had it spot on when he said the church are the called out ones, the problem is there is no distinction from in or out, another thing I noticed looking at the American church from a distance is the issue of pride, American evangelical churches without even realizing it, give off the distinct impression that they are more spiritual, more savvy in their methodologies, “the you just sit back and we will learn you something mentallity” I have seen it over and over again, of course I am speaking in generalities, thank the Lord this is not always the case, but it’s definitely present, one last comment, the evangelical churches seem to be extremely trendy, it started with things like, experiencing God, purpose driven this and that, then the prayer of jabeth, then the recent discipleship movement, it goes on and on, these things in and of themselves are not wrong, but the Scriptures have always taught these things, it seems to be more of a marketing tool than anything else and the church is submersed in financial marketing issues, up to its ears, I can’t see anything good become of this and it has me very concerned, it seems as if we have left our first love, the results are clearly being manifested by a major exodus and a boycott of the church. Being a pastor of a church , i know that identifying problems is easy, finding solutions requires much more effort, i am more than willing to continue a dialogue of solutions with anyone, I write these things as one observing from another prospective and because I love the church. Blessings, larry lowery, Aosta, Italy

  8. Craig Giddens

    We should invite lost people to church, but realize that church is primarily a place for believers to gather to build up the body of Christ and then go into the world as ambassadors for Christ. The church has gotten this backwards and is putting so much time and effort into programs and ministries that are designed to bring the world to the church that instead of evangelizing the world the world is evangelizing the church resulting in it being weak, anemic, and apostate. The first step is a need to return to a real belief in the sufficiency of Scripture. I’m afraid profession in the inspired, inerrant word of God in most conservative evangelical churches is mostly lip service. I think people want to believe the Bible is God’s word, but the multiplicity of versions is sowing confusion. Some versions contradict each other and then there is confusion caused by being in a Sunday School class or small group gathering and having someone read from a version that nowhere even resembles what the verse looks like in your Bible. You’ll never have a unity based on the truths of Scripture as long as you have multiple Bible versions in use. Another thing that is causing confusion is for someone in the pulpit to proclaim the Bible as God’s inspired inerrant word and then turning around and correcting it! What a contradiction! No wonder “Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mark 4:15). There is no power or authority in the preaching and teaching of God. God wants to speak to the church, but He’s only going to do it through sound Bible preaching and teaching. It may not increase the numbers in the church, but it will insure the people who are there are growing and evangelism and service are products of spiritual growth. We are not saved to serve. We are saved to grow and growth produces service!

  9. Craig Giddens

    “… if God is dragging or impelling men, women, and children to Himself, why is the church declining? ”

    Maybe they’re resisting God’s “dragging and impelling”.

    ” … ye do always resist the Holy Ghost..” (Acts 7:51)

    ” … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37)

  10. granny

    I agree with this list, especially the fact that Jesus is not lifted up in many pulpits. People are desperate for HIM! I prefer the expository (verse-by-verse) sermons; these are powerful!

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Thank you so kindly granny. It seems that the days of expository, verse by verse preaching are not gone forever but the more that they disappear from churches the more people are starving for the Word of God and unless the pastor is hungry for it, so too will be the congregation. I agree…being desperate for Him…amen. We need to hunger and thirst as a deer pants for the water. I sense that you have this hunger my friend. May God richly bless you and feed you wherever you are.

  11. Steve

    Good reasoning – all 6. However, the number one reason they leave is because Jesus has commanded that His church be called a house of prayer. Lack of prayer is the number one reason.

    Many Christians do not equate prayer to worship, yet true prayer is the intense heart of worship. John MacArthur said, “Prayer is the highest form of worship, the highest form of worship.” If so, why doesn’t the church join together constantly in prayer? Luke records what appears to be the birth of the church in Acts 1:14 – “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

    Apparently, given the scant attendance at Wednesday night prayer meeting, Christians today do not recognize what prayer is; nor do they understand its role in a Christian life. For Jesus, prayer was an absolute necessity. His heart and mind was fixed on His heavenly Father. He literally prayed without ceasing. Why? Was Jesus totally dependent on the Father? Was the Son of God unable to act on His own? Jesus said, “I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.”

    The Apostle Paul advised us to never stop praying. Why did Paul offer such advice? Maybe it had something to do with Jesus’ promise, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.” When something needs to be accomplished, we need to go to the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus, and He will do it. God accomplishes His purposes through His people. Wasn’t this the promise recorded by Isaiah? “These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Didn’t Jesus say, “”It is written, My house will be a house of prayer?” Not even Jesus worked independently. Jesus said, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works.

