Understanding the “Unchurched?” – Part 1

Understanding the “Unchurched?” – Part 1

In recent days, God has really placed a burden on my heart for the “lost” of our community. That concern has always been there, but the flame has certainly been turned up this past year. I am completely devoted to figuring out how to reach our community in Wichita Falls. If you’ve followed us on Facebook, you’ve seen that our new mission and vision at Faith Village is to be a church that is “About our Father’s Business”. Therefore, in all that we’re doing, from the spending of our money to the organization of our worship to our mission efforts, is done with this in mind. We’re simply asking, “Is this God’s business, or just ours?” Because if it’s not the Father’s business, we’re running from it. I’m traveling this week and speaking in Tennessee this morning, but our college minister at Faith Village is filling in for me about the Father’s business in the next generation. I know he will do a great job and will continue that vision.

Because let’s face it—if we’re going to reach that group called the “unchurched” (by definition: those who have no church home, not necessarily those who have no belief system), we have to understand them. We have to know what they think, and why they think what they think. We will never be able to influence them if we don’t know how they’re influenced. We have to be their friends before we’re their teachers. Think about it—you’ve never had a friend who didn’t care about you or tried to understand you. I haven’t either.

I’ve been reading the book, The Unchurched Next Door, by Thom S. Rainer. This book is opening my eyes to many things I’d never considered before. So for the next few weeks, I’d like to write on some of these lessons that you could implement in your congregation and/or use in your interaction with the “unchurched” of your community.

Here are two basic things I want to mention today:

  1. According to Rainer, there are different “levels” of the unchurched, what he respectfully and specifically calls the U5-U1 scale.

U5 being the most antagonistic, possibly even atheist. U1 being the most receptive and open to a life with Christ. Rainer argues, and I believe so correctly, that every unchurched individual fits into one of these five stages. They move stages at different speeds and different reasons. But an important key to reaching an “unchurched” person is figuring out which stage he or she is currently in. Translated into everyday terms: if someone is already at the U2 stage, they might take you up on the offer to have a Bible study; but, if someone is a U5 or even U4, the offer to have a Bible study will be met with great disgust and disdain because at that stage, they don’t acknowledge the Bible to be God’s word, just another book.

This makes a lot of sense. So many church members have told me before, “I offer to have Bible studies with my friends, but they never take me up on it.” And then those “church goers” get discouraged and begin to take it personal and never ask the “unchurched” to study the Bible again. Don’t take it personal. That unchurched friend of yours just may not be ready, but one day they will be IF you know the right questions to ask. Rainer argues that any question centered on community is much more successful. For example, if your church is having a weekend seminar, invite your friend to that seminar before you ask them to have a Bible study. Or invite them to your community group. Or a men’s day or ladies’ day. Or invite them to an activity of your Bible class. Or if you have a “special service”—Christmas, Easter, etc, invite them when attending church is probably already on their mind.

We have to know the right questions to ask, and we can’t begin with the climax. The goal is Bible study which leads into a life with Jesus, but give it time.

      2.  According to Rainer’s research, 82% of unchurched individuals, regardless of where they fell on the U5-U1 scale, said that if they were invited to attend church, they would probably go.

Did you hear that? Let me rephrase a different way—8 out of 10 people said that if you asked them to come to church with you this Sunday, they would probably go with you.

As a whole, we’ve stopped inviting people to church. We consider the church invitation like the ugly duckling asking the cheerleader to the school dance. We’ve decided they’ll say “no” before we even ask. That could be because we’re embarrassed by what we have to offer. We think they’ll be turned off by the melancholy way in which we sing. Or the aging facility. Or the poor communication skills of the preacher. And while those factors always need to be considered and addressed, they don’t KEEP people from coming. They may affect them from coming back (which is why they need to be addressed), but they don’t affect the first time visit one iota.

Honestly, when was the last time you asked someone to church with you who didn’t have a church home? We aren’t a church-inviting culture. And that’s a huge part of the problem. Not to mention it’s ludicrous for church leadership to believe their members will eventually ask their unchurched friends to have a Bible study, if they won’t even ask their unchurched friends to come to church.

Rather than talking about how badly the church is performing in the United States, let’s strive to correct it. Rather than just sending thousands and thousands of dollars overseas each year for a “lost world”, let’s open our doors and work in our “lost” communities, too. America needs Jesus just like any other country on the face of this planet, if not more.

So remember, learn to ask the right questions. And make sure that one of those questions always includes, “How about coming with me this Sunday?”
Are you up for the challenge?


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