Diagnosing the Heart
There are many reasons Christians might not feel like going to church. But if you can discern the reason behind your reluctance, the path forward becomes clearer. An accurate diagnosis is half the cure—even when the remedy is hard to apply. So what are some reasons attending church might be a struggle?
1. Physical Reasons
Some Christians struggle to attend church for physical reasons like exhaustion, illness, disease, or chronic pain. It might be obvious or unnoticed, temporary or permanent, diagnosed or mysterious. Regardless, you’re physically burdened. The world is broken, you’re not a machine, and sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41).
2. Spiritual Reasons
Maybe the dominant reason is spiritual. You’re in a dark place, Christianity has lost its luster, or you’re living in hidden sin. Maybe feasting on the world has sapped your spiritual appetite, or you’re going through your first dry season as a Christian. Perhaps you resonate with the psalmist: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42:5).
3. Relational Reasons
Sometimes the challenge is relational—a marital problem, a broken friendship, an awkward personality. Maybe you’re single or widowed, and you feel out of place around all the families. Maybe you’ve disagreed with a leader, and there’s lasting tension. Maybe you’ve been judged or rebuked by someone, and seeing them triggers anger and shame. Maybe you’ll be disowned or lose credibility if you identify with the Christian faith. Regardless, Psalm 133:1 is far from your experience: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
4. Logistical Reasons
Maybe your issues are mainly logistical. You live far away, or your work hours change from week to week. Perhaps you’re often traveling, or the weekends offer valuable time to catch up on homework or house projects. For many moms, hauling young children to church can be chaotic and exhausting, and arguing with older kids each week can leave you feeling like a hostage negotiator. Whatever the situation, getting to and from church is challenging.
This booklet motivates Christians to go to church even when they feel like it will be unsatisfying, unhelpful, or just plain awkward by helping them rediscover the power of being present at their church's gathering. Part of the Church Questions series.
5. Preferential Reasons
Some frustrations are about preferences. You don’t like the music, the liturgy, the way people dress, or the leadership style. You wish the sermon were shorter, the people friendlier, the coffee better. Your preferences might reflect biblical principles or might just be nitpicky. But whether you’re right or wrong, constant frustration isn’t a good sign.
6. Cultural Reasons
Some of our preferences are cultural. You might be a blue-collar guy at a white-collar church, or a racial minority in a church where few understand your experience. You might be an immigrant, an overseas worker, or a third-culture kid. Whether it’s a language barrier or other elements that keep you feeling like an outsider, cultural differences can make it difficult to engage at church.
7. Recreational Reasons
Some people struggle with church for recreational reasons. The weekends are prime time for hobbies, adventures, tournaments, travel, or kids’ sports programs. With a busy week behind you and fresh opportunities before you, it can be hard to prioritize church.
8. Missional Reasons
Sometimes Christians have a hard time with church because there’s little direction coming from the leaders. We want to participate, contribute, and give ourselves to the mission Christ gave his disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). But a lack of leadership leaves you feeling like your church is on the sidelines instead of the frontlines.
9. Doctrinal Reasons
Sometimes Christians can’t find a church that aligns with their beliefs. The church you attend might be your default church but not your desired church, so you feel doctrinally homeless. You’d love for your church to line up with your convictions, but you don’t want to be divisive. Your differences might be hindering you from connecting or serving, and you might find yourself on the margins or on the verge of leaving.
If you can discern the reason behind your reluctance, the path forward becomes clearer.
10. Intellectual Reasons
Other Christians find church difficult for intellectual reasons. The messages seem trite and cliché, and you leave Sunday with none of your objections answered. Grad school, an intellectual occupation, diverse friendships, or a deep background in other religions makes you long for deeper thinking. Or maybe you’re just a contrarian, and you’re always playing devil’s advocate. You’re committed to Christ, but your church isn’t a place you would bring a non-believing friend.
11. Transitional Reasons
There are also transitional challenges to navigate. Sometimes these transitions are personal—you’re stepping away from a ministry or moving to a new city or searching for a new church. Other times the church itself is transitioning. A young new pastor takes the helm. Close friends leave. The church moves locations. Even a needed season of change can go on for too long and become a marathon without a finish line.
12. Personal Reasons
Finally, some have personal problems with the church. Maybe you’ve been abused by “spiritual authorities,” witnessed a pastoral scandal, or endured a church split. In some situations you might bear some responsibility, but even when you’re completely innocent, there’s still pain. Whether your wounds are caused by others or self-inflicted, personal history can make it hard to love a church, trust a church, or even attend a church.
We all have different personalities, situations, and challenges. But I hope the categories above kickstart your thinking as you assess your own situation. I can’t come through the page, diagnose your problem, and guarantee an easy solution. Often no silver bullet exists for the challenges we face in our churches. But God promises wisdom for those who ask: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
This article is adapted from What If I Don’t Feel Like Going to Church? by David Gunderson.
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