FIRST COMES LOVE
Over the summer, LifeWay Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism released the results of a survey of 2,000 unchurched Americans — meaning those who have not attended a worship service in the last six months, outside of a holiday or special occasion like a wedding. Some of the results aligned with impressions I already had about those not active in church, but other results indicated a dramatic shift is taking place that offers new opportunities for us as a church.
Even though these folks don’t attend worship, more than half of them still identify as Christians. According to Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, “Unchurched Americans aren’t hostile to faith. They just don’t think church is for them.” Nevertheless, unchurched Americans say they are very open to talking about faith and religion when these topics come up, with only about 1 in 10 saying they would try to change the subject.
If anything, Christians aren’t sharing enough about faith with their unchurched friends and family members. Of those surveyed, only 29% have ever had someone explain how to become a Christian. There may have been a time in our country’s history when we were saturated with a basic knowledge of the gospel, but that time has passed. Many of your friends and neighbors don’t know the first thing about Christianity — other than what they see portrayed in movies and media.
The surprise to me was when those surveyed were asked about being invited to church. Just 1 in 3 indicated that they would be likely to accept an invitation to a worship service, and even fewer are open to attending a small group for people curious about God. By contrast, the two types of activities unchurched people would be most likely to attend are an event to help make their neighborhood safer or a community service project. At one time, Sunday School was the front door to the church — the way most people were first introduced to the church. More recently, research seemed to show that the worship service had become the entry point. Now, it appears that the biggest draw to the unchurched are programs with an outward focus meant to show compassion and serve the community.
Though unexpected, I find these results very encouraging for First Baptist Church because this is what we do, especially on a designated Saturday every fall. First Love presents a special opportunity for each of us to not only serve our community in Jesus’ name, it is a perfect opportunity for you to invite unchurched friends, neighbors, and family members to join with us. This is exactly the type of event that research indicates folks are most likely to say “yes” to.
You can find more details about registering to volunteer in The Vision or on our website (fbctlh.org/firstlove). So that we can better prepare and maximize our number of projects, we have set a goal of having the first 200 volunteers sign up by this Sunday, October 2. It only takes a few minutes to sign up, so please do so now.
I want to leave you with one more result from the study. The unchurched were asked, “Which, if any, of the following would make you more interested in listening to what Christians had to say?” The top two answers were: “I saw them treat others better because of their faith,” and “I saw them caring for people’s needs because of their faith.” That sounds like something I’ve read somewhere before.