Deep Discussion: What is the main thing that puts people off Church?

So, today whilst I was working in church, some teenagers who usually sit on the front steps of the church were invited in because we thought it would be too cold for them outside. It turned out that they stayed a while and I just chilled out with them. We talked over a cuppa. We talked a lot. And I asked them some questions to which they gave some really interesting and genuine answers. The church can learn a lot from teenagers. I don’t know why people push them to one side all the time. So anyway, here’s the question(s)…

If you’re not a Christian, or haven’t been to church in a while, what is the one main thing that you think keeps people away from going to church or even entering a church?

If you’re a Christian, what problems have you identified with the church in the past/present and how have you tried to put an end to those issues? Are there any things which you feel the 21st Century Church overlooks?

Please engage! Otherwise this post will be pretty worthless! I’d love to know what you think 🙂

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Dean, adolescents always have the answer for everything, and if you don’t have a question they have that too. One of the problems the church faces is the rigorous and determined effort on behalf of others to malign and misrepresent it.  The church needs to counter and represent itself rightly. This blog, recently publshed, claimed Evangelical Christians are pro domestic violence and it won the gold award despite being filled with non truths?? Our PR is lacking.  We allow the media to define us.

    http://www.blogher.com/gross-misrepresentation-facts-topeka-city-council-and-evangelical-christians-wrongly-accused

  • Dean, don’t you think there are as many reasons as there are congregations, visitors, members, and pastoral personality types?

    I know this is stating the obvious, but people join, or remain in, a congregation depending on whether or not it meets their needs, and those needs can vary from excitement to power to being beaten on to being anonymous to being known.

    IMHO, it’s not appropriate to talk about pandering, or least common denominator, or consumer culture, in this context. People should not attend a congregation that meets none of their needs. That would be silly.

    Given the almost universal hierarchical church structure, the key person in most congregations is the pastor. I believe the greatest general need is for pastors to have a trustworthy, non-judgmental confidant-friend, and/or someone to assist in problem-solving.

    • You’re right, but I think the body of believers in a church have just as much responsibility as the pastor in making people feel like family and welcoming them to Jesus…

  • AgentCormac

    Answer to question one: it’s all a pack of lies?

  • Lucy

    Hello Dean!

    I guess this is very similar to if I asked you why you don’t regularly attend a synagogue or a mosque.

    If you don’t believe in what the church teaches then why would there be any reason to? I wouldn’t get enjoyment or benefit from it in any way. It would be ridiculous for me to go and listen to a sermon which I’m not interested in, and which would be based on a scripture that I believe to be a primitive set of fairy stories – as Karl Marx said, religion is ‘the opiate of the masses’, I’m sure you’ve heard the quote.

    So basically it really boils down to that.

    However I would also add that the church teaches we are all sinners. I don’t want to be a part of an organisation that basically tells me no matter what I do it’s inadequate; I’m always a sinner. That doesn’t make me feel good about myself and certainly would not encourage me to go to church to basically apologise for being human. I do believe I’m not a bad person and I don’t want to be part of an organisation that tells me otherwise; if I had the time to spare to go to church, I’d rather use it to do other charitable work – perhaps spending time with disabled children, etc.

  • Interesting ideas guys…

    Though I think, AgentCormac and Lucy, that whilst you may be certain atheists, most people in the world who aren’t religious aren’t so sure about atheism. And in fact many want to know the answer behind life’s most difficult questions. And many people *do* want to come to church, but for one reason or another they refrain. In fact, I would have thought that in stead of going to church, many would rather pay a medium or something, which shows their spiritual side…

    What do you both think of things like that??

  • AgentCormac

    I don’t know about ‘mediums’, Dean. As far as I’m concerned, anybody who claims to be in touch with ‘spirits’ of any kind is a charlatan. Let’s take ghosts for an example. After all these years, has anybody ever managed to take a photograph of one? Film one? Conjure one up again when other people are there? Come up with a single shred of evidence for one? No, they haven’t. Quite simply, these things do not exist. (And I’m sure you would agree with me on that front.) However, I can completely understand why people get afraid of the dark. Why they are superstitious. Why they want to believe in immortality. That we somehow live on. Why they want to know where we all came from. How it all started. What it all means. Why we are here. What is the point of it all. What happens afterwards. Is this thing we call life really, really it? These are very, very basic human needs and questions. And to be honest, mate, I want to know the answers just as badly as you do. If not more. But do I think we have the answers? No, I don’t. That’s why I think we atheists are the most honest of all people. We don’t know. And we are happy to admit it. Science gives us more and more answers every day. But we don’t claim to have the answers. And we are prepared to change our minds as the evidence unfolds. Unlike you we don’t start out with an answer and try to make the evidence fit- we start out with a question and see where the evidence takes us.

