Is the Church Unhealthy?

Do you think the Church is as unhealthy as people say it is? There seems to be an increasing number of books and blog posts devoted to the failings of the Church. A recent Out of Ur post cites statistics that say that 70-80% of youth are leaving the church by the age of 22. If it was half that number, I’d still think it was an extremely high percentage.

In his most recent blog post, Dale Fincher reflects on negative statistics like those and asks some fantastic follow-up questions. He wonders if there’s something intrinsic to today’s church that repels so many people who follow Jesus.

Here’s a few paragraphs from his post:

We’ve all witnessed the onslaught of recent publishing. We’ve read the articles that speak to so many people leaving church. We’ve seen the books by people disillusioned with church. We’re heard the statistics decrying that most students won’t even attend church by the time they are out of college. Many leaders are fretting over the dropped attendance as an indication of the spiritual maturity of the Christian population.

What exactly is going on here? Why are people discouraged with church? What is church that it isn’t meeting people’s needs? What is it about church that seems to be missing the point?

I’ll extend the same question to you: is there something identifiably wrong with the Church that’s putting off Christians (and non-Christians)? Or is it all just a lot of people complaining about a problem that’s always existed, or doesn’t exist?

23 Responses to “Is the Church Unhealthy?”

  • Joshua R. says:

    I think that there is definitely a problem in today’s churches as a whole that is causing people to question whether Christianity is worth their time on a Sunday (or any other day of the week for that matter). The church too often does not seem REAL. Usually it is one of two problems that happen that cause the church to loose its passion for God and fall into a routine that seems stale to both those in the church and to those outside. Too many churches fall into “leagalism” (putting tradition almost as high in authority as the Bible) and “leagalism” (simply wanting to please others). Both of these extremes are plaguing churches across the nation and pushing people away.

    • Becky Rhea says:

      I think you are absolutely right! People have been hurt from seeing too much hypocrisy in the church. Some churches have become like “big business” instead of trying to feed and tend to the sheep, they are more concerned about making a name for themselves.

      We need to let God be in control of the church and allow the Holy Spirit to move freely in the services, from the worship to the preaching. We need churches that are real. We tend to close God outside the building and then wonder why people don’t want to come in.

      We also need to be in a daily relationship with the Lord that is so close that we can hear him speaking to us and are willing to obey and meet the needs of the people around us. We are the body of Christ, we are the church, it’s not the building that’s the church but our bodies are the living temple of God. If we remember this, we can impact those around us wether they’re church goers or not.

      • Luc Bedard says:

        Becky is absolutely right when she writes about allowing the Holy Spirit to move freely in our services. I would go one step further and say we need the Holy Ghost to have His way with us ALL THE TIME. He is the One Jesus sent to guide us into ALL truth. He is also the one called the Comforter. If we as christians do not make a concious effort to let the Holy Ghost have His way with us as individuals, we cannot hope to gather with others and think that Jesus will be with us, as He promised in His Word (wheresover 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, I am there). How can He if we’ve rejected the agent of his presence.

        No matter how many people are involved or what type of gathering we partake of (worship, bible study, prayer meeting, communion etc.) the purpose (if it’s truly in Jesus’ name) is to get to the truth (which is Jesus and only Jesus, what He says, does, doesn’t say, or doesn’t do) and only the Holy Spirit can do this 100% of the time.

        If a church does not strive to do this it is not edifying (does not builb you up in Christ) no matter how large it is or what kind of works they’re into or how much power they may have in this world. I would say that most Christians do not do this. Hence the church IS unhealthy. People SHOULD be leaving. They should not give up on faith however but they should ask Jesus to send the Holy Ghost to lead them to a place where their faith can grow and to fellowship that will help this growth. Then they must believe that He will do it (even if its with only 2 or 3 people of like faith).

        There is one prereq to this type of faith. It must take priority over everything else. This includes my job, my education, my family and even my identity. Christ must have the preeminence in my life. Admittedly most of us do not come to Him with this set of the heart so we must allow Him (through his agent the Holy Ghost) to make this a reality for us. AND HE WILL.

