Mayday Project surveys reasons why people leave the church

focus-pressBRENTWOOD, Tenn. (BNc) — Focus Press has initiated Mayday Project, a survey for individuals who have left the church to share the reasons why they left.

BNc asked Bradd Harrub about the survey. He kindly took out the time to respond.

BNc: What’s the purpose of the survey?

Brad: Several years ago we began tracking actual numbers of New Testament Christians (using directories, databases, attendance records, etc.). The overwhelming trend was that the numbers were going in the wrong direction in the majority of congregations. Add to this that I have had the opportunity to get out and speak to hundreds of congregations that appear to be rapidly aging, and not adding young members to replace them when they die. We realized there is a major problem.

And here is the irony: we believe the church is approaching this in the exact opposite way it should be addressed. Many congregations are no longer hearing sermons on hell, authority, the uniqueness of the N.T. Church, etc., as those are viewed as divisive and too strong. And so we have two generations who have no appreciation for Biblical authority and the wrath and judgment of God!

So we developed a survey that is unbiased—not paid for by any special interest group or faction of people. We wanted to go straight to those who had left the church and ask them directly, “Why did you leave?” Our goal is to collect more than 1000 responses. In the first 24-hour period we had already heard from 150 individuals who had left the church.

BNc: When and where will the survey be published?

Brad: Once the data is collected and analyzed we will report it in several manners. There will be a summary report in Think magazine. We will also make portions of it available online  at focuspress.org, and we have plans to publish a book reporting not just the problem, but also possible solutions.

BNc: Any predictions on how people will answer the survey as to why they left?

Brad: From the surveys that we have already collected, it is obvious some individuals were personally hurt by the actions of others. Other individuals have talked about legalism or church doctrine. Some have obviously been enticed by the world. Many are expressing real emotional pain. And many are unfamiliar with what the Bible truly teaches.

BNc: Is a survey like this reliable, or is it just a place for people to complain?

Brad: While the survey will remain anonymous from a reporting perspective, about 35% are giving their names and addresses, allowing us to get a clear picture if this is a local phenomenon, or if it is a nationwide trend. While we did allow people the opportunity to vent any issues they had, the survey probes much deeper than the average complaints, to see if there are trends with education, music, sexual activity, etc.

BNc: How do you answer people who say we just need to preach the truth and not worry with those who left?

Brad: To those who say we need to preach the Truth I say, “Amen!” I am a firm believer that we must return to the Book. Our survey will hopefully be a tool that others can use to help them better understand where we are missing in our teaching, and to help us look at what is effective and what is not. We hope this survey will open the eyes of modern Christians to help shake us out of our apathy and get busy at teaching and preaching.

For anyone who has left the church, please consider taking the survey. It is found online here.

The survey takes only 5-10 minutes to complete. Please pass this link to anyone you know who has left the church and invite them to take the survey. Please feel free to post it in chat rooms, forums, etc.

Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us

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10 Comments

  1. Doesn’t the Lord answer Brad’s question rather well when he describes the stony ground as those who are not willing to endure tribulation/persecution to follow Christ?

    As for those who leave the church, I can’t help wondering how many were actually converted (repented) to turn from serving self to serve God only (Matt. 4:10). If they have not, then possibly the answers for ‘leaving’ are no different than leaving a social club of the world.

    If Corinth took this questionnaire, would they know they ate and drank damnation to their own souls?

    It seems to be that the real question should be: “Did we repent?” rather than “Why did we leave the group?”

  2. Janet Logan

    My heart hurts when I think of Christians going elsewhere to worship and serve. So much of what I read and hear on why they leave involves the term “legalism”. It seems like it is used to cover almost any reason one has to leave the church of Christ. I love the Church, the Bible and I just want to follow its teachings and please God. I have never considered myself a legalist. How does one even know who is a legalist? I believe we need many many lessons and articles on why following the New Testament with a true and sincere desire to please God is so important and imperative. I need articles on how not to be a legalist because I don’t want to be displeasing to God. I don’t ever want to be unkind or hateful to anyone. I do believe we need to stay with God’s Word for our guidelines for marriage, relationships, parenting, worship and especially the design of our congregations.

    • Do you suppose Jesus was a legalist? He obeyed every law even under the rigorous OT system.

      The term “legalist” is only a red herring for those who do not have scriptural answers for why they do what they do.

  3. Betty S. Bender

    I believe this is a very worthwhile endeavor you brethren have taken on and i believe it will reveal things that will be helpful where we can go to help correct the problem. Thank you for doing this.

