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Ten Surprises About the Unchurched
Understanding their hearts and minds.

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Over the past few years, I have been privileged to enter a world that I really did not know very well. It is the world of the unchurched. Now, like many Christians, I have interacted with the unchurched, worked with the unchurched, socialized with the unchurched, and witnessed to the unchurched.

But I have been a Christian for more than 30 years. I really did not understand the hearts and the mindsets of the unchurched until recently.

For the past three years, my research team and I have been involved in extensive and intensive interaction with the unchurched. We have come with our computers and pre-planned questions, but many times we would just sit back and listen for hours.

Our team has covered all 50 states and Canada listening to the unchurched. We have been among a diversity of ethnic groups and socioeconomic groups. We have been in wide-ranging demographic areas, and we have talked to as many females as males. We have listened to the unchurched with modest education, and we listened to the unchurched with doctoral degrees. We have indeed listened for thousands of hours.

A team of 17 men and women gave not only their time, but their hearts to this project. You will hear some fascinating information that we gleaned from our time with the unchurched.

Surprises and Then Some

In this two-part series, we will present 10 of the surprises our research uncovered about the unchurched. Now we understand that a surprise is only a surprise in the eyes of the beholders. But the information you are about to read defies the conventional wisdom about the unchurched. In many ways, it goes against the grain of some "truths" we have been told.

Our research project involved 308 men and women in the United States and Canada. Every person interviewed was deemed to be both unchurched and non-Christian. While we asked some pre-determined objective questions, we also let the unchurched person speak freely. Some of the best interviews we had went off our planned script. And it was in those contexts that we often discovered some surprises. The surprises below are not listed in any particular order.

Surprise No. 1

Most of the unchurched prefer to attend church on Sunday morning if they attend. Perhaps the unchurched responded this way because that is the time they have always heard church should be. But when we asked the formerly unchurched (new Christians attending church) the same question, they gave us the same response. A very distant preference was a weeknight service other than Friday night.

"If I attended church, it would be the only time I could go regularly," said Al V. of Tulsa. "I work five days a week, and I like to go home to my family at night. And we almost always have some activity that one of our kids is involved in on Saturdays. I just think Sunday is the best time. And Sunday morning is the best time, because we get the kids to bed at a decent hour on Sunday night."

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Topics:Culture, Demographics, Evangelism, Growth, Outreach, Seekers, Spiritual Friendship, Trends, Unchurched, Visitors & guests
Filters:Church staff, Elder, Evangelism, Missions, Outreach, Pastor, Worship leader
References:Matthew 28:19

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Displaying 1–5 of 7 comments

Al Rice

July 07, 2015  5:22pm

I think his points are very valid. As a once Christian, now seeking again I can testify that the Evangelical Christian who has been "guiding" me has never once invited me to her church. The screaming hypocrisy is deafening.

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March 06, 2015  10:39pm

Very interesting and well written article. I especially liked the phrases "cold call", "drive by", "canned" evangelism and "soul quota". But one thing that is ALWAYS overlooked and denied by all churches is the fact that more often than not, churches are bachelor free zones. Churches are for families and for single (mostly elderly) women. But single men are rarely welcomed. This is why I will not enter a church. It would take me a long while to fully explain what I mean but if you are honest you would admit that this is true. Churches have their womens clubs, children clubs, fathers initiative groups, etc. but where are the groups for single men??? Why are we bachelors persona non grata in "Christian" churches when the apostles were mostly single men? Sorry to say - church is not for me. I would much prefer to attend home based church where people who know each other worship or study Gospel together on a friendly, non judgmental basis.

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steve finnell

February 23, 2015  5:20am

SAVED BY GRACE ALONE AND FAITH ALONE?---BY STEVE FINNELL Calvinists often make the statement we are saved by grace alone and by faith alone. This is in and of its self a conflicting proclamation. You can believe one or the other, but cannot believe both. Definition of alone: separate, apart, to the exclusion of all else. It take unbridled self deception to say "I believe I was saved by grace alone and saved by faith alone." To be save by grace alone means that God does everything for you. Grace alone suggests that men have no free-will. Grace alone means that God forces men to have faith so that they might believe and be saved. Grace alone implies that men repent only because God makes it impossible to resist. Grace alone means that men are baptized against their free-will. Grace alone means that men only confess Jesus as the Son of God because God gives them no other choice. Faith alone, taken at face value means men are saved by faith alone. If you are saved by faith alone, then you do not need grace. If you are saved by faith alone then you do not need to be baptized in water. You cannot on one hand say I was saved by grace alone and then say I was saved by faith alone. There is no verse Scripture that says, "Men are saved by grace alone." There is no verse on Scripture that says, "Men are saved by faith alone." The Bible says men are saved by grace. (Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.) It does not say men are saved by grace alone. Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (It says men are justified by grace, however, it does not say grace alone.) Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.(Men receive forgiveness from sin because they believe in Jesus, however, it does not say men receive forgiveness by faith alone.) Acts 3:19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;(It says men need to repent so their sins may be wiped away, but it does not say repent only.) Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;(It says if you confess Jesus as Lord you will be saved, however, it does not say confess Jesus only.) Acts 2:38 Perter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (It says if you are baptized your sins will be forgiven, but it does not say baptism only.) The Bible teaches we are saved by grace, but not by grace alone. The Bible teaches we are saved by faith, but not by faith alone. The Bible teaches that we are saved by confession, but not by confession alone. The Bible teaches are sin are forgive because we repent, but not by repentance alone. The Bible teaches that are sins are forgiven because of water baptism, but not by baptism alone. GRACE: Romans 3:24 FAITH: JOHN 3:16 REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38 CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10 BAPTISM: 1 Peter 3:21 THERE IS NO SAVED BY "ONLY" FOUND IN THE BIBLE, WITH THE EXCEPTION BEING THAT JESUS IS THE ONLY SAVIOR! (Acts 4:10-12) YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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Steve Simms

February 06, 2015  8:01am

Here are 12 reasons people give 4 being unchurched: https://stevesimms.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/reasons-for-being-unchurched-th e-berry-street-alternative/

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June 14, 2013  10:41pm

It’s good that you talked to 300 or so unchurched people, but it’s tiny in the face of estimates of over 70 million unchurched adults in America. Being so small, the sample misses some important issues including a core reason sending many people out of the churches, which is a distaste for the attempted influence of religious fundamentalism in American politics. It should be no surprise that people started leaving churches by the cartload during the same time that conservative fundamentalists have pursued their campaign to push themselves into the public arena, to demand that public resources be used to support their religious views, and to sneer at scientific learning. In my own experience, church involvement became less about the message of the gospel and more about groupthink, checking your brains at the door, and the latest hate mongering against progressive thought. Unless moderate voices in the churches begin to take back their churches and refocus their religious messages on God instead of on Fox News headlines, the unchurched numbers will continue to grow and they won’t be coming back no matter how nicely they’re invited.

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