        If we want to partake of a healthy church we must strive for perfection in our own walk. Then we can gather with others of like faith and actually have something to share with them. And if the Holy Spirit is really in control of your gathering you will have many oppertunities to give and recieve in your meetings and you and your christian brethren will be edified and grow.

        A reading of the first 3 chapters of Revelation can be very helpful in finding out how Jesus feels about his church. It is surprising to discover that he is displeased with a good percentage of them. Some He threatens with separation from Himself. It behooves every christian to look into those things that displease our Lord and to renounce them in ourselves and to strive to get a hold of those things that He is pleased with and to allow the Holy Ghost to make those a part of who and what we are. No man has these things by nature and you can’t get them through knowledge or exercise but you must be converted to them.

        I will end my comment with a quote from these verses in Revelation which I believe reveals the truth about the condition of the church at large today.

        And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Rev. 3:14-22

    • DJ says:

      Some of you have touched on this, but it goes deeper. I was saved at 14, and have been involed with faith community over the years and I become very dishearted lately. The main cause is that people dont’ really have a relationship with God. they are saved, but they are not real. They don’t talk to God with thier souls, and what a relationship with God is is not really addressed.

      It has been a problem for years but seems to be more lately. We have to be honest with ourselvs and with God. I had a friend actually tell me that he could not have a relationship with God like I had because his ministry demanded too much of his time. Can you believe that??? It is so sad.

      Acts 17:24-28…tells us that the first and formost reason we ar here, is to have a relationship with the God of the universe. And a true relationship means honesty, and truth..and some churches don’t even allow others to be honest because they will be chastised. People really need to spend time reading the bible, all of it to see the beauty of who God really is.

  • Albert E. Morse says:

    I have noticed the trend.
    I wonder if it is an american problem or if it is world wide.

    In america I would suggest improving the retention of the young adults by changing our disciplesship methods. The taditional age segregated sunday school model needs some modification.

    We need to foster parent child learning as the Deuteronomy 6:4-9 shows. We need to help parents have a continual conversation with their children about God. Allowing children to have a class without their parents allows parents to abdicate their responsibility. It also allows children to think that adults are learning something different than they are. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 shows us that we need to have intergenerational learning about God.

  • Mike says:

    Being on the mission field for 20 years in other countries I see a hunger for God that dose not exists in the us churches. Churches in the US offer program after program. Seminar on every topic imaginable. Or maybe it’s the traditional church were they sing songs from a hymnal and sit in pews and offer nothing other that the traditional 3 hymns and a her, take the offering, give the lifeless message, & then the benediction.

    What we have here in the US these days either the business model, hollywood model, or motivational speaker model church. They offer every thing under the sun except the one thing that can transform a life. That one thing is a living relationship with a Living Jesus.
    The believers in third wold countries only have one thing to offer and that is Jesus Christ.
    They can’t afford the $200.000 sound system. They can’t afford the $150.000 lighting system. They can’t afford to pay a staff of musicians and hire the top motivational pastor. They cant afford the donut and coffee shop. They can only offer the free gift of Jesus.

    In my opinion the younger generation in the US can see the reality that the church offers them nothing except hype. They have a hunger that our zombie churches can’t offer them.
    They want Life. They want truth. They want to know the way. what they want is Jesus Period.
    Why not give them what they want.

    • Ben says:

      The craftsman encourages the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer spurs on him who strikes the anvil. He says of the welding, “It is good.” He nails down the idol so it will not topple.

      The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

      Isaiah 41:7,17

    • Jim says:

      I would just like to say yah and amen to that. I am a young man myself of just 18, and I have been tempted to stop church attendance. Why? I am sooo tired of hearing watered down messages. Where is the truth? I feel as if I go to sit at a table to eat a good meal, and I get only water, filling me for a while, but still leaving me hungry. Just thought I would share that, because as a youth, that is what my reasoning for the temptation.

      • Chris says:

        I’d have to echo your sentiment about church. It’s sometimes very hard to see the point in it all when you’re thirsting for Jesus and you get a three step sermon on how to be a nicer person to someone you don’t like.

