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The faithful are restless, a new study of Protestant churchgoers suggests

They’re switching from church to church, powered by a mix of dissatisfaction and yearning, according to the study by LifeWay Research.

Most of the switchers who changed their house of worship without making a residential move (58%) way their old church failed to engage their faith, or put their talents to work, or it seemed hypocritical or judgmental.

But 42% of the people say they switched because another church offered more appealing doctrines and preaching or the preacher and church members’ faith seemed more “authentic.”

More than half (54%) of switchers changed denominations as well.  Fewer than half (44%) said denomination was an important factor in choosing a new church.

The study follows LifeWay’s 2006 research on 469 “formerly churched” Protestants who quit church altogether.

Of the switchers, 76% call themselves “devout Christian.”  Only 19% of the quitters said the same.

Although the LifeWay research finds most switchers move to larger churches, don’t blame megachurches for poaching the sheep, says Scott Thumma of Hartford Theological Seminary, author of an upcoming book, Beyond Meagchurch Myths, based on several studies of churches.

“The 1,200 or so megachurches (defined as churches where 2,000 or more people attend weekend worship) are only one-half of 1% of all U.S. churches and account for only 5% of all weekend worship attenders,” Thumma says.

“And my sense, after years of examining megachurches, is that 80% of the people who join, including those who go through new member classes, are gone within the first two years.”

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