Why Consumer Church Members Leave Your Church

“I’m not getting fed.”

It’s one of the most common complaints of church members looking for excuses to leave a church. The gripe is that the pastor’s sermons are not providing the person adequate spiritual growth. And most of the time it’s baloney.

Sure, there are a few pastors who preach borderline heretical sermons. And there are some who provide a spiritual pep talk each week instead of a biblical sermon. But, among the 450,000 pastors in North America, most of them are Bible-believing and Bible-preaching. 

Most of the time “I’m not getting fed” is a lame excuse to say the church is not catering to my desires and preferences. It’s a clear indicator of We have seen the growing trend of church member consumerism, and it has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

 Self-centered, consumer-driven church members are leaving. Here are some reasons why:

1. Because they never get satisfied. That is the nature of consumerism. Desires are met only for a season. Then the church member wonders what you have done for them lately. And if the church members feel like he or she has gotten all they can get from the church, they will move on to another church or drop out altogether.

2. Because they have no greater purpose. We all know church members who are the pillars of the church in the best sense of the word. They are giving, serving, and sacrificial. They have a greater purpose than themselves. They seek to serve the Lord by serving others. They never ask, “What have you done for me lately?” because they are too busy doing for others. The consumer Christian has no purpose beyond his or her own preferences. And that’s really no purpose at all.

3. Because they are often divisive. Consumer Christians seek for themselves. And if they don’t get what they want, they can be critical and divisive. They may leave when they sense the support for their negativity is waning. They will complain that other church members did not support them. And they are, thankfully, correct.

4. Because they know better than everyone else. You can usually count on consumer church members to send the pastor an article or podcast link to demonstrate how other churches are doing things so much better. For the consumer church member, the grass is always greener – until they move to the greener grass of the next church. And then they see problems there.

5. Because they don’t understand the meaning of biblical church membership. Check out the characteristic of a church member in 1 Corinthians 12. It’s all about how the members of the body are functioning for the greater good of that body. And look at 1 Corinthians 13. We call it the “love chapter,” but it’s really how church members are to relate to one another and to the world. The consumer church members can’t relate to biblical church membership because it’s sacrificial and driven to serve others.

So, pastor, know that you are not alone when you hear those dreaded words, “I’m not getting fed.” It has been said countless times by countless self-centered church members. Rejoice in your church members who serve, encourage, love, and sacrifice. They are God’s instruments in your church.

The consumer church members are nothing but noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. When they leave, there is a lot more peace and God-given quiet in the church.

Posted on April 26, 2021

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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  • Most evangelical churches have strayed so far from the New Testament model that many genuine believers in Jesus feel alienated by the false substitute that professional religion has created. This is why so many of us leave. It’s not because WE are self-centered. So please quit further wounding us by blaming us for the mess so many of you “clergy” have made.

  • Mark Snead says on

    This isn’t a new problem. The Apostle Paul warned there would be those with “itching ears.” He encouraged us to endure, work, and fulfill our ministry. I admit to being hurt when someone stops attending church, or leaves and attends another. However, when I consider ninety percent of my community in not in Church on a given Sunday, the few who left are not the issue. It is the thousands who haven not heard the good news of Jesus. I heard a great teaching on the parables of the one lost sheep, one lost coin, and the prodigal son. Maximum effort was put into finding the lost sheep and coin, but for the son who left, the father just waited. So, as for me, I want to make sure I minister with excellence to those who are attending, but at the same time make maximum effort to reach out to the multitudes who need to experience Jesus. Just a thought to consider.

  • Toby Will says on

    I would be careful not to isolate it only to the reason stated in the article. No doubt, as the Apostle John stated, “They went from us because they were never truly of us,” is a reason many depart; they’re simply not truly saved. But to be sure, many are leaving because the church has become more of a circus than a Christian assembly. The self-appointed skinny jean rock star with his swagger just doesn’t do it for many serious minded Christians. Then there is no shortage of people filling the pulpit who simply can’t teach. They may be wonderful brothers, but they bring only confusion to the text rather than clarity. Many are abandoning the organized Church for simple, Christ honoring gatherings, where the word is clearing expounded and explained.

  • Douglas Hammerstrom says on

    Speaking from the experience of 19 years as an elder, it could also be they are leaving because they in fact, are not being fed.
    There is a reason that the book, “Johnny Can’t Preach” was written. There is a reason that young people have been leaving the church in mass for decades, and much of it has to do with not being fed. There is a reason that the post-Covid, church environment is going to look a lot different. The number of pointless and impractical sermons I have sat thru is easily in the majority. If I had not also been exposed to theologically rich and personally practical sermons and adult ed, it would be easy to conclude that Christian teaching has nothing to say to me.

    It is very rare that I find that churches or pastors do any of the quality improvement check that is part of the normal, every day operation of many businesses. In my work as a physician, we query every patient on their experience. If we find the same criticism happening over and over, we don’t blame it on the patient, we fix the problem. It is long past time for pastors, churches and leadership to take a long, hard look at how they are doing church and figure out why we are failing in so many areas.

  • Pete Shoults says on

    If a person tells me a reason for their actions and my response is, “what this really means is…”, this requires me to know what is in their heart, while Jesus tells me only God is capable of this.

    If this is an example of Biblically correct judgment, I’m assuming this is the diet they’re rejecting and I wouldn’t be surprised to have empty pews.

    Be blessed.

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