Are You Ready to Quit Church?


Last week I picked up a copy of “Quitting Church. Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to do about it.” This is the latest book from Julia Duin who is the Religion Editor for The Washington Times. I had high hopes for the book since it promised to help church leaders to answer the tough question: how to stop people from leaving our churches.

Sadly, Julia never fully answered that question. The majority of the book focused on the well-researched statistics the author gathered about church exodus in America (most mainline denominational churches–nothing new here) and a few anecdotal examples from Ms. Duin’s own friends and associates . But even in recounting her struggles with the local churches she’s attended over the years as well as her friends’ issues, Julia fails to give the reader answers.

The one constant in “Quitting Church” is the author’s inability to find a church like that of her youth where she felt the most engaged, closest to God, and produced, therefore, the happiest memories of her Christian walk. I don’t blame her for that. While I was disappointed with the lack of answers in the book, I’m glad I read through all of the objections pointed out in 180 pages. Interestingly, as I read through the book I felt like I was reliving all the tough conversations I’d had with people about to leave the churches I’d served in the past. Well, it was a mini nightmare of sorts.

For a while I thought Ms. Duin was going to be a strong advocate for the house church, since she quoted Barna extensively on the movement and seemed to find little fault with such a model (Megachurches beware; much is wrong with you). However, at the end that was not the answer either.

So who’s getting it right? According to the author, most new churches catered to the 25-45 crowd that likes to be entertained. I’m not sure about wanting to be entertained, but I, for one, think that boring people with the Good News of the Gospel is a sin.

I think it’s naive of anyone to expect to find the perfect church, but what’s the next best thing? What do you look for when looking for a church home?


  • Many in my (baby boom) generation would feel about church as you describe the feelings of this author (I haven't read the book)–feeling disconnected, and that the "church we remember" no longer exists.But we remember the past better than it was. Few of us actually want the church we grew up in. Nor do most want to do the hard work of engaging people with the Word of God and creating authentic community–the pursuit that has driven many of the lamented changes.That leaves many filled with grief and anger over the state of church but having no clear idea what to do about it.Back in the day, a common political expression was that one must either be part of the solution or part of the problem. Perhaps that applies here as well?

  • @Lawrence, That's one point of the book as well: expecting members to be part of the solution and learn to "feed themselves." However, Julia doesn't think that's a realistic option and that, no matter how long you've been a Christian, your soul needs feeding as well. And by that I guess she means by the Pastor or the church service or programs.

  • "I think it's naive of anyone to expect to find the perfect church, but what's the next best thing?"For me, finding the next best thing has been finding where God has directed me. Not always a fun-filled place, but fulfilling. As for wanting the church of my youth — it was a checklist of do's and don't's to be loved by God. How did I even find Christ there? Through the love and acceptance of one lady. To me, church is all believers. It's not the pastor and his followers, it's every person there who is a believer in Christ. "Perfect" won't happen until we all start living the way Christ intended. Maybe when I start loving and accepting, some young woman will realize her worth in God's eyes and accept the gift of salvation. "What do you look for when looking for a church home?" Twice now, God has had my husband and me in churches that suddenly became "dead" to us. As in, we could no longer drag ourselves from bed to go there – physically sick! After a d'oh! moment, realizing He was trying to get our attention, we realized that He was trying to lead us elsewhere, to do and be what He wanted in those places. Perhaps Ms. Duin expects to be fed at church — that's a diet I can't live on. Imagine eating only twice a week! (No way Maurilio is doing THAT!) Daily reading, diving into scripture, asking questions of God and expecting and looking for the answers… that's a satisfying diet, one that sustains.

  • after being displaced by a church split in late '04, we spent all of '05 diligently seeking a new church home. (the average span of our membership in a church is approximately 17 years.) we visited at least one church per sunday, and often visited was usually very high quality, but seemed to include very little biblical content. sermons were content-rich and often entertaining, but seldom had much life-impact. there was virtually no time spent in corporate prayer, and usually just one to three or so verses of scripture read. the overall impression seemed full of zip and vigor; but there seemed to be a biblical and theological vacuum with little emphasis on ministering to the needs of the hungry, the oppressed, the thirsty, the imprisoned, etc. in february of '06 we began a house church, the stonebridge community. it's just a few families. but the outcomes have been so encouraging. we hear lots of scripture and take time to discuss. we always take time to pray. we always share the bread and wine of the lord's table. we help support two missionary families and give away virtually all our tithes and offerings because of having no overhead.if that's "quitting church," i suppose we're guilty as charged.advent shalom~darrell a. harris

