Why Are So Many People Leaving the Church???

It seems like every month I come across more people who have left a church and have no intention to return any time soon. And I am not talking about just refusing to return to the specific church that they left. I mean any church at all. People gives lots of reasons for preferring bedside baptist to a traditional Christian fellowship. I was thinking about this after a conversation that I had today with fellow seminary students.

In a recent Pew research survey, the largest growth area was people who are not affiliated with any particular denomination or church. It seems that the largest unchurched group of people claiming to be Christians is young adults. Many of these college students or young professionals struggle to find their place in most churches, which tend to focus on kids or older adults.

I don’t think there is just one reason why people leave the church. It all depends on the person. Here are some of the most common reasons that I hear people decide to walk.

  • The church has lost touch with the real needs of people and is irrelevant in how it goes about fulfilling its mission.
  • I was wounded by something that happened in the church that will make it difficult for me to return any time soon.
  • Church leaders are living in a diluted state about the real problems and successes of their various ministries.
  • That church has become too conservative and political.
  • That church has become too liberal and humanistic.
  • Church takes up too much time and provides little tangible benefit.
  • Hypocritical leadership says one thing and does another.
  • Leaders have abused people in the congregation – just look at the Catholic church sex scandals.
  • The preaching sucks. The worship sucks. I just don’t get anything out of it. 
  • God told me to leave and go to ….
  • All of my friends are going to this great new place….
  • My old church was too big and impersonal.
  • My old church was too small and boring. 
  • Church today lacks real discipleship and effectiveness in helping me experience real life change.
  • I just don’t feel like there is a place for me there any more. My needs have changed.
  • I brought some concerns to the church leadership, and they just turned a blind eye.
  • I’m just too busy for church right now.
  • I don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian. My life has gotten better since I stopped going to church.
  • I need to take a break for church because I have gotten burnt out.

Feel free to suggest some of the reasons why you may have exited your old church. Some of the above reasons may be legitimate. Others may be selfish. Others may be neither justified nor improper.

I think the one thing that we have to keep in mind is that although churches are made up of people, they should always be about more than just our personal agendas. All local churches exist for God not for men. While our personal tastes should play a role in our decisions, ultimately, we should fellowship where we sense that God places us.

Church may change in form from a megachurch to a home church, but our need for true fellowship and discipleship remains. God designed us to grow in community. Living alone as a Christian is never a good decision in the long run.


32 responses to “Why Are So Many People Leaving the Church???

  1. I have left church as I found it full of nervous, narrow minded people often hostile to others outside their beliefs and world view. I became tired of women’s second rate status, (despite their huge contribution to the church); no matter how nicely they try to present a woman’s place, it is still secondary to men. The male anthropomorphic God/Trinity who all have male gender was also unsatisfactory. When one reads the life of Jesus, it is so opposite to the modern Evangelical or Pentecostal church! So I left! Have found renewed Christian spirituality elsewhere. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your response, Jen. I am wondering just where you found renewed Christian spirituality. Can you share it?


  2. Hi Jeff,
    Thank you for your time to answer. I have been reading the Bible’s Wisdom Literature, the writings of Meister Eckhart (the 13th century writer, NOT Eckhart Tolle), Julian of Norwich, spending time with Nature and learning to sit quietly in Contemplation and Meditation. It has been a great blessing.
    As yet I have not found a Christian Community where I live who follow this path. So I continue to live out the active part of my faith as a full time carer, and hopefully will one day find like minded people.
    Bless you, Jen.

    • Thanks for sharing with me Jen. Looks like some good reading. I too enjoy contemplation and meditation. Might I suggest some reading from Thomas Merton? He was a Trappist monk from an Abbey in Kentucky. I’ve never read Meister Eckhart, I’ll have to give him a try. Can you suggest any specific books of his? God bless you as you seek greater intimacy with Him. Jeff

      • I have just read Thomas Merton’s “Zen and the Birds of Appetite”. I am planning to read “Seeds of Contemplation” next.
        A good Meister Eckhart book is “Meister Eckhart Selected Writings” ( selected and translated by Oliver Davies. A Penguin Classic pub 1994.
        Bless your journey, Jen.

