It often baffles Pastors and church staff why people leave "their" church. Some folks visit and never return. Others who were a vital part of the church community suddenly disappear through the proverbial backdoor.
How can Pastors and church staff grow themselves to prevent loss of life in the church?
This is not only a compelling question, but also the very hinge that holds every congregation together. Life begins within. If the foundation is not strong and properly laid, it cannot sustain outward and ongoing growth.
Jesus said we spiritually know people like trees by their fruit or the lack thereof (see Matthew 7:16-20).
Here are some reasons people leave a church:
1. Lack of warmth, hospitality, and affirmation.
When you first walk into a church, what do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear? If there are no smiling greeters with a sweet spirit to welcome you, it is easy to wonder if you are even welcomed. People like to go where they are celebrated not merely tolerated.
Does your church make people feel like they are burdening or blessing you when they arrive? Do people feel safe or judged in your presence? Do you love people unconditionally, or do you have some ulterior motive driving you?
Die to your agenda and embrace the great commandment to love people.
People are wounded, hurt, and disillusioned. They need to be comforted and consoled. People need a loving touch, kind word, and a hug. A good word makes the heart glad (Proverbs 12:25 b).
Love, embrace, and affirm people in your midst. Many people attend church because they are hurting, feel lonely, and need to be encouraged. Don't miss the divine appointment and send people away feeling worse than when they came to you.
2. Lack of joy and spiritual atmosphere.
The best way to create a healthy spiritual atmosphere is through praise and worship. Worship is a time when God becomes the focus and we die to ourselves. Only as people focus on the Lord do they quiet their souls and concerns. We all have innumerable cares and challenges, but as we uplift our Creator in worship the Presence of the Holy Spirit can attend to matters of the heart and sweep away all despair within.
Apart from the divine Presence of God's Holy Spirit, church is nothing more than a religious social club void of God altogether. The Holy Spirit inhabits the praises of God's people (Psalm 22:3). Therefore enter God's glorious Presence with singing and gladness of heart (Psalm 100:2).
Fullness of joy is found in the Presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11) as we open our hearts to the Lord and express our love for God. Joy is captivating and contagious! Truly the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), without which congregations die and diminish in number.
Remember God seeks those who worship Him (John 4:23). God prospers those who serve Him (Psalm 35:27). Grudgingly serving God however is burdensome. Only as we receive God's love and embrace His heart for us, can we be inspired to worship the Lord our Maker. As God's love and life is adequately expressed and exalted during worship, we are touched and transformed in the Presence of the Lord (see 1 Samuel 10:9; Ezekiel 36:26-27).
3. Lack of an enriching word from God to build their lives.
The Word of God's grace builds people up, carrying them into the arms of a loving heavenly Father and empowering them to enter their personal promised land (see Acts 20:32). Churches that become overly encumbered with announcements, exhortations to give, and shouting from the pulpit often lack the nourishing Word of God.
Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Feed the sheep Jesus has entrusted to you with the milk and meat of the Word of God (see John 21:17; 1 Peter 2:2).
4. Lack of a family environment and sense of community.
Families with children want to feel secure and know that their children will be cared for. An excellent and clean nursery with professional staff is vital to instill confidence within people that you genuinely care for their family. Ministries for youth of all ages and adults with various interests all create affinity and a sense of community.
As fellow citizens in the kingdom of God we must endeavor to rejoice in the commonwealth and embrace the household of faith (see Ephesians 3:15). As we do we shall unite and rejoice together as a precious family in God that is one in Spirit.
5. Lack of meaningful ministry opportunities.
As people grow and mature spiritually they want to be able to use their gifts, talents, and abilities to serve. Amazingly, people grow more in six months when doing ministry than in six years of receiving ministry. Otherwise boredom sets in and quarreling will begin among the ranks. The church of the living God is both a family and an army. When the army serves purposefully, they are too focused and tired to fight one another. When the army sits and does nothing, they get frustrated and angrily speak against its leaders without a clearly communicated vision.
Jesus came not to receive ministry, but to minister to others (Matthew 20:28). It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
6. Lack of vision, focus, and purpose for the congregation and its members.
Church leaders must grow in God's grace and ability to communicate "heavenly vision" and divine direction (see Acts 26:19). We must "purpose in the spirit" as God directs us through prayer (see Acts 19:21).
Jesus came to "seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). Jesus told His disciples to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:20). We therefore must touch people locally, while also reaching to impact nations globally (see Acts 1:8). As we do so our communities will be impacted and our church members will grow as we "go into all the world to preach the good news" of Jesus (Mark 16:15).
7. Excessive competition, pride, and backbiting among church members.
When a worldwide vision is not imparted to God's people, they become focused on and bicker about trivial things of no eternal consequence. Murmuring and complaining cut off the life flow of God's Spirit and quench the warmth within a congregation. Pastors and leaders should be peacemakers and make haste to put out small fires before they spread and do great damage (Matthew 5:9; Hebrews 12:15; Ecclesiastes 9:18).
