People who stop going to church 'still believe in God' (2023)

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People who stop going to church 'still believe in God' (1)Image source, Thinkstock

By John McManus

BBC News

Most people who stop attending church services still believe in God, according to new research commissioned by the Church of Scotland.

Many who no longer attend church choose to express their faith in new ways, said Scotland's national Church.

The findings contradict the assumption that a lack of belief are the main drivers behind falling congregations.

The Church of Scotland has admitted that the research conclusions are a challenge to the way it is organised.

Until now, the decline in people attending church services has often been laid at the door of either growing disbelief, or disagreement with positions on issues such as women's participation, or sexuality.

Their research, carried out in stages over three years by Dr Steve Aisthorpe, draws a different conclusion.

Image source, Thinkstock

It says that two-thirds of church leavers continue to have a strong personal faith, and many practice it in different ways, such as gathering in small groups to pray or discuss theological issues.

Venues can range from people's homes, to cafes and restaurants - or even just a shared activity like walking.

Two thirds of those questioned said they felt they did not fit in with the established congregations they had left, and many did not want to join a new one.

The study poses a challenge for churches which place large group services at the centre of their worship.

Church challenge

Dr Aisthorpe, who is employed by the Church as a mission development worker, said his research, which began in northern Scotland before growing to encompass the whole country, did not distinguish between different denominations.

"This is a big change. People are moving away from institutional forms of worship, and expressing their beliefs in other ways".

He believes that the issue for leavers is not as simple as being unable to find a church, or minister, that they personally like.

There also appeared to be no difference in the findings from rural and urban areas.

Image source, Church of Scotland

Where then, does this leave traditional church services and the clergy who perform them?

Revd Norman Smith, vice-convenor of mission and discipleship for the Church of Scotland, said the role of religious leaders was changing.

"It's less of an old-style, one-man show now. It's more about working as a team, a minister assisted by volunteers.

"We need a variety of churches. A large number of people still find their home in traditional churches. But the nature of the gathering space has changed."

The National Secular Society says the report is not a surprise.

Spokesman Alistair McBay believes arguments over sexuality, for example, have turned worshippers off.

"The key issue is that these individuals are reflecting a great deal of disaffection with organised religion.

"Churches are out of step, and the people in the pews are voting with their feet".

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What is the number one reason people stop going to church? ›

1. They Are Out of the Habit. Their work schedule changed, they got hurt or sick, they had a big life event like a birth or death in the family, or they moved to a new town. As a result of that life change, they missed gathering with their church family for a few weeks, months, or even years.

Why do Christians not go to church anymore? ›

Among non-churchgoers who self-identify as Christians, the predominant reason offered for not attending worship services is that they practice their faith in other ways. Almost half of evangelicals in this category (46 percent) say this is a very important reason for not going to church more often.

What are you called if you believe in God but don t go to church? ›

While the Nones include agnostics and atheists, most people in this category retain a belief in God or some higher power. Many describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” or “SBNR,” as researchers refer to them.

Can you believe in God and still not go to church? ›

Most people who stop attending church services still believe in God, according to new research commissioned by the Church of Scotland. Many who no longer attend church choose to express their faith in new ways, said Scotland's national Church.

At what age do people stop going to church? ›

Two-thirds of young people say they stopped regularly going to church for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22, a new LifeWay Research survey shows.

What is the most common reason people leave a church? ›

Connection To A Particular Staff Member

One of the most common reasons people leave a church is because a staff member has left. Often people feel a connection with a Pastor, Worship Leader, or Assisting Minister. It is essential to make sure that your church is more than a particular connection personality.

Is it OK to not want to go to church? ›

Everyone is free to stay or leave the church

And yet, it's important to make clear that not all people will fit into the same gathering, and not all Christians will feel like they fit into a church. Some people who don't identify as Christian will feel as though they do fit in at church.

