Top 10 Reasons NOT to Join a Church

Top 10 Reasons NOT to Join a Church March 24, 2024

Top 10 Reasons NOT to Join a Church

Top 10 Reasons NOT to Join a Church

Before I even begin, and before you say, “You are generalizing.” You are right. I am speaking in a general sense because I believe all these systemic issues are generally accurate. In my opinion, every church does better or worse on each issue, but all are culpable. Progressive, mainline churches do better at inclusivity but haven’t addressed the systemic problems. What good does it do to include someone in a broken system?

I’m not blaming anyone specifically. We inherit flawed traditions that are hard to fix. Most of them started with Constantine in the 4th century.

Everyone thinks their church does it right or at least better than whoever they compare themselves to.

But if you’re willing to look at this honestly, look up some statistics, and do some soul-searching, I’d love to hear your thoughts after you carefully consider each item. It won’t help anyone to say, “Our church is not like that.” (gaslighting=’Karl is just whacky’).


Top 10 Reasons NOT to Join a Church

10.  We will drive there on our day off and in our free time when most programming is available from home.

Most of the things we attend church for are free, such as books and videos online. Why add something else to busy people’s lives, which, at the least, causes them to get dressed and drive somewhere when most don’t need to go THERE? If we’re hoping for community, why not build community with our actual neighbors?

Why do we need clergy to supervise musical performances and lectures that we drive to and pay for? Why can’t we relax and enjoy our day off, listening to the music we prefer and seeking the instruction we are curious about? Even when we were on the prairie and had limited resources, it would have been better to visit our neighbors instead of creating communities that controlled us.

9.   We will pay a tax to support these programs.

I know nobody forces most church members to give money. But, they seem to find a way to get it out of us through heartfelt pleas, guilt and shame, and Scriptural references. It’s unnecessary because we can get better lectures, music, and coffee elsewhere. When families have trouble making ends meet, they sometimes give to the church, hoping for spiritual renewal.

8.   We will donate our labor to these programs.

Churches founded the practice of donating money and volunteer labor. They need both and get it from the same people who agree to sit still and listen to what one person says. Unless it’s a small church, most of the listeners/givers/volunteers don’t have any say in decisions within the church. And if you don’t help, give, or participate enough, you will eventually be shamed, shunned, or segmented by the inner circle.

7.   We will be routinely indoctrinated (by one person) and not be allowed to challenge that person.

I realize the second part is more familiar with some churches than others, but that is just in the literal sense. The person in the pew is usually seated below in a posture of submission. The speaker cannot be interrupted, and no one can ask questions after, at least not more than two (you’ll hold up the line, and the pastor is busy). Generally, the pastor or his subordinates will instruct you what to think, believe, and do without rebuttal.

This indoctrination doesn’t happen in most communities where everyone’s voice is equal. Everyone should be heard and considered equal, or it’s just a corporation. Even when I worked in the corporate world, the boss only gave a speech once a year. The indoctrination in churches is intentional and harmful.

6.   We will experience power differentials that promote abuse and neglect.

When churches elevate clergy, they assign the giver/worker/congregant less power. Not only do the power differentials cause harm, but they also make it difficult to resolve. If the clergy speaks for God, then the differential is even greater. The only resolution is to do more, hoping to gain influence by getting noticed. Then, when this harms the person with less power, they usually get small and try to stay busy. This process benefits those in power.

5.   The church spends most of its money on salaries and buildings.

70% of all giving goes to salaries and building expenses (keeping the trains running). Only 5-10% funds outreach, like ministry to the poor. It takes almost 3/4 of the offering to keep existing. To do more usually requires a special offering and more commitment from the giver/worker/congregant.

4.   The community experiences will be “faux,” which revolve around our loyalty and conformity to the group.

A real community is organic and only needs a little organization. It is our real family, our co-workers, and our actual neighbors. It is not when a pastor and their associate pastors organize situations for us and bring together those who agree. I love concerts, but they’re not natural communities for many reasons mentioned above. Lectures are informative, but only about once a year from the same person. And again, we can do better online for free.

3.   The church will always side with the organization first.

Christian churches believe we should look out for the “least of these,” but when a struggle begins, they usually side with the leaders and organization over the members. They tend to believe the abuser instead of the survivor. They are not necessarily trying to hurt people, but keeping the trains running is usually more important than the individual. People may say, “Well, it’s no different than a corporation.” I say, “I couldn’t agree more.

2.   You will become co-dependent because of fear and control, toxic belief systems, and the dopamine rush that wears off.

Every week, the speaker will remind us what to be afraid of and what to do about it. All of this creates a co-dependency and a learned helplessness. We have been taught that we NEED to go to church when it is the church that needs us to provide money, free labor, and legitimacy.

1.   We already have everything we need. It’s a scam.

Someone said, “Religion is the opium of the masses.” We are love-bombed when we first attend. This makes us feel loved and accepted. Then, when the marketing efforts subsides, we gradually learn that “the first one is free.” A battle within us ensues, and we keep returning to chase the dragon of our initial experience. Many who are leaving religion find everything thing they need after an appropriate amount of detox.

Before joining a church:

  1. Consider these reasons carefully and do your research.
  2. Don’t let guilt or shame tactics sway your decision.
  3. Remember that joining a church is a personal decision that should be made only after careful consideration, reflection, and critical thinking.

Be where you are, be who you are, be at peace,

Karl Forehand

Healing from Trauma 3 – Darkness & Shadow

Healing from Trauma 2 – Going Inside & Trusting Ourselves

Healing from Trauma – Part 1 of 3 – Being and Becoming

Returning Home to Heal Trauma

Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward,  Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity.  He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community.  He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston.  His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply! You can read more about the author here.


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