  • I haven't read the book, but the review here echos other reviews I've read. I am ready to quit a church. I feel bad about it. I love and respect a lot of people there, and it's not that the church lacks a heart for evangelism or feeding the hungry. The problem started when my wife realized that some of the other women seemed to have a problem with her, but in some unChristian passive-aggressive way, we have no idea who it actually is or what my wife could have possibly done. There is an impenetrable clique among some of the other women who have small children, and my wife is deliberately ignored and shunned by that group, as are our children, but we have no idea why. Her name keeps being crossed off the nursery list for the women's Bible class. It's only her name; even people who rarely attend aren't crossed off.I also realized that the church has a very narrow range of worship songs. Seriously, I've seen us sing the same hymn every single week for more than a month. We have song leaders, but a couple of the song leaders basically pick the same songs every week that they're up. When you don't like a song, this only amplifies the dislike. I get little out of the sermons (I've even noticed one of our ministers confused Paul's 1st and 2nd imprisonments among other minor factual errors that you would expect a preacher to be trained well enough not to make) and our classes have become utter fluff. Seriously, this quarter we have "THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW BIBLE STUDY VIDEO SERIES" on Wednesday nights.We've also reached a point where it seems that some families and individuals get all the attention, but if you're not living through a life crisis, or simply the kind of person who has to have attention every second of the day, it's easy to get lost in the crowd and be ignored.For all that, my wife and I have been discussing which other churches in our area might be worth checking out. As I said, I love and respect a lot of people, but I don't have any real "friends" there, and the worship to me is flat. I can only sing the same 19th century somber hymn so many times in a month.Somehow I doubt the book addresses my concerns, which is why I haven't read it.

  • I have given quite a bit of thought to leaving church, after I found out how much money was spent on hiring church marketing consultants to help the pastor with his "stage presence" and on the latest "TV spots" for his sermon series…and how much money was spent developing promotions plans by my church so they could charge advertising and promotional fees to ministries wanting to showcase themselves at our annual pastor's conference. And when I heard how the church issued trespass warnings against a man who was accused of blogging about these abuses, and his wife as well, I just figured, what's church all about? Why give money to some rich mega church pastor and his consultants who twitter about their jet-set lifestyles…why not actually make a difference with the money God has blessed me with.Watcha think Maurilio? Did the author of the book address my concerns about mega churches?

  • @maurilio I have heard the "mature Christians should be able to feed themselves" argument, but that's not quite what I mean. I would agree with Duin that Christians at any stage of develpment need to be challenged and comforted by the church.What I'm seeing is that many choose to disengage when their "needs are not met" rather than choosing to engage by serving others, teaching, or participating in worship (even when it seems shallow). Perhaps if more were willing to do this, they might begin to feel included and nurtured rather than disenfranchised. And they might also move the church toward their vision of what it should be.

  • Anonymous

    If you are a Christian in fellowship with only one other Christian… you haven't quit the church. In fact you are probably finally experiencing REAL Church !!! In the last year barna polls, the Pew survey, WC's "reveal" and a similar study at granger have blown the last several decades of "conventional wisdom" right out of the water.The Church has done an excellent job of drawing people in but has FAILED to disciple people.I think, especially as our economy shrinks (which very few of us even feel the effects of yet), the Church is in for a heck of a lot of fat trimming. It won't be the massive industry that it is right now.We won't go to massive gatherings where we blend in and pay people to do the ministry. We'll meet in houses and cafes and we'll all be tent making ministers. We'll value the Truth of God's Word and cherish it as a precious jewel once again, like the Bereans did. We'll realize that if we hold it up high we won't need marketing or boasting of our good deeds to bring people to God.-Jud

  • Hey Man….For obvious reasons this is a very near and dear subject! We have really seen so many people just leave church in the course of the last year. The problem is simply that no one seems to have "the answers" as to how to stop it. The answer as I see it is really simple. We are called to a relationship. A relationship with God and a relationship with each other! So, if our focus can be on relationships, we might curb this from being so rampant. People who have relationships will stay connected in a church even when they walk through tough times. They stay for the people and not the circumstances!As far as Mr. FBC JAX…….He seems to forget the scripture that says we are to go out and "compel" the people to come in. In our world we need to be creative and attractive. the same reason that Jesus spoke in parables. If you, or some other consultant, can be part of the team, then great. Thanks for what you and the A Group do for churches. Peace Bro! M

  • Anonymous

    I’ll direct this at the Watchdog.

    I think we agree as far as prognosis, as to what is wrong with the Church at large. But after checking out your blog… you need to chill. While we can and arguably SHOULD question many of the powers that be in our leadership we also need to understand that they are very human and prone to err (as are we) and they are going to be giving an account to the almighty for what they have done (as are we). Now THAT should be a very sobering thought.

    I happen to have known Maurilio going pretty far back, while I do disagree with a lot of his ways and means I do not question his motives. I’m wondering about yours though.

    You’ve crossed the line, take that from someone who has been there and done that (even recently!). It’s so easy getting caught up in being RIGHT that we get wrong really quick, boy do I know.

    Root out the weeds of BITTERNESS, they will choke you. The battle belongs to the Lord.


