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5 Reasons People Stay in a Dysfunctional Church

We have two kinds of people in our churches today: those who flit from church to church, never putting down roots or establishing relationships and finding their ministries, and those who will stay in a church regardless.

It’s the second group that puzzles me.

Why do they stay?

Like the note I received today: “Our church treasurer stole 60,000 dollars from us. He was a drunkard, and the preacher knew it and constantly talked with the man about his problem. But now, the man has left town with the church’s money.”

“Meanwhile,” the writer went on, “attendance in our church has dropped from 70 to around 10. The pastor is retiring and wants a large financial settlement and for us to pay his retirement. What are we to do?”

I’ll tell you what I’d do. I would walk away. With only 10 people coming, there’s hardly a church there anymore. And with the kind of non-leadership they’ve had, from this distance, it would appear that for this church to go out of business is no loss. After all, assuming that church is not in the frozen tundra where there is not another congregation within a hundred miles, it’s not like there aren’t other good churches in the area.

I’d go join one.

Yet, people persevere.

Why do they stay in such dysfunctional churches when they could so easily drive another mile down the road and find peace?

Why do they continue coming to a church that cannot go a month without a fight? Can’t go a year without someone wanting to run off the preacher? Can’t vote on a budget without conflict arising?

Why don’t they just leave for their own peace of mind?

Here are some possible answers to the question “Why do they stay?” You will think of others.

1. This is our church.

“We have a history here. My grandpa built this church.”

They are committed to the building and property.

I understand the feeling. There is a little Baptist church a few miles outside Nauvoo, Alabama, where my great-grandparents attended in the late 1800s. My grandparents were regular members for all their lives until their deaths in mid-20th century. My mother, born in 1916, is presently the oldest member. I came to Christ in that church in 1951. Many in my family still belong there.

Now, imagine that church getting in financial or relationship troubles and someone suggesting that we all drive to the other side of Nauvoo and worship with New Zion. No, sir. That’s a fine church, I imagine, but we have no history there. This is (ahem) “our” church.

Read Reason #2 >>

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.