Church Hopping, Faith Shopping or Pretense Dropping

Just a few short weeks ago, the InternetMonk made a name for himself and got a whole lot of attention with a few posts about the coming Evangelical collapse (those are two posts, but there are more on his site).  It was intriguing reading and much of what he said made a lot of sense, but I think there may be more to the story.   A recent story and survey about America as a nation of religious drifters caught my eye a few days ago and I am just now able to get around to writing my thoughts on it.  The article seems to indicate that those who are “religiously unaffiliated” or were reported as such, are not flocking to godlessness or atheism as some suspected.  In fact, some of those people end up coming right back to where they started.

I found these paragraphs very interesting:

The 2007 survey estimated that 44 percent of U.S. adults had left their childhood religious affiliation.

But the re-interviews found the extent of religion-swapping is likely much greater. The new survey revealed that one in six Americans who belong to their childhood faith are “reverts” _ people who left the faith, only to return later.

Roughly two-thirds of those raised Catholic or Protestant who now claim no religious affiliation say they have changed faiths at least twice. Thirty-two percent of unaffiliated ex-Protestants said they’ve changed three times or more.

Age is another factor. Most people who left their childhood faith did so before turning 24, and a majority joined their current religion before 36.

In all of my years as a youth pastor, much was made about the rate that young adults drop out of the church after high school.  It is apparent that many of them return sometime later in life.  I have seen this trend up close and personal as many young people who walked away from the faith at some point in life are starting to return to it now that life has knocked them around a bit.  In fact, most of those who leave the church don’t leave their faith in God behind as much as they leave their faith in His servants:

“A lot of the unaffiliated seem to be OK with religion in the abstract,” Green said. “It’s just the religion they were involved in bothered them or they disagreed with it.”

The unaffiliated category is not just a destination. It’s also a departure point: a slight majority of those raised unaffiliated eventually join a faith tradition.

Those who do cite several reasons: attraction of religious services and worship (74 percent), feeling unfulfilled spiritually (51 percent) or feeling called by God (55 percent).

This has some implications for us as the body of Christ.  Recently, I have been preaching through 1 Corinthians and we just covered chapter 13 a couple of weeks ago.  Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is one that every Christian should have burned into their brains and spirits.  (You can go here to take a listen to the sermon if you want.)  The point that I made then and that I think we all need to get now is that everything about us needs to be filled with love.  We need to operate in love in every area of life and everything we do.  Most of the church hopping and faith shopping comes from people hurt by a lack of love.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best programs, or the best building, or the greatest praise and worship band, or the best parking lot or the best looking pastor or anything else at all.  If you don’t have love, you have nothing!

We all want to believe that our church is open and warm and loving, and I would bet that many of them really are.  But if that is always true, why are we losing so many for so long?  Do people really flee from unconditional love in word and deed?  What do you think?

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Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, church, Culture, Discipleship, Love, ministry | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Church Hopping, Faith Shopping or Pretense Dropping

  1. “In all of my years as a youth pastor, much was made about the rate that young adults drop out of the church after high school. It is apparent that many of them return sometime later in life. I have seen this trend up close and personal as many young people who walked away from the faith at some point in life are starting to return to it now that life has knocked them around a bit.”

    Well, yeah. That’s what a person’s twenties are about. You grow your hair out, wander away from home, get lost for a while, and hopefully find your way back– a stronger person for the trip. There are a handful of people who never find their way back, for one reason or another. When I helped run the high-school-aged youth group at my church, I saw it as my duty to equip these people with the tools that they would need to protect themselves during the coming hippie years. We can’t stop them from drifting from the church, and I don’t think we should try. What we can do is teach them and train them, before they develop the urge to wander, in the skills that they will need to protect themselves out there. critical thinking skills are a good place to start: http://alamanach.com/exploring-the-apocrypha/

  2. I do not think I am capable of that unconditional love of which I am supossed to love my neighbor.

    But my Lord is.

    And He is capable of working His love through me, even when it is not always apparent to me.

  3. Almanach,
    You make an excellent point in your post about the individual need to “own” our faith rather than life off of the faith and understanding that we see or learn from others. That is one of the keys I have seen in people who stay close to the faith.

  4. Steve,
    I completely agree with you that we are incapable of unconditional love on our own power or strength, but I do think that we recognize and know when God is working through us in the lives of others many times. Maybe not at the time, but often in retrospect.

  5. Jeff,

    Maybe you are right, Jeff.

    Since it’s hard for me to distinguish what I am doing with ulterior motives (not purely out of love), it’s hard for me to really know.

    So, I fall back to walking by faith and not by sight, trusting that the Lord IS working His love through me…even when I don’t realize it.

  6. Steve,
    We have to walk by faith all the time regardless. So in that respect I am with you completely. And as a bonus. The Lord takes all of our good and bad and makes the best out of it all.

  7. “We have to walk by faith all the time regardless.”

    We ought to…but we often want to see evidence.

  8. If you can see it it ain’t faith!!

  9. I think we are too much like Gideon sometimes though. We really do want to get some kind of green light from God to go ahead and do what He has already told us to be doing.

  10. I too have had my fleeces. Oh to walk by faith alone!

  11. It doesn’t matter if you have the best programs, or the best building, or the greatest praise and worship band, or the best parking lot or the best looking pastor or anything else at all. If you don’t have love, you have nothing!

    It is too bad for you that this simple truth can not be sold in a seminar or “3CD set! you would make a lot of money and the church would grow. Will people heed without marketing? “

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