3 Stupid Reasons Millennials Are Leaving Churches

“Stop treating your local church like your high school girlfriend. We are not meant to consume the worship of Jesus; we are meant to contribute to it.”

Stop treating your local church like your high school girlfriend, and start treating it like the bride of Christ.

You don’t leave the church when it doesn’t share the same musical interests, when it hurts your feelings, or when a newer, more popular one catches your eye.

The people of God, the Church around the world, is the bride of Christ, and the bride of Christ deserves the faithfulness of a bride, not the summer crush you bailed on when you were a jerk in college.

Your church is broken because it’s made up of broken people, including yourself. Abandoning the local church is only acceptable under a few extreme circumstances. Other than in certain circumstances, the people of God have the responsibility to sacrificially love their local churches as Jesus has.

If anyone has the right to abandon the adulterous, idolatrous bride called “Church,” it’s God, and he hasn’t, so we need to be careful how quick we are to bail when the going gets tough.

Here are three bad reasons to leave the local church:

1. You don’t like the music.

This is one of the most common complaints I hear when people tell me what they don’t like about their churches. Full disclosure from me here: I have a very particular kind of music that I prefer to sing in church, and only one of the churches I’ve ever regularly attended fulfilled my preferred style and set of songs. I’m as picky as anyone when it comes to my preferred worship music, but it’s never been a decision-maker for me in church.

We are not meant to consume the worship of Jesus; we are meant to contribute to it.

Bob Kauflin, a well-respected worship leader, once wrote:

We sing, not for our own glory, preferences, or pleasure, but for the pleasure of the One who gave us a song in the first place. The great Redeemer has given us the song of the redeemed, so that in endlessly varied interpretations of that one glorious song, we might remember his words, respond fully to him, and reflect his glory.

When you make worship style a decision-maker in your church selection process or even as you’re attending a church you have for a long time, you make the worship experience about yourself and not the God you’re worshiping.

2. Someone hurt your feelings.

This is a big one, isn’t it? Being hurt by someone in the church is probably a more common reason for leaving than not liking the music, and that’s good because it’s a little less fickle, but it still isn’t really a good reason.

The local church is made up of a bunch of sinners, you and me included. Being hurt by the church really stinks, because we’re called to the highest standard of love in the universe, the sacrificial love of Jesus.

But here’s the thing:

The local church is a hospital for the broken not a museum of the perfect.

The church is full of a bunch of people trying to become more like Jesus—some people think they’re already there, and some people recognize they have a long way to go. This is where a lot of the conflict lies. Life change is messy. You’re going to get hurt, and you’re going to hurt others.

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I’ve had my feelings hurt in the church dozens of times. Sometimes my feelings get hurt because someone in the church is just downright mean. Sometimes my feelings get hurt because someone stabs me in the back. Sometimes my feelings get hurt because a brother lovingly shows me my sin.

“If I left my church today, would they feel it or would they care?”

If you leave Church A because you’re feelings were hurt and you flee to Church B as a refugee of sorts, feeling victimized and angry, you’re just going to be disappointed when your feelings are inevitably hurt again by someone else. All churches are full of sinners. If you find a perfect church, don’t go. You’ll just mess it up.

If your feelings are hurt, work through the conflict with maturity and grace, giving the aggressor the benefit of the doubt. Your local church isn’t perfect because the people who make it up aren’t perfect. Do your part by loving others and turning the other cheek when you’ve been hurt.

3. You heard about a new church you might like better.

You’re 29 years old now, and you’ve been attending First Church of Townsville since you were in the first grade. You’re tired of the music, your feelings have been hurt, and you’re just bored.

All of a sudden, CrossJourney Fellowship Collective is planted across town. You hear their music sounds like Mumford and Sons and their pastor has a rad beard and listens to NPR. Before you know it, you’re donning your favorite scarf and trying to make it to church in time to snag some fair-trade, single-origin, organic coffee before it’s time to sit down and listen.

Ok, that may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. Unless you’ve got a legitimate reason to leave your church, which we’ll chat about on Friday, abandoning your church for a new church in town that everyone else is leaving their churches to attend isn’t wise or loving. Hip churches aren’t bad, and fair-trade coffee is for a good cause, but we shouldn’t be wooed away from our church family as a mistress is wooed away from hers.

If we’re thinking rightly about the body of Christ as it is gathered in the local church, it is not simply a building we attend to consume the experience.

Stop treating your local church like your high school girlfriend.

We are not meant to consume the worship of Jesus; we are meant to contribute to it.

If we’re going to think rightly about our local churches, we have to know that leaving is a big deal. We don’t just leave when we’re bored like a mistress infatuated with another man.

Be a contributor, not a consumer. Ask yourself, “If I left my church today, would they feel it or would they care?” If the answer is “yes,” don’t get prideful, just keep doing what you’re doing. If the answer is “no,” meaning they wouldn’t even know you’re gone, closely examine your understanding of the church and what it means to be a follower of Christ and a member of the church.

Chris Martin
Chris is a Millennial Evangelical working as a social media facilitator at LifeWay Christian Resources and pursuing his M. Div. at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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