Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Why People Don't Attend Church (Part 6)

The other day I went to a local store looking for something. They were out of what I wanted but the owner said the shipment was coming in that same day and if I came back the next day he'd have it for me. No problem. I returned the next day.

The owner wasn't in so I spoke with a salesman. I saw that a shipment of goods had come in but not what I wanted. I told the salesman that the owner had said my particular item would be in. He said, "Oh, I can believe that!" and then chuckled like, "He'll say anything to get you to come back and make a sale."

That wasn't a big thing but the more I thought about it the more it bugged me. I didn't like that the owner would lie to me and I didn't like how his salesperson openly revealed the owners underside. I never returned and found what I wanted some place else.

My point? It doesn't take much to send someone away, to turn them sour. It's not always rational or mature, but that's what makes us human! The same is true about church. Some of the littlest things will turn people away. It's almost as if they are looking for a reason...any reason to not return. Let me list a few...

  • the church asked for or talked about money too much.
  • the pastor made them feel guilty.
  • they experienced a church split.
  • they experienced too much gossip and negativity.
  • people didn't pay enough attention to them.
  • people paid too much attention to them.
  • the pastor/priest sex scandals in the news soured them.
  • they didn't use the right version of the Bible.
  • there were too many hypocrites.
  • their children didn't like it.
Some of these ARE big issues, worthy of concern. Some of them are minor. I'm not making a value judgment on any of these reasons, just noting that there is a plethora of reasons to not attend church. I could do a 100 entries to this series if I wanted to!

Lesson: Churches can't assume that just because people visit they will return...even if they attend for months. Many people are one false move away from leaving. Why? They lack trust. They've been burned, either by church or someone signifcant in their lives along the way. There's not always a way to prevent this. But it is helpful to see the crowd for what they are...somewhat distrustful and skeptical.

Churches have to prove that they are sincere...sometimes over and over before people will believe it. Don't take anyone for granted. Go the second mile to communicate and be clear about your intentions. It's an art to know how much to challenge and when to cut people slack. Do what you can to help these doubters relax but if they leave, don't beat yourself up. You can only do so much. They may not be in a good place to join you right now and that's okay. Every person is at a different place in life and God will work with them where they are at- even if that's not in a church for now.

Note: I'll be off line until June 15. I'll address more excuses then.

No comments: