Surprising Insights from the Unchurched
My pastor gave me this book to read, as I’ve been recently doing a lot of reading on why people go to church, or more specifically, why people are no longer going to church. Many atheists would like to believe that people are determining that the Word of God is false, but I’m more convinced that the problem isn’t with the Word of God, but with us, His messengers.
Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them covers a study that was done by Thom S. Rainer and spends a lot of its focus on a specific group of people—those that were not coming to church but that are now coming for a significant stretch of time.
The concept is solid—if you’re going to find out why people are leaving or what makes people attend church in the first place, it’s best to ask those that were previously unchurched why they came back.
From the very start of the book you realize that what you believe about the unchurched and what they say about themselves are two vary different things. For example, if I were to ask you what you believe is the leading factors of why an unchurched person chooses a church, I’m sure it would surprise you to find out that the number one and two items, by a surprising amount, have nothing to do with the Sunday School, Children’s ministries, Worship Style or Location. In fact, the first two items are the Pastor/Preaching and the Doctrine.
Most of the book examines the rest of the survey results and digs into what a church can do to have more of the unchurched come. It talks about how to build leaders out of those that are attending and how to make sure that your doctrine stays pure.
One of the things that the author begrudgingly admits is that people can be turned away by first impressions, even if they would normally agree with the doctrines. The author states that he does not like to say it, but that aesthetics can present a roadblock to those searching for Christ.
The other big idea that I got from this book was those that are closest to accepting the Lord and attending church are those that have family in the church and those that once attended.
While I appreciate the logical and rational presentation, often I was left to wonder while reading this book about the role of God in reaching the lost. I mean when you start breaking down people into likelihood of conversion based on their familiarity with church goers, I begin to wonder whether we’re forgetting Who is really in charge of saving souls.
While one might be encouraged by the concept that there are people that are more easily reached, I think we also need to be careful that we don’t take these numbers as the Gospel and start only reaching out to these people. The call is to reach all people, to tell everyone of the Gospel.
That being said, this does give any of those looking to reach people for Christ the tools he needs to help his church not to be a stumbling block in the way of those that are seeking.