1. 90% – Pastor/Preachingand people leave church for a variety of reasons,
2. 88% – Doctrines
3. 49% – Friendliness of Members
4. 42% – Other Issues
5. 41% – Someone Church Witnessed to Me
6. 38% – Family Member
7. 37% – Sensed God’s Presence/Atmosphere of Church
8. 25% – Relationship Other than Family Member
9. 25% – Sunday School Class
10. 25% – Children’s/Youth Ministry
11. 12% – Other Groups/Ministries
12. 11% – Worship Style/Music
13. 7% – Location
(research conducted by Ranier)
1. The church was not helping me to develop spiritually. (28%)But isn't it also true that churches leave their people? That certainly has been the an accusation leveled at the Episcopal church. Since there are two sides to that argument, another way of looking at it is to use the excuse given by some married couples that "We just grew apart."
2. I did not feel engaged or involved in meaningful church work (20%)
3. Church members were judgmental of others (18%)
4. pastor was not a good preacher (16%)
5. Too many changes (16%)
6. Members seemed hypocritical (15%)
7. Church didn’t seem to be a place where God was at work (14%)
8. Church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement (14%)
9. Pastor was judgmental of others (14%)
10. Pastor seemed hypocritical (13%)
When a post-mortem is performed on a failed relationship, some of the things folks look for are the warning signs that something might be going wrong, and one of things people focus on are signs of a cheating spouse/partner. For the purpose of this blog, I will look at the warning signs of a "cheating church".
Speaking from a lifetime spent in the Episcopal church, here are several warning signs that I observed.
1) Theological/doctrinal waffling and indecisiveness.
Why, for-instance, should it take decades for the Church to resolve where it stands on marriage, human sexuality, etc? If your Church is having problems saying in clear and understandable language where it stands and how it got there, then it might be cheating on you.2) Biblical revisionism or omitting parts of the Bible altogether.
As documented on numerous occasions here (Classical Revisionism, and Something is Wrong With Our Bloody Lectionary) and elsewhere, revisionism takes its toll by reducing scripture to a matter of individual interpretation and opening scripture up to agenda driven eisegesis which makes the Bible say whatever you want it to say, while Biblical omissions lead to an incomplete loaf of our daily bread. If your Church is feeding you "holey" bread, then it might be cheating on you.3) Adopting unusual practices in worship.
Clown Eucharists, Labyrinths, Talismen, Solstice liturgies, need I say more? If you are invited to Mass by someone in a clown costume wearing an evil eye, then your church might be cheating on you.
4) When you hear, "It is all about relationship."
This is a big red flag. It usually means that there are serious theological and doctrinal differences brewing. The cheater will argue that you should live with this infidelity and focus on continuing and preserving the relationship (which of course just allows the Church to continue on its wayward path). If you hear, "It's all about relationship" then your Church might be cheating on you.
5) When you hear, "We can be together although we deeply disagree."
This is a variation of #4, but in reality means, "We need to talk, You must listen." If your Church suggests you engage in a listening process, then it might be cheating on you.
6) When you hear, "We should be focusing on mission."
This also indicates an avoidance of the underlying theological or doctrinal issues dividing the Church. If you hear your Church say, "We are missional," or "We should focus on mission" and that mission is not clearly stated to be to spread the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected, then your Church might be cheating on you.7) When your list of martyrs and saints includes baby killers.
Or when you look through your financial records and find that some of your money is going to pay for someone's abortion, then your Church might be cheating on you.
8) Failure to call out and discipline false teaching.
An absence of discipline for preachers that go off the reservation is a very bad sign. This indicates a lack of confidence on the part of leadership as to what constitutes the doctrine and theology of the Church. If your Church tolerates false teachers, then your Church might be cheating on you.9) Embracing heresy.
Worse yet is to have false teachers invited to preach or to have their books studied in Sunday School. If your Church embraces a study of any book by the likes of Marcus Borg or John Shelby Spong, or asks them to speak at a church gathering, then your Church might be cheating on you.
10) Blessing Sin.
Don't expect your Church to say that this is what they are suggesting, but if you see warning signs 1-9, you can look forward to this one, and in that case you can be certain that your Church has embraced another and is definitely cheating on you.
If you have concluded that your Church is cheating on you, please feel free to eliminate the capital "C" and understand that you are not the first to come to this realization.
"Plead with your mother, plead:
for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband:
let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight,
and her adulteries from between her breasts;
lest I strip her naked,
and set her as in the day that she was born,
and make her as a wilderness,
and set her like a dry land,
and slay her with thirst.
And I will not have mercy upon her children;
for they be the children of whoredoms.
For their mother hath played the harlot:
she that conceived them hath done shamefully:
for she said, I will go after my lovers,
that give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.
Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns,
and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.
And she shall follow after her lovers,
but she shall not overtake them;
and she shall seek them, but shall not find them"
Hosea 2:2-7 (KJV).