  3. I really appreciate your comments. I have started to meditate and chew on the bible itself. The scriptures Joshua 1:8 states if you meditate on this book of the law day and night you will be successful in all your ways. Also Psalm 1:1 states that you will be blessed if you meditate on the bible. I have read all kinds of books for contemplation and meditation and it is awesome how the Holy Spirit opened up the scriptures as i did what it said. I am not sure where this will lead as to community. I do feel called to be a minister after the opening up of Scriptures and the love of God that has been revealed to me through Jesus. I am so looking for people to commune with and relate with who really want to practice the love of God. God bless.

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  5. I did not leave the Catholic church. I was shunned because I did not give tons of money and as it was put a “person of quantity and quality.”I was tired of having to beg for the scaraments and everything else. When my brother died the priest rushed past me and would not even meet with me to help with the burial. They did not baptise my babies when they died, denied the sacraments to my children when I went after a sex offender in the Catholic Church. So keep your church and your priests. God knows my heart and God knows theirs.

  6. Church people are mean.

    • Well considering how many hundreds of millions of church people of various stripes and persuasions there are in the world, many would have good reason to consider your cryptic comment mean too. But I hope you’re not. ; )

  7. I have left because the church is full of lies and cover ups. I want the truth and noting else!

  8. Why do we meet together as believers locally? We are to serve God first then other believers. The best way to do this is by meeting in a local church. It is not about what I personally want or need.
    My church is small and many would think it was boring, but I go there to serve God and my fellow believers. What I want comes last.
    Jesus has the right attitude in Luke 22:42 – saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” “This cup” refers to his death.
    People are “me” minded today. If they are hurt or sinned against, they focus on their needs first instead of seeing what their fellow Christians may need. God loved all of us not just the “perfect ones.” Forgiveness goes along way.
    Look at Joseph in Genesis 50. While his brothers were sining against him, he wept for them and COMFORTED them! What an amazing example of God’s love for all of us.
    I am not saying here that God wants one to stay in one church forever. Sometimes, there are honestly good reasons for people changing churches. However, I believe that I would need to have scripture to back up my reasons for leaving. In the end, I would probably find more reasons for staying at that church. Because it is not about me but God and others.
    The greatest commandment which is threaded throughout the Bible is to love God and others.
    See Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:34-40, “But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Law and prophets refers to the Old Testaments.
    I am not wanting to offend anyone or argue. This is just my view and what I believe to be right based on God’s word.

  9. The church today, by and large, has unfortunately been reduced to a schedule of certain expectable events, crammed into an hour on a Sunday morning. The goal is often to get as many people in and out of the numerous services in a weekend as possible, duplicating the service as closely as possible each time. Ultimately, this is because Christians have lost sight of the one thing that is most important–intimacy with the Lord and loving the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. For the most part, churches today and the decisions that are made about how to lead the church bodies are determined by “fear of man” and by money. The leaders and staff of a church are often primarily concerned most, above all other things, about keeping people coming on Sunday mornings and catering to what the people want in order to sustain a consistent congregation. This is because the church has been “professionalized”, and the leaders of a church are driven to do things in a way that will keep the tithe money coming in. They aren’t believing that God will provide what they need (NEED–not want), and therefore their decisions and leadership are consumed by their own efforts in their own strength to keep themselves afloat. On the whole, “professional church” is lifeless, stale, and in many ways nothing like what the church was intended to be. People know this and feel this. People aren’t looking for the next best “12-step plan” on how to be a better “this” or “that” or the next best process for becoming a “good Christian” and living a “good life”. What people are truly hungry for and looking for, even if they haven’t quite realized it or pinpointed it, is real experience and real encounter with the real, true Living God that is found in the Bible. God is calling people back to a place of intimacy–to the place of PRAYER. God is bringing his people back to their first love–Him. We can’t know or serve a God that we don’t love. And we can’t love a God that we haven’t experienced or encountered. And we can’t experience or encounter God if we are only concerned about getting in and out of our regular Sunday morning cookie cutter services as the next biggest church on the corner. God wants to encounter people as much as they want to encounter Him, but they have lost sight of their first love and have become “adulterous” (adulterous unto the Lord, giving themselves over to other things, like Israel did in the Old Testament). The time has come for us to enter back into the place of prayer–sitting before the Lord in prayer. Not spilling a list of our “prayer requests” to the Lord, but simply being before Him, in His presence, learning to hear Him and know His voice, receiving revelation from Him, and being made a pure and spotless bride for Christ when He returns.