What are the biblical reasons for leaving a church? ›

There are many scriptural reasons to leave a church (e.g., false doctrine, corrupt worship, worldly influence, etc.), but there are also unbiblical reasons. One of the most common is unresolved interpersonal offenses, so I would suggest leaving the enigmatic example of Paul and Barnabas out of your decision.

Do we still need the church? ›

The Church helps us to maintain organization, teachings, and to create a support system for members. By establishing a church, the Lord ensures that the correct doctrines are taught. The Church provides members with revelations, standards, and guidelines that help us live as Christ would have us live.

What religion believes in God but not Jesus? ›

Christian deism is a standpoint in the philosophy of religion stemming from Christianity and Deism. It refers to Deists who believe in the moral teachings—but not the divinity—of Jesus.

What is the church for people who don't like church? ›

Verve is a church for people who don't like going to church, according to lead pastor Vince Antonucci. “If you took church, 'Saturday Night Live,' 'the Jimmy Fallon Show' and MTV and put it in a blender, we would come out,” Antonucci said. “It's kind of church, but there's a lot of other stuff mixed in there.”

What religion was Jesus? ›

He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues.

What does Jesus say about going to church? ›

Worshipping God is a commandment

As one of His Ten Commandments, God commanded that we keep the Sabbath day holy (see Exodus 20:8–11). One of the ways we keep this commandment is to meet together on Sundays to worship God and give Him thanks.

Can you go to heaven without being baptized? ›

While Jesus told Nicodemus, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5), he did not set baptism as a hindrance to salvation but just the opposite. We so often judge things by human standards, but God is not restrained by our standards.

What day does the Bible say to go to church? ›

“I have recently found through my Father in heaven that Saturday is the day to worship and exalt the Lord, our Savior.”

What percentage of Americans do not go to church? ›

Fewer people in the pews

In March 2020, 75 percent of Americans reported that they attended a religious service at least once a year. That number dropped to about 66 percent by spring of 2022. Over the same timeline, the percentage of Americans said they "never" attended church rose from 25 percent to 33 percent.

What is someone who doesn't go to church? ›

Non-religious people can be called atheists or agnostics, but to describe things, activities, or attitudes that have nothing to do with religion, you can use the word secular.

How many Christians leave church every year? ›

In 2014, the Barna Group, a leading research organization, conducted a study that indicated an ongoing silent migration away from the church. According to the study, an estimated 3,500 people leave the church each day, and over 1.2 million people will leave the church in the next year.

When you want to leave a church? ›

Be sure to leave in good standing.

Don't leave with bitterness, resentment, or passive-aggressive tendencies. The Bible tells us we'll show the world we're disciples by loving one another. Let people know you love them. Let the leaders know you're moving along, but make your love for them abundant and clear.

What is it called when you leave the church? ›

Apostasy (/əˈpɒstəsi/; Greek: ἀποστασία apostasía, 'a defection or revolt') is the formal disaffiliation from, abandonment of, or renunciation of a religion by a person.

What do you say when someone wants to leave the church? ›

People Leaving Your Church? Here's How to Respond
  1. Take time to listen. ...
  2. Don't be defensive. ...
  3. Correct them when necessary. ...
  4. Apologize if needed. ...
  5. Offer support. ...
  6. Show them love and kindness. ...
  7. Acknowledge their decision and respect it as valid. ...
  8. Thank them for their past contributions.

Is it in the Bible that we should go to church? ›

While scripture does not command Christians to attend church, it does speak powerfully about the blessing of the church community. James exhorts anyone who is sick to “call the elders of the church to pray over them,” and to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other” (James 5:14-16).

What are the signs of an unhealthy church? ›

Why Do You Need to Know the Signs of a Dying Church?
  • Unhealthy Prayer Culture. ...
  • Attendance Is Consistently Decreasing. ...
  • Baptisms Aren't Happening. ...
  • People Aren't Being Saved. ...
  • Tithes Are Decreasing. ...
  • Age of the Congregation. ...
  • Lack of Disciple Making. ...
  • The Church isn't Serving Others.
Apr 13, 2022

How do you tell church you are leaving? ›

7 Steps for Leaving a Church Wisely
  1. Make Sure You Have Valid Reasons. ...
  2. Be Honest About Your Own Motives and Failings. ...
  3. Affirm the Good in Your Church. ...
  4. Resolve Outstanding Conflicts. ...
  5. Talk with Your Leaders. ...
  6. Say Goodbye to Friends. ...
  7. Commit to a New Church.
Oct 15, 2017

How do you know when God is leading you to a church? ›

7 Signs God Is the One Leading Your Decision
  • We pray for God to lead and listen for God's answer. ...
  • We look to His word for guidance. ...
  • We listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. ...
  • We seek out the wisdom of godly people. ...
  • We watch the circumstances in our lives. ...
  • We ensure that our decisions reflect the character of God.
Feb 28, 2020

Do Christians need churches? ›

The Church is God's avenue for Christians to utilize and practice our God-given spiritual gifts. Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 highlight that every believer is the recipient of one or more spiritual gifts as God-given enablement for serving Him in the church effectively.

What verse in the Bible talks about going to church? ›

In the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

What religions don't believe in God? ›

Nontheism has been applied and plays significant roles in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. While many approaches to religion exclude nontheism by definition, some inclusive definitions of religion show how religious practice and belief do not depend on the presence of a god or gods.

Which religion believes in only one God? ›

The three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam readily fit the definition of monotheism, which is to worship one god while denying the existence of other gods.

What is it called to not believe in Jesus? ›

2 The literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods,” according to Merriam-Webster. And the vast majority of U.S. atheists fit this description: 81% say they do not believe in God or a higher power or in a spiritual force of any kind.

What kind of sin is missing church? ›

A. It is still considered a mortal sin to miss Mass on a day of obligation without a good reason. The church has always believed that this obligation stems from the Ten Commandments given to Moses, one of which was to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

Can a church survive without a pastor? ›

Every church needs a pastor or a preacher. The importance of having a leading figure who guides sermons and worship cannot be understated. Without a central leader, every church would risk falling into disarray.

Why do I have a fear of churches? ›

Ecclesiophobia is the Fear of Churches and may also be a fear of religion. This could be due to a negative experience in a church building itself or could also be due to anxiety associated with the ideas of punishment for not leading a 'religiously moral life'.

What religion was Adam and Eve? ›

Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman. They are central to the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors.

What is Jesus full name? ›

| Origin of Everything. Jesus' name in Hebrew was “Yeshua” which translates to English as Joshua.

What religion does the Bible belong to? ›

The Bible is the holy scripture of the Christian religion, purporting to tell the history of the Earth from its earliest creation to the spread of Christianity in the first century A.D. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament have undergone changes over the centuries, including the the publication of the King ...

What did Jesus say about praying for the church? ›

Jesus Prayed That the Church Would See His Glory

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. —John 17:24 This verse gives a glimpse into the Trinity's eternal nature.

Which church did Jesus go to? ›

He Went To The Synagogue

The Gospels record that "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues." Yet the Christian reader rarely ponders the significance of such an apparently common structure so central in Jesus' ministry.

Where in the Bible does it say we are the church? ›

“The Church Is the People” Bible Verses:

2 Corinthians 6:16 | We, believers, are now the temple of the living God! Hebrews 10:25 | God calls believers to meet together for encouragement. Ephesians 2:10 | God created us to do good works.

Will believers recognize each other in heaven? ›

In fact, the Bible indicates we will know each other more fully than we do now. The Apostle Paul declared, "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). It's true that our appearance will change, because God will give us new bodies, similar to Jesus' resurrection body.

Can you go to heaven if you are cremated? ›

No matter what a person's preference is, from the Christian perspective, cremation does not prevent one from going to Heaven.