    Jesus didn’t turn to the Father once in a while. He couldn’t do anything, not anything; without His Father. Prayer is not for emergencies only. Nor is it to be restricted to the closet. Jesus’ devotion to prayer was noticed by His disciples. And they wanted to have an attitude of heart and mind just like Him, so they asked, “Lord would you teach us to pray.” The fact is – God revealed the importance of prayer through Jesus. Jesus is our example. How can we do anything without prayer?

    Notwithstanding the call to encourage each other, especially as we see the Lord coming nearer, our first action is on the vertical plane. Perhaps that is why the Reformers were partial to Psalm-singing in church. “If you remain in Jesus, and His words in you, ask and it will be done.” To grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we need to feed on His word. Armed with God’s Word we are able to struggle in prayer on behalf of others, so that we may stand assured in all the will of God.

    At the Brooklyn Tabernacle’s Tuesday night prayer meetings (with over 2,000 in attendance) the first three rows are roped off for the leaders of the church. Jim Cymbala believes local churches will not become a house of prayer until its leaders become people of prayer. I continue to wrestle in prayer on behalf of all of the pastors at our local churches. I pray that you all have more time for prayer, preaching and teaching the Word of God. I pray that you will heed Jesus’ command – “”It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer.”

    Keathley writes, “We read books on prayer, we talk about it, we ask for prayer from time to time, but somehow, the church today is anything but a praying church.” (pg. 2). Perhaps we are not unlike the disciples in that we need Jesus to teach us to pray. Not that we don’t understand the mechanics of prayer, but that we simple do not have the right attitude for prayer. Jesus said, “I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

    According to Keathley, “Our prayer is to be addressed to God using the term, “Father.” —“Father” is a term of honor or reverence and relationship. Coming to God in prayer as “Father” is designed to demonstrate: (a) our attitude toward God as one of honor, respect, and trust, and (b) our understanding of the relationship we have with Him as a child; God is a father kind of God who cares for us as only a parent can care for a child.” (pg. 10-11).

    63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes. 40% of US babies are born to unwed mothers. 43% of US children live without their fathers. It appears that the word father has lost its meaning in modern culture. The % of fatherless children in public schools is likely much higher than anywhere else.

    The term father must be restored to its God given place. It starts with God the Father. The One who gave His One and Only Son. The Son who intercedes on our behalf. The One who sent the Holy Ghost to reside with us until that glorious day! It extends to the men in our congregations. They need to become like Jesus and submit to do nothing without their heavenly Father. Men need to humbly kneel at the throne of grace and lead their families to Christ Jesus. When we earnestly pray together, like the family God designed, when we ask, when we seek, when we knock – God will answer.

    Prayer is whats missing – Pray!

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Steve, you are so right sir and John MacArthur is such an acccurate teacher on this subject of churches. In fact, this past week he has been given the fundementals of church and prayer is certainly the most important element and I think you so correct. I overlooked the obvious. We can’t do anything more until we pray more so we are shutting out our greatest source of power, help, and wisdom and direction from He Who is head of the church. Thank you very much Steve for adding the vital key to churches….that of prayer. I am in appreciation for your contributing this very important reason sir.

  12. stephan

    Good article. But I think one reason needs to be expanded. It isn’t just children and youth ministries that are needed, but ministries and programs for college aged and young adult/mid20-30 year olds. We are leaving the church quicker than anyone. And as a 26 year old man, it is getting harder and harder to find a church that has people my age.

    All other reasons are right on the nose.

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Thank you Stephen. A most excellent observation my friend. I wish I could have expanded this and this and the key of members not praying, as Steve said, are two must-haves. Thank you sir.

  13. Rev. Kebede

    Thank you brother for this inspiring article. I learn a lot out of it. God willing if you give me permission I will apply some of the things you mentioned in our congregation. May the Lord bless you for sharing with us you personal experience. I have to say it again I learn a lot for your article!
    Have a blessed day and remain blessed

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      You are very sir and so encouraging. You certainly may use these ideas and I believe that there are other, perhaps even better suggestions from those who commented above that added some important things that I had overlooked. Thank you for your blessing sir and may God richly bless you as well my friend. All glory to God and to Him alone.

  14. foley

    Funny that you didn’t mention the growth in nonbelievers. Most people, like me, who grew up in church are simply finding religion generally less and less believable. All religion requires you to take on faith the authority of these ancient books which were written by people just like us. Supernaturalism/magic/miracles makes religion far less believable. The idea that a god would be revealed only through these “special” people — prophets — is also not believable. Why do I have to take things on faith that these “special” people got to witness first hand, and I just have to take their word for it?

