Church: Seven Reasons Not to Go to Church

Church: Seven Reasons Not to Go to Church July 1, 2017

ruin-987795_640_optWhy go to church? What are the pros and what are the cons? Let’s begin with the cons, that is, with reasons why the church is crumbling and little more than a relic surrounded by a graveyard for some.

Let’s be honest.

I take John Pritchard’s clever little book Why Go to Church? in SPCK’s “Little Books of Guidance” series. Pritchard is also the author of Going to Church: A User’s Guide.

His opening is clever because, while humorous, says something true even about some (if not most) pastors:

There’s an old story about a mother who went to wake up her son one Sunday morning. ‘Come on now,’ she said, ‘time to get up and go to church.’ The son moaned loudly. I don’t want to go to church,’ he said. ‘Come on,’ she coaxed soothingly, you know we go to church on Sunday morning.’ ‘Why should I?’ he said. ‘They don’t like me and I don’t like them.’ ‘Well – two reasons,’ said his mother ‘first, you’re 42 years old, and second, you’re the vicar!

I played golf with a pastor once who told me if it weren’t for preaching he’d not go to church. (Mind you, he was referring to his own preaching.) He thought small groups were all one needed. He’s now pastoring in a megachurch and he’s back into the groove of going to the church every blessed week. I sometimes would like to have that golf course conversation with him again.

Many pastors trudge onward but have their moments of wondering why.

Tomorrow is Sunday. Today you can decide not to go or to go. What are your reasons?

Here are Pritchard’s seven reasons for not going to church or, better yet, reasons people give for not going to church. (In our next post will do the Pro side.)

What are yours?

  1. I don’t believe in God
  2. The Church is a hierarchical, controlling institution in an age of freedom and choice
  3. I used to go, but I just don’t see the point
  4. The services are dire
  5. The building is cold and forbidding
  6. They’re not my kind of people
  7. I don’t understand what’s going on

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  • Basement Berean

    1. I can hear the sermon on a podcast shortly after Sunday morning and whenever I want.
    2. Bland music played by a band configured as a rock band but defying any genre classification does nothing for me.
    3. The church is socially impenetrable because people go to consume a ceremony, and the snacks afterward, and don’t really care to engage in any conversation, or they lack any interpersonal skills whatsoever.

    And that’s the church I do attend on occasion…

    For the rest…
    4. I’m not interested in dumping my time and wealth into furthering a professional Christian entrepreneur’s career.
    5. I’m tired of having Jesus love my soul but Moses collect my money.
    6. Sermons directed mainly at millenials are like sitting through third grade forever. I’ve heard it all many times.
    7. God is everywhere and can be accessed from anywhere, and he doesn’t speak just through professional Christians on a certain morning every week.

  • T.S.Gay

    A congregation of people at worship collect evidence that God working in history is also active now. And has invited us to enter into that. Every worship focus could ask where have we seen God’s glorious intervention? And 1 Corinthians 14 speaks to creative ways to do this.
    I think it’s noteworthy that people like spectator sports. There are far more in stadiums doing this on any given day than any mega-church. That’s probably the reason many who are sports enthusiasts are not near as physically fit as the participators. And us Christians not so spiritually fit in spectator churches.
    And as for not going…….nones believe they have no evidence of that work……dones yearn to participate……

  • Dave Jones

    Other than #1 in that list the rest of those seem contrived. They may have something to do with why a non-Christian millennial doesn’t go to church. But if that’s why church leaders believe people don’t go to church then that explains a lot of the disconnect. That’s fantasy land.

    I’m more interested in why christians themselves stop going. Those are people that already know the intricacies of church life and how it operates. Their reasons for rejecting that system seem way more important to the health of the church.

    I would say Basement Bereans comment below nails it. I would just add:

    – Christianity is not entertaining. Any attempt to make it that way is cheap, boring and intellectually insulting.

    – Separating the congregation into those on stage and those in their seats alienates both. There is no reason for it.

    – 90% of pastors you meet are slimy and aloof. Why would I want them to teach me anything.

    – It costs tons of money to keep the machine of a large church going. I don’t want to throw my money down that black hole. I’ll just give it directly to my neighbor.

    – Church is a bubble. The leadership inside that bubble quickly loses any sense of how the real world operates. Professional Christians simply can’t relate to their congregation.

  • AHH

    For tomorrow only, my reason is not wanting to be subjected to patriotic “hymns” and other God and Country things that set off my idolatry alarm.

