Study shows Christians are deserting church

Self-identified Christians make up the greatest portion of America’s “unchurched” population, according to a recent study.

Amy Ritter, Writer

Non-religious Americans are no longer the majority of the “unchurched” population according to a recent Barna Group study, which reported that 61 percent of churchless people identified themselves as Christians.

Barna reported that almost 65 million American adults have not attended any church activities or services in the past six months, while about 7.1 million of them say a personal commitment to Jesus Christ is important to them.

Barna referred to an earlier study in which 37 percent of non-churchgoing Americans avoided churches “because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people,” according to their findings.

But these statistics hit close to home for many Biola students.

Senior Kyle Shanebeck would have fallen in with this group during his first months at Biola. After a painful experience at his home church in Fullerton during middle and high school, Shanebeck says he withdrew and made excuses not to return.

“I had a very bad experience in the church with the youth group,” Shanebeck said. “In eighth grade, my small group leader spiritually and verbally abused me and all sorts of drama and the church kind of swept it under the table.”

Along with his personal struggle, Shanebeck remembered a troubling lack of activity and passion in his church body.

“The church was in many ways wider than it was deep,” Shanebeck said. “My experience growing up in that church was that it was more of a lifestyle and just something we did on Sunday, or even something we did with friends. It wasn’t deeply spiritual; it didn’t really call people to lives of change.”

After high school, Shanebeck immediately stopped attending church and found excuses not to go after he came to Biola. He attended services off and on, but claims his deeper issues of bitterness and apathy kept him from committing to a new community of Christians.

Last summer, however, Shanebeck started going to church consistently after attending Southlands Church in Brea one Sunday.

“I walked in and five people stopped right away and recognized me as a visitor and asked me how I was doing and welcomed me,” he said. “As we were leaving, a pastor chased us out the doors and to the car so he could talk with us.”

Since then, Shanebeck has been attending Southlands and joined a small group this semester, which he calls, “the best thing that ever happened.”

“I really felt at home for the first time in a long time,” he said. “It was very powerful to go every week and fellowship with people in a very familial way.”

The comfort and significance Shanebeck found is what many other believers are looking for; Barna reported that only one in seven have “a clear sense of meaning and purpose” in life. Now speaking from outside of the unchurched population, Shanebeck recommends a dose of time and love to bring people back to the church.

“The Lord is so gracious and faithful to draw us slowly back to himself and back to his people, his church, and I think time is one of the major ways that happens.”

0 0 votes
Article Rating