I was on staff at a church one time where during the whole year we didn't see anyone accept Christ, have their life transformed or baptized. I told God that if this is ministry I want out. We hosted programs, conferences and events. We had good music and preaching but no life transformation.
I believe we as churches have to intentionally pursue the unchurched. We have to bleed passion for those far from God.
As I work with church planters and revitalization projects here are 7 ways (not exhaustive) that you know your church doesn't value the unchurched.
1. You expect them to be the missionary.
•We have made the unchurched the missionary in the 21st century. They are the biggest missionary group in the world. The church today expects them to take a mission trip to our church campus instead of us meeting them where they are at.
•When a church loses the edge of pursuing those far from God this happens. There has to be a certain passion and push to go after them.
•We have split this into two primary categories at Thrive:
1) Missional Outreach: This is 1st Corinthians 13- love or as King Jimmy calls it, "charity." We do not expect return. We are simply engaging, giving and connecting. We do not judge the results by how many come to the campus or accept Christ.
2) Missional Marketing: This is going after those far from God through marketing tools such as strategic postcards, Internet, invite cards, bracelets and more. We want those folks seeking and interested to connect with our family. We want them to come to a worship experience, surrender to Christ and become part of our family.
2. You expect them to understand your church culture instead of exegiting theirs.
•This is where you are more concerned about the style of church you have than the type of people you are going to reach. You may do strange things in your church service that people in your target community don't get. (Hint: we all do). Instead of changing the culture you keep doing it your way and wanting them to adapt.
•Exegete your culture. What do the unchurched, dechurched and churched all have in common? What have they experienced in church before? What will they not understand about your church? What may be confusing?
Here is a tip: If you always have to stop and explain WHY you are doing this strange practice or are getting a ton of questions- then stop to ask why this is happening.
3. You use language that they don't understand.
•Please bear with me. This is sensitive but it has to be done. Our church services are littered with strange words to the unchurched or offensive words to the dechurched.
Verbiage such as:
-apostolic mandate (whatever that means)
-five fold ministry
-corporate destiny (first time I heard this I literally had no clue what the dude was saying. I thought he was speaking to business owners. Seriously)
-Kingdom (I asked a group recently what was the Kingdom of God after a dude preached on it. They were stumped)
-God speaking (clarify to people what that is)
-Destiny (it means fate to the unchurched)
-tithing [which is a biblical practice] (for months after I got saved I didn't know what was happening at offering time. They taught on "tithing" each week. Still was clueless. Let them know at this time we are going to worship God by giving)
-take the city (we don't do this alone. It takes all the churches)
-army of God (sounds like Islam)
Help your leaders learn to say all these biblical ideas in everyday language. If you want a great commentary on this watch the film, "Jesus Camp," with the commentary on. The directors are far from God and VERY confused looking in on this camp.
4. Signage is poor.
•You expect them to know where everything is at. Over speak with signage. Make sure you have great signage pointing to entries, kids, restrooms and exits.
5. You care more about pleasing or appeasing attendees than the unchurched.
•"This is just who we are. We don't reach the unchurched but we have revival every week. Our people love it and would leave if we changed." That may be your best course of action. You may need some over fed, fat Christians to leave.
•Going deep and not reaching the unchurched is a farse. If you have revival and folks are not surrendering to Christ then it's not revival. It could possibly be (not in all cases) your people flicking off the unchurched as they go "deep." Christ was crucified so people far from Him could come to know Him.
•Stretch people to trade off so they can see those people far from God reached.
6. You aren't prepared for them.
•This is in two ways:
a) No guest services that make them feel like Jesus is on campus ready to greet them. From the parking lot (beginning) to the parking lot (end) they should feel overwhelmed with love.
b) Your songs, message and whole experience is geared to the churched only. Your team needs to openly discuss how the unchurched may perceive what they are doing.
7. You don't pray for them corporately.
•We pray EVERY Wednesday for people far from God in our community together. You get what you pray for. I believe if a church is praying and really prepared they wil see the unchurched come.
Pray through these values to see if you believe you need to change a course of action to reach the unchurched.