Church: Go or Stay?

     Context:                                                                                                                                                                                      Current research on church membership in America shows a clear decline in the percent of the US population belonging to a church: In the 1960’s, almost 50% of Americans belonged to a church; today, that figure is less than 33 percent. And, of course, church giving has followed that same pattern, with an especially severe drought during and since Covid-19.

A small group in our church is tackling a new book by Brian McLaren, “Do I Stay Christian?: A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned.” Christianity in America, in case you haven’t noticed, is undergoing an upheaval in their usual ways of doing things. Seems like the usual ways of doing things isn’t working for most people anymore. As such, many folks are making personal choices about whether to stay in church, go to another church, or leave the church.

(And, praise God, there are also those who may have been unchurched, under-churched, or over-churched, who are now coming back into the church!)

Part I of McLaren’s book, “Reasons to Leave,” is tough sledding through some of Christianity’s most violent, destructive and shameful eras and acts. Every Christian should be familiar with this history. But, that’s not the only story to tell about Christianity. Part II, “Reasons to Stay,” reminds us that Christianity is an imperfect religion that is still being molded into what God intends for it, and that’s something we should want to be a part of.

Here is a summary of the “10 reasons to go” and “10 reasons to stay” that McLaren offers. See what you think:      


  • Because historically Christianity has been vicious to people of our “mother” faith – Jews.
  • Because Christianity has traditionally and historically suppressed dissent with violence.
  • Because Christianity has a high global death toll through the ages.
  • Because Christianity became, and still is, a blind institution of loyal company white men.
  • Because Christianity’s real “master” is money.
  • Because Christianity, at the top, is basically a “white Christian old boys’ network.”
  • Because Christianity is stuck, and its beliefs continue to ostracize and oppress the disinherited and marginalized populations.
  • Because Christianity is a failed religion – the transformation of individuals and the world that Jesus offers is not happening quickly enough (if ever!).
  • Because Christianity has created its own “wall of bias” that dismisses any thinking or theology that doesn’t affirm “the way things have always been.”

10) Because Christianity is a “Sinking Shrinking Ship of Wrinkling People.”     (Ouch!)


  • Because leaving Christianity hurts all of Jesus’s allies and helps all His opponents.
  • Because there are more options to us than just accept Christianity as it is today, or leave the church.
  • Because … where else would we go? (see John 6:68)
  • Because it would be a shame to leave a religion in its infancy. (We’ve only just begun!)
  • Because of our legendary founder, Jesus, who is the Son of God.
  • Because we can break our “addiction” that says Christians are always innocent, and become instead fallen brothers and sisters in Christ to ALL peoples.
  • Because we’re only human, like everybody else, and our expectation in this world should not be perfection.
  • Because Christianity is changing, both for the worse and the better. But it is changing!
  • Because someone has to free God from the absurd human characteristics we place on God – (an old white man with long beard who is just waiting for your next slip-up so he can punish you!)

10) Because, soon it seems, we will need a repentance and salvation plan for the world we are slowly destroying. (Jesus is that plan!) 

Of course, in the end, each of us will continue to make our own decisions about religion and our faith lives. And in this “post-COVID” era, many people are re-examining their commitment to church and to God. The best news of McClaren’s book is Part III, which maps out a strategy for moving forward, whether you stay with Christianity or your current church, if you have one, or, if you leave and go a different way.

More good news: while many are stepping away from traditional church attendance, others are stepping forward and joining churches. There’s a transition going on in some churches (like ours!) that will lead us to the same predicament we’ve been in before; Do we do what’s expected, what we’ve always done, the way we’ve always done it … or, Do we surrender to Jesus and where he is leading us, do we break old habits and put doors and windows in old walls, do we become, as church, just what Jesus would look like in the world today?

The twelve disciples answered this clearly and without distraction – we will be the body of Christ in the world today. Regardless of social pressures and individual expectations, we will be transformed by our true master … who is Jesus … who will give us the power to do everything God will asks of us through the Holy Spirit.

Here at Vine Street Christian Church, we could strive for just that.

Or … not.

As always with God, the choice is yours to make.  

On redemption road … come and join,

Pastor Bob <><

(Note: A similar version of this article appeared in this week’s Arthur-Graphic.)