    • One of the most awesome articles I have ever read, regarding the battles facing today’s churches. You have nailed it for me, seriously. I am a Ordained Minister at my current church (probably ~800 people) and for the last year or so, it just seems to be about entertaining the people. One big Hollywood drama “show” after another here lately. Money seems to be the king,not Jesus Christ the real King. Anyway, great article ! Be blessed.

    • Eric..PLEASE email me!!!!!!!!!!! Thank You and God Bless. Denis

    • I love Eric’s Post. this is the truth.and in my person witness people have left the church for selfish reasons.

  10. I left my church of 10 years after it became nothing more than a social club. There is no reverence, people dress like they’re attending a garage sale, there’s eating and drinking during the service, people surfing the internet on their iPhones during the sermon, etc. And it’s all justified erroneously with Paul’s “I’m all things to all people”. Please. Recently the pastor dressed up like a farmer and sang Broadway show tunes to introduce his “Fruit of the Spirit” series. Another of his sermons started out with a 10 minute review of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. The really sad thing is that this claims to be a non-denominational Bible church. I’ve heard people say that it’s not growing because visitors find the gospel offensive. No, like me, they find worldliness in church offensive. I doubt I’ll find a real church any time soon…they’re all fixated on being contemporary, visitor friendly, come as you are, not offensive, etc. Come on in, sit back, enjoy the show, leave satisfied. Enough was enough.

  11. Jesus said, everyone would recognize his disciples as disciples in this – “that you love one another”. It sounds like Hallmark card stuff until you actually live in a faith community of real people with very real problems and all their pettiness ….and try to love them. All the ugliness we endure are not distractions from the walk of faith…they are integral to it. They are crosses to be borne not with self-pitying resignation, but by seeing the joy God sets before us. Mean people are needy people. And all the reactions driven by recrimination lead to more of the same. It may be subtle, but if you grow bitter, superior and resentful, you will be much more like those against whom you react. “consider how to spur one another on to love and good works” (Heb. 12) will get you a lot farther than ‘find a place free from narrow-minded sinners where you can find fulfillment’.

  12. I left the church in my late 20’s (now mid 60’s) because I could now longer reconcile what I was being taught with what I was seeing with my own eyes. So much church teaching just didn’t add up for me. I am very intuitive by nature. I only wanted to know the TRUTH!
    It took many years of searching till I found answers.
    I found evolution theory so full of holes and the church theory didn’t stack up either.
    My enlightenment began when a friend loaned me a book by Zecharia Sitchin, a scholar of ancient cuneform and Hebrew texts.
    Since that time I have learned that the theologians have been pulling the wool over the eyes of church goers since the church was formed.
    The real story of Genesis is not what you have been taught at church or sunday school but a fascinating story of our true beginnings.
    Please do your own research 🙂

  13. Pamela McCarthy

    I left the church because God told me to. Satan is taking over the physical church(his answer to Jesus’ church) He gave me a vision years ago that the church would fall. As some of His people are still in some physical churches, time will tell when the physical churches are in complete darkness, as the light of Jesus won’t be there. It’s getting worse and worse, and especially, since I’ve left the church, God has revealed more and more to me how different He is than what physical churches teach—we’re being taken out of bondage….(many others call this an exodus) and learning Who God is by His Truth, not “doctrine of men”. However, get ready to be hated and to be called rebellious, a sinner, a backslider…. Praise God! I’ve even been accused of serving Satan instead of Jesus….no big surprise, Jesus already showed us how it should be for His people. I wait with expectancy to see what happens next.

