Mike Minter of Reston Bible on Why People Leave a Church

Mike Minter leads Reston Bible Church in Dulles, Virginia which is in the Washington, D.C suburbs. Mike discusses why people leave churches. In no part of the video does he discuss issues like sexual, domestic or spiritual abuse. I am deeply disappointed that Mike Minter misses a major reason why people leave a church.

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.” 

Judith Lewis Herman

“The silence was killing me. And that’s all there ever was. Silence. It was all I knew. Keep quiet. Pretend nothing had happened, that nothing was wrong. And look how well that was turning out.” 

J Lynn

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.

Galatians 4:4-5 NLT

Bookstore at Reston Bible Church

We’re going back to Reston Bible Church in Dulles, Virginia to look at something that Mike Minter has said in a video. When I was covering the theological coup that took place at McLean Bible that led to the purge of about 135 staff, I received some emails from people asking, “where can I go?” So I decided to check out Reston Bible and observe, study and analyze the place. I found a church that really doesn’t know what it is, and that has a lot of issues. As a result I did a couple of posts about Reston Bible Church already. You can read about the history of Reston in, “Preserving the History of Reston Bible Church in Sterling, Virginia.” Then you can read my analysis about how unstable Reston is and how its ripe for a coup also. “The Theological Conundrum Reston Bible Church Faces. Plus Why Reston Bible is Ripe for a Theological Coup Similar to What McLean Bible Experienced.

So this morning I saw a video by Mike Minter of Reston Bible. This video was uploaded in January of 2015. In light of all the issues written about here at The Wondering Eagle I decided to watch it. When I watched this video I almost choked as it was that bad. So on top of all the other issues that I am working on, I am squeezing in a post that will explore the issues with what Mike Minter is saying.

 

Reasons Why People Leave a Church According to Mike Minter

I would encourage you to watch the video by Mike Minter. In the video Mike says that people leave a church for the following reasons.

  1. People don’t like change. They don’t like the new chairs, pews or even the change in music. The removal of the choir or change in music styles. People can’t adopt to the change and the walk.
  2. The next reason people leave a church is because of subjective reasoning. People will say, “I don’t feel like God’s hand is on this place.” Or they will say that the preaching is shallow.
  3. The last reason people leave is because of a lack of community. People can’t get “plugged” in and as a result they leave. Sometimes its the churches fault and sometimes its due to the person. It varies according to Mike Minter.

And that is why people leave a church according to the Teaching Pastor of Reston Bible Church.

 

No Mention of Neo-Calvinist Theology, Corruption and Abuse

I nearly gagged when I watched that presentation by Mike Minter. Honestly I would like to know what the weather is like on his planet. Much of what he said doesn’t even come close to the experiences I had or some of the topics I write about here at this blog. These are other reasons why people leave a church that Mike Minter didn’t cover.

  1. Sexual abuse in a small group, youth group, of a minor by a staff member of more. Sexual abuse is a major issue in evangelical Christianity.
  2. Domestic abuse is another issue. A church might try and cover it up and deal with a domestic abuse situation inhouse. A husband might be beating his wife or more and the church is telling her that divorce is a sin. Some of the domestic abuse stories people have approached me about from time to time are troubling.
  3. Corruption is another major factor. Let’s be honest…evangelical Christianity is deeply corrupt. In addition to sexual or domestic abuse there can also be financial scandals. Pastors living extravagantly while churches are doing capitol campaigns. There can be narcissistic pastors who mistreat staff and people inside the church. The amount of corruption I find myself dealing with at this blog is staggering.
  4. Theology can be another reason why people leave. What do you do if your church was changed theologically. For example say it was 1 point Calvinist or something of that nature and then the church is flipped. It went full TULIP and you are not Calvinist in your theology. Do you belong? Then they roll out the membership covenant to say “Our theological perspectives are the right ones and the only ones to be tolerated.” Then you can face church discipline and be told that you are not a Christian or that you lack faith. What do you do if you are find yourself in a Neo-Calvinist church and you reject the theology because it makes the problem of evil worse? Does this happen. Yes it does, and I find myself writing about it regularly.
  5. Authoritarianism is another issue that has grown in many evangelical churches because of Neo-Calvinist theology. You find authoritarianism in programs like 9 Marks, Acts 29, Harvest Bible Chapel, Sovereign Grace, Sojourn Network. Some of what people have approached be about has been disturbing. For example I wrote about an Acts 29 church in Richmond, Virginia where one person had a problem taking a job because his church was opposed to it.  He was locked in a cult like situation.