    Otherwise, it does seem pointless a lot of the time. But it is there (not exclusively, but more than any other place) that I am with Christian community. Not every week, but at least occasionally, being there on Sunday allows me to minister to someone in the community, or to be ministered to by another. Were it not for that, I’d probably go less often.

    And I agree with Dave Jones that the reasons why some Christians stop going to church and the reasons why the unchurched stay away are two very different questions, each of which deserves its own conversation.

  • Boris Eichenberger

    I am a pastor who is not going to church tomorrow. Because we meet only every second week to celebrate. And we have this bi-weekly routine to create space to live our faith in every day life: in our families, neighborhoods and workplaces. But on the other Sundays I love going to church – and even more on the services I am not in to preach or minister in any other way. I meet my friends to celebrate Jesus and what he has and is doing among us.
    So somehow I miss some positive arguments to not attend service tomorrow:
    – to celebrate Jesus at home in the family
    – to create time for our neighbors and share in their challenges
    – to got out and serve the vulnerable
    – to accompagny the kids to a game/play/presentation and support them in finding out their talents and giftings..
    – ….

  • scotmcknight

    Boris, this is a two part post… the positives come Monday.

  • Boris Eichenberger

    Great. Looking forward to it

  • RustbeltRick

    On those Sundays I skip church, I get a chance to hear the This American Life (TAL) radio show. TAL is nearly always compelling, fascinating, honest, thought-provoking, multi-dimensional, humane. It is rare I get anything like that in an evangelical sermon. There is something in the evangelical mindset that seems afraid to wrestle with uncertainty, nuance, doubt, ambiguity. Life has more gray areas than evangelicalism is willing to admit. So the services, at least to me, seem to be all about affirmation. They aren’t about exploration and wrestling and understanding. JMO.

  • Basement Berean

    Just in time!

  • andrew

    RustbeltRick. I struggle with the same things. Our church was pastorless for 3 years and as an Elder I preached challenging and thought provoking sermons asking the tough questions. Congregants were inspired, many said they felt free to discover that the bible is more about living with God and others opposed to just a book on salvation.

  • lydia

    You could celebrate the fact you are not in Calvin’s Geneva and church is voluntary. But I guess that is idolatry and not gratitude.

  • lydia

    Oh my. That is MY list!! Well done.

  • gingoro

    It can be hard if one does not fit into the majority culture in an immigrant European church. One can be an old white male but still be always an outsider.

  • Coffee Summerall

    I’m going to church this morning, and I’m grateful to attend a church that does not worship nationalism or ‘Merica. My prior church does the whole enchilada: excessive flags, military presence, and American exceptionalism. (Why do we Christians who claim to know God’s power, rely on “Egypt” and not God? Is. 31:1)

    Those of us who grew up Evangelical know the “secret plot” is to replace our democracy with a theocracy, which, as we can see from states run by religious fundamentalists, does not result in liberty and justice for all.

    But back to the list of why NOT go to church, in general:

    1. I’ve got more life experience than my pastor, so he seems a bit shallow at times.

    2. I’ve heard every sermon ever given 10 times. Pastors can’t say anything new.

    3. There’s an emphasis on “in-group” vs. “out-group.” We’re told Christians are better people, but the truth is, we aren’t. In fact, many of the atheists and agnostics I know are far more ethical and compassionate.

    4. Politics! (I’m going to leave this verse right here. Look at the last sentence.)
    “Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a
    staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh
    king of Egypt to all who depend on him.” — Is. 36:6

  • DMH

    I can agree with much that has been said already. The only thing I would add is that, with many of these problems, THERE IS LITTLE HOPE FOR CHANGE. Unless you are leadership or have their ear you are just a cog in the machine.

    Many of these problems are also deeply rooted in our (mis)understandings of such things as authority, leadership, community, relationships, finances…… so that what is needed is not just a “tweaking” of structures, ideas, and practices which are in place but an overhaul of those things. For various reasons, those who could effect change, seem unwilling to do so (except for a tweak here or there).

    And yet somehow, I long for better and (after a long back and forth journey) remain….. hopeful.

  • DMH

    We could maybe go a little easier on pastors. Certainly there’s truth in what you say but often times they’re “victims” as well of the way church is understood and practiced IMO.

  • Charles B. Jordan Jr.

    Unlike your preacher friend, the reason not to go to church is the sermon. The sermon makes my showing up all about the preacher. Everything else in the service – Prayers, scriptures, Eucharist – are all about God. I can usually find a better scriptural exegesis in my library or online.