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  16. I believe church was never intended to be the way we have seen it over the past 2000 years. Satan has set up a church that looks like God’s Church but does not follow what the Creator commands us to do. Christ told us to pray in private yet Church advocates prayer in public. Christ said do your alms in secret. Church’s publish every “good work”. Christ said wash our brother’s feet to be a part of Him, Church celebrates Easter instead of Passover. Christ said remember His sacrifice, death and resurrection, Church celebrates His Birth (On the day of a pagan god). Hebrews says the Levitical priesthood has been replaced by Christ, Church’s demand we give our offerings to the ministries. The list goes on and on.

  17. Eric- thank you for taking the time to share such insightful, inspiring words. Here is part of an as of yet unpublished short read that I have been working on.
    The following article is meant to provoke thought, not controversy. It is important to understand the possibility of innocence on the part of any spiritual leaders who may see themselves in what is portrayed here. It is my sincere hope that any leader who has left grace behind in order to follow another revelation will see the error of his ways and return to his “first love” (Rev. 2:4-5) Why do you believe what you believe? The apostle Paul told Christians to be ready to give an answer for why they believe what they say they believe.” (1 Peter 3:15)
    Beyond what is popular, beyond what we like to hear, beyond what feels good, lies the most important aspect of life,-Truth. The ‘church’, needs to be the ‘Church’. Not a life sapping institution, but rather a life giving one. For this indeed is the ‘Church’ that He is returning for.( ref)

    When William Wilbourforce spoke out against the slave trade in Britains house of commons, he was heckled, and disregarded by the others. But he kept working towards change, believing change could come.. and finally it did. The abolishiment of the old world slave trade came to be. I pray daily that change and Awakening will come to the ‘Church’, and that it will return to representing the True Body of Christ. Imagine the changes that could sweep the globe, if Churches would take an introspective look at the ‘spirit’ they are reproducing today. Live for Truth.

    ‘Club Church or Body of Christ’

    The title says it all. Which are you an active member in and why? Sound like confusing questions? They really are to a lot of people. Most people who go to church on Sunday think they are doing something that brings them closer to God. Are they? Does going to a weekly service, giving ten percent of your earnings, and spending time with other like minded individuals actually bring about some sort of extra favor from God? What did Christ come to earth to give to you and me?
    Why do you believe what you believe? Was it something that you were just taught growing up and decided to go along with? Perhaps maybe you have a sense of ownership for your faith, and it has become a genuine passion in your life. Why is it your passion then? Is it just because its the popular thing to do or way to think?
    Why are there so many churches, yet still so many un-cared for numbers of people out there? Could it be that so many in churches are missing the real message from the One they have devoted their lives to serving? How is it there are only certain individuals special enough to have a “word from God,” to have salaries paid for by the people around them, and yet not be accountable to the very individuals that they claim to lead? Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, “The scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.” (Matthew 23:1) This “chair” was actually referring to a ‘seat of authority’, one which many claim to have today. It is important to know that True authority demonstrates authenticity. The basis of Jesus authority was clearly not an office, a role, or a position, because He had none of these things. It was based on who He was, the Truth, the Life, the Way. For us it is based on the evidence of the Holy Spirit living within us. There are many attributes such as maturity, genuine Love, True knowledge and wisdom, which evidence the authority that He spoke of. The “Im a pastor”, or ” I’m your spiritual leader, that’s why” is never an answer reflective of Truth. If the base for my authority is that I hold an office or a position, then it is a false basis of authority.

    The Bible tells us that the ..”enemy shall come as an angel of light, seeking to destroy.” I submit that one need to look no further than their local church to find this angel of light today. It is a sad reality, but true none the less. There are more false teachers and those claiming to be spiritual authorities today than ever before in history. The sad part is that most of them believe their own delusions and have accepted them as a replacement for TRUTH. They have created, and promoted once again, a formula on how to get to God and achieve His favor.