But I was just stunned that none of what I wrote above was included or addressed by Mike Minter.

 

Reasons Why I Left Some of the Churches Including the Last One I Was Involved

The reasons why I left some of the churches I did were because they were toxic and had issues. I don’t like to leave a place but I find myself having to do so more than I care to admit. Because of the situations I experienced that is why I am opposed to church membership.

I eventually left Rod Stafford Fairfax Community Church in Fairfax, Virginia because of authority issues that were going on at that place. The church came down like a hammer on me and another person over a small group matter. Later on I discovered that Fairfax Community Church and employed a violent sex offender and had him in charge of the Care Program. His name was Eric Nickle. I stumbled across information online and saw that he had access to children’s areas. Fairfax Community had concealed that information and mislead the church about the matter. I struggled with what to do because I came from a church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that had a massive sexual abuse scandal in 1999 shortly before I showed up on the scene. The youth pastor had sexually abused a number of people and when the police were notified he fled to central Wisconsin and committed suicide in a motel room. You can read more in, “How I Learned Evangelical Christianity is Struggling with Child Sex Abuse: An Incident at Milwaukee’s Elmbrook Church in 1999.” So what I did in time was notify people of the dangerous situation. I could not be silent and live with the possible abuse of a minor  especially  after seeing the scars at a church in Wisconsin.  You can read more in, “Why Does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry?”  In addition I have left other churches for theological reasons.

I also left a non-denominational Bible church in the northern Virginia area that I want to remain nameless. The reasons why I left? A number of issues came to a head and I could no longer ignore it.  One reason is that in my small group the leader wanted to use Ravi Zecharias material. That troubled me because of the allegations of sexting, adultery and the inflation of his academic degrees. My small group leader was baffled as to how I knew about it. I keep abreast of things and that is how I knew. Warren Throckmorton wrote heavily about the issue which you can read about here, here, here, and here. That is barely scratching the surface.  Another reason was that I have become very distrustful out of anything that has come out of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings I felt sick as I watched Jerry Falwell Jr go off on Twitter. Being in an environment where people would say how much they appreciated Liberty or its culture bothered me. For Jerry Falwell Jr I would suggest faith is about political power and nothing more. I was troubled by what I see coming out of Liberty and decided to push back against what came out of Liberty.

The last issue also broke my heart. It affected my church and destroyed my plans to try a men’s retreat for the first time in ten years. Here is  the story of what happened. This blog reported and dragged out the story of Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis. This was a key church in the Acts 29 network that was planting churches around the United States. In  2010 the worship leader at Fellowship Memphis, known as Rick Trotter engaged in voyeurism in the church restroom. He placed a camera and illicitly recorded females in the restroom, in the process he also manufactured some child pornography. He was caught, the church did not go to the police, made the victims forgive him and he was quietly let go. About 100 women were caught up in this deviant scheme. Then the staff at Fellowship Memphis helped Rick Trotter get on staff at another church plant in Memphis. He resumed his voyeurism and perfected his tradecraft. For a three year period he illicitly recorded people in the restroom. A conservative estimate might be about 700 to 800 people perhaps? He was caught and let go and the church went to the Memphis Police. That was how the Fellowship Memphis aspect to the scandal broke. The victims started to come forward and Fellowship Memphis then hired a PR Firm to silence the victims. I wrote about all this and clashed with the pastor Bryan Loritts at the time. If you want to read the original post you can do so in, “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.”

