As long as the church has been existence, it has sought ways to relate with the surrounding culture for sake of the gospel. This has never been more the case than at our present time. Many Christians have awoken from a slumber and have found the culture around them has vastly changed from whence they once knew. Some would say that the church is in a crisis and is losing ground at winning the world for Christ. Yet, many believe that the church finds itself in an opportune place to find its voice in the midst of a noisy world. This is what George Barna and David Kinnaman discuss in their new book Churchless published by Tyndale House.
Based on current research, Barna and Kinnaman discuss the reality that more and more people are leaving the church. Many people who would now be considered “churchless” were once “churched.” Some people are growing bored with church, stating that it does not have any bearing on their daily lives. Others, however, are leaving the church because they have been hurt. Yet, there is also a growing number of Americans who are not church because they have never been to church in their lifetime. In effort to counteract the growing trend of people leaving the church, churches employ methods to reach them. What is interesting is that many of the methods that churches employ in an attempt to reach out are no longer effective. According to Churchless, unchurched people are less likely to visit a church for the first time based on marketing strategies such as mailouts, commercials, billboards, church signs, etc. Unchurched people are also less likely to visit a church based on phone calls and door to door outreach tactics. The data does show, however, that unchurched people are more likely to visit a church if they are personally invited by a friend or if they see the church involved in the local community.
Barna and Kinnaman point out that, in regards to relationship evangelism, unchurched people know when they are being considered a project to be finished. As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In relationships, most people want to know that you truly care about them. As believers, we have relationships with people that we will never see come to Christ, but it is important that they see Christ in us. Unchurched people are not projects to be finished by churched people, they are people to be loved and shown the grace of Christ.
In the end, the best way to reach the unchurched is for the church to be an attractive community on mission for Jesus. My favorite quote from the book is, “people don’t come to church for the carnival rides, they come to meet God.” The church must never lose sight of its identity as the bride of Christ. There is something about the intimacy of genuine community that is attractive to most people. As an attractive community, the church is a people who is desperately in love with Jesus because of the grace He has shown them. The love of Jesus then overflows in acts of mercy for people in the community who are also in desperate need of Jesus. When the church does not focus on numbers and money, but on glory of God in the face of Jesus, the watching world sees Jesus and not a spiritualized rotary club!
Churchless is a book that I highly recommend to pastor’s and church leaders who are serious about making a dent in this generation for Christ. As missionaries in our culture we must know what we are up against and this book sheds light upon our current situation. The “Forward Thinking” section challenges the reader to think critically about how the church can be salt and light in a culture that is ever hostile to the church and religion. My prayer is that as the church we not freak out about the statistics, but we focus on the One who can help change the statistics!
I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review of the book.