Just Ask

82% of unchurched people would probably accept an invitation to church.

Isn’t that incredible? And they would be much more likely to go if they were asked by a friend, family member, or colleague. This information is from a book I have been reading called The Unchurched Next Door. This book, by Thom Rainer, is based on research gathered from interviews with unchurched people across the US and Canada. Rainer defines an unchurched person as one who attends church fewer than five times a year.

Sadly, Rainer also reports that only 21% of church-goers invite anyone to church in the course of a year, and only 2% invite an unchurched person. Yet, there are 160 million unchurched people in America. If we all started asking, and even if only half (instead of 82%) accepted our invitations…well that would be incredible.

There are many other wonderful insights I’d like to share from this book, and I am only in chapter two. But, for now, there is one more important bit of information Rainer and his team gathered from their research:

Most of the unchurched would rather talk to a layperson than a minister about religious matters

You see, people, even unchurched people, have this understanding that it is the minister’s job to talk to others about Christ. So, an unchurched person getting a call or visit from a minister may be appreciated, but is not likely to be nearly as effective as the average Christian making the same call or visit. They believe the minister only calls because it is his job; but if a “regular” Christian calls then it is because he truly cares. At least that’s the way it is perceived. But, perceptions are very important.

Rainer writes:

The sad reality we discovered in our study was that very few of the unchurched population have heard about Christ from a layperson. Yet the unchurched as a rule would like to talk to someone other than clergy about religious matters. The silence of Christians may be one of the greatest tragedies in the church today

So, what does this all mean? That you have an incredible opportunity that you probably are not taking advantage of. You have friends, family, and co-workers who are waiting for you to ask them to go to church. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to have the Bible memorized. You don’t have to be able to explain the eschatological implications of the atoning aspect of soteriology.

You just have to ask.

Who will you invite to church this week?

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10 thoughts on “Just Ask

  1. I’ve thought about this before, if they were giving away free groceries at the store Christians wouldn’t hesitate at all to tell EVERYONE they know about this wonderful GIFT! but somehow sharing the great news of salvation or recalling to others the wonderful worship experience they had in church last Sunday with people is “taboo”. I really have to wonder what exactly is/isn’t going on inside the church’s of this country that apparently isn’t worth sharing with others…I believe what you’re saying is the reality of what Jesus said about “the harvest being plentiful but the workers are few”

    • We certainly have some reservations about talking about church or God or Jesus. I am not sure why, except a general fear of rejection. We need to learn to move past that.

      Thanks for your comments.

  2. Hey Clint,

    I’ve got this book, but I’ve only thumbed through it. Not sure about some of the assumptions they are making or the way they worded some of the survey questions but I’ll have to look at it more to have much of an opinion.

    Have you read ‘unChristian’ by Kinnaman? I think it would be an interesting parallel to what you’re thinking about here.

    • I got about half way through “UnChristian” before I got side-tracked. For some reason I had a hard time staying interested in it. Of course, Kinnaman’s research and book focused on 16-29 year-olds. But, I do see some parallels between his research and Rainer’s. It seems Kinnaman focused on specifics in perceptions of the church whereas Rainer focused on potential receptivity. So, a 24 year-old might have a generally negative perception of some aspects of the church, but be receptive to a Christian friend who lives a sincere faith.

      Anyway, I think I am sticking with Rainer better because it is more positive in approach. I would recommend reading it.

      • I’ve never actually read ‘unChristian’ either, but I’ve heard a lot of other people talking about it and I think I kind of get the gist.

        My impression about the Rainer book (please correct me) is that it seems to focus on getting people to ‘go to church’ rather than on making disciples.

        We’ve had much more success becoming friends with people, maybe getting them to come to our small group, etc. and then much later having them attend ‘church’ with us. . .not saying that’s the right thing all the time. It’s just that church can be intimidating and weird for people who aren’t used to it. If they know not just one person, but a group of people there (a small group for example), it makes it a lot easier.

      • Rainer does talk a lot about inviting…but not just to church. In fact, he says that there are some unchurched who would be more likely to go to a home Bible study than a church. And he also says many times that it is much better to take the unchurched to church, or meet them there outside to walk in with them and sit with them and show them around. They are intimidated, but many want to go, and would go if they had someone to help them get past their intimidation.

        I believe he also assumes that disciple-making is going on in the church…so getting them there through invitation gets them in touch with those efforts.

        But I also tend to agree with you in general…that it is better to study with a person before bringing them to church. An invitation is not enough. They must be taught the gospel.

    • I haven’t been able to share it much yet (except on here). Although I have mentioned in sermons before about people tending to respond better to the average Christian rather than to a minister. And it seems church members generally agree with that, but it is hard for them to get past the fear of talking about their faith.

      I believe I got that idea/info from Rainer’s other book, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched (which I would also recommend). It is research of formerly unchurched individuals who became Christians and regular church attenders.

  3. One other personal observation. . .

    In the past, I’ve been hesitant to invite people to church because of the ignorance, closed mindedness, and intolerance that is manifested there. I’ve been too embarrassed by it to want to bring one of my friends there. Is this awful? Arrogant? Maybe so.

    I don’t feel that way so much now. I feel pretty good about our church and the direction its headed and think we’ve got a decent vision of the mission of God. I think millennials especially are attracted to be a part of making a difference in the world and not just to a place to go to church.

    • I understand your point and your reservations…but we still have to share this message and help people become a part of the local congregation.

      Study with them before inviting them if you want. I think that is the better solution. But, sadly, many people will not study with an unchurched person, but they might invite someone.

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