What Do the Unchurched Want?

George Barna was asked the following question: If you were pastor of a typical church today, what practical things might you do to reach those outside? His response:

1. First, I’d make sure everyone in the body knew that evangelism without discipleship is spiritual abuse. We have so many people who work hard to get people saved, then abandon those individuals the moment they’ve said the magic words.

2. Second, I’d gear our worship services exclusively to those who truly love Christ. If an unchurched person wanders in, that’s fine, but if they did, I’d want them to be blown away by the presence of God, the commitment of the people to that presence, by the robustness of the worship, and by the sincerity of the congregation regarding knowing God ever more deeply. The goal of worship is worship, not evangelism.

3. Third, I’d shift the strategy from training people in the steps we think will lead people to Christ to empowering people to just be real. Nonbelievers are more impressed by a good friend who genuinely loves Jesus and lives accordingly than by a well-intentioned debater who wants to argue everyone into the kingdom.

4. Fourth, as part of that strategy I’d invest heavily in developing the worldview of the believers. Because people find Christ through relationships, not the impartation of information about Christ, it’s important that believers understand how to see the world through a lens of faith and know how to communicate their faith in relation to every life circumstance, without harassing or degrading people. Know what you believe and why, and be able to relate it to every circumstance, which allows you to talk to people about their experiences and hopes without feeling as if you have to persuade them to adopt your point of view. Besides, it’s the Holy Spirit that convicts and converts people, not us.

5. Fifth, I’d focus the majority of our outreach resources on children, not adults. Few adults get converted. The vast majority of people who ever embrace Christ do so when they’re young usually before they hit the teen years. Every adult who’s interested in doing meaningful ministry would be encouraged to find a way to serve the kids in the church and community. And I’d do whatever we could to empower the kids to share their faith with their family and friends.

– From What Do the Unchurched Want? in Rev!, July/August 2006

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