Bill:A group of young people with whom I explored this issue had 2 points to make:
1) They don't appreciate church folks telling them do's and donts of God's word when they don't obey the rules themselves. Hypocrisy destroys their allegiance to the church and to its teachings.
2) In fundamental circles, the leaders overemphasize the holiness of God without mentioning His love. This teaches the bully god. In new evangelical circles, they overemphasize the love of God without teaching His holiness. This teaches the buddy god.
Neither of these false gods is worth following.
Brandi:Thanks for the comment I definitely agree with you that hypocrisy causes issues. I left that concept out of my post for a couple reasons.
1) It doesn't completely keep people away. For example: I am still very disappointed and frustrated with the hypocrisy of some people in the church. However, I go to church again. Why? Because these hypocritical people stopped telling me the do's and don'ts, and recognized the fact that I had something worthwhile to contribute. They started asking for my help and ideas.
2) Hypocrisy has been around forever. I think every generation has had that same complaint.... just some are more vocal about it. But, we're all sinners. You will never have someone within the church teaching about God who follows all the rules. Therefore, you will always have hypocrisy. We can't get rid of that... but we can work around it.
As for your second point - I think it's important to have a healthy mix... but neither too much bully God, nor too much Loving God, has kept me from church. Yes, I think it does help determine WHICH church I want to be a part of (i.e. I will not be a member of a church that goes too far in the holiness and ignores the Love). But I don't think it fully determines whether or not I will be involved in any church.
Some additional thoughts from me:First, I want to emphasize that the points Bill made were not incorrect in the sense that they are often a problem. I simply do not believe those points keep people from attending church. A lot of people make the claim that they are "Spiritual but not religious" (SBNR). Basically, this means they believe in God and the Bible, but they do not believe in organized religion/the church.
I was one of these people. Some days, I still am. And I have known dozens of people who are/have been.
In the midst of being SBNR, if you would have asked me why... I for certain would have given the first point Bill listed as a reason. I could not stand the hypocrisy of the people within the church. I additionally would have made mention of the two-faced people... those who are so happy to see you at church, and make mention of how wonderful your family is... and as soon as service is done, they're running out to coffee "Oh I can't believe she came to church dressed like that! And did you hear about her son sneaking out of the house? And her sister slept with the postman...."
I would have stated that the church is not necessary - it is simply the place for the administration and political aspect of religion. The church really doesn't prioritize actually acting like or teaching what it means to be Christians. I would have brought up that the church is just looking for money. I can have a close relationship with God without having to open up my pocketbook to a bunch of greedy politicians hiding behind masks of Christianity.
I might have brought up my disagreement with some of the theologies/doctrines taught within the church - although, most of these discrepancies came into play when I was trying to determine which church was best for me (or, more accurately, which was worse for me).
So while I do agree these are valid reasons why people leave the church scene all together... I do not feel there is anything that needs to be done to fix each of these points to get people to come back to the church. Why I went back, and why some of my friends have gone back - we found a church community which recognized our desire and talent and hunger to help strengthen the church, to give back to God, and to help those within the church.
Before I made the decision to change churches, I was out walking around town and passed by this church. I'd attended service there once, and because it's a small town, I knew many of the members. Two ladies were outside at the time decorating for fall. They stopped me and asked if I could help them. A couple weeks later, I was invited to help with something else related to the church. I started attending more frequently, and found the members inviting me more and more to help, or to give my ideas... just little things like this. They made me feel needed. They made me feel like i belong. They made me feel like I had something to offer. And the more they did this, the more I wanted to offer... the more I wanted to help... the more I wanted to belong.
Yes, this is only my story. But it is one that makes sense. If you don't make younger people feel like they belong, they won't want to belong. If you don't let them know the church could benefit from their talents, they aren't going to show those talents.
We all want to belong... until we're made to feel like we don't.