    • TheKnowerseeker

      I too was raised as a Christian; I was also raised poor and powerless, and didn’t have anything but God and prayer to depend on (and still do not, really, even though I’m a member of the middle class now via college, hard work, and God’s grace).

      God takes care of me: He has clearly and directly answered my prayers, and He has even shown me signs of his interest in and love for me. Most recently, I found myself starting to doubt in The Lord and wrote an e-mail to my wife from work about it. The second I hit “Send”, God caused my monitor to go black and stop working, permanently. (I now have a new monitor.) In awe, I immediately asked for forgiveness and thanked The Lord for his love for me, that He would give me that “sign” of His existence and involvement in my life; now, if I begin to doubt again, I remember God’s sign to me….

      Before that, my second child turned out to be a mommy’s boy and didn’t have any interest in me as his daddy (he still has the least interest of my three sons, though our relationship has improved greatly), so I asked God for a daddy’s boy or girl to offset this. Sure enough, my third and currently youngest child is a daddy’s boy to the point that he constantly wants to be held by me and hates it when I’m away. (My eldest child is quite independent and is generally equally happy being with either me or my wife, so we take turns giving him attention.)

      Before that, I was in college, and one of my instructors seemed bitter and angry with the world, and he was taking it out on my class. I prayed for God to touch his mind and heart, to help him with his problems, and to completely turn his attitude around toward us, his students, into one of kindness. The next day, he was a different man and was a good instructor to us for the rest of the semester.

      There are many other instances throughout my life of Jehovah revealing His presence to me or helping me through prayer in Jesus’ name, but these three are the ones I remember best at the moment. Oh, I forgot that when I was 25 or 26, I got on my knees and prayed to God that I was ready for the dedication and permanency of marriage, with no second thoughts, and asked Him to please bring a loving, Christian woman into my life, whom I believed that He had set aside and destined to be my wife. A month later, I met the young woman who is my wife today; we married less than two years after meeting. She is my soul mate whom God destined for me.

      God sent me a vision of her in a dream while I was still a teenager, and somehow I knew that she was the girl who would become my wife. (We are seven years apart, so while I was a teen, she was a girl.) She even shares my month and day of birth as yet another sign from God; we treat “our birthday” together like a second yearly anniversary celebration.

      Is the reason that you stopped believing is because your parents didn’t behave well as Christians? My parents were not and are not perfect, or maybe even not ideal, but I think they truly believe on Christ, and their “fruits” show it. This helped me to recognizing the goodness and wisdom of the ways of The Lord.

      • foley

        No I definitely can’t blame my parents for anything. I just don’t find religion very believable anymore. It’s really that simple. If I am wrong, and God can forgive pedophiles and murderers, then I guess I will have to hope that God can forgive a skeptic as well…

  15. TheKnowerseeker

    May Abba Father help you with your unbelief and bless you in your life. Through Jesus, Amen.

  16. (Rev.) Milton C. Mann

    I did not go straight from COLLEGE into seminary. I was a late bloomer. I am a WW II VET. I wanted to be a Physician. I didn’t make it into Medical School. To make a long story short my wife provided my call into ministry. We had three children. Talk about miracles, we had three we were blessed by God. As we looked into the mirror each of us looked at a miracle. When we look at the grass there is another miracle All of creation is a miracle. Each of us comes from a long line of miracles. The spark of the Spirit enables us to see God’s presence all around us. Just take a look at our world today. It really is in a mess. Why? because the power of evil is trying to erase our faith in God. Notice what is happening as the power of evil seems to be winning. Morals, ethics are lost. Our narcissism runs us. We forget what love is all about. We make white black and black white. We totally dissolve precious character into the sinister. Personal relationships not understood are rent assunder. When we are without God we are in complete disorder. Truth becomes relative depending on whose in charge at the moment.
    The Gospel according to Jesus must be preached with all of its consequences. Jesus was no caspermilquetoast. Not all will be saved,sorry. (see MT.12:31-32)
    This too, is a part of the Gospel. God can save whom He will and can reject as well.
    Not all want to be saved. So be it!

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Well said my fellow brother in Christ. You are so right…even in today’s Christian church, it seems the essentials of the faith and those who cling to the inerrant Word of God are swimming up stream too…so glad you are called to labor for His glory and may God richly bless you in this fight for the truth.

