For thirty-three years, I served on the faculty of Asbury University. Each fall at Freshman Orientation a new set of bright, expectant faces gathered for the opening of the school year. Realistically, I knew many of them would not make it until the end of the year, let alone four years until graduation. For various reasons, they would drop out. Our educational systems seem plagued with dropouts. The problem of high school dropouts is staggering. Thousands of young men and women prematurely leave school, unprepared for the future.
Even more alarming to me as a minister, as well as a teacher, is the dropout rate from the Church. I’m sad to say that a majority of the people who join a church will become inactive and eventually drop out. This is not a new problem for the Church. John’s Gospel records a day when Jesus gave the people who were following Him “a hard saying” (John 6:66 NKJ), and, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”
Though many more problems could be cited, may I share with you four ways why so many people in our day drop out of church?
- Those who act mainly on emotion and impulse often become dropouts. They give a semblance of conversion, but as time passes their commitment wanes. In Matthew 13:3-9 (NKJ), Jesus shares the parable of the sower. Then, Jesus explains the parable in verses 18 to 23. Notice verses 20 & 21: “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he stumbles.” Ephesians 3:17 admonishes believers to be “rooted and grounded” in faith, lest they fall away.
- Those who do not participate regularly in corporate worship are candidates for becoming dropouts. Hebrews 10:22-25: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.” Ignatius, one of the revered early Church Fathers, says, “When ye frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your like-mindedness in the faith.” I will concede that there are circumstances that may prevent worshiping with other believers. However, when we are able, it is not wise to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.
- Those who seek to follow Christ amid other pursuits often become numbered with the dropouts. College students who put social life, athletics, etc., as their priority may not keep Christ supreme in their lives. People who want to follow Christ as one among many interests are often destined to drop out. In Matthew 13:22, Jesus says, “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitful of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” To follow Christ means an exclusive commitment to Him. Jesus will tolerate no rivals. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
- Those who want to make Jesus fit into their own plans and schemes are in danger of becoming dropouts. Today we want a moral code that will let us do what we want to do. People will soon discover they cannot manipulate Jesus into their religious mold. They drop out. Romans 12:2 gives the following instructions: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” Proverbs 12:15
~ Brother Roy