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Category: Evangelicalism

Why People are Leaving Evangelical Churches: Pastor Rob Dyer, Close, But No Cigar

church door

Rob Dyer is the pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Belleville, Illinois. Dyer recently wrote an article for Ministry Architects’ website detailing why people leave churches and don’t come back. I first read Dyer’s article on a Southern Baptist website.

Dyer wrote:

Years ago, we used to tell ourselves that young adults who had strayed from the church would come back after they got married. When that didn’t happen, we shifted our hopes and proclaimed that they would return when they had kids. Some came back for baptisms, but the tsunami of baby-toting individuals never quite hit the shores of our weekly worship. 

And, so, we edited the story, confident that the returns would happen once their kids reached school age. As school-age children began signing up for all sorts of activities, we figured that our amazing youth programs would make the list of prioritized pursuits. While many congregations saw some waves of church reengagement, many others experienced something entirely different about “their” young adults…

The reality is, this is the story for many churches for many years; it isn’t a truth we found out in 2020 or even 2021. And surveys and church statistics continue to reveal that missing church members are more likely to stay home than to go to a different church. So it’s not that they’re going somewhere else. They aren’t going anywhere. And they certainly aren’t coming back.

Churches around the nation had a reset button hit. In-person church was halted and then, slowly, restarted. In the meanwhile, online methods of worship filled the gaps. In the beginning, many churches experienced numbers that exceeded their previous in-person numbers. “We’ve got so many people attending our church from out-of-state!” we exclaimed with delight, as evangelism seemed to thrive despite the pandemic. At the same time, our church members were laying down some of the activities and hustle of everyday life that used to conflict with church options. 

But they were doing this all while at the same time picking up the stress of daily pandemic navigation. And experiencing the rise of political and social tensions. And a general feeling of exhaustion grew in our people.

People were starting to drop off of the Zoom gatherings and online worship events. Online children and youth ministry activities saw an increase of cameras turned off and eventually a decrease in participants. Our masked and socially distanced gatherings that started to emerge attracted fewer numbers, but we figured that the people would return, volunteer, and help us rebuild the church once we reached that “new normal.” We started editing the story that we told each other – making excuses for individuals and families who were not showing up.

As our society is opening up more and more, people are starting to pick up the weight of busy lives again. With the pandemic and virus variants over their heads, people are finding that they have a reduced capacity for weight bearing. Even joyful activities are getting sidelined in this “new normal.” Now, the church is realizing something not just about young adults, but also about people of all ages in our churches. They’re not coming back. 

….

Our excuses for the absence of others don’t help anyone. We can hope – and speak in goals and prayers and aspirations – for a someday return. But there’s a reality to our relationships, or lack thereof, that’s been hushed or is being ignored. And our stories aren’t as true as they could be.

It’s not even that people aren’t returning – they might never have been connected in the first place. People have experienced how easy (or how difficult) it is to live without their church. Obligation and duty no longer make up for a lack of connectedness, devotion, or faith itself. People learned who their friends are and some discovered – or finally acknowledged – that the church isn’t a necessary part of their lives. As much as churches miss people, people just aren’t missing back. 

For years we’ve had no magic answer for the young adult losses that many churches grappled with before the pandemic. In that context, though, we believed too many false narratives and failed to adequately address the motivations involved. Similarly, no magic answer exists for the receding engagement across multiple age groups that we are seeing post-pandemic. 

But what we do know is that the future of the church will require innovative changes. We have experienced how developing healthy systems is essential for all church seasons to not just survive – but thrive – and it’s time to admit we cannot move forward with our pre-pandemic approaches. 

I appreciate Dyer’s willingness to address the lies that sects, churches, and pastors tell themselves about why people leave churches and don’t return. However, Dyer seems to imply that the main reason people leave churches is a lack of engagement on their part; fringe members who never bought what their churches were selling. This certainly explains some membership loss, but Dyer fails to address the proverbial elephant in the room: pastors, evangelists, missionaries, youth directors, deacons, elders, and worship leaders are leaving Christianity, often embracing atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism, or declaring they no longer have any interest in organized religion (the nones). Further, churches are seeing a mass exodus of younger adults — their future is literally walking out the back door, never to return. Are these people, as Dyer seems to imply, fringe attendees, people who were never committed to their churches (and Jesus)?

I suggest Dyer and others like him talk to some of the people who frequent this blog; people who were once on fire, sold-out followers of Jesus Christ; people who devotedly served their churches for decades. Take note of the reasons why they are no longer Christians.

Dyer thinks that the bleeding can be stopped, though amputations might be necessary. I disagree. Evangelicalism is terminal, slowly drawing its last breath. They have forsaken Jesus, turning to politics as their Lord and Savior. As they strain at gnats and swallow camels, Evangelicals need only to look in the mirror to see who is to blame for their demise. Evangelicals may burn down the world as they lust for power and control, but one thing is for certain: those who walked (or ran) out the back doors of their churches ain’t coming back. There is nothing the Dyers of the world can say or do that would entice those who left to return. Once you have left Egypt for the Promised Land, there’s no going back.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Evangelical Who Shall Not be Named Thinks He Treats Me Just Like Jesus Would

If BG [Bruce Gerencser] is feeling emotional stress, psychological pain, or whatever, it is not us who is applying that pain or torment. For all we know, God may be heaping coals of fire on his head for his poor decisions and continued testimony that God does not exist.