    The tide is changing though, just as Gods Word said it would in the final days of this life on earth. People are much more savy today towards the snake oil salesman type religious leaders that use to have such influence over them. They are realizing that many of the things they once thought were so important aren’t really, and those things which seemed insignificant before, suddenly have much more relevance to them. What is causing such an attenativeness to these issues you may ask? The answer couldn’t be more clear,- Wide spread abuse and Spiritual manipulation by false teachers world-wide. People who are serving themselves, ‘denominations’, or ‘associations’ rather than God.

    People have become so lazy and cater so much to their right to themselves, that they literally are walking through life blind to Truth. Many don’t know why they believe what they say they do, and many simply don’t really care to find out either. They prefer to just be blind, because it’s easier and it keeps their life more simple, so they think.
    Why do we have church every week? Is it in the Bible that people gathered every week to attend a service? (answer: no, weekly church services are something that has evolved through generational traditions.) Where is it written that people gave ten percent of there weekly earnings to the church? (answer: Not in the Bible. This is a topic all in itself, and people should really know why they are giving. Hopefully it is not to gain anything.) An example would be how people tithe to their church and want a reciept to claim it on their taxes. Is this really giving without expectation of something in return? It’s sad how many ‘institutions’ will feed this type of thinking though. It’s time to push aside the spiritual pedestals that so many claiming to be in “ministry” have allowed themselves to be lifted to. I can only believe that if Christ were to come to earth today, he would be flipping the tables over in the same “Club Church” as He did over two thousand years ago.

    Again, the intent is not to stir up people or cause divisivness among Christians but rather nail down the differences between what represents Truth and what represents falsehood. These as well as other questions are what many people of todays generation are asking. We need to attempt to answer them in a way which promotes genuine thought, and a desire for others to really know why they believe what they say they do. For many this information can mean True Freedom, but for others it may be something they don’t want to hear. Truth be told, if you only listen to what you want to listen to, then you probably will never hear what God wants to tell you. But don’t take my word for it, take His. It was made quite clear that ..“in the last day’s people will given over to strong delusion.” They will “..seek out those who will tell them what there itching ears want to hear.” “Always learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the Truth.” When Christ walked this earth one of His primary tasks was to expose what the “church” had become back then. His confrontations seemed to always fall on the religious leaders of that time, those who saw themselves as Gods “official” spokesperson. He referred to them as “wolves in sheeps clothing, seeking to devour.” He also likened them to “whitewashed tombs, full of dead mens bones; ..everything they do is for men to see.” His message was different than what they had ever heard. Rather than tying up heavy loads of spiritual performance on the people through His teachings, He came to relieve their burdens. His teachings offered hope and rest, and people flocked to Him because of it. “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Mathew 11:28-30.)

    We are in the begining of the ‘Final Awakening’ for mankind. The ‘church’ as we have known it is becoming the Body of Christ, which it was intended to be. The people who make up His Body, are awakening to what True love is. Pastors are awakening to the need to hear what God wants to say to them through their “flock”, realizing that they are all followers of Him. “If my people which are called by my name will HUMBLE themselves, pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This Word from God applies to everyone, from the top of the Church leadership, to the newest attender in the crowd.
    Joey Sweet

  18. People should realize that true Christians are the church, and it has nothing to do with going to a building on Sundays or Saturdays.When they started this, the church was broken up into factions,(a divided church will not stand).When Christians realize this, they will move out of those factions and become one again.2 Thessalonians 2 verses 1 to 12 tells you about the great falling away of the church.This has to happen just before Jesus comes for his bride.And I see it happening all over, I don’t know why, but I hope true Christians wake up and know that the church is more than just a building, it is true Christians or the bride waiting for her groom (Jesus).

