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Examining the Unchurched
The world of the U4s.


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Authors Note: Our two-year research project involved asking unchurched men and women numerous questions. One primary issue we sought to discern was the level of receptivity to the gospel of these we interviewed.

We classified their receptivity on a scale from one to five. U1, or unchurched 1, represented the most receptive group to the gospel. U5, or unchurched 5, were the least receptive. In this article we highlight our research with the U4s.

Joseph G. has lived in Indiana most of his life. The thirty-something man has vague memories of attending a Catholic church as a child. He does not attend church at all today though he did say "I go occasionally for special services."

He describes his own attitude toward the church as "neutral."

Our researcher, Deborah White, did not feel that Joseph accurately described himself. "While he said he was neutral, I believe he was more resistant, a U4," Deborah said. "Though he was very pleasant to speak with and made it clear that he would do the interview and answer the questions, he wasn't at all interested in hearing any views of Christianity."

Joseph provided some interesting insights about his views on religion in America. "Religion plays a lesser role in society today," he told us. "My parents were brought up with no choice but to go to church."

But he seems thankful that his parents did not treat him the same way.

"For me there was no pressure to go to church as a child," he said. "They never made it a demand on my life. I'm more open minded today because of their attitude."



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Like many U4s, Joseph could not be described as either an atheist or agnostic. Indeed, he told us that he prayed to God "a few times a week." But when we asked him to describe the God to whom he prayed, Joseph gave us the typical, nebulous U4 response.

"To me, God is not man or woman," he said. "I try to keep his description vague, no specific details. He is just a supreme being."

If Joseph was uncertain about whom God is, he really squirmed when we asked what he believed about Jesus Christ.

"Look, I've been around a lot of religions. No person should tell another one what religion they should belong to. I don't like being told my way or someone else's way is wrong. But other people have done that to me and it bugs me."—Joseph G., Indiana

"Whew, that's a tough one," he said. "He was helpful, the Son of God, I could go on for hours, but that's a tough one. He was wise and helped a lot of people, and he was a prophet who could see clearly."

A common issue among many of the U4s was some negative event related to Christians and/or the church.

"My father remarried at a Baptist church and there were a lot of rules there that mentioned how you should act when you come in contact with other Christians," Joseph said. "Look, I've been around a lot of religions. No person should tell another one what religion they should belong to. I don't like being told my way or someone else's way is wrong. But other people have done that to me and it bugs me."

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Topics:Agnosticism, Atheism, Demographics, Evangelism, Outreach, Unchurched
Filters:Evangelism, Outreach, Pastor, Volunteer
References:Luke 14:23, John 14:6


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Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Christoph Koebel

March 06, 2013  6:27pm

First, it would have helped somewhere giving a definition about U5 U4 etc. I have a vague idea what the author has in mind. I would also agree with Paul Harrison's response that our aim should not bring unreached people to church, but bring the Gospel to them. But that is so often the only thing fellow members at my church do under the label "evangelism." Deborah Meroff in "Europe: Restoring Hope" describes 5 types of Europeans with hints how to reach them. Three of them could have some meaning for North America; the post-Christian, post-modern, and post-secular.

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Paul Harrison

September 11, 2008  8:18am

The research presented in this article makes a number of good points. However, the author errors in stressing getting the unchurched in church to hear the gospel. We should be taking the gospel to the unchurched. We should be presenting the gospel in the workplace, at social events, in our neighborhoods or where ever else God has setup divine appointments for us. For us to expect the unbeliever to listen to the gospel in an atmosphere where they are already uncomfortable is not a smart move. Better to bring the gospel to them in an environment where their guard isn't already up.

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