Should I Stay or Should I Go?
American Pastors Network Weighs in on New Research on Why Americans Choose to Attend Church Services or Stay Home
PHILADELPHIA—A new survey from the Pew Research Center gives some insight into why Americans decide to attend church services in their communities—or skip church altogether and stay home.
Reported in Christianity Today, the research identified 10 reasons why people might attend religious services and eight reasons why they might not.
The American Pastors Network (APN, www.americanpastorsnetwork.net) says that whether or not these reasons are valid, pastors and church leaders must be aware of what drives people to church or keeps them away.
The top reasons American churchgoers seek out fellowship and worship in a church setting include: Becoming closer to God (81%), so their children will have a moral foundation (69%), to become a better person (68%), for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow (66%), they find the sermons valuable (58%), to be part of “a community of faith” (57%), to follow family’s religious traditions (37%), a feeling of religious obligation (31%), socializing and meeting new people (19%) or pleasing their spouse or family (16%).
“On one hand, the reasons given in this survey can be positive for the person who is a believer,” said APN President Sam Rohrer. “Most of these are reasons why we are to gather together. If a person thinks, however, that these reasons will bring them favor with God to earn salvation, then they are mistaken and these reasons are not valid. And knowing the condition of those who say they are Christians in America, the latter would likely be true.
“Likewise, at least on some level,” Rohrer added, “we can see from these reasons that the culture has influenced why some people might choose to go to church. But whatever the reasons, pastors should be thankful these souls have chosen to come through the doors of God’s house and are at least cognizant of the fact that’s where they should be on Sunday mornings or throughout the week. From this knowledge, pastors then have insight as to what brings people out to worship, learn more about Him and open God’s Word. And while pastors must not cater to these reasons to keep people in church, they can present them with the whole counsel of God and the unwavering truth of the Gospel, as well as biblical guidance on our most pressing societal issues.”
Even though the survey also found that the top reason churchgoers head to a service is to become closer to God, one in five adults who attend monthly or more also said they do not usually feel God’s presence; one in four don’t usually feel a sense of community; and four in 10 don’t usually feel connected to their faith’s history.
Additionally, Pew reported a decline in attendance at religious services from 2007 to 2014, with about a third of Americans now saying they worship weekly and about a third saying they go rarely or never.
Of those who do not attend services, the reasons include: they practice their faith in other ways (37%), are not believers (28%), haven’t found a church or other house of worship they like (23%), don’t like the sermons (18%), don’t feel welcome (14%), don’t have time (12%), are in poor health (9%) or there isn’t a church for their religion in their area (7%). More than a quarter (26%) said there is not one most important reason they don’t attend church.
Several weeks ago, APN debuted its new weekly television program, “Stand in the Gap,” which considers transcending cultural issues, seemingly difficult to navigate, from a biblical worldview perspective each Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. Programs are rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.
“Stand in the Gap” TV airs weekly on WBPH-TV60, a station in the Philadelphia market that reaches a potential of 7 million viewers by cable, DirecTV, Dish Network, off-air antenna and online. Check the WBPH listings for more information on how to watch. Learn more about the program here or view a promo for the show here.
Rohrer is also the host of APN’s popular radio program, “Stand in the Gap Today,” which considers news from a biblical and constitutional perspective and is heard daily on 425 stations around the country. The show can also be heard live online from noon to 1 p.m. EST at American Pastors Network.com at the orange “Listen Live” button on the right-hand side of the webpage, or find a station here.
View the media page for APN here, which also details information about “Stand in the Gap.” For more information on APN, visit www.AmericanPastorsNetwork.net, its Facebook page or follow APN’s Twitter feed, @AmericanPastors. To form a state chapter of APN, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.