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When People Leave The Church or Turn Their Back on the Gospel

There might be a solution right under our noses…

A number of pastors and Christian leaders have walked away from Christianity over the years, but the vast majority of people I’ve known or heard who turned their back on the gospel had one big thing in common:

In my experience, they weren’t avid readers of the Bible.

I’m not saying they needed to be passionate about it. But from what I’ve seen, they read the Bible only rarely, if at all. In many cases, they attended church, listened to Christian music, and even had many Christian friends. But in every case I’ve seen, the biggest missing piece was consistent Bible reading. 

In my book, co-written with Jonathan Bock, “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back,” we uncovered research that indicates that as many as 40% – almost half the people in church on a typical weekend, read the Bible “Once a month, rarely, or never.”

Now, link that fact to the Center for Bible Engagement’s landmark study called “The Power of Four,” which indicates the single greatest key toward growth as a disciple of Jesus is Bible reading—more than attending church, enjoying worship music, reading Christian books, or even listening to sermons. Even more, the study discovered that engaging the Bible four or more times a week causes visible behavior change – which means other people actually see a difference. 

The results are really remarkable. Engaging the Bible four or more times a week regularly showed that people are:

228% more likely to share their faith with others.

407% more likely to memorize scripture.

59% less likely to view pornography.

30% less likely to struggle with loneliness.

57% less likely to get drunk.

68% less likely to have sex outside marriage.

74% less likely to gamble

And more….

So, at least one important solution to so many people leaving the faith seems pretty simple:

1) If you’re concerned about your future or want to get more serious about your faith, get back into the Bible. Study, ask questions, and make notes. Read it every day if possible. If not, engage it at least 4 times a week. My wife Kathleen created “Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture” – a devotional designed around engaging the Bible at least 4 days a week. 

2) If you’re a pastor or church leader, get your congregation reading the Bible. Preach from it and teach about it, including its history, story, and impact. Start small groups focused on Bible reading and get your people passionate about scripture.

Consider taking members of your congregation on a tour of Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. It’s a remarkable experience, and they’ll encounter the Bible in a fresh new way. I’m pretty sure they will leave with a new excitement for the Word of God.

3) Finally, if you know people starting to wander away from the faith, encourage them to get back into the Bible – but don’t leave them to drift. If they’re not regular readers, then help them navigate where to start, how the Bible is laid out, and where to focus their study.

The number of people walking away from the Christian faith seems to grow every year, and the solution may be right in front of us – if we just pay attention.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.   – Romans 15:4

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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  1. Phil, thanks for sharing this. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who understands that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. If the only communication I had with my wife was for someone else to tell me about her 2-3 times a month for 20 minutes (like a sermon), it would not surprise anyone if our relationship fell apart. If you want to have a vibrant, growing relationship with God, it starts by reading His word and praying. Those are the two primary ways we and God communicate directly with each other.

  2. Phil, I’ve been ‘in church’ since nine months before I was born! My folks were always there when the door was open. I did the stuff growing kids do, I sowed my stupid teen oats, and then thought I got serious about my faith as I moved into my twenties, but not really. In 2000, when I was 50 years old, a friend came and presented 1st Peter to the church we were pastoring. After the meeting my friend nailed me about memorizing scripture. The past twenty-one years has been quite a ride, traveling, ministering, living in a rolling bowling alley of an RV. However the most significant element of our years ‘on the road’ is the fact that I now possess a significant reservoir of scripture deposited deep within. It changes one from the essential inside to the demonstrable outside and leads to an, I certainly hope, authentic presentation of a life changed by God. The Bible is not a textbook for preachers. It truly is a blueprint for successful living. Thanks, my friend.

    1. Wow – very well said Rod! And if you haven’t seen Rod and Jenny Carlson perform, they play Biblical characters and recite entire books by memory from the stage. You guys are amazing!

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