    • Thanks for the comment AgentCormac…

      But… just *suppose* you died and you were wrong, and Jesus was there and everything say I believed in was true and I was right, then how would/does that make you feel? Especially in light of hell being spiritual (and some think physical) torture where everyone who is in hell is meant to long for God to release them… any thoughts?

  • AgentCormac

    Hi Dean. For me there really is no ‘just suppose‘ about it. And that’s because I have never seen, read or heard a single scrap of evidence to support the notion of there being a supernatural deity, or places called heaven and hell. To me the whole thing really is a whole lot of post-rationalised fantasy (and here we are back at complex theology again!) which, once you have seen the cracks start to open up, falls to pieces very quickly indeed. And I know, I know – that’s why one needs faith. But to me the very necessity for such an onerous requirement simply compounds the fact there is no substance behind what are, basically, a lot of stories made up by simple people who had no real answers. Today, however, we have lots of empircally-based answers. But not from religion, from science. I’ll put my trust in evidence not myth any time. And I’ll take my chances with heaven and hell. There was a whole lot of nothing before I was born, and I have no doubt whatsoever it will be just the same once I die. I don’t feel the need to take out insurance ‘just in case’. I’ll have enjoyed (most of) my fleeting time here, just like everybody else. After that, there’s nothing to be scared of – I’ve been there before.

    • But ‘what if’? Surely you can think about that for me? And there are some things that science cannot explain, AgentCormac.

  • Christians.

    • Too true David. Something we need to work on…

  • Lucy

    Dean, have a read back through these comments. Surely you can understand how frustrating it is when for the past few comments AgentCormac has been making the point that science doesn’t explain everything, for you to then you come back with the argument that science doesn’t explain everything?!

    No. Of course science doesn’t explain everything. With a subject like science the more you know, the less you know, because as soon as you find something out it raises a whole many more questions about what you just found out. However, science explains a lot more than religion and can actually back the claims it makes. Can’t you see why it makes sense to try and understand science, rather than taking the easy option of ‘God did everything.’?

    • Hey Lucy – yeah I do understand, but what I’m highlighting is that science cannot tell us certain things, and therefore AgentCormac is allowed to suppose and have ‘faith’, especially in a hypothetical way 🙂

  • AgentCormac

    Come on, Dean – how can I even begin to attempt to answer ‘what if’ or ‘just suppose’? It would be on exercise in futility. A piece of creative supposition on my behalf that attempts to address an utterly hypothetical proposition. How can I give a rational answer to a fantastical question? I’m not trying to be evasive or circumspect, but I have no concept of heaven and hell. I also have no fear of a judgemental god or a sadistic devil. To pretend that I did would, I believe, be unhelpful to you and dishonest of me.

  • AgentCormac

    BTW, I fully accept that science can’t explain everything, Dean. But then, unlike religion, it doesn’t for one second pretend that it can.

  • AgentCormac

    I don’t get it. What’s the point in starting these debates if you are just going to abandon them half-way through?

    • I’m not abandoning the debate – it’s just that this has veered off onto something else. 🙂

  • AgentCormac

    Call me old fashioned, but moving on to a new subject without responding to a comment (or in this case numerous comments) seems to me like abandoning the debate.

    • I didn’t know what you wanted a reply to though 😛

  • AgentCormac

    Any of the above.

    • OK, well if exercising the ‘what if’ hypothesis is unhelpful, then there’s not much else I can say.

      What I was trying to get you to think of was the mere possibility of God, heaven and hell. And even though I do’t argue this position, pragmatically I would think it better to be in my position than yours. But like I said, I don’t argue that- it’s not about pragmatics. It’s just something to consider when arguing about point blank refusing to even consider God, let alone talk about evidence…

  • AgentCormac

    And therein lies the point: what evidence?

    • Yes but that’s where we’re differing. I was asking you to be hypothetical. And beside the point, even if there was overwhelming evidence to the point that no serious person could deny God or anything else I’ve said… I doubt you’d believe, or anyone else who is so hung up on evidence.

  • AgentCormac

    Hi again, Dean. For the reasons explained earlier in this thread, I find it impossible to be hypothetical about religion. It would be an utterly pointless and futile exercise. As to your assertion that I would be a fool to dismiss overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that a god exists – I couldn’t agree more. And I could not and would not ignore such evidence. What I keep trying to point out, however, is that there simply isn’t any. None. Which is why I don’t understand why you are happy to carrying on believing that there is such a thing as god. And why I can’t help feeling you are trying to avoid being drawn on the subject.

  • SJ

    First of all, the absence of evidence is no proof of non-existence – that attitude would have killed science dead in the water.

    Secondly, back to the original question – I have faith, I beleive, I am put off from going to Church through fear of acceptance. This is a fear born from years growing up gay and the messages that are sometimes given out by the Church. It also prevents freinds and family of mine from becoming beleivers and followers. This then extends to the wider community, and it’s not just about being gay.