  • hey anonymous-
    i’m not so sure watchdog has crossed any lines yet.

    speaking out against and challenging the church for having become a worldly industry does not necessarily render one as de facto bitter.

    bringing tithes into a storehouse that pays for such endeavors certainly gives me pause. it just doesn’t seem to square with the holes in the hands of the son of man nor with his words about how we are to serve him (the hungry, thirsty, alien, naked, sick and prisoner.)

    advent shalom~

  • Ever do Google alerts? For over 2 years, I’ve been monitoring “why Christians are leaving church” and “what people of faith say about traditional church services” and “drop in church attendance” – plethora of answers.

  • @Fade That's a great idea. I do google alerts, but have not done one for those leaving church. You should write about them.

  • I have lots of thoughts on this, which I'm sure wiser people can say better. (especially since I have no credibility on the matter seeing how I am in that 25-45 demographic…*snark, snark*) Nevertheless, I had all but given up on church, despite being a devoted Christ-follower, because of the politics and legalism. But thankfully, a move across state lines landed me at Crosspoint, and I am rediscovering what church was intended to look like. The hands and feet of Christ. Great music never hurts though… :0)

  • Anonymous

    First, I want to apologize to all of you who have been hurt in church and by Christians. I know what that feels like and I pray that God will heal us all. I have experienced both sides of the issue (i.e. being in and out of church, as well as, being in and out of leadership). People do crazy things for different reasons (e.g. fear, jealousy, control, pride, etc). None of us are perfect and all of us want to feel loved and appreciated. God is a gracious and merciful God. Many times we as human portray God as a God who is not, due to our limit understanding of him. God is not a condemning God, because if he was he would not have sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us. All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. Christianity has never been about a set of rules or about sin. Instead Christianity is about relationship with God, Christ and one another. Our limited understanding of this causes us to become legalistic, because we try to make God accept and love us. However, what we fail to realize sometimes is that God already loves and accepts us (John 3:16).Truly, as believers we try to convict and change one another and do the work of Holy Spirit. We place rules and regulations on one another about what needs to be done. It is God who convicts and it is God who changes us. This is especially true for new believers. Christianity is a process of change and growth in our relationship with God. This generation wants everything in a hurry, so we try to accelerate the process. Doing so only causes discouragement, despair, anger, frustration, etc. Any changes due to the hand of man instead of the hand of God will ultimately fail. All of this being said there is only one thing that can truly heal the church and cause people to stay in the church (i.e. both the local church and the church at large). Jesus Christ must be at and remain in the center of the church. Let’s all be honest with ourselves. It is really not about the music, building, etc. It is about Christ. If Jesus Christ were in the back alley preaching to the homeless multitudes of people would come from all over to hear him. If Jesus sung the same hymn every week, we would listen. It is not the size that matters either, because there were multitudes everywhere that he went. It is about the power of God and the anointing, which breaks yokes and sets people free. Yes, it is true that Jesus Christ and the early church never used billboards, advertising and marketing, media, etc. The fame spread due to word of mouth, because the people’s needs were getting met. I am not saying that using technology and media are bad, but I am saying that when the early church existed they were not needed. It is okay to use these things to spread the gospel as long as the things do not become the focus.When the church as a whole begins to take their eyes of the things of this world in terms of how success is measured and focus solely on the task that Christ left us with which was to continue his work than the people will come and the people will stay. The early church did what God mandated for them to do and it grew and flourished. I spoke earlier about being loved and accepted, as well as, Jesus Christ being the center. However, there is one more piece to the puzzle in terms of keeping people in church. People need to be and feel needed. It is much easier to decide to skip church and go to the ball game, sailing, golfing, etc. when you do not feel that your physical presence is needed there. However, I know that it is important for all of us to be in fellowship with one another, because God gave each of various gifts and talents to be used to continue his work. There is only one body and each of us has a function and equal importance in the body. I pray that we will all find our function and places in a local body (i.e. church, mission, group, home church, etc) that needs, loves, and accepts us.

  • I think Julia’s (and others’) first mistake is trying to find a church like that of their childhood. They were *children*. Church then wasn’t what they thought it was. As we grow up, we lose a lot of our innocence about the shortcomings of the local church.nnThe problem is that people just want to quit. They want to give up on everything. They’ve got enough energy to throw stones and point out the problems, but they’re too lazy to dig in and try to help, try to effect change.nnMy husband and I left our local church nine months ago, not because it was imperfect. We had known it was imperfect since the day we joined. We chose to leave when it became apparent that everyone, from the top down, was content (even happy) with the status quo. The refusal to grow or admit weaknesses was disconcerting.nnNow? We’re actively pursuing the solution to this problem. We’re getting more involved with the Global Church, and we’ve started to take discipleship seriously…in our home and in our community. nnThe solution? It’s time for the local church to embrace criticism. It’s time for the critics to focus more on solution formation than consistent criticism. It’s time for all of us to remember that the Church is not ours…and we’re called to be a family, to work together. (At all costs…)nnI don’t know how to get that started other than to allow the Holy Spirit to get it started in my own life and pray that others join the journey.

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