Well-publicized reports reveal the growing number of the irreligious in America. More people are choosing to stay home rather than go to church on Sunday mornings. The world is rapidly transforming in this information age and congregations are constantly finding themselves readjusting their outreach strategies to best communicate the gospel.
Out of the fog of uncertainty, there is some great news for evangelism. People are far more willing to hear the hope that we have in Christ than we think. Recent studies and personal experience are confirming this to be true.
According to the Pew Research Forum that was released last summer, the number one reason why church member go to church is to feel closer to God.
For believers, faithful worship attendance is gospel driven. Worship that centers upon his Word and Sacraments are not about what we give to God, but what believers receive from him.
But what about families who are on church rosters but rarely come to church?
What about people who only come on Christmas and Easter?
What about those who are designated as the “unchurched?” Why do they stay home rather than attend worship on any given Sunday?
It’s not necessarily because of a lack of interest in God or unbelief.
The Pew Research Forum attempted to discover the main reasons why people choose not to go to church. Here is what they discovered:
- Only one out of four (28%) people consider themselves unbelievers and have no interest in church or organized religion.
- One out of three (37%) stated that they practice their faith in other ways. This is also the main reason for those 44% who self-identify themselves as Christians (44%).
- One out of five (23%) haven’t found a church yet that they like.
What does this mean for evangelism?
Jesus is right!!
The fields are ripe for harvest.
And the workers are few.
This is great news for congregations who are willing to roll up their sleeves, get out of their comfort zones and into their communities.
If one out of four are not interested in organized religion, then that means three out of four would be willing to receive an invitation. Religion is important to them. They desire to know God and be closer to him. However, they struggle with distractions of the world, laziness, and a lack of trust in organized religion.
This corresponds with a LifeWay Research study in 2016. They discovered that 79% of the unchurched are willing to hear from a friend about their faith because they know that their faith is important to them.
This also corresponds with what Praise and Proclaim Ministries is experiencing throughout the U.S. We train Christians how to verbally proclaim the gospel and use canvassing to provide them with a meaningful opportunity to put their training into practice. Participants are discovering that findings from the Pew Research study are largely correct.
- One out of four people are not interested.
- One out of three will politely listen and probably feel comfortable in worshiping God in their own way for a variety of reasons.
- One out of five people have not found a church home and are willing to hear what their church teaches.
When you treat people with love and respect, when Christians take time to build trust with their unchurched friends and neighbors, they are willing to hear the reasons for the hope you have in Christ.
Congregations are discovering that people within their neighborhoods seem to be waiting for a face from the church to connect with them and extend an invitation to hear what God has already done for them in Christ.
This is not just our experience, but studies are proving it.
Perhaps people are not flocking to the church because they don’t trust organized religion. They have been burned or had bad experiences in the past. Hypocrisy in the church is disdained. Media and politics are giving churches a bad name. People are not certain where to turn during uncertain times.
People have a longing to belong – to feel closer to God – but want to feel welcome and safe when they make a scary decision to come and visit a church for the first time.
What is the biggest takeaway for congregations?
It doesn’t matter where you live. It doesn’t matter what believers perceive as a lack of interest. The unchurched in your community are willing to be engaged with the message of the gospel. And that’s great news!
Perhaps we can pray:
Lord, allow us to trust your many promises that you give for those who step out in faith to share their faith with others. Give us the vision to see what you see – a field ready to be planted – an eternal crop ready to be harvested. Give us the courage to be one of the few workers who are willing to step out in the field and go to work while it is day. Increase our faith so that we can sincerely pray like Isaiah, “Lord, here am I. Send me.” Thank you, Lord, for the privilege to be your messengers in today’s world. Thank you, Savior, for placing me right where I need to be to spread the gospel and unleash its power. In your name we pray, Amen.”