12 Reasons People Give up on Church

By Chuck Lawless

Most, if not all, of us know someone who attended church but then simply gave up on God’s people. Based on my work with churches and the unchurched over the last 20 years, here are some of the reasons I’ve heard: 

  1. They see nothing different in Christians. They come looking for the difference the gospel makes, but they find only people who act like the rest of the world acts.
  2.  They hear nothing but judgment. Presented lovingly, judgment is part of helping people see their need for Jesus. The problem is that they too seldom hear it presented lovingly.
  3. They hear only stories and humor. They came to church desperately wanting to hear something from God to help them with their chaotic lives, but they instead heard little or nothing from the Word.
  4. Nobody connects with them. They may have come with some desire to be anonymous, but most did not come with a hope of being ignored. When nobody talks to them, they see little reason to keep coming.
  5. They see no relevance in its message. Frankly, I lay this issue at the feet of preachers. If we don’t help folks know how to apply the Word in their lives, they leave with head knowledge rather than heart change.
  6. Somebody hurt them or their family. Sure, they need to forgive and press on – but some folks aren’t there yet. They carry their anger with them and depart the church.
  7. They have other options today. Via the Internet, they can “attend” church virtually and listen to sermons electronically. And, they can do that without putting on their best clothes.
  8. Everything is “over their head.” Nobody taught them the basics of Christianity. They struggle understanding what they hear – and they’re too embarrassed to ask for help.
  9. They’re tired of church drama. Some of the most ridiculous interpersonal fights I’ve ever seen have been among believers. It’s no wonder some people walk away from the silliness.
  10. Nobody answers their questions. “Just because the Bible says so” isn’t always the best answer for seekers who are asking honest questions in their spiritual quest. 
  11. They feel unneeded. They’d love to get involved, but no one’s asked them. As far as they know, the church doesn’t need them.
  12. They’re not ready for the commitment. When they really do hear the gospel, they hear its call to give up self. Those who aren’t ready for that commitment avoid its call by leaving the church.

What other reasons have you heard? 

Posted on April 1, 2020

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Sometimes “church” is just a form of pop culture entertainment. Trying to imitate society around it to a large extent. If the focus is on music, charismatic pastor, “pep rally” vibe, why go? You can get all that by watching on tv. However, the Actual Presence in Holy Communion you cannot get outside the church, (if the particular church holds to that ancient belief). Still, life is difficult and complicated too many factors in play sometimes for not attending/belonging to a church. I guess we try to honestly live it the best we can and pray for His mercy and guidance. “Lord have mercy”.

  • Good Article.
    Because the church acts no different than society, by picking who they want to help in everything they do including helping struggling families with food. The church is separated and mostly more bias than regular society. It’s not Gods fault, this stems from people’s desire to play God, sadly this is more evident in the supposed church.

  • 13. Covid

  • Good one.i would
    Like to e roll my self if this course is sponsored

  • Jim Marshall says on

    Hi Larry,
    I am so sorry and do not fault you for your experience. There is no doubt that too many have placed their version of things ahead of what the Bible says, like the separation of pastors/priests and laypeople I just posted. Despite your sad experience, it does not mean that God’s Word is false. I was a stubborn atheist who clung to his beliefs in evolution before I came to Christ. I was searching for truth but was so dogmatic that I said anything could be true except God. After 3-5 years of searching for truth and resisting the Holy Spirit, Jesus finally opened my eyes and revealed that “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

    Please do not anybody who put themselves or culture ahead of the narrow road that the Lord teaches keep you from spending eternity with the Lord. I exhausted every other possibility in my search for truth, had my life spared numerous times as I was really stubborn, and He deserves credit for bringing me to my senses, and to my knees. If somebody were to tempt me by offering all the gold, money, or anything else in the entire world to go back to unbelief I turn them down 100%.

    I know the Bible is true, and have found out much more about biblical Christianity in my dealings with the persecuted church. As Steve mentioned American pastors/priests are greatly out of touch, especially by prioritizing the culture’s aversion to suffering over what the New Testament states. Please know that Jesus loves you Larry.

  • I left the church — and my faith — 10 years ago, after being a very devoted Christian for 40 years. I appreciate the honesty of your list as well as how you urge the church to self-reflect. Too many Christians say of us former believers, “They were never ‘of us’ in the first place” or, “They are unwilling to submit to the rigors of a Christian life.” I can say with a clear conscience that those accusations do not apply to me.

    Instead, the catalyst for my leaving was an item not on your list: I discovered that the people I had trusted most (conservative Christians) had been more interested in promoting their version of the Truth than in impartially seeking it, on various subjects. The first such subject was evolution. Once I read some books by actual evolutionists, rather than only reading Christian books about what evolutionists supposedly said, I learned that Christians had vastly misrepresented evolutionists’ arguments, sometimes twisting their words to mean the opposite of what they actually meant. In short, I learned that some of the Christian leaders I had trusted most had betrayed my trust. These were men whose books I had read to my small children and the sense of betrayal cut very deep.

    After that experience, I could no longer take things on faith. I had to examine the evidence for myself. In the process of trying to find some evidence that would *support* my faith, I learned that evangelical Christian leaders had been cavalier with the evidence in other areas as well. The whole story is here and I invite people to read it before putting me in any of the boxes that the church has constructed to put people like me in: https://pathofthebeagle.com/2012/12/09/why-i-left-evangelical-christianity-part-1/

    In the end, I was, quite simply, no longer convinced. Your Reason #10 pertains to that but I thought it was important to point out how it all started for me: by a betrayal of trust.

  • Jim Marshall says on


    I have been reading your material, LifeWay’s material and many other sources as part of my research into the underlying causes for the shortage of discipleship formation in churches for my dissertation at Liberty. The 12 points Chuck Lawless gives are excellent, but I want to investigate the reasons behind these. Edwin Grozer gives the 3 reasons of Impenitent sin, heretical belief, and lack of faith. These are certainly correct, but my dissertation wants to dig even further to try to uncover deeper underlying reasons.

    • Steve Housewright says on

      Pastors/priests have too much theology training and not enough human training. They’re out of touch with life and tend to wall themselves off in their offices, writing the next sermon, reading books, writing dissertations. That’s the underlying reason they have the congregations they have. Birds of feather. People disconnected from life.

      • Jim Marshall says on

        Steve, you hit the bullseye in describing how pastors/priests are out of touch with life. The gap between clergy and laypeople is one of the primary reasons of lack of discipleship that my research is investigating. Martin Luther wanted to end this unbiblical practice during the Reformation, but it did not happen. You also mention that pastors/priests have too excessinve theological training. Jesus did not have the kindest of words for leaders like you are describing when he was on the earth. It is widely assumed that the way the Lord felt about the Pharisees has no applicatoin to 2020. Is this assumption true?

      • Jim Marshall says on

        You are right that pastors/priests are out of touch with life Steve. It sounds like you are describing the separation of clergy and laity that Luther wanted to end during the Reformation since it is a practice that has no biblical support. I am investigating this area as one of the major underlying causes that impedes discipleship formation in churches, as the practice has continued until now. Is another Reformation needed to finally end this practice which has greatly weakened the church?

  • Too many hypocrites. To which I say, “would you rather go to church with some of them or Hell with all of them?

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