How The Unchurched View Us

by Thom S. Rainer

After spending four years with the unchurched, my research team and I have gained valuable perspectives on this group of non-Christian men and women. I recently assimilated our interview material to glean a summary of an interesting issue. The interview quotes we found were related to the unchurched persons' view of Christians. Below are the seven most common responses we received:

Held in Good Light

The unchurched generally have a favorable view of Christians. Contrary to conventional wisdom and media myths, most unchurched view Christians in a positive light. Kenneth M., an unchurched 28-year-old man from Florida, typifies this perspective: "I personally don't have a close friend who is a Christian, but I know some fairly well. I respect their views, and most of them seem to be good people. Maybe there are a few people that act like religious fruitcakes, but the ones I know are okay."

Many times Christians are reticent to engage in conversations with the unchurched because we fear their reactions. Most of the unchurched, however, view us very positively.

Bible Scholars

The unchurched think Christians are much more informed about the Bible than we really are. Be prepared to hear a plethora of questions from an unchurched person if you decide to enter into a friendship with him or her. The unchurched of America generally think that we are biblical scholars. They therefore expect informed responses to their questions about Scripture. Even when a Christian explains that his/her biblical knowledge is not as great as the unchurched thinks, the non-Christian typically takes such a response to be an effort at modesty or an understatement of our true biblical acumen.

Why Wasn't I Invited?

The unchurched wonder why Christians do not invite them to church. Our research team was shocked to find that about seven of ten unchurched persons have never been invited to church. Furthermore, the non-Christian generally has a willingness, if not a desire, to attend church.

"I have a neighbor named Frank who is an outgoing Christian," said Bill J. of Nevada. "He is all the time talking about his church activities and all the things he's involved in. I've known Bill for over six years now, but he's never hinted at me going to church with him. Don't you think that's kind of strange?"

Good Role Models

The unchurched look to Christians as models for healthy family lives. We believers know the statistics that tell us that many Christian families are struggling. In fact, the divorce rate among Christians is not significantly different from that of the unchurched world. Still, the unchurched persons around us think that we have our act together in our family lives. And they look to us for hope and encouragement.

Friends for Life

The unchurched believe that a Christian is more likely to provide a lasting friendship than non-Christians. The unchurched are likely to be desirous of friendships and lasting relationships. Many of these men and women are very lonely. And while many Christians are reticent or too lazy to get involved in the lives of unchurched persons, such an effort may prove to be the eternal difference in their lives.

Repeatedly, our research shows that the unchurched are much more likely to accept Christ if a Christian will take the time to get involved in their lives.

Did You See That?

The unchurched struggle with inconsistencies in Christians' lives. Penny U., an unchurched person from Philadelphia, likes her friend Bonnie. "Yeah, Bonnie has been a good friend to me. I think that her religion has a lot to do with her goodness."

So what is the struggle? "I've heard Bonnie say some things lately that have really floored me. Now I don't expect Christians to be perfect, but Bonnie has said some things that wouldn't even come out of my mouth. I really wonder if she realizes how that affects me."

Share the Wealth

The unchurched wonder why Christians are often reticent to share their faith.

Perhaps the most eye-opening discovery we made about the unchurched person's attitude towards us Christians is that most of them would like to hear about Jesus Christ from us. Yet the vast majority of the unchurched with whom we spoke have never had a Christian share their faith with them.

What a tragedyand what an opportunity.

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