So how does this affect where I attended? Well Fellowship Memphis and Fellowship Associates which is linked to Fellowship Memphis and John Bryson have been planting churches around the United States. Some of the staff who were involved in the cover up left Fellowship Memphis and went elsewhere. One pastor who was on staff as an intern at Fellowship Memphis at the time of the cover up is Kenji Adachi. He, Fellowship Memphis and McLean Bible planted All Peoples Community Church in Fairfax, Virginia. I wrote about this church in “When Neo-Calvinist Church Planting Becomes Idolatry: Kenji Adachi and All Peoples Community Church.” Plus I also wrote, “An Open Letter to Kenji Adachi (Senior Pastor of Acts 29 All Peoples Community Church in Fairfax, Virginia on my Concerns about your Fellowship Memphis Training and Other Issues)” So my church had scheduled to have Kenji Adachi lead the men’s retreat at the church. I was in the sanctuary and I saw his smiling picture in the bulletin and almost spit out my coffee and was sick. I had asked Kenji Adachi what he knew about the Rick Trotter situation at Fellowship Memphis and he warned me not to contact him again. How Biblical. I struggled with what to do and whether I should share that information with the church. For Kenji Adachi to be a pastor is like serial killer Ted Bundy running eHarmony. I seem to have situation after situation that deals with garbage like this.

But those are the reasons why I have left churches. Not because of how comfortable a chair is, or the choir, or more. I left because of corruption, scandal and sexual abuse issues or the threat of them.  

 

Reston Bible Church of Dulles is in Sorry Shape if this is What Mike Minter is Proclaiming

I watched that video up above and shook my head in complete disgust. If that is what Mike Minter is saying I am deeply disappointed that he is a pastor. He doesn’t get it, or he lives so much in the bubble that he can’t see that issues that are affecting people today. Many evangelicals like to say people leave over the color of the carpet or more. But many people leave over legitimate reasons. Not trivial or minor factors at all. If Mike has been a pastor after all these years and that is what he is saying, he doesn’t get the issues going on today. Sexual abuse is major in evangelicalism. So is domestic abuse. I am sitting on a few stories I am trying to work into my production schedule about those topics. How could Mike Minter stumble so much on those issues? I just am shaking my head with deep disappointment because this is not a complicated issue. Anyone who is paying attention to the issues today should be in the know about issues like abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse and more.  

If there are problems with child sex abuse or domestic abuse at Reston Bible this blog will write about it and drag it out. Churches should not be engaged in disturbing coverups like that today. That is it Reston Bible I will write about you again soon.

 

6 thoughts on “Mike Minter of Reston Bible on Why People Leave a Church

  1. I watched the video, and he did actually say one good thing in it. He said that it was a good idea to sit down with people and actually find out the real reason they left. But then he also complained that people usually just disappear without saying goodbye. So it seems like most of the time he never has that conversation, and doesn’t actually know why people left. (I understand why people wouldn’t say goodbye. In a lot of cases, that last conversation is going to turn into an awkward attempt to coerce the person into staying, and why subject yourself to that when you’ve already made the decision to leave?)

    He spends a lot of his talk minimizing and trivializing people’s concerns. If people are leaving over lack of community, then maybe the church needs to put more effort into building community. If people are leaving because the “sermons are shallow”, maybe the sermons really are shallow!

    I agree with all your points about abuse. Everything in his talk seemed to be avoiding the issue of “sometimes people leave when there is a major problem that the church is mishandling.”

    But one of the ones that bothered me is “people don’t like change”. Because he missed the big thing staring him in the face: people do change. What they need from a church may change, or how much politicking from the pulpit they are willing to accept changes, or how much authoritarianism they are willing to accept may change, or of course they could simply deconvert, as I did. Of course, his video is meant as coaching for other pastors, and there’s nothing they can really do about people leaving because they changed. But he totally skipped over the hard questions, so he could just answer the easy ones.

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  2. People do indeed leave churches for the reasons listed in Minter’s piece. The problem is that the list is nowhere near complete, and it leaves off many other reasons people leave churches, some of which you note.

