In a few posts, I'd like to summarize for you some insights from Thomas Rainer's book, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched.
The unchurched-- people who are either unbelievers or inactive Christians-- are who we are trying to reach. No, it's who we should be trying to reach. We are going to have to reach them at an increasing rate. Better to start now than in 10 years when the situation for the average American church is going to be desperate.
Rainer looked at a number of unchurched people and also at pastors who are reaching the unchurched. It's eye-opening stuff.
Let me say at the start that even tho I am constantly warning about the coming decline of the church in America, I am optimistic. I have mentioned a number of times that I am optimistic because the Lord knows exactly what to do in times like we are facing. The New Testament is a manual for precisely the times we face and will face increasingly. The Book of Acts. Nuff said.
Ok-- so Rainer jumps in with some myths about the unchurched.
Myth 1: "Most unchurched think and act like Anglo, middle class suburbanites with not church background."
I must say, this is going to be hard for the church, which has generally been a place of "good behavior.". What will we do with people coming out of addictions? People who have been formed by secular culture? It is going to be hard, charitable work.
Myth 2:"The unchurched are turned off by a denominational name in the church name.". This is actually pretty good news for Unite Methodists, as we have a very good reputation among the unchurched. Stop naming your church something or other Community church.
Myth 3: "the unchurched never attend church." they are there at Easter and Christmas and sometimes they come just to make sure church is still as lame and hypocritical as they think it is!
Myth 4: "the unchurched cannot be reached by direct personal evangelism." It is critical to not only invite people to church, but to invite them to accept Christ!
Myth 5:"The pastor Must be a dynamic and charismatic leader..." Good news here! Just be faithful!!!
Myth 6: "The Church should not communicate deep and complex Biblical truths that will confuse the unchurched.". Rainer will later discuss that doctrine is a critical issue in reaching the unchurched. People want to go deep... Maybe because they know the root of sin goes deep?
Myth 7: "Sunday school and other small groups are ineffective in attracting the unchurched." The formerly unchurched are more likely to be active in Sunday school than transfer members!
Myth 8: "The most important evangelistic relationships are in the marketplace [your network of acquaintances]". While not downplaying this, Rainer says that family relationships prove to be the most significant.
Myth 9: "The unchurched are concerned only about their own needs." Te unchurched come to church often for their children. Rainer doesn't say this, but I wonder if the Methodist good name is a factor for us UMs as our good name comes largely from the perception that we do a lot of good in mission?
I am pumped to share some of the other insights Rainer shows in his book. It's important for us to look squarely at the challenges we face, but also to know the Lord is with us.
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