The Failure of Atheist Churches

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In major cities around the English-speaking world, people gather under the guise of church, but they have one distinct purpose: to have fellowship without God.

The Sunday Assembly, founded in 2013 by atheists in London, was extremely popular during its early days and spread to the US. People came in droves to eat doughnuts, chat with friends, sing pop songs, and listen to a motivational speaker.

But in the last few years, there has been a steady decline in attendance. In 2016, the Sunday Assembly New York chapter averaged about 5,000 in total attendance at 70 different chapters across the city. Now, they’re down to 3,500 attendees at 40 different chapters.

Why? According to an Atlantic article, “There just weren’t enough people. Making a congregation happen basically meant putting on a big show on a regular basis. Somebody needed to book bands, find speakers, set up chairs, and pick up snacks.”

Even Anne Klaeysen, a New York chapter board member, believes the group “wasn’t sustainable.”

Linda Woodhead, a scholar of religion and culture at Lancaster University in the UK, says, “Meeting in a building with the same group every week . . . I don’t think there’s any natural need for that.” She also believes community is not enough to keep people coming. They need a common, powerful motivation.

Organizations without God are failing because people don’t merely need community. They need an energizing purpose. The failure of counterfeits like the Sunday Assembly highlight the power of the gospel message and the Holy Spirit to unite people. Christ gives us our ultimate purpose. When we repent and trust Christ for salvation (2 Peter 3:9), we receive new, eternal life, as well as a new purpose: glorifying God and living in fellowship with the family of believers.

Answers Magazine

November–December 2019

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