  4. I think those who hurl the epithet, “legalist,” are, generally, folk who de-emphasize obligation by loading the term “grace” with more than it can rightly bear (and still harmonize with New Testament teaching). God emphasizes both his grace and our duty, and never one at the other’s expense. In other words, the saving of a soul is very much a cooperative effort between that soul and his God. It is a challenge to keep a Bible-centered perspective on the subject. We are wrong whenever we begin discounting clear commands of Scripture. But we are also wrong whenever we, in the church, display harsh, unloving dispositions that bear no kinship to the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23). Departures invite from either direction, but lead us off the right path every time.

  5. All the above replies are very good, I think. We can feel the pain (so to speak), but the truth must be preached.

  6. Jerry Weldon

    Brad
    I appreciate your work! Your work in the area of Christian Evidence is so valuable to the future of the Lord’s church.
    Over the 39 yrs I’ve had the privilege to serve as a minister of our Lords family my heart has rejoiced over people coming to The Lord and my heart has agonized over those who have left.
    It’s been rightly said that the church would double in size if we would win our children to Christ.
    I am certainly not criticizing your efforts and I am very interested in seeing the finished product!
    I believe the greatest problem is found in
    the home!!!! Fathers are told to bring up their children. That’s not the work of the Pulpit or Youth Minister!
    Our elders need to do less meeting and more greeting!!! Meaning…..they are told to feed the flock. It doesn’t say feed them through Sunday School or from the Pulpit!
    Both our parents and our elders need to arm themselves with information. They need to educate themselves with books like The Emerging Churches. Etc.
    I just finished a real new, old time doctrine book every parent and elder needs to read! It is “Muscle And A Shovel” by Michael Shank!
    Also the Lords Way is “straight and narrow” and our Lord said FEW will follow it!!
    Our greatest mission field is our children. It’s hard to convert them once they’re grown. Intentionally intend to ground them while their little and every day you have them before they leave to attend college!!
    Jerry Weldon
    Outreach Minister
    Concord Rd. Church of Christ

  7. Ted Mitchel

    It is a sad fact that many who begin following Jesus leave that path. I am curious to read the report that this survey will produce. One thing I have learned over the years is that people leave the Lord for all sorts of reasons and all of them involve sin. Sadly, sometimes sins of those deemed “faithful” drive them away. (I’m not saying this relieves anyone of personal responsibility!) I hope that all who read this report will do so with open minds and that it will create some serious soul searching. Ultimately, those who leave the faith will give account at judgment. But, perhaps, this information will help us do a better job of edifying, encouraging and grounding each other in the faith. Some congregations wouldn’t have enough room in their buildings if everyone who left had remained faithful. The church is being attacked from outside on multiple fronts. But sometimes, like the old cartoon, we need to say “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” We are also being attacked from within by worldly attitudes and indifference. Maybe we need some old fashioned revival and maybe we need to start inside each of us. Can we pray that the report from this survey will be one tool the Lord will use to motivate us all to go back to the basics of the gospel–converting and discipling people with the Word?

  8. legalgirl

    Legalism is defined as acting in truth, but not in spirit. in other words the person puts excessive emphasis upon outward acts (attending church services twice sundays and once wed, giving every sunday etc.), but is lacking in love, mercy, peace, and grace.
    As Jesus says in matt 23;23 “You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

  9. legalgirl

    it has been my experience that many who leave the church because the “church culture” and “environment” is excessively controlling and/or lacking in love for others. many of them maintain a personal faith and relationship with God. legalism is not covering the idea that sins should be “ignored” as some stated above. legalism covers the idea that there are those who in appearances “do every thing right” but they are lacking in the intangible areas of love and mercy: the hallmark of christianity.
    as 1cor 13 says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.”
    this is a popular verse that most are acquainted with, and I believe it speaks to the point about what legalism is. A person can go as far as to give away all their belongings and give up their life, but if they do not have love for others, all of the “right things” are meaningless.
    Legalism is not as some say “a red herring for those who do not have scriptural answers for why they do what they do.” it is actually a term synonymous with pharisee. as Jesus describes the pharisees as “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (matt 23, which I recommend reading if you wish to study the subject). just as there were religious people who fit this description in jesus’ day, so will they exist in our day. an important lesson that christians can take away from this is not to make judgements about the hearts of those who have left the church, but to instead examine ourselves. we should be careful that we are not the ones who are causing them to stumble.

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