People have enough drama in their professional and family life. They go to church to get away from drama, not encounter and be overwhelmed with more of it.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace and God's kids are peacemakers (see Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 5:9). God is love (1 John 4:16), which is first shown through patience (1Corinthians 13). If we say we are born of God, than let us be patient with others as they mature and grow in divine grace.
8. Lack of fathering and mentoring from the Pastor and church staff.
Churches across the country are full of teachers, orators, and preachers. Few however make themselves accessible to the people to touch them at a deep level. The apostle Paul acknowledged this tendency among ministers himself (see 1 Corinthians 4:15). Jesus showed His disciples the Father heart of God (see John 14:8-9). If we want to truly nourish and see people grow, we must give of ourselves to people (see 1 Thessalonians 2:8). Otherwise we are nothing more than a hired hand that cannot be trusted (see John 10:13)
9. Unorganized church life
People need clarity and things to be done orderly so they can follow along as participants (see 1Corinthians 14:40). The best airports are those that are well organized and clearly laid out. Otherwise being unable to discern directions, facilities, and resources one can become frustrated and discouraged. This is how many church members feel.
10. Insufficient fun activities to be social and make friends.
People like to have fun and be entertained. Jesus came to give us abundant life not merely church (see John 10:10). God is a Creator. Be creative and make things fun for people. Otherwise they will go somewhere else. Remember God is both happy and holy. Embrace and exemplify both in your life.
11. No sense of adventure and personal challenge to grow.
Jesus had His disciples leave the comfort zone and "launch out' into the unknown (see Luke 5:4). Only as we are stretched do we grow. Physical strength comes through resistance training at the gym. Life and ministerial challenges should be encouraged, as they will bring about unprecedented growth in people.
Be like Jesus. Refuse to let your church members stagnate and stink. Keep them moving and give them opportunity to use their giftings.
12. Overwhelming amount of pressure to give resources, time, and talents.
The media and corporate world have made merchandise of people. Consumerism and comparison saturates nearly every level of society, as we are made to compare ourselves with others. Feeling and flipping between being haves and have-nots dwarfs our true identity, while thwarting and hindering our divine purpose.
The Church of Jesus Christ is the one place where humanity ought to be able to sit down and rest without feeling as if they are being made merchandise of (see Psalm 23:1-2; Ezekiel 34:1-4). To fleece and rape God's sheep for personal financial gain, ministerial fame, and simply to fulfill your dream is insensitive and a misuse of the divine vocation to which we have been called.
Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit when taking offerings, presenting needs, and recruiting volunteers. Don't twist arms and apply undo pressure by making people feel guilty. Let the Lord speak to His people, which if He does not perhaps you either need to work a bit harder to fill in the gaps or maybe lay down a personal agenda God may not be blessing.
13. Lack of genuine interest from the Pastor and staff in the personal life of its members.
Jesus took a genuine interest in people. He spoke in parables to properly relate and enter their world. Too often we are irrelevant and clueless pertaining to the lives of our people. Jesus asked questions to gauge where people were in their lives.
Jesus asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Matthew 20:32)
14. Ego and individualistic mentality among the Pastor and church ministers hinders the life flow.
This mentality breeds spiritual poverty and animosity within church members. As pride, comparison, competition, and ego become king sincerity and transparency leave. Thereafter walls are erected relationally throughout the congregation as people endeavor to protect and project their image, after which genuine life flow ceases to exist.
15. Lack of humility and service in the hearts of Pastors and leadership.
Jesus said the chief leader should become the servant of all (see Matthew 20:25-26). Lack of heartfelt service flowing from leadership breeds distrust and causes a disconnection among the people. Arrogance always eventually alienates people.
"By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor, and life" (Proverbs 22:4).
Manifest these in your life and church leadership and all will be well within your congregation. People emulate what they see in their leaders. There shall be like people, like priest (see Hosea 4:9).
Paul Davis is a worldwide minister, church growth consultant, turnaround specialist, and change master helping churches through transition.
Paul is understanding, humble, helpful, insightful, and flexible. Sensitive to cultural and denominational matters, Paul transcends barriers that divide and transforms congregations.
Paul is the author of several books including Update Your Identity; God vs. Religion; Breakthrough for a Broken Heart; Waves of God; and Are You Ready for True Love?
Paul's compassion for people & passion to travel have taken him to over 50 countries of the world where he has had a tremendous impact. Throughout the world Paul is having wonderful results building dreams, breaking limitations, and reviving nations.
Paul's Breakthrough Seminars inspire, revive, awaken, impregnate with purpose, impart the fire of desire, catapult people into a new level of self-awareness, facilitate destiny discovery and dream fulfillment.
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