Ok, I had posted this really long article here but decided that no one would read it. So I deleted it. It was based on another article I read in Charisma Magazine Online and on Todd Rhoades’ blogsite. I still think the article was interesting and want your opinions, so I’m reposting with a summary. But it’s still a little long so bear with me. If you are interested in reading the full article click on the two links above.

Basically the article was talking about the large number of Christians who were leaving the church and why. It referred to them as “stayaway” saints because they are people who, for all practical purposes, could be considered devout, even zealous, born-again Christians. They say they are not leaving the Church (the body of Christ followers) but are just tired of church (organized “religion”).

Who are these “stayaway” Christians? Interestingly, the article mentioned they were “not necessarily postmodern 20-somethings rejecting anything of their parents’ generation, nor are they grudge-bearing grumpies carrying an offense from a previous church life.” It seems they may just be burned-out, over-commited Christ followers who, as one couple put it, are “looking for something authentic, a real expression of the kingdom of God.” One writer wrote that they are “not just a bunch of belligerent, AWOL worshipers” and what they have is “a grass-roots hunger for change in the church, for reality … more than the latest church-growth stuff or conference. They want to see revival, not some latest fad that sweeps through the church.” And Barna Research Group said there are about 13 million of these “unchurched” believers. One historian and teacher found “people leaving the church in droves.” Why? And what affect will this have on the modern (or post-modern) church?

You would think that those staying away are experiencing some kind of crisis of faith, but according to the article and research, a large number “report a continuingly vibrant faith.” One researcher wrote, “It’s better to be real with the Lord than go to church and play the holier-than-thou church game everyone plays there.” He also reported “the dropout saints he interviewed talk about finding deep fellowship with a few other believers.” But others believe the stayaways aren’t “as consistent in prayer and Bible study and the Christian disciplines.”

So why are people leaving the organized church. The article gave several reasons:
1. They point to the way the increasing fragility and mobility of the family has weakened the “brand loyalty” that historically meant children grew up with a strong sense of connection to the church of their parents.

2. They also see the church-dropout wave as a barometer of the influence of the wider culture’s me-centered nature as well as the unfortunate excesses of the “seeker-sensitive” movement that has aimed to make church less intimidating to people with no religious heritage.

3. Discontentment not limited by age.

4. Affluence.

5. “We have dumbed down the church so much to the point there are Christians asking, ‘Why do I want to be part of something that means so little?’ Research proves it.”

6. There’s a sense that the church is not relevant and not meeting their needs.

7. Tom Haggard, pastor of 11,000 member church in Colorado, says “Churches are such hostile places.” He continues, “The 20 percent of U.S. churches that are growing have efficient church government. The rest are bogged down in old-fashioned systems that are a waste of time, making mountains out of molehills.

8. Haggard also believes pastors have been the reason many have left the church. “They have been let down by church leaders whose children are wild and disobedient or who are in adulterous marriages,” he says.

I love the comment made by one writer: “What distresses those on both sides of the issue is that, for the most part, churches are more concerned about getting new people in through the front doors than finding out why, once inside, many are leaving through the rear exit. Church leadership doesn’t even recognize they are gone,” he says. “If they don’t show up, they just look to replace them with someone else.”

Finally, I leave you with this:

Slick services and programs at churches with sizeable budgets are similarly disdained by many 20-somethings who want “authenticity” and “connection” over a professional presentation they dismiss as shallow religious entertainment, says 28-year-old publisher Cameron Strang.

His Relevant Media Group magazine and books champion many of the questions and criticisms his generation is raising about the church, but he–like a surprising number in his constituency who when polled said they still attended services even though they felt they were going through the motions–isn’t prepared to turn his back just yet.

“The Bible is clear about not forsaking fellowship with other believers,” he says, though underscoring that what “fellowship” might look like as the 21st century unfolds could be very different from traditional forms.

What is your opinion of the church today? Is it relevant? Is it authentic? Is it alive? Will the “post-modern” church have a very different look than say even 10 years ago? Let me know what’s on your mind.

His peace be on you.

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