Quite honestly, when I saw this term recently, my first thoughts were to get up on my soapbox and tear off in a rant. With a little time and a little thought, I realized two things: to speak out against the common usage of this terminology isn’t “my soapbox” and it certainly isn’t a “rant.” There are several thoughts I have regarding the usage of this terminology and also an explanation of why I will never use it.
From Wikipedia, “Unchurched” (alternatively, “The Unchurched” or “unchurched people“) means, in the broad sense, people who are not connected with a church. In research on religious participation, it refers more specifically to people who do not attend worship services.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unchurched)
If you’ve known me for very long at all, say the last eighteen years or so, you should understand that I do the best I can to approach everything from a biblical perspective and certainly a biblical foundation. With that thought in mind, having read the Bible quite extensively for many years now, I still have not found that designation anywhere in scripture.
There are several problems that I have with the term, “unchurched.” It honestly goes deeper than the issue of not being found in scripture. Much deeper. A huge part of the problem is that many of the people who are so fond of the term seem also to be fond of other things that I believe at best blur the lines of what we are called as Christians to do. At the worst, it is giving people a false sense of security and even outright teaching false doctrine.
From what I can gather, since I never use the term and rarely associate with people who do, most who use the term are exponentially more focused on getting the numbers of people into the church building rather than equipping the people who are already there (Ephesians 4:11-13). Because of this “seeker sensitive” movement, a part of what I believe is the problem with using the term “unchurched,” (or perhaps vice-versa or even going hand in hand) once people are in the church, there is no further attempt at discipleship or growing them up in Christ. At least, it doesn’t seem to be much of of a focus or necessity.
Unfortunately, the prevailing idea seems to be that the “unchurched” need to be brought into the assembly and once that’s accomplished, the job is done. I honestly don’t intend to paint everyone (every church, pastor, believer) with the same broad brush, but if that’s the case, we will have church buildings and assemblies FULL of unbelievers who think that they’re OK. The reality is, first of all, only God truly knows the heart, but if there is no repentance, brokenness over sin, confession and acceptance of the gift of salvation offered through Jesus Christ alone, according to God’s own word, they are still destined for an eternity in Hell.
Just looking over what passes for “Christian” writings, books, magazines, movies, audio/visual sermons, seminars and more today, is barely watered down, chocolate-flavored milk doctrines. Because “we might offend” an “unchurched” person, there is no stand for the truth of sin, the authority and necessity of the WHOLE word of God, the gift of salvation and the reality of persecution for those who will live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). In many cases, whether writings, movie/audio, sermons, seminars and the like, even those who at one time were “unchurched” we “don’t want to offend” because they may leave the assembly (taking their money with them).
According to the scriptures there are only two types of people: believers and unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Galatians 3:27-28 and many, many other references). Because there are ONLY two types of people, this means that there are unbelievers who do go to church regularly. This also means that there are true believers who are not regular attenders of church. Quite honestly, a good look at the reasons or some biblical ideas on this would take too much to put into one single article, in my opinion.
I do have a challenge for those who are truly believers; those who have accepted the gift of salvation, who know that they have been born again into the family of God. If you are not regularly attending and hopefully active in a local assembly, you need to be. In some few cases, I understand that there are extenuating circumstances, but there is a need for mutual fellowship, encouragement, accountability, edification and more. If you can’t find a solid Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church, start one. I know sometimes this is much easier said than done. I’ve been in the shoes of a believer searching diligently for a church that teaches the whole word of God without compromise. I get it.
If you are a believer and a member of or regularly attending a solid Bible teaching church, encourage your leaders and each other. Pray for them regularly. Search the scriptures for yourselves to make sure that they aren’t getting off track (Acts 17:10-11).
If you are not a believer, please accept the free gift of salvation offered by Jesus Christ. He took your place and mine on the cross. He was separated from God the Father so we never have to be. Salvation is a free gift, though it’s only available by trusting that Jesus Christ paid the debt of sin on your behalf. He’s offering that gift to you. Will you accept it? For further reference, pick up a Bible. Look up these verses: John 3:16-17, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-10 & 13.