Why Do So Many People Leave the Church?
One of the main reason people leave the Church is because they are looking for man-made fulfilment when there is no solace there, SIPHO MTIMKULU argues. People have forgotten the real reason for the Church’s existence is Christ Jesus.
Looking at things from a distance is sometimes helpful in getting a clearer view of the human condition that causes us to falter in our faith.
People usually have their own expectations, and are always looking for something that can satisfy their needs or longings. Meanwhile others can’t stop singing: “You alone are my strength, my shield, to You alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship You, ”.
One wonders what happened when a strong Catholic becomes so weak and gives up all he has built. But this can be understood through the lens of 2 Timothy 1:7, which says that our strength must come from God, not from this world.
What is Faith?
Faith can be described as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
As Christians, we have faith in Jesus Christ. Moreover, by its nature, faith does not seek proof in sciences or logic. It opens us up to true reality because it takes us beyond the realms of reason and senses. It opens our hearts to what our eyes fail to see.
Our faith should give us hope and assurance that there is purpose behind all our sufferings, as without hope our sufferings will lead us to despair and despondency. Suffering, poverty, broken relationships and hardships are elements of our lives, and they should not restrain us from trusting our God.
The central teaching of Christ is the Kingdom of God. Christ expressed God’s presence and reign here on earth through his teaching, preaching and miracles.
Church on a journey
The Church on earth is a church on a journey striving to reach its destination, to be with its master, the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s people on this journey need both the support to face challenges on the road, and a destination at the end of their pilgrimage.
The Church offers us sacraments to support us on this journey, so that when we get tired and feel sick they may strengthen us as we walk towards our destination. However, for some reason, these are not enough for some of us.
Many people have left the Church over the years, while some are still leaving, and many may still leave.
The basic need in a community is to feel accepted and to have a sense of belonging. This need causes many people to set high standards—and when these standards are not met, they become disappointed and feel rejected. The results of disappointment and rejection are resentment and bitterness which can cause some people to give up.
When we are feeling like this, we become vulnerable and desperate, and many people are going to continue to take advantage of us because we are impatient with God.
We fail to understand that every community has its own rules and regulations to keep order and harmony.
We forget that our call is about discipleship; which involves faith, courage, commitment and a willingness to renounce some privileges. The terms and regulations of living in the community of disciples are challenging and demanding. But Christians accept these with joy.
All about discernment
God gave us the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us with his gifts. One of those gifts is the gift of wisdom. Wisdom helps us to be wise and objective about the truths of this world and to be able to distinguish between the true prophets and false prophets, and between the true Gospel and a false Gospel.
People love new things and often they fall for them. But the big question is, when are they going to be satisfied, because each day brings new things and more interesting than those of yesterday?
However, fashion always runs out of fashion, and when it does, what do you do?
Sacraments are everlasting and through history they have kept the Church strong and united, and focused on its mission.
Always remember the words of Christ when all these things happen: they will reject you, they will persecute you, they will hate you, they will make false accusations about you, there will be false prophets coming in my name saying I am He, (Mt 24:9-11) but when all these happen don’t be afraid because they have done them to Me. No servant is greater than his master (Jn 15:20).
What is the Church?
The Catholic Church is built on a rock: it is solid and firm on its foundation, even when the storms come it will always remain strong. It was not formed by human desire, but by divine command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
Don’t listen to false teachers; if there is something that you don’t understand, ask your priests and they will explain all these commands to you.
The Church is One. Be a proud Catholic, deepen your faith and defend your faith because is worth it to be a Catholic.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father we thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, which reminds us of all the truths that your Son taught us We ask that your spirit may continue to unite the Church and keep it faithful to your mission here on earth. We ask this through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reign with you and the Holy Spirit one God forever. Amen.
Sipho Mtimkulu is a theology student at St John Vianney Seminary.