One of the most exciting moments of my life was June, 1987 graduating right out of college and planting a church in South San Jose, CA. The Silicon Valley was where I was born and raised and it was a significant privilege for my wife Valerie and me to serve there and we have always contended that God has a plan for region on nation. I no longer am serving in the Bay Area but recently I have had many people who attended churches in the Bay Area contact me and say that they are not attending a local church and many of the reasons why are consistent with National Research Studies such as the one published by Lifeway Research. Ten reasons listed why people do not attend church:
1. The church was not helping me to develop spiritually. (28%)
2. I did not feel engaged or involved in meaningful church work (20%)
3. Church members were judgmental of others (18%)
4. pastor was not a good preacher (16%)
5. Too many changes (16%)
6. Members seemed hypocritical (15%)
7. Church didn’t seem to be a place where God was at work (14%)
8. Church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement (14%)
9. Pastor was judgmental of others (14%)
10. Pastor seemed hypocritical (13%)
Before I continue with my thoughts there are many great pastors that I esteem highly in the Bay Area that I would not hesitate for a moment to ask you to consider visiting their congregation but allow me to focus on those who live in the East Bay, Tri-Cities region to answer a question that has been consistently asked of me which is, “If you lived in Danville or San Ramon and you were looking for a church where would you go?” My answer to you is, “I would be attending Bay City Church whom the Lead Pastor is Daren Laws.” He is not only a catalytic leader who empowers people to be their best but for some of you have given into the idea that all church structures are top-down with a lack of real authentic accountability you will not experience that at this church. Daren is the type of healthy leader who seeks out accountability and is a highly collaborative leader.
My greatest concern is that you take yourself out of the game and give place to you becoming another bitter person who says they have no problem with Jesus but they just can’t stand the Church. I get it and as a leader I have made my share of mistakes that we all before Christ must own. This journey in Christ for all of us is not about Perfection but instead Progress. The strategy of our adversary is to fill one’s rightful sense of victimization which gives place to a root of bitterness and then pollute it with the leaven of pride. In the words of Chad Walsh, “One becomes vaccinated with a mild-dose of Christianity as to protect one from the real thing!” Some of us experienced some great moments in the past but it is time to let the past go and embrace the new thing that God would desire to do in you and through you!
God loves the Bay Area and He has a plan and a purpose for your life but it is not to be separated from the local community of faith but rather engaged with God’s people. Your children and grandchildren will not be served well by having you become another apathetic and cynical person who alludes to wearing the label of being a Christ-follower. The purpose of Christ is that you become a thriving life-giving person who is a recipient of grace who is a contagious carrier of that grace.
It is time to get into the game!
 Ministry Best Practices, The Top Ten Reasons People Leave Your Church. http://www.ministrybestpractices.com/2012/03/top-10-reasons-people-leave-your-church.html Note: Some other issues were discovered in the quantitative findings of the research (http://www.lifeway.com/Article/LifeWay-Research-surveys-formerly-churched-part-1-of-2) : According to the study, 59 percent of formerly churched adults left their church because of “changes in life situation.” While this may suggest that most losses are outside of the church’s control, the research indicates that is not necessarily the case, said Brad Waggoner, executive vice president of LifeWay.
Waggoner noted that the formerly churched provided more detailed reasons behind this more generic “changes in life situation” description. “It is interesting that the most prevalent reasons come down to personal priorities rather than an external change in the person’s life,” said Waggoner.
In looking at the top two specific life-situation reasons adults stop attending – “simply got too busy to attend church” (19 percent)and “family/home responsibilities prevented church attendance” (17 percent) – it is clear to see these areas are more preventable than some of the lower-ranking reasons such as “moved too far from church,” (17 percent) “work situation” (15 percent) or “got divorced/separated” (12 percent).
The second most common category of reasons adults leave the church is “disenchantment with pastor/church,” accounting for withdrawal of 37 percent of the formerly churched. Three specific sources of disenchantment are sandwiched among the life-change reasons. The formerly churched say, church members “seemed hypocritical” (17 percent), “were judgmental of others” (17 percent) or “the church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement” (12 percent). These adults felt like outsiders looking in, revealing that the leadership and relational dynamics of a church can prove to be obstacles that prevent involvement.
“While some may use disenchantment issues as a smokescreen to hide behind, the large percent of the formerly churched who struggle with disenchantment deserve some honest attention” Waggoner said.
Notably, Waggoner pointed out, only two of the top ten reasons are instances in which the formerly churched admit to spiritual causes, citing “church was not helping me to develop spiritually” (14 percent) and “stopped believing in organized religion” (14 percent).
The latter reflects creeping secularism and is underscored by the number of respondents who consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious” (24 percent) and “Christian, but not particularly devout” (42 percent). Fewer than 1 in 5 formerly churched adults confess to being “a devout Christian with a strong belief in God”(19 percent) and a somewhat smaller number are wavering on Christianity (10 percent) or belief in God at all (6 percent).