He is not offending us nor saying that we do not exist. he is attacking someone he can never beat–God and God is free to retaliate in a just manner that makes the punishment bring the lesson home very clearly.

It is also a fair punishment as God is never unfair and it meets the crime committed. So we are not doing to BG what he does to us and we have documented those attacks.

We do not care as much as people think we do. We are more concerned with returning good for evil. yet, even that good is rejected as we have stated many times that we are sorry BG is so sick.

He makes no apology for treating people, especially Christians, in the rude and boorish manner that he does. What he wrote when he edited our comments on his website undermines any claims he is suffering from anything we have said.

Yet, his friend [Becky] who made the comment and BG himself, brings up a great teaching point as they do not have a leg to stand on. First, why is BG saying so many nasty things about others he disagrees with?

There is no call to do that and without an objective moral code to live by he may think he is free to treat anyone he wants in any manner he chooses. But that position does not justify treating others badly.

Second, why is he getting upset at the mild constructive criticisms we post about his content? It tells everyone that he can dish it out but cannot take it. he likes one-way streets in his favor.

Third, we know he likes to play the victim. That is evidenced by the continued mentioning of his ailments, and how Christians treat him. He seems to be addicted to getting sympathy from strangers.

Fourth, he made his choices yet he seems not to be content with living with the results of his choices. If he finally blocks us from accessing his website, that is no big deal for us. We just find another one we can access and use their content to teach other believers how to handle such content and abuse.

We have never blocked access to our website to anyone, no matter how vile they are or get. Our information is for everyone to read, even those who go to their personal blogs and critique us. (Yes, we have seen those sites).

Why is it a big deal to him that he has to block us? Does he have something to hide or is he afraid that he will be and is exposed as a fraud? We do not know. He did complain about how some Christians did not take the time to understand him or whatever he said. and he did not like that.

So we tried and we read his posts that gave us some insight into his character and behavior. We posted our thoughts on his website so he could see that someone was trying to understand him.

What he did in response was remove the content and replaced it with words not fit to print on a porn website.

But our response is to model how Jesus handled the same treatment. He did not return evil for evil, he did not curse anyone or lie about them, and so on. We are not to sin in response to sin but look to God for help to handle these difficult situations that come our way.

If we were allowed by BG to send him a guest post, we would have titled it Christianity Is The hardest Life to Live. We know it is, not because BG and people like him quit (Jesus had a few disciples quit on him during his time on earth) but because we have to suffer the pain of seeing people God created choose to go to hell over going to heaven.

BG and I have never seen eye to eye, but that does not mean we are not sad that he made that choice. From what we could gather, he seemed to be a very good Christian whom God was using.

He is the one that let evil convince him to throw it all away. We wish we could get him to repent but according to the Bible that may not be possible now. That return is up to God.

— TEWSNBN, Theologyarcheology, The Last Word???- comment, September 12, 2021

Note: I thought about using the nuclear option: blocking a range of IP addresses, but doing so would keep scores of people from accessing this site, including a number of regular commenters. That’s not going to happen.

TEWSNBN is the worst troll I’ve ever had to deal with. I refuse to let him continue to sodomize me without making his behavior public. I know doing so won’t make a difference on his end, but I want to expose readers to the worst Christian I have ever met.

TEWSNBN says I treat all Christians like I treat him. He, of course, has no evidence for this claim. I make no apology for the invectives and curse words I’ve hurled his way. He’s a vile, abusive man who deliberately tries to cause harm. It’s just not in me to ignore such behavior.

Bruce, I Don’t Believe You Are an Atheist

there is no such thing as an atheist

Last night, I had the privilege of sharing why I am an atheist with a Mennonite discipleship class. In attendance were the pastor, an older church member, and a group of young men. I shared the primary reasons I left Christianity:

  • The Bible is not inerrant or infallible
  • The problem of suffering and evil
  • The hiddenness of God

I also shared some of my experiences with Evangelicals since my deconversion, especially through this blog.

I thoroughly enjoyed my interaction with this group. I appreciated the fact that the pastor wanted to expose this class to someone outside of their religion. What better way to find out what an atheist believes than ask him. Countless pastors have preached sermons, written blog posts, or produced YouTube videos about what it is that atheists believe. But, instead of letting atheists speak for themselves, these preachers, to put it bluntly, lie about why people are atheists.

At the end of my speech, I fielded a few questions — good questions, except one. The older man (about my age?) in the group said to me: I don’t believe you are an atheist. He recounted all the things I had done for Jesus as a Christian, concluding that it just wasn’t possible for me to be an atheist. Yet, I am. 🙂

I replied, “so, you are saying I am a liar.” Smack. 🙂 I went on to say I understood why he was confounded: he couldn’t square my story with his theology. I then said, “that’s not my problem.” And it’s not. All I know to do is to tell my story as openly and honestly as I can. Then, people are free to accept or reject my story.

