If you count the names on a church’s roll and compare the number to the attendance on a given Sunday, many times there is quite a difference. There can be various reasons: some move away; others attend a different church, but they are still listed on your church’s roll. And then there are the ones who are simply no longer interested in attending your church or maybe . . . church period.
What causes people to lose interest in attending church? There can be many reasons. I once knew a pastor’s wife who, while she was out and about in town, ran into a lady she had seen at church a few times. The lady told the pastor’s wife that she had been a member of that particular church for a number of years, but she didn’t attend very often. She said, “Your husband preaches such good sermons, and he preaches his heart out. The people who have been in the church all these years never make a move at invitation time. They are so stuck in their ways, it frustrates me. So I don’t attend much.”
I have heard people blame the pastor because so-and-so isn’t interested in coming to church. Some members’ answer to not having their way at church is to stop coming, and supposedly that is the pastor’s fault. The truth is that the very thing one person doesn’t like about your church may be the thing that attracts someone else.
There can be other reasons: everything from being busy, to being upset with the preacher, to having their feelings hurt by another member, just to name a few. Maybe the church took down the mural behind the baptistery and installed a cross. Or possibly the church decided to install red curtains instead of blue, or stained-glass windows in the sanctuary, and that person doesn’t like stained-glass. There can be any number of reasons, but the point is, if someone wants to find a reason to stop attending church, he will find one because no church is perfect.
Should we forget about people who have stopped attending? No, but the reason they aren’t interested could be due to their own spiritual condition. Maybe they have become apathetic. There seems to be a degree of apathy in our day that I don’t remember having seen before. If someone has lost interest in your church, it is that person’s responsibility to find another church where his or her talents can be used. She should find a place where she can be happy because it is important for her to grow spiritually and be able to faithfully serve. It is important that the person attends church, not that he or she attends your church.
I have not seen anywhere in the Bible where Jesus chased after people who walked away from Him. I know it is hard for a pastor or other members to not take it personally when someone doesn’t want to come to church. But don’t automatically assume the lack of interest is because of anything you or anyone else has done. The disinterested people are adults, and they know where they need to be at service time. If you feel led to contact the person, then do that. He or she might appreciate being remembered. It still doesn’t mean the person will come back to church. Sometimes the best way to engage with a disinterested person is to send them on with the church’s blessing.
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.