LOSING FAITH: Why are people leaving church? - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

LOSING FAITH: Why are people leaving church?

With so many choices it may be surprising to know that an estimated 3,500 people are leaving the church each and every day. Source: WLBT With so many choices it may be surprising to know that an estimated 3,500 people are leaving the church each and every day. Source: WLBT
This new trend is a big problem when it comes to millennials - those who are 14-33 years old. Source: WLBT This new trend is a big problem when it comes to millennials - those who are 14-33 years old. Source: WLBT
Churches do tend to fill up in times of crisis, such as 9/11, mass shootings, or war. Source: WLBT Churches do tend to fill up in times of crisis, such as 9/11, mass shootings, or war. Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

There are churches on almost every corner of Jackson and throughout the metro area.

They provide more than a place of worship. They often employ dozens of people and provide outreach services, from feeding the hungry to shelters, daycares, even tutoring and after school programs.

With so many choices it may be surprising to know that an estimated 3,500 people are leaving the church each and every day.

According to a 2014 study, 1.2 million people will leave the church in the next year. But why?

Some pastors and church leaders say it's all about feeling connected.

Elbert McGowan, Jr. the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Church in Jackson, says, “What does it mean to hold to traditions? Traditions that are good, traditions that keep us connected, and I think there is always a danger of going too far with that. Where this is the right way, and this is the only way.“

This new trend is a big problem when it comes to millennials - those who are 14-33 years old. 

According to the study, 80 percent of them say church is just not important.

Pastor McGowan told us, “They’re writing checks that life can’t cash. And what I mean by that is if you tell someone over and over, and over and over again that this is your year of favor, that this is your year of increase, that this is your year of abundance, but what happens when you get cancer, you know?  What happens when you lose your job?”

Many also say the church of today is more about business than spiritual growth.

Rev. Timothy Thompson, of the United Methodist Church says the reasons are clear.

“When there’s no relationship with Jesus Christ but your relationship is with the pastor, or the church or the choir, that becomes problematic because there’s a God sized hole on the inside of each one of us.”

Rabbi Stephen Wylen, of the Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson, says he's not surprised because fewer people are practicing the Jewish faith.

He is hopeful this dramatic trend will not continue.

“They want to see authenticity and I think they recognize it when they see it," says Rabbi Wylen. "They don’t join anything in the way people used to. They’re not joiners. And I don’t see this as an entirely positive phenomenon because it’s a lonely generation.”

Father Gerry Hurley of St. Paul Catholic Church in Flowood talked about the importance of social media, not as a replacement but a resource.

Father Hurley said, “Commercial socialization and sharing of faith and religion is a very important part. I think that we are created with a kind of innate need for that.”

Jennifer Biard pastors 1,100 members at the Jackson Revival Center. She says the focus of ministry has to be the people they serve.

“As members of the clergy, as pastors, sometimes we have watered down the message of the gospel for fear of losing those who really need to hear it, when in all actuality they want the gospel.”

Pastor Biard adds that in the age of reality TV, millennials want fewer rules and more spiritual, genuine relationships from the pulpit to the pews.

She said, “I say it all the time there are a lot of people who are public successes but private failures.”

Churches do tend to fill up in times of crisis, such as 9/11, mass shootings, or war.

Pastor Biard also said, “I think when we have tragedy that strikes in our nation everybody wants relief from the pain they feel not necessarily change in the life they live.”

Most of the pastors say there are multiple reasons for the so called "silent migration".

They have found millennials tend to avoid what they call "church drama".

Instead of dealing with controversy, rules or judgment, they would rather have access to church in their own home on their own time.

We also received this statement from Dr. Jerry Young, President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Dr. Young is the Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson:

"One of the things that the church must make sure that it does not do is to throw out the baby with the bath water. That is to say that the church must not change the message of the Gospel in order to accommodate the culture. But rather the church must be sensitive to the need to change its methodology not the message. Young millennials are looking for authenticity or consistency. They are not satisfied with those of us who declare the gospel with our lips but who fail to demonstrate the Gospel with our lives. Young people are discouraged when there is a proclamation but not the practice of the Gospel.

There is such a tremendous craving in our culture for what is real. The church has to be sensitive to the need to establish ministries that are designed to give young people an opportunity to experience what it means to be a part of the faith community. The church cannot be afraid to change tradition while at the same time safe guarding the essence of the gospel.

It is important for the church to focus on young people ‘becoming Christians’ instead of on young people ‘doing Christian things.’They must be taught and challenged to develop a Christian mind that allows them to interpret everything in light of the Christian message in the context of a secular culture."

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