I told the class that I accept what people say about themselves at face value. If a person says she is a Christian, I believe her (this is a general rule, not absolute). I turned what the man said to me around and asked how they would feel if they told someone they were a Christian and shared their conversion experience, and the person replied, “I don’t believe you are a Christian.” None of us likes having our stories dismissed out of hand. We will never understand each other if we don’t listen; if we don’t make a good faith effort to actually hear what others are saying.

The older gentleman tried to have “prayer” while I was still online. I appreciate the pastor cutting the feed before that could happen.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Evangelical Who Shall Not Be Named Still Doesn’t Get Why I Write the Way I Do

hand shrug

Yesterday, The Evangelical Who Shall Not be Named fired up his DOS 286 computer/dial-up modem and wrote yet another post besmirching my character. Here’s what TEWSNBN had to say in response to the post Danger! Children Learning Santa Isn’t Real Might Lead Them to Think Jesus Isn’t Either:

“Why not allow children to enjoy the Christmas season, including believing the Santa myth? No child has ever been harmed by believing in Santa, a claim that cannot be made for the Jesus myth. Bachman’s anti-Santa column is a reminder of the fact that Christian Fundamentalists take the FUN out of everything.”

Why? because lying is a sin and lying to children destroys trust in their parents. Liars do not go to heaven and why would any parent lie to their children? That act is NOT protecting them from anything.

But the quoted advice is par for the course from BG. He is not content with making decisions to sin for himself, he has to encourage other people to sin. This is why Christians are not to listen to such people. They have nothing better to offer anyone.

Our pet peeve with this guy is that all of his readers already know he is an ex-Christian, ex-pastor, preached in IBF churches, and suffers from multiple diseases.

Yet for some reason, he has to mention these facts in almost every post. He is a class A narcissist who thinks no one remembers his situation. His content is boring, repetitive, and useless.

I find it interesting that TEWSNBN objects to me saying that it is okay to “lie” to children, yet he repeatedly lies about me on his blog. TEWSNBN is a hypocrite, demanding people live according to a moral and ethical standard he, himself, does not live. And according to TEWSNBN, liars go to Hell when they die. Ponder that thought for a moment. All of us lie at one time or another. I told a lie yesterday. TEWSNBN lies every time he writes about me. Thus, both of us are going to burn in Hell forever. According to TEWSNBN, parents who tell their children that Santa is real — a harmless lie if there ever was one — are headed for Hell.

I also find it interesting that TEWSNBN thinks that I encourage people to “sin.” First, that’s silly. I reject the Christian concept of “sin” out of hand. Second, I don’t encourage people to live any particular way. Do I have a personal moral standard by which I live my life? Sure. Do I think societies have a responsibility to enact laws and regulations to govern human behavior for their betterment, safety, happiness, and peace? Yep. That said, I don’t tell people how to live their lives. I spent much of my adult life telling everyone who would listen that God, through his inspired, inerrant, infallible Word, demanded they live a certain way; that the Bible was God’s divine blueprint for human behavior (just ignore the parts about slavery, rape, incest, genocide). Now that I am an atheist and a humanist, I have an aversion to telling anyone how they should live. I just don’t do it. If TEWSNBN wants to live according to the teachings of the Bible, who am I to object? People are free to choose their own moral and ethical paths.

Let me conclude this post by addressing TEWSNBN ‘s two pet peeves about me.

Pet peeve number one:

Our pet peeve with this guy is that all of his readers already know he is an ex-Christian, ex-pastor, preached in IBF churches, and suffers from multiple diseases. Yet for some reason, he has to mention these facts in almost every post. He is a class A narcissist who thinks no one remembers his situation.

I have explained to TEWSNBN several times why I mention these things: A substantial number of readers every day are FIRST TIME READERS. Annually? Over 200,000 people view this site for the first time. I want these readers to KNOW who I am. I make no apology for doing so. Outside of TEWSNBN, not one reader in fourteen years has objected to me mentioning my backstory. This site is, after all, a PERSONAL blog.

And, in passing, let me correct TEWSNBN once again over his incorrect use of the IBF acronym. It’s IFB — Independent Fundamentalist (Fundamental) Baptist — not IBF. The IBF is the International Boxing Federation or the Institute of Banking and Finance, not a religious sect (though boxing and money play a prominent part in IFB practice). 🙂

Pet peeve number two:

His content is boring, repetitive, and useless.

Regular readers should be laughing by now. I know I am. 🙂 TEWSNBN thinks my writing is boring, repetitive, and useless, yet he reads every post I write. The cure for TEWSNBN’s mental hemorrhoids is simple: STOP READING. TEWSNBN willingly and voluntarily comes to this site. Believe me, I would block him if I could, but I can’t. Bob, on the other hand, can no longer access this site. I blocked him yesterday once I figured out he was using a static IP address. Elliot? He has tried to access this site 424 times since July 9, 2021. Talk about an exercise in futility — much like TEWSNBN’s continued reading of my writing.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser