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Millennials Are Leaving the Church (But Maybe That's OK)

The difference it makes is this:

Why are Millennials leaving churches? They probably have a myriad of reasons in their minds. But I have a suspicion …

I suspect that people do not leave so much as they are driven away from churches because churches fail to represent Jesus Christ. Human nature dictates that the laws of inertia would keep a lot of people in their seats just out of force of habit. But when people are getting up out of their seats, breaking lifelong habits in the process, it is not just their own free will. Something is nudging them.

Let’s reframe the question. How many people are actually leaving Jesus? How many people are rejecting the gospel? My guess is that if the surveys were framed in this way, the numbers would be very different. What if people who leave churches aren’t rejecting Jesus, because in all the time they’ve gone to church they never met Jesus? What if people who leave churches aren’t disavowing the Gospel, because they’ve never heard the gospel in their churches?

God Does Not Need Churches

S,o I am at the point where the statistics do not panic me. They do not worry me.

If “the Church” is half its size in 20 years, so be it. There are some churches out there that are the last place Jesus would want to be. There are some churches that deserve to be left. Every time someone leaves a church where Jesus is not evident, I applaud. I’d rather people go wander the wilderness where at least they are surrounded by something God created, then stay in a church where Jesus is not present.

Yes, I have enough faith in God to believe that He doesn’t need our churches to get through to people. Whether people are right to leave or not, God can still find them.

So it doesn’t matter how many of our wooden and brick and stone churches close their doors. The Church (capital “C”) will never die. God will find a way to preserve the Gospel. The Russian revolutionaries tried to stamp out the Church and nearly succeeded. Except that when they were burning all of the literature, they forgot to burn Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

Churches in a generation might look very different. But let’s not confuse our churches that we build with the Body of Christ, the Church that God is building.

Have you ever been panicked by the doomsday statistics? Why do you think people leave churches? Have you left your church?  

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mattappling@churchleaders.com'
Matt Appling is a teacher, pastor and author of TheChurchOfNoPeople.com and the book "Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room," released by Moody Publishers. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.