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  20. I just started attending church with my husband and kids 7 months ago. I have become a member gotten involved in everything they do and yet it doesn’t feel right. It all seems like public relations for the church. The outreach seems forced, and they have a new fundraiser or change something every single weekend. The cost in money and donations and time aside from the two services a week gets to be exhausting, The women in the church act very nice to your face and then run and tell the pastor if they think you’re doing something wrong. I became an ordained minister online to marry my best friend and when they found out about it they all flipped out?! Not their business at all! They just went and “tattled” on me and I got an awkward call from the pastor and now I don’t even want to go back to church there. The outreach stuff we plan in the ladies ministry and spend hours in meetings to discuss gets changed at the last minute by the pastor who seems to feel he must always have a finger in every single thing even small things like potlucks and dinners. I was singing with the praise team and my husband also would sit in on bass guitar and we would practice all week for Sunday service (new songs we didn’t know) and they would change the songs the day of or the evening before which learning new songs on a guitar is not easy. The songs and music were always a train wreck. The pastors teenage daughters are rude and mean to newcomers… vey unfriendly. The family runs the church and it’s really about the things “they” are doing not who it benefits, which seem to only be the church pastoral family who might I mention all carry both IPADS and I PHONES !. When I went out on my own to start a clothing program for women in the community (not connected to the church) they took it on as part of them and then tried to tell me how to run my program and the pastor then let me know that you must have years of schooling and testing to be qualified to be an ordained minister. I’m pretty sure Jesus had no such schooling that seems like something man invented to make people superior to others. I wasnt trying to be a pastor but instead of asking why, I was made to feel like a villain. I thought that my love of helping people and giving them of myself qualified me to do good in Gods eyes. Im not feeling that God thought it wrong of me to become an ordained minister so I could be a big part of my best friends special day as she wishe me to be. God told me outreach is what I was to do, so I listened and I am met with jealousy and gossip. So I am done with it (church ) I am going to do some real outreach that benefits people… not a building.. That’s why some people leave church.

  21. Michelle Burgess

    I don’t believe my reason for leaving the church was selfish in anyway and because of my experience I am very careful not to be judgmental to those who have left. Jesus loves everyone.
    I went to a homegroup and ended up Spritually abused, I had panic disorder for 3 years and would literally dry retch and vomit when I heard the word God (which funnily enough means love) God is Love.
    Therefore I do not judge, I love. And the reason the Church is declining is because we do not love one another.

  22. I am a 17 year old and I see 3 Main ones out I
    Side of yours science , hypocerce and just want to live their own lives

  23. I think the problem is not Christianity itself,but when its to conservative and extreme on literal interpretaion of the Bible it runs people away from God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit. There is meaning behind the Bible but it is to hard to know whether it is literal truth, spiritual truth, some sort of an example maybe through parables of Jesus or examples from Jesus.There is a lot of passages in the Bible that are good but if you take all of it be literal there is a quite bit that seems to be morally questionable in a literal sense. Maybe most of the Bible cannot be interpreted or understood by men and their finite minds. For instance, would you literally take your child out and stone them to death for cursing at you? This is found in the OT and NT. Would you pluck both your eyeballs out, chop both your hands off, cut your tongue off or take your brain out of your head to keep you from sinning? I am also not saying that this happened but could it be possible men may have left things out of the Bible or may have corrupted a majority of it. I think God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit exist because of the spirituality and uplifting presence I find in Them. I know I am very far from perfect and pray everyday to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. Another thing with conservative christian churches they believe women should be inferior to man, they always talk about how wicked gay/lesbian people are, and they always talk about how abortion should outlawed completetly. So having an abortion is murder if the baby is going to be a complete vegetable but it is not murder when someone you love is in a tragic accident and in a coma and if they did come out if it they would be a complete vegetable. So what do you do you pull the plug for you would not want your loved one to have to live like that. What is the difference? Also I find some gay/lesbian people to be the nicest people there is. Yet,you are disgusted by them because of misinterpretation of the Bible, or from strict doctrine that has nothing to do with modern ages. You judge everyone else to be very sinful when you are out sinning yourself. Some of Christ’s most important teachings are love the Lord your God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Another very important commandment of Jesus is judge not lest ye be judged. It also seems that some poor people in these fundamentalist churches and those of different ethnic background in white fundamentalist churches are looked down upon. I think God gave us a brain to reason and to look into other things besides being closed-minded to other God-given things in this world.

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