2 Real Reasons People Don’t Go to Church

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Photo from morgueFile.com by edouardo

People give all types of reasons for why they no longer attend church. Most of those given mask the real reasons someone becomes a former church member? It’s the same motivations for virtually every other human decision: pain and pleasure.

If you associate church with pain or church with interfering with your pleasure, you probably won’t go. Those are the real reasons why you don’t go to church, but they still shouldn’t be what keeps you out. Here’s why.

Reason 1: Someone in church hurt you, so you refuse to go back.

Maybe it was last month. Maybe it was last decade. But somebody in a church somewhere hurt you, maybe even deeply.

To those I want to say, as sensitively as I can, join the club. You are not alone in that. Everyone, and I mean everyone, who has ever been part of a church for an extended period of time has been hurt by others there.

My deepest personal wounds as an adult came from church people. I say that to let you know, I understand. It hurts and the easiest way to escape that seems to be to leave church entirely. But it won’t really work.

Christians often speak of the “church family.” It is a way to communicate the bond that should be present among believers in a local church body. It also, inadvertently perhaps, expresses another truth. Church families are like physical families. You are around them so much that you rub each other the wrong way and people get hurt.

If you gave up on anything that brought you pain, your life would be dull, bland, self-absorbed and lonely, while lacking any real adventure, growth, achievement and love.

If, the moment you experienced pain, you surrendered, you would never exercise, never learn anything new, never undergo necessary medical treatment that may hurt, never push yourself past the limits you thought possible, never achieve anything of lasting value, never be a part of a relationship with anyone else, never love or be loved.

You still want to leave and never come back because of some hurt? We can get past that pain and find joy. Everyone you ever see at church has done just that.

Reason 2: You are enjoying things that you know the Bible says are sinful.

Can we be honest about this? Most people who have left church fall in this category. Hurt and hypocrisy, while honest critiques that the church should confront and correct, are more often than not excuses to continue living a certain way.

You remember all the teachings from church. You remember what the Bible said about the recent life choices you made. You also don’t feel like changing. You like what you are doing and don’t want anyone telling you that it’s wrong.

Maybe if you aren’t confronted with the Bible or Christians, you can continue on in your new lifestyle. There will be no one there to say no. You can make your own choices without interference from others.

It’s like avoiding going to a doctor because you think he might tell you something is wrong. Sure, no one likes to hear bad news, but wouldn’t you rather hear it coupled with hope for the cure? Why would you want to avoid confronting problems that only will get worse with time?

All those fears you have about returning? They’re lies. People love you and are praying for you to come home, even now. More importantly, God loves you and longs to be reunited with you.

Do you remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus describes God as the Father who stood by the road and waited for the moment when His child would come home. He’s there waiting for you—ready to take you in.

Coming home can be difficult and painful. It means leaving old things behind to embrace new life, but it is dropping rags to pick up riches. When you embrace Christ and the things He has for your life, everything else, even those things that seemed so valuable to you before, pales in comparison.

As precious as our sin may seem to us, we cannot take hold of the treasures God has for us with our fingers still clutching our old rags.

Sure, you’ll find hypocrites in the house when you come home, but you’ll remember that they’re not any different from you. They need grace and forgiveness, just like you. Maybe, just maybe, you can offer it to them and they can extend it to you.

Here are two questions for those of us who are active members of a church family.

What can we do to help comfort those who have been hurt by church and the people there? How can we show those who are enjoying their sin that their is more joy within the church than outside?

Perhaps the two questions have the same answer.


  1. Ray

    There would few left in any church if we all deserted her because we were hurt by some clod or we sinned!
    In fact, I think personal and secret sin may cause most of us to cut and run from church far more than some carnal clown causing us deep pain.
    When you are hurt…look at the pain of Jesus on the cross dying for OUR SIN, before you jump ship.

  2. The only biblical reason people don’t continue going to church is that they were never really part of the church.

    1John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

    I definitely want to do everything I can to be sure if someone stumbles, it’s over the gospel alone, but I know that’s not reality. There are a whole host of reasons someone would take offense and leave a church… but someone who has a bad experience and thus turns their back on all churches, cannot be described as a Christian in any New Testament sense of the word.

    So, if you have a child or a spouse or perhaps you yourself don’t want to go to church, for whatever reason, and that’s not just a “phase” but an abiding reality… you’re even glad you don’t go anymore “good reddens to them” then you don’t need to come back to church, you need to come to Jesus…

    Unfortunately, anyone actually in that category would not receive this as true (see Hebrews 6). Very sad. I have been very hurt by church, and many times it grieves me for them, but I’ve never, ever, considered a world where I don’t attend church… can’t even imagine it.

  3. Rob

    We have a line for that, People love the sin their in. If they accept that there is a God, then they know they have to follow His directives. If you don’t accept there is a God, then you become your own God and start making your own laws in your heart.


  4. jonathon

    Option # 3:
    The individual can have a richer, more meaningful Christian experience, by selectively using Sermon-Audio and YouTube, than by physically attending the local church.

    The preacher on Sermon-Audio might be physically ten thousand kilometers away, and be much closer spiritually, and more willing and able to shepherd one, than the preacher in the church that is 500 meters from where one lives.

    One thing I’ve noticed, is that the preachers on Sermon-Audio are far more willing to have a dialogue with me, than the local preacher is.

    • Jonathan, while there are clearly other reasons a person may not go to church than the two I listed, dropping out to listen to sermons through a podcast or other means is not a biblical reason. Church is much, much more than sermons. You miss out on being able to serve in the body of Christ with other believers. Don’t stop listening to sermons, but find a place to plug yourself into a biblical church.

  5. Amy

    I think being hurt in church is different as an adult then it is as a child. I grew up as a pastors child continually watching people hurt my parents. I love Christ deeply, but when I try to go back to church it brings back deep feelings of sadness and unworthiness. It feels like returning to an abusive relationship and as much as I want to join in, I end up feeling very cynical.

    • BG

      Amy, as a pastor’s son myself, let me say I understand your situation. When a man of God is called to ministry, in a very real sense, the entire family is called, kids and all. I have met a number of pastor kids that don’t go to church as adults and I can’t help but think of all the experience and insight that the local church (and pastoral family) is missing by them not been there. Many in the church don’t understand the unique needs and struggles of a pastoral family or how to properly serve them; perhaps you can help make a difference in this area. Scripture says that “all things work together for good for those who love God”. Since you love Christ deeply, I encourage you to pray for direction as to how He would want to use your experience for His glory and perhaps find the healing and power to overcome the sadness and unworthiness you feel in the process. You were created by God, special in your own way, worthy and valued enough for Jesus to come and die so that you could have eternal life. Don’t believe the lies that keep you from experiencing the joy of worshipping, serving others and growing together with a community of believers, making a difference for Christ’s Kingdom.

  6. David Ish

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi He might as been living in Pgh Pa. I am 57. No church have proved me The “great soul” was wrong.

About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.