        The beauty of the Church, in my opinion, is that regardless of its deficiencies, God still uses it. We might not like every aspect of it all the time, but it can transform lives when it’s working.

  • Ernie Gamboa says:

    I believe that this is a really complex matter and it requires the discernment to distinguish between the masses of people that have “seemingly come” and are now “obviously leaving” the organized “christian church”, and the Body or Bride of Christ that has always gone on persevering throughout the ages and will continue doing so until the second coming of Christ. The first grouping, are the byproduct of a poor understanding and preaching of the gospel and the substandard execution of evangelism. The second grouping, are the product of the full preaching of the gospel which brings a correct understanding and opens the floodgates of divine revelation. To generalize the condition of the Body of Christ by looking at statistics and projections of this entity we call “the church” is a mistake. Not only is it a mistake but it arrogantly flies in the face of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit through the Church or Body of Christ. This illusion that some see as the shrinking “church” is but an ebbing in the flow of this “organization”, called “the church”. It has been in a constant flux of increase and decrease since Christ walked the earth and will continue in this cyclical flux until “the fullness of the Gentiles is complete”.

  • charlotte says:

    I feel that many are leaving churches due to their choice in association. Some people just do not for whatever reasons build that needed bond with those of their faith. So having nonbeliever friends at times may cause individuals to pull to the beliefs and ideas and way of life of said friends. As far as the youth leaving. Some may have never made their faith their own. Not building their own close and personal relationship with God. So many have been attending because it was their parents faith and doing it under their direction because they live under parents roof. Once on their own due to not having the close and personal relationship with God they allow too many distractions. Also some find that the sermons are preachin at and not teachng. This is not true of all churches. And for some just an excuse.

  • Rita says:

    The great Falling away can be attributed somewhat to the individuals’ expectation, Most “churchgoers” have used their individual “Leader” as the “Mark” for their RELATIONAL GOAL with the church of their affiliation. Christians attending a place of worship must become the Called out body of Christ. Their first relationship must be Goal oriented to God, Accept his Will and Plan, Study to Show hiself approved unto God and The HOLY sPIRIT WILL PERFECT HIM. This turning back to God and KEEPING OUR EYES ON THE COMPLETED WORK of CHRIST may renew our faith in what our reason for being on earth is really about.

  • Mil says:

    It is hard to say whether the church is unhealthy or not as none of us are privy into the into the work of God the congregations across the nation. We can only guess at best and it is likely the wrong guess. But I will not deny there is rampant carnality among Christians.

    If I may share an opinion, if people are leaving the church as an institution, it is probably a good thing since its original biblical calling was never meant to be corporation or a business institution regardless of its great programs that benefits some people. So the more people abandon the corporate mindset of the institutional church and its programs, the higher the possibility of a more biblically based, non corporate america, body of Christ. Biblically and historically, the true church was remembered more for it’s ability to turn the world upside down as a “witness of Jesus”. Whether they were many or not in number was not one of the factors on what they were to be in the World.

    If people are leaving from within the church, it is possibly(although there many other good reasons) a spiritual foundation issue or a severe misunderstanding of their calling as a Church. Remember the parable of the sower? Also, our Lord himself, could not keep a crowd nor did he indicate that that was even an issues:). They all left him except for 120+ scared disciples but the Lord knows the one that are his and they will never be lost. I think it is time for the church to wake up from it delusion that people should be attracted to it because such notion is never promised by the scriptures. If anything, it should be the other way around. Maybe it is time that we go to these people on Sunday mornings, wednesday nights, and Sat evenings and pick an inconvenient time for the believers gathering time.

  • Ruth Bard says:

    The churches, by and large, are not equipped to challenge the atheistic, evolutionary worldview taught in the public school system. Anyone with a working brain can perceive the intrinsic illogic of accepting the Gospels (which are clearly intended as history) as truth, while dismissing Genesis (which is clearly intended as history) as “myth.” We need to educate ourselves, from the scientific perspective, to debunk Darwinism and assert the historical truth of the Creation and Flood accounts as they stand. Check out this website:

  • Gary says:

    In the words of Billy Graham: “If the Holy Spirit left the church today only a small percentage would notice any difference”. Until the church decides to preach having a relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and not theology that bores “especially the young members who want to see FIRE” people will continue to leave. People are wanting to see the church of Acts where 5000 were converted in a night and the sick being healed. God bless you all as you read this and “FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT” because each person leaving could never return and be lost for eternity. Don’t give up!!!

