For over 15 years, the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development (FASICLD) in partnership with Into Thy Word Ministries has been researching “why so many people are leaving the church.” Their statistics tell us a lot about the decline of the church, according to Church Leadership.
Most of the statistics tell us that nearly 50 percent of Americans have no church home. In the 1980s, membership in the church had dropped almost 10 percent; then, in the 1990s, it worsened by another 12 percent drop with some denominations reporting a 40 percent drop in their membership. And now, over half way through the first decade of the 21st century, the figures have dropped even more. So, the question is asked, “What is going on with the churches in America?”
The United States Census Bureau Records give some startling statistics, backed up by denominational reports and the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions:
- More than 4,000 churches close compared to just over 1,000 new churches that open for the first time.
- Half of all churches in the United States did not add any new members in the last two years.
- Every year, 2.7 million church members become inactive or leave the church. Most of them leave because they have been hurt or wounded by some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or neglect while at church. Unfortunately, the hurt comes from the pastor or someone in a leadership position.
Church growth consultants say when a person leaves a church, something can be done within four to eight weeks to bring them back before the hurt grows or before the departing member gets settled somewhere else or decides never to go to another church again. When no effort is made to contact and care for those who have left the church, these people may give up unchurched for the rest of their lives. The Bible tells us the shepherd should leave the 99 sheep and go after the one lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7).
Some of the reasons longtime members are leaving the church include no clear vision of the church, bad leadership, little or no evangelism, communication problems, false teachers, and lazy preachers who no longer labor before the Lord to get sermons that speak to the needs of their own congregation. Instead, they find it easier to yank any sermon from that another preacher has preached to his congregation. When people get the feeling that the teaching and preaching of the church do not meet their need, they conclude that they are not receiving anything worthwhile from which they can grow or use in their daily lives. When these key areas are neglected, people will leave and others will not come.
Some churches are just not meeting the needs of the people.
Churches have become complacent and leaders have put their personal needs ahead of the people. They focus more on the color of the carpet and programs than on the needs of the people who go to church seeking answers for a better life.
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds. (Proverbs 27:23)