Why Do People Choose to Stop Coming to Worship?
Psalm 95 Invites us and even commands us to come together as God’s people and worship Him
Psalm 95:1-7 (NIV2011)
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
3 For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
I have a hard time understanding why people choose to belong to a church and not come at all. Why do people choose to stop coming to church? Here are my ten guesses.
They have something to do that they feel is more important or more enjoyable. God is great but not that great, really. God has had a long history of people who chose other gods before Him.
1 b. They like to sleep in on Sunday (The tired version of number 1.) The Great God who created them, called them and saved them isn’t worth waking up for. The Son who died on the Cross for them after staying up all night praying for their salvation and sanctification (John 17) isn’t worth waking up to honor.. The Spirit of Christ who is with His people whenever two or three come together will have to make due without them.
They watch church on television or listen to it on the radio and get more out of it. This would be a good time to state that no one really goes to church, we are the church, and the church comes together to worship God as His people. How will people see his people if they don’t ever come together.
They commune with God in nature. Great! That is all the more reason to gather with His people and sing His praises for His great creation. In fact it looks like a nature communer wrote the Psalm 95 call to worship. See verses 4 and 5.
They have been hurt by someone in the church. This is a painful problem. However, staying away doesn’t help them resolve anything and addressing the conflict might help both parties grow and help prevent the church from hurting someone else. Jesus gave us a playbook for these situations and it didn’t say, “Walk away and never come back.”.
They don’t have any friends to go with. This can be hard, but if they don’t come it will be hard to make friends with people who do come.
They feel that the church is full of hypocrites. True enough! But there is always room for one more. God calls all of us hypocrites to take off our fake faces. It takes time for us to trust Him and learn to be authentic. It takes time for us to realize our own hypocrisy.
They are tired of being asked to do everything. They need to learn to say, “No.” Sometimes people can get burned out and need a season of rest. If the church they are a part of won’t take “No” for an answer, they might want to worship elsewhere, but they should not stop worshipping altogether. That would raise the question of who they were trying to impress with all their service.
They are angry or bitter with God. One of the best reasons on the list so far, but staying angry with God is exhausting and fruitless. People need to come to Him and express their anger directly and find resolution.
They don’t get anything out of church. Two problems with this one. The people who I suspect are not getting much out of church, I also suspect are not putting much into church. They do not expect much because they do not exert much. The greater problem with this one is that we do not worship God because of what we can get out of Him but because of what we have already received from Him. We worship to give back to God--our Savior, our Maker, our Provider, our Guide, our Protector. Every breath, every hour, every good gift we have the privilege to enjoy is from Him. The true worshipper takes time to come together with God’s people to acknowledge all God has already done.
They don’t fear God anymore or believe in God anymore. This reason makes the most sense and probably is the underlying reason behind many of the others. The day will come when God will make clear to all that He is worthy of our reverence.
Psalm 95 warns against disregarding God’s call as His people have done in the past and adds some urgency to his invitation to come together!
Psalm 95:7-11 (NIV2011)
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
If you know someone who has drifted away, please pray for them and invite them back. Maybe God wants us all to be thinking more about, “What makes people want to come back to church?”
If you aren’t coming to church anymore, and your reason isn’t listed, I’d like to hear it. If you stopped coming to church and have since started coming again, welcome back. I would love to hear what it was that helped you come back.