Can I go to heaven without dying? ›

Since death is the normal end to an individual's life on Earth and the beginning of afterlife, entering heaven without dying first is considered exceptional and usually a sign of a deity's special recognition of the individual's piety.

When to leave a church Bible? ›

So assuming a proper biblical church polity, there are only three ways that a Christian can leave a church: death, excommunication, and transfer of membership.

Where in the Bible does it say to go to church on Saturday? ›

The fourth commandment of God's unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath.

Do Christians have to keep the Sabbath? ›

Sabbath is not a commandment we are bound to; it's a promise we're invited to enjoy. Sabbath rest is an invitation to practice for eternity in God's presence. It is an act of regular and intentional trust of God's rule on Earth.

What are some reasons people don't go to church? ›

Here's the whole list:
  • They practice their faith in "other ways." (37%)
  • They are not believers. (28%)
  • No reason is "very important." (26%)
  • They haven't found a house of worship they like. (23%)
  • They don't like the sermons. (18%)
  • They don't feel welcome. (14%)
  • They don't have the time. (12%)
  • Poor health or mobility. (9%)
Aug 9, 2018

What church is losing the most members? ›

The Presbyterian Church has had the sharpest decline in church membership: between 2000 and 2015 it lost over 40% of its congregation and 15.4% of its churches. Infant baptisms have also decreased; nationwide, Catholic baptisms are down by nearly 34%, and ELCA baptisms by over 40%.

What are the main reasons Millennials are leaving the church? ›

Millennials are leaving the Church at staggering rates, and nearly a third of the Millennial generation has already identified themselves as being religiously unaffiliated. They are leaving for reasons such as that they feel the Church is too hypocritical, judgmental, inauthentic, exclusive, or political.

Is it really important to go to church? ›

Church services teach and uplift

What we learn at church gives us guidance on how to follow God, improve our spirituality, and live better lives. You can be uplifted by fellow believers and by the opportunity to serve and worship.

How many Christians don't go to church? ›

Fewer people in the pews

In March 2020, 75 percent of Americans reported that they attended a religious service at least once a year. That number dropped to about 66 percent by spring of 2022. Over the same timeline, the percentage of Americans said they "never" attended church rose from 25 percent to 33 percent.

Is it normal to not feel like going to church? ›

The lack of desire to attend church is both a natural and an unnatural one.

Is Christianity declining in America? ›

About 64% of Americans call themselves Christian today. That might sound like a lot, but 50 years ago that number was 90%, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center study. That same survey said the Christian majority in the US may disappear by 2070.

What religion is growing the fastest? ›

Studies in the 21st century suggest that, in terms of percentage and worldwide spread, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.

Is religion declining in the US? ›

Participation in houses of worship continues to decline, according to the study. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they "seldom" attend religious services, and 29% of respondents said they "never" attend religious services. A decade ago, those figures were 22% and 21%, respectively.

Why Gen Z is leaving Christianity? ›

Data shows that more and more young people are leaving organized religion year over year. For Gen Z, there's one specific topic that's pushing them away: the church's stance on LGBTQ rights.

What causes people to turn away from religion? ›

Others say they dislike organized religion and want to make their own decisions rather than listening to somebody else. Still others become distracted by materialism, or find that they're too busy to participate. People who walk away from religion usually say, “I shall be just fine. Please do not worry about me.”

What Gen Z wants in church? ›

“Gen Z can teach adults about the importance of loving those who are different from them.” Churches need to demonstrate how genuine Christian love is rooted in truth, charity and grace. Their need for community, security, compassion and connection creates a perfect opportunity for the church.

What does Jesus say about leaving the church? ›

Since God hates those who sow discord and create division, it would not only be wise but necessary for you to leave your church only if you have a biblical reason for doing so (Prov. 6:6-19; 1 Jn. 3:14). Even then, you should leave in a biblical and peaceful manner.

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