Gone are the days when almost everyone you know goes to church, and does so regularly. Gone are the days when the people who don’t go to church are probably going to Synagogue, or Temple or Mosque or some other faith based gathering. Gone are the days when you could tell who was Christian by observing church attendance. The rules of the game have changed, and the church needs to figure out fairly quickly how to deal with the new rules of engagement.
Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them, (Barna Group, George Barna and David Kinnaman, General Editors, Tyndale Momentum, 2014) is based on a series of recent surveys conducted by the Barna Group. The results are chilling.
While most churches think that they are the friendliest place in town and that they are the obvious choice for anyone, those that don’t regularly attend usually don’t see it the same way. And speaking of regular attendance, the new “regular’ isn’t 3 or 4 times a month plus special occasions. It’s closer to once a month.
The ‘millennials’ - people born in the 80’s and 90’s - might not have grown up going to church. They meet people with a lot of baggage concerning religion, and in this postmodern, post-Christian age, that’s to be expected.
A lot of people just don’t go to church; but there are a couple of other groups that we especially need to be concerned with. There are a lot of people who used to go to church, but got disenchanted and left. And there is another group of people who strongly profess their Christian faith, but don’t see the need to affiliate with organized religion. We can’t set out to evangelize them, they’re already saved. We can’t see them as a ‘project’ – nobody wants to feel like the attention is out of some misguided sense of pity.
So how do we reach them? Unfortunately, there isn’t a single one size fits all formula, so it has to start with relationships. As good as many church people are at relationships with other church people, when it comes to the dechurched, unchurched, and minimally churched, something breaks down.
Churchless offers insight, gained from talking to members of those groups, of where their interests lie, how they perceive church and religion, and where some of those ideas come from. There are also tips for making the connections between their faith work and a church family.
The writer of Hebrews warned the early Christians to not give up meeting together, the need for a faith community is equally strong today.
This book is not the kind of book you look for when you want to curl up in front of the fireplace, but pastors and church leadership teams owe it to themselves to look at the state of their church in the context of this book and use the lessons learned as they try to reach and rechurch their neighborhood.
I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Momentum in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review.