With about a bazillion posts out there on why people are leaving, let’s spend a few minutes on why people are staying with church. There is a lot of good that can be done by talking about our weaknesses and being open and honest about it but we need balance. It is important to point out times when things go right. These are times the church is fulfilling its God-given purposes in meaningful and effective ways. We all know people who are “staying in church” and it is important we understand why.
So let me start with this question – If you still attend a Christian worship assembly, what is it that keeps you coming back?
Here are some reasons I see that people are staying with it:
1 – While sometimes people try to make church an institution, it never was and never will be. Church is a body of real people, those who have faith in Christ who assemble for God-given purposes that can actually be accomplished. Some people leave the church because the church feels too institutional and that can certainly happen but the church is not what we make it. The church is all about God’s community and His purposes for it. People stay with church because, in spite of its imperfections, they still find something there that keeps them coming back.
2 – The “alien nature” of the church. The world is a messed up place and sometimes we need a place to go and find some rest that is unlike our workplace, unlike our schools…it is a reminder that we are aliens and strangers here on earth. It is typical for aliens and strangers to find others in the same boat and spend time together.
3 – A break from a broken world. Church reminds us that in the mist of the chaos there are still people who love God and want to worship Him. We need time with the redeemed, especially the more the world around us seems to get crazier and crazier by the day. This world is broken and those with new life need to spend time with others who also have new life in Christ.
4 – The mission. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and church is a community where the can be carried out. We don’t always do it perfect and at times we get our priorities out of whack but by and large, church community still emphasizes the need to minister to others and make an eternal difference in the world.
5 – History. Some people go with what they know. We live in a rootless world where people are more mobile than ever. There are some people who like the fact that no matter where they go they can connect with their roots by worshiping at a place similar to what they have always known.
6 – New converts. With all the talk about what the church is doing wrong it is still true that we are reaching people every year. We are making a difference. The numbers show that we could be making a bigger difference but my point is that eternal differences are made in the context of the church body. Lost people are reached, sins are forgiven. Christ is glorified.
7 – Community. We were designed for meaningful community and that is still found in churches today. You can still connect with people who love God and are trying to live for Jesus.
8 – Benevolence. Some people have a benevolent spirit. They want to be involved in the lives of the broken, the hurting and the disenfranchised. They know that the church is interested in making a difference there so it is in tune with their interest.
9 – No competition. What competing value system are you going to choose? Are you going to give up believing? Some do. Turn to Buddhism or Hinduism or what? Some do all of those things. But many people are so convicted about their faith in Christ that, while the church is not perfect, still reflects the values they believe to be true and so they still value being a part of a community of faith that builds and affirms their belief system and gives them space to exercise their faith and purpose alongside like-minded people.
What would you add to this list?