The Faith/Church Disconnect

Sam Rainer

November 12, 2007

A Leadership Journal survey reports that for nearly half of self-professing Christians, involvement in a local church is a minimal part of their lives. In short, the church has become non-essential to them. A large segment of Christians are claiming faith but not keeping the fellowship of believers. This trend is one that many pastors know anecdotally, and it is one that is truly concerning.

The church and Christ are inexplicably tied. The two cannot be separated; they are married to each other. Christ is the groom. The church is His bride. Being a Christian without a connection to the local church is like trying to have a marriage without interacting and communicating with your spouse. The church is a critical piece of a relationship with God. In fact, a relationship with God is seriously compromised apart from the local church. Christ and the church are bonded like the joining of a husband and wife in one flesh. Breaking this bond is serious.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32

It is my prayer that the gap between faith and the church will shrink. It will take a revival of dedicated hearts coupled with churches willing to change to reach better the culture around them. But I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit can work to bring our churches and people back together. What steps is your church taking to close this gap? What heart changes in the people do you think will have to occur in order to tie faith back to the church?

10 comments on “The Faith/Church Disconnect”

  1. Dobjuan says:

    I’m new to your website (I like it!) and not only enjoyed reading “the faith/church disconnect”, but also the leadership journal article and survey. I found these words, used above, to be interesting: “Being a Christian without a connection to the local church is like trying to have a marriage without interacting and communicating with your spouse.” We all know this is the biblical example and that man and woman were physically made to join together as one flesh. I wonder, though: of the 1,000 people surveyed, how many of them were married and how many of them were single? I do not see where the survey says this. Yet, I have heard it said several times recently that OVER 50% of the adult population is now single (never married and divorced). The reason I point that out is this: I am a never married 45 year old man. I was raised in the church, became a Christian at age 9, and was involved in church through high school, college, my early single years and up until I was about 38 years old. I still have a relationship with Christ but have not been actively involved in church for the last 7 years. Why? I get tired of making friends, losing those friends to marriage, making new friends, losing those new friends to marriage, etc., etc., etc. I want to be involved in church, but tire of going by myself and starting over and over. Never married and divorced singles rarely feel a part of a church where marriage is the norm and where assumptions like “being a Christian without a connection to the local church is like trying to have a marriage without interacting and communicating with your spouse” are made. For those reading this and who are married: imagine (God forbid) you are suddenly single for some reason or other. Do you think the married couples (both the husband and wife), with whom you and your spouse currently socialize will continue to want to do things with you by yourself (and not with your spouse who used to be number 4)? It used to be 4 people and now it is 3. How long will that last? My point is this: with half of the adult population now single and some or many of those feeling uncomfortable at church, is it any wonder many self professing single Christians (such as myself) are no longer involved in church? Think this through. I welcome your thoughts.

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Dobjuan – I lament the fact that many churches do not reach out better to the single and divorced people in our nation. But there are many chruches that do. And while the bride/bridegroom analogy is key to understanding Christ’s relationship with the church, it is not the only analogy used in Scripture. A “field,” “building,” “body.” and “branches” all ccome to mind. I praise God for the diversity of the fellowship. And it is in diversity that we find unity. Knowing this, we are all to grow together into Him that is the head (Eph 4:15).

  3. Hi Sam,

    I agree with you completely. I see this with the juvenile offenders that I work with. Many are interested in Jesus, the local church… not so much.

    I’m reading through UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. It is pretty eye opening that with Mosaics and Busters – particularly those in the 16-29 year-old age bracket there is even a further disconnect from not just the Church, but Christianity as a whole. Their research shows that those who are Christian also share some of the same feelings about the Church as their “outsider” peers. Pretty interesting stuff if we as the body of Christ can respond to it in an appropriate way.

    Anyone who wants to read those specific posts can go to

  4. Sam Rainer says:

    Shane – no doubt, we MUST respond to this disconnect. It is simply not God’s design for people to have a relationship with Him apart from a local fellowship of believers. Thanks for the tip on the book – I’ll have to pick up a copy.

  5. Idetrorce says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  6. Josh H. says:

    “very interesting, but I don’t agree with you”

    Why do you disagree?

  7. Donna says:

    After having a child with special needs, I find myself outside of the church…since our family does not fit in anywhere anymore. Further, churches have become so big and so automated that we are now invisible. I recently visited a new church several times. Within weeks, I received multiple e-mails asking for money…our family…having to save to ensure our son will be cared for after we are gone. The people don’t even know us and are asking for money. The staff doesn’t even know us and sent us a note asking where my husband was…and if he is going to another church let them know so they can clean up their list. They haven’t even made a single effort to know him…yet they are sending him letter!!! asking him what his intentions are. I attended a church where the staff asked us to come to a meeting to discuss our involvement in the church…like our spiritual gifts whatever. My husband had been recently laid off and the staff was aware of this via their so called prayer cards. We come to the pastor’s house and the topic?…how we can give money sacrificially to the unemployed husband…no job in sight…me a stay at home mom with a special needs child. And how they asked? Oh you know how we have helped your child attend Sunday school so now since you are so grateful…what are you goingto give??????!!!!
    I am tired of visiting churches and being given letters requesting money even before anyone knows us. They would not dare ask an acquaintance or stranger for money, but since we came to church they ask us. I am tired of this. I don’t think there are any churches that follow Jesus anymore. When did Jesus ever ask for money over and over?

    And you are wrong, nothing comes between a believer and Jesus. Yes, we can love one another…fellow Christians without an organized church…and pledges to build buildings without end.

  8. Sam Rainer says:

    Donna – I am sorry to hear of your struggles with the churches you mentioned. But the church is more than a building or a social institution. The church is a body of believers supporting each other and glorifying the Head, Christ. I encourage you not to give up on the local church – I know that there is a fellowship out there where you can better connect.

  9. Josh H. says:

    Donna, if that’s true, that’s a bad reflection on that church – sounds like they are more business oriented than gospel oriented. I wouldn’t go to that church anymore – surely you have others to choose from. I know of some churches that have behaved that way – I choose not to attend those churches – but I don’t quit going to church. Sam is not wrong – his view is Biblically based. Part of his commentary was on churches not reaching out appropriately – so you are in agreement on the basic point. Don’t get angry with Sam – he’s with you.

  10. Sam Rainer says:

    Thanks Josh. I am on Donna’s side. I will pray tonight that those like her find churches where they can serve the Almighty with passion.

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