  17. Susie

    This comment is mainly for Steve from Sept. 5, 2014
    It seems you know why the church numbers are
    dwindling and it’s all about “believers not praying.”
    Might I add something I’ve experienced myself?
    These Wednesday night “prayer meetings” you mention
    hardly contain prayer at all. Now, maybe in your church
    it’s different. Let me tell you how it was in the church
    I attended. “Prayer meetings” were very little about
    the congregation getting together to pull down strongholds
    and lifting up our needs to the Lord as a group. Every
    time I went it was the same. One or two saying a quick
    prayer from the pulpit and everyone else pretending to
    join in. Everyone scattered about the sanctuary not
    wanting to pray out loud and yet not wanting to do nothing.
    So everyone sat quietly almost the entire time and each
    left when they got tired or too distracted. Then on Sunday,
    DURING WORSHIP SERVICE, the pastor would call the
    prayer teams (usually consisting of a husband and wife) to
    come to the altar and pray for any needs of the people
    that would come up to be prayed for. Worship service is
    not about us, it’s about the Lord. Everything else should come
    either before or after worship service. So we had “prayer
    meetings” on Wednesday nights (sometimes the
    associate pastor preached instead) and when we should
    have been worshiping God and focusing all of our
    attention on him, all of a sudden everyone was willing
    to pray or be prayed for. I would much prefer pray alone
    in my private time where there are no other distractions
    and I can be fully transparent before the Lord. When prayer
    time becomes a “show” then it’s not pleasing
    to the Lord. I think pastors should teach the people the
    importance of prayer and how to pray, but getting together
    with an entire congregation usually ends up not being
    the “prayer meeting” it was intended to be. It’s different
    when those that are gifted in intercessary prayer get together
    in small groups. And anyone can pray and expect God to
    hear their prayers. Maybe it’s time for all of us to know Jesus
    in a more intimate way/not just to pray to be seen by men.
    I admire that you see the importance of prayer and I
    totally agree that God’s house is meant to be a house of
    prayer. However, many that are praying in the house are
    doing so to be seen by men but have no intimate relationship
    with God in prayer closets. None of us prays enough, but
    maybe God wants to hear more from us when no one but
    Him sees. My challenge to myself is to spend more time in
    intimate fellowship with Jesus through prayer and intercession.
    I feel God is calling us as believers to KNOW that HE is our
    Lord and He is the head of the church. Many have grown more
    loyal to their church building, their denomination, or their
    pastor than they are to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  18. Richie Duran

    Wow this is really good. We all have our own opinions about what is correct or incorrect; but it just really depends on our attitude and our hearts. I’ll take this and out this to great use. I am a pastor of a small church transitioning to a medium church and this is going to help us out a lot. Thank you so much. any help i can get not to fall in a hole is greatly appreciated. Be blessed and keep writhing, you are blessing us!!

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Thank you Pastor, you are so kind. We are in the same situation it seems. May God richly bless you my fellow brother and pastor.

  19. John E

    Let me turn this around, to “why my friends and I are NOT leaving church.” I am an Episcopalian by baptism, confirmation, and marriage, and I would probably be considered a Unitarian in my beliefs, but my wife and I have been supporting and regularly attending members of a local Methodist church ( because: 1) Our strong traditional music program uplifts and inspires, touching heart, mind, and soul. 2) Our senior pastors have consistently pitched a welcoming and wide theological tent, in the finest Wesleyan tradition. 3) The scholarly sermons educate and inspire and bridge the gap between scripture and 21st Century life. 4) We have met a number of valued friends at church, where we do feel a genuine sense of community. 5) We have a powerful, practical, and effective call to service in our community, in our nation, and abroad.

  20. Rich Griffith

    This article is spot on. There has been a lot of weigh in so my input will seem menial, but here it goes. As someone who spent 29 years in Youth Ministry, an additional 4 years as a Lead Pastor and as Professor of Youth Ministry, children and youth are not “The Church of the future”, they are the Church NOW… and this is why we are losing them. We create spectators rather than participators. We need to involve youth (and possibly older children) in serving both inside and outside the Church. They need to have mentors who train them up (sound Biblical) to serve alongside adults. Youth who have ownership and contribute to the life of The Church are truly being discipled and mentored. Unfortunately, too many Pastors see Youth Ministry (STILL) as stepping stones – whether that is “before they become a ‘real’ Pastor” (Ugh!!) or if they see youth as the Church of the future. Even if they are the Church of the future, why are we not training them as if we believe that? In our current State in our culture, many youth find day-to-day existence to be an almost “survival” state of mind – all the more reason to connect them to purpose and meaning in Jesus Christ.

    • Jack Wellman
      Jack Wellman

      Thank you Mr. Griffith. What you said, ““The Church of the future”, they are the Church NOW” is exactly right sir. I am so glad there are men of God who get it and yes, we do need mentoring for us all, including youth. I believe every Timothy out there needs a Paul and every younger woman needs an older woman mentor. It is I no wonder that God has called you into the ministry. You see the correct vision. Thank you sir.


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