  • Robin says:

    i have to say i agree with Charlotte , i am a Children Church leader and if parents tell their children “you are going because i said so”, then they never truly build a lasting relationship with God, i too faced this same problem not to long ago and my oldest daughter professed her atheism in a bold manner then as i started letting God handle the problem through prayer my daughter slowly turned back , our church had a huge split not long before i started their and now some of those that left are returning , but the age old problem is solved if we remember God is the ultimate Reason for spiritual growth. also realize there are a lot more reasons to stay home these days so we have to do our best to “Outreach” … because we are competing with the electronic age

  • Kim Shimer says:

    Chris, you and your readers might be interested in what pastor Russell Rathbun has to say about this in his new book “nuChristian: Finding Faith in a New Generation.” Russell acknowledges the research that reports on Christianity’s image problem, and he responds with real, practical advice for church leaders who want to reach out to the next generation with a Christlike community that is humble, just, holistic, loving, and engaged.

    He invites us to move beyond statistics and defensiveness and to be authentic about who we are as flawed human beings saved by a gracious God.

    Russell is doing a blog tour for his book during the week of Oct. 12. I’d be happy to send you a copy if you’re interested!

  • Gretchen says:

    I am one of those people being repelled by the church. Feeling abandoned and neglected and merely tolerated. This does not affect my feelings for God, but I do dread church on Sundays. Anyone got a solution?

    • Becky Rhea says:

      Maybe finding somewhere that you can minister to others yourself. Like a nursing home for instance. There are so many churches in most towns but not many taking the time to minister to the seemingly forgotten in the nursing homes.

      If you have any musical talent, you could start by using it there with worship songs or even a Sunday Bible study and prayer. There are a lot of needs there. They love when people come to spend time with them and you will leave feeling blessed. Who knows what God will do through you.

  • Maricor yang says:

    Church is a place to spread the word of God with knowledge of truth about Gods law, about His life and what God wants, and in the gospel it must have an example that based more on the scriptures that it can be experiences in real lives of the people.or we can do also our own testimony on how God calling us is it in trials, accidentally or just

    its our own free will to submit ourselves to God
    ,or there is someone who invited us and its more interesting to hear that, and they may realized that everybody give us a chance for a change
    encourage them again to go back or go around with some members to spread the word of God, and God may bless your way.

    and other may see this things, and they do the same share the word of God as we obey His laws to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and see the next things…………God will give us strenght and power of words once we say His words it touch in their hearts

    that brings them new hope to begin new lives with God a better steps to remember that there is someone like you; to do the will of God.

    And God may bless all your days of your life; as like it said what you do to my child you do it for me as it said John 13:35 by this all men know that you are truly my disciples if you do to love one another.

  • susan says:

    i am just discouraged with church…it seems to be a competition to see who is most dedicated, most loyal to the pastor….is this the life Jesus promised…i dont want it.

  • tony says:

    I’m not too familiar with how other churches operate but in mine I’ve noticed a few problems.

    The first is that we tend to see “church” as the building in which we worship and not as the whole body of Christ. Because of this people tend to have an attitude of piety based on what makes them different/better from other “churches.”

    Second, in the congregation there has developed cliques, not based on commonality towards the goal of being Christlike but on social beliefs.

    Third is what I see as the old guard and the inquisitive. Those that have been around the longest tend to view newcomers as novelty items and are quick to over welcome and actually seem a bit smarmy.

    Hearing the Call can be a bit overwhelming and somewhat scary at first since it is leading to an entire life change. We need to realize that people are looking for answers to what is happening to them and when they are confronted with doctrines and theologies right of the bat… well, that could leave a bad taste for them.

    Our focus should be to listen, learn, and offer direction by the Word; welcoming all, loving all, and living in Christ.