This review was first published under Panorama of a Book Saint.
TITLE: Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect with Them
AUTHOR: George Barna and David Kinnaman
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2014, (224 pages).
- "Actively churched" are those attending church at least once a month
- "minimally churched" are those attending church several times a year
- "de-churched" are those currently taking a break from going to church
- "purely unchurched" are those who have never gone for a church service.
This book provides the data collected from 20524 American adults between the years 2008 and 2014, and examines their "perceptions, beliefs, behaviors, choices, experiences, expectations, and hopes." The purpose of the study is to enable us to take a snapshot of our cultural contexts, learn to navigate the complexity and to discern our role in transforming it. Some of the observations include:
- Secularism is on the rise
- More people are becoming busy that they have no time for church
- Digital outreach are "rarely finding traction" with the unchurched
- Rising skepticism about churches' contribution to society
- Increasing resistance to church; among the unchurched, indifference is high
- In the past ten years, number of unchurched adults in America has increased by 60%
- About 3 out of 4 unchurched adults have a pretty good hope for the future without need for any church affiliation
- Many unchurched consider themselves Christian, except that they do not identify themselves with church
- Top three reasons why unchurched stay away from church: Boring, No reason, busyness.
- How media is influencing and propagating a negative image of church
- On Bible, many of the unchurched own Bibles, but they don't really know their bibles, neither do they see any usefulness.
- For most, prayer is a one-way conversation
- Their view of God's reputation is mediocre
- They trust in Christ but not the local church
- and many more
- The unchurched desires to make a difference in their community, and churches do well to connect with them via common projects that bless the community
- Their desire for real community
- They are serious about family life as a high priority
- Connecting with them where they are will present a positive face of church
- Their passion for environment, recycling, and things making positive impact to society
- Passion for volunteerism
- For skeptics, they are more likely to be concerned about money matters, health, and other physical goals.
The authors also put together a chapter on the declining number of young adults, and give six reasons why they dropped out of church. Apart from the statistical analyses and the observations about the contexts, the authors have put together a very helpful "Forward Thinking" section that brings smiles and hopes for readers. This is by far the most compelling reason to get this book. It is one thing to put together data and analyze them. It is yet another to offer a positive perspective in which we can be more knowledgeable about what is happening, and wiser in learning how to let God lead us to be the channels of blessings we are called to be. Every observation can be seen from a positive outreach perspective. Learning to scratch where it itches, is a good way to begin the process of connecting with the unchurched. Toward the end of the book, the authors argue passionately that churches still matter and readers ought to be concerned both with the unchurched as well as with the Church. Below are some of the great ideas promoted:
- Corporate worship needs to proclaim God more that simply going through a routine
- Bible teachings must connect with people instead of mere information about God
- Prayers need to be directed more to God rather than spoken to congregation
- Worship awe and wonder must be present in each worship service
- Community with people remains key to the experience of church
- That the Good News speaks to the unchurched, that we need to love the unchurched person
- Adopt church strategies without being manipulative
- Share Jesus by loving the individual, engaging them genuinely
- Be selfless in service
- Learn to suffer with the hurting and the needy
- Be effective interpreters of culture
- Be prayerful and hopeful
Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.