Why are people leaving churches in America?
Written by Pastor Jon Heeringa

The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted that whenever you’re lonely, there’s always a church. There’s always a church. You can find it just about any place. But not everybody wants to take advantage of that, do they?

Why not?

I mean, there’s so much access. It’s so easy to get to a church. You probably pass several of them every day as you travel around town.
I just finished a book called “The Great Dechurching,” which points out that 40 million people who used to come regularly to church no longer come to church at all, in this country alone. And that doesn’t count, by the way, people of other faiths. It doesn’t count people who come infrequently. And it doesn’t include the “nones” who have never come to church at all.

Why don’t they come? Part of it’s on those who don’t come, of course. I mean, our view of God tends to be, as the country song puts it, “I only talk to God when I need a favor.” And if we’re honest, many don’t feel like we need a favor right now. We feel like life is pretty good. “I can handle it on my own,” we think. “I don’t need you, God.” Or: “I don’t believe in you, God.” Or: “I think you’re indifferent to me, God.” And so they don’t come.

But I think other people don’t come because they don’t think God is here. They can’t imagine a God who would want to dwell in the midst of people like this.

I mean, we’re a mess. We’re hypocrites, we’re politicized, we’re judgmental. We get a lot of things wrong. Why would God possibly be here? Another way of saying this is the Church doesn’t feel holy, or different.

For others, though, the Church feels holy but they don’t.

They may think, “I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy, I’m not holy enough, to go to church.” Because a church is supposed to be holy, right? God’s here. We see that throughout the Bible and in the Old Testament temple that was meant to be holy, distinct and separate.

But what Jesus does through the cross makes unholy people like you and me able to be part of the Church. When Jesus dies, the curtain that blocks everybody off from the holiest part of the temple is torn in two. The dividing wall, as it says in Ephesians, is demolished. People have access to God. They have access to the holy.

So, if you’ve left, you can come back. You can come, so you should.

Because, of all places God could have chosen to dwell, God chose to dwell in the Church among His people.

Jesus says that where two or three gather in my name, He’s there. Jesus says that He is in the midst of the preaching. Jesus says that he’s there when His praises are sung. Jesus says He’s at the Communion table with us, a real spiritual presence.

This is where God is. So, if you want to meet with God, meet Him at the Church.

When you get here, you know how you’re received? You’re received as sons and daughters. So, come, because Jesus wants to meet you here.