There is a steady stream of committed Christians that have given up on church services. I’ve been listening to their stories for many years.
While each story is unique one common dynamic is disconnection. People sit in a crowd and feel alone and disconnected.
There is a field of psychology called attachment theory. If you wanted to sound unscientific you could call it the love theory. It is all about how people bond with each other. In the research there is a big focus on early childhood development and how children bond with their mothers. It is used in couple’s therapy as well. What we’ve discovered is that attachment is an emotional bond.
For example, marriages work when each partner is securely attached to the other. Our bond grows when our interactions with each make us feel valued and cared for. We feel valued when people respond to our needs, when they listen attentively, and when they take care of us when we are hurting. Conversely that bond deteriorates when we feel like we don’t matter, when people don’t respond when we express a need, and when they don’t listen to what we are saying.
Just like the interactions between spouses or mother and their children, each interaction between a person a community is an opportunity for connection or disconnection. The key is that each side knows that the other is there for them. If people feel like they don’t matter, only what they offer the community or organization matters, they will drift emotionally from the group. The undercurrent of emotional disconnection will subtly weaken commitment to the group, until people don’t have the energy to commit anymore. Then they become alone in a crowd.