    There may be an aspect to his assessment that corresponds with something I personally experienced. My family was actively part of the same church for 27 years. Over that time we saw many people come and go. It was always disturbing to see an individual or family begin attending, become very active for a time, maybe quite a few years, and then suddenly disappear. I began attributing a lot of this to what I saw as a “consumer mentality” where people were looking more for what the church could give them and less what they could give to the church. I assumed that most of these people left because they weren’t getting some specific need(s) met, and wanted to look for it elsewhere. I found myself thinking that by following this consumer mentality, these people would probably be “church-hoppers” all their lives, always searching for something bigger or better, never being satisfied.

    Now, it may be true that some people possess something of this consumer mentality. But do you see what I did by believing this was the main reason for people coming and then leaving? In doing this, I put all of the onus on THEM, and did not consider the extent to which any problem might have been because of US, because of the church dynamics I was a part of. In hindsight, I see how I was casting blame in their direction and not acknowledging any potential fault on my/our part.

    That mindset was very self-justifying, and it was also very comfortable because it didn’t force me to examine myself and my actions. And I think that is a self-protecting tendency in churches (and in any organization, really), to assume that if someone leaves an organization it is because of some issue THEY have, and their departure is on THEM, not US.

    The reasons for leaving that are listed in the piece are ones that primarily put the onus on those who left the church, and not on any reason that might require any serious introspection on the part of the church. Because of having had this view myself in the past, I think that might be part of the mindset on display here.

    Just to close the loop on my own story, it was not until my family personally experienced some significant problems at the church (in part, inappropriate and harsh judgmentalism, followed by being made to feel that our voicing of concerns was somehow a worse problem than the judgmentalism we had experienced) that some of the scales fell away from the eyes, and we started to recognize some church’s problem dynamics that we had either been unaware of or had managed to ignore. That started a difficult personal struggle, and when we began struggling, we suddenly realized many others were struggling as well. We ultimately left the church, and many others who were struggling did so as well; the church lost about 2/3 of its attenders over a 2-3 year period. I often wonder if some of the people who had previously left over the years had experienced similar things, and I wonder if we had paid more attention to them and honestly discussed their reasons for leaving whether we might have been able to learn and address some of the underlying issues that ultimately caused the church to crumble from within.

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    • David H
      “That mindset was very self-justifying, and it was also very comfortable because it didn’t force me to examine myself and my actions”

      I just recently aware that the church I had been attending for last 14 years adopts a set of phrases to reinforce “self-justifying” mindset. One of these phrase is “people do what make sense to them”. So, when someone did or say something that is consider “out of line”, you will here people comment that “he or she is doing what make sense to them”.

      This little phrase coming sounds so “wise” but it is meaningless. Of course people do things that I don’t understand. I observed that this phrase is used for shunning people and give youself permission to not listen, to exercise care to find out what is going on in the other person’s life. You can use it for anything under the sun. I am ashamed that I bought into this type of garbage disguised as wisdom taught by the pastor for so long.

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  3. In no part of the video does he discuss issues like sexual, domestic or spiritual abuse. I am deeply disappointed that Mike Minter misses a major reason why people leave a church.

    Hits too close to home.

    “BLAME CANADA!
    BLAME CANADA!
    BEFORE ANYONE CAN THINK OF BLAMING US!”

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  4. “People don’t like change” is actually the primary reason people *remain*, even in abusive churches. They don’t want to change their place of worship, their community, their relationships, their way of life. I know a ton of people in my former church who simply put up with how the current leadership acts and just continue to roll their eyes and say nothing. They won’t leave. They’ll never leave. And I think the leadership of such churches relies on that “people don’t like change” mindset.

    No, if people leave, they want or need a change, or they’re seeing a legit change for the worse happening.

    Boiling Frog Syndrome.
    Look it up.

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    • This is a very good point, especially in regards to “long-timers” in a church or other organization. Sometimes there is a “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” resistance to leaving a situation, particularly when you’ve put down roots.

      The only thing that somewhat eased our difficulty in leaving our church of 27 years was that so many others had also left, to the point where the church no longer seemed like the one we had attended for so long.

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