The Three Real Reasons That Cause People Not To Come Back . . . . Though Often Unstated

All of us may have given secondary reasons for not coming back after visiting a local church —  “It’s a little too far away from where we live.”  For many, distance is a secondary factor!  We all know that finding a good church ministry is worth the drive.

In fact, I might well suggest that many of the smaller factors are crossed off the list of reasons not to return when these three factors are resolved.

#1 – Mediocre Sermonizing:  People stand in long lines, sometimes for hours, if they are convinced they will experience a good meal. When the sermon is mediocre-to-terrible, they ain’t coming back.  While other factors may cause them to come back a second time to see if the sermon was representative, it is over and done if there is little-to-no significant difference.

I have often asked pastors if they think they can grow a church on good preaching.  My answer was “ALMOST.”  While other factors can enter into people joining a local church ministry, the “meal” matters most — “All-Most.”

After spending a week in the real world, people want a hearty “meal.”  They come to be fed, and blaming the listeners [1] for not enjoying a “weak-to-poor-to-terrible” meal may make some pastors feel better, but it doesn’t lead to church growth.  It sure doesn’t work in the real world.


#2 – Pastorally Aloof:  I have known, attended, and seen churches with “average-to-above average” pulpit ministries thrive and grow.  Over the years, my observed read has been outstanding relational contact with God’s people.

In contrast, there are pastors who . . . .

  • are uncertain of the names of members and family members
  • fail to know names of repeated visitors over a period of weeks
  • do not take the time before and/or after a service to sincerely show interest and concern
  • do not know if a member or family is or is not in the church service
  • unwittingly imply that they know little or nothing about a family’s situation
  • unwittingly communicate that they were not listening the last time they interacted [2]

“Well, some are just good at the relational!”

No, relational pastors work at it, and they genuinely care! 

They work at remembering names, and that is why they remember.

They sincerely care about what is being said, and that is why they ask about it again.

They personally visit God’s people and talk and pray with them so that they model and reflect the love of our Lord to God’s people.

They don’t just care for some, but instead genuinely try to show care for all and any! [3]

They set aside their schedules, agendas, free time, “like to watch or attend a social/sporting event,” and personal aches and pains to be present when God’s people are present. [4]. They care and are naturally “highly visible” and present for all the various parts of church life!


#3 – Unremarkable Ministry & Outreach: God’s people know, and have been taught to know, that the mission of the church is others, not them.  When a church’s focus is inward and not outward, the events and activities of the church reflect that.

“A Dead Chuch” means that they are doing “little-to-nothing” regarding Gospel ministry.  Few people, and surely not God’s people, want to identify with a self-absorbed and/or dead church.  We want to, personally and corporately, accomplish something that is meaningful, a ministry that matters and makes a difference.



While kinder and/or smaller reasons may be given for why this-or-that family is not revisiting or has decided to leave, the reality may be that . . . .

  • the preaching is mediocre at best; it fails to lift up those who lived in the real world this past week
  • the pastor is self-absorbed; he reflects a lack of personal care and interest in others, or
  • the church is dead in the water; it seems to be going nowhere.



1. Pastors are known for pointing to God’s people when they say they are not being fed.

  • “If you are not being fed, then it is probably you.”
  • “I just preach the Word, and the rest is up to you!”
  • “We just lay out the truths of God’s Word, and whether you listen and follow what the Bible says is your responsibility.”
  • “There are two sides when preaching, and the radio needs to be tuned into the right frequency to hear what is being said.  They need to get their hearts right!”

While all such statements may have a kernel of truth to them, the reason some churches are well attended is because of the “meal” that is served.

It is counter-intuitive to believe that the same-old week after week builds believers. The same, predictable, or “down-in-the-pits” sermon, week after week, attracts few and edifies fewer.

There are “Great-Very Good-Good-Average-Mediocre-Weak-Poor-Terrible” preachers!

And, not all pastors are effective and/or successfully work at improving!

Reading your sermon is like serving a frozen TV dinner on a dinner plate!

2. Have you heard this said?

  • “Are they here this morning?”
  • “I haven’t talked to them about it over the last week or so.  Does anyone know?”
  • [Baby dedication] — “How do you say your name?”
  • “I think it was her grandmother . . . . or was it his mother-in-law.”
  • “Oh, you are here today.  It’s good to see you here.”
  • “That’s right; you did tell me that last time we talked.”
  • “I haven’t heard if they are getting out of the hospital this week or not.”

3. Let it become obvious that you only know and care about a small circle of people, and see how that plays out over time.  Some pastors unwittingly and unknowingly communicate just such a message by who and how often they reference and recognize them.

4. If you don’t get to know God’s people before and after the services of the church, you won’t get to see most all of them during the week.  They are at work, not church!  They truly want to know their pastor and desire to know that their pastor knows them!
P.S. Thank You “Pastor Dan Gelatt”

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