Why do most people not ahead church? Do people that don’t go to church believe in God? Some often assume that just because someone doesn’t go to church that they do not believe in God. The fact is, many do not understand the unchurched. If you were to interview an unchurched you would come to understand:
1. Unchurched believe that any religion is okay, as long as it helps you.
We live in a universalistic world that thinks it is sophisticated and politically correct to say that all roads lead to God. I hear the masses say, “You can believe what you want, I will believe what I want, and we are all okay.” The fastest growing religion in America and the world is tolerance which has the motto’s: “everything can be right” or “nothing is certain.”
Is that really true? Can anyone make that claim? What we understand from each of the major religions of the world is that everyone thinks they are right and others are wrong, even those who claim to be agnostic or atheist. Can they all be right or wrong when they are all truly different at their core? No.
2. Unchurched are curious about the spiritual, but put off by religion.
People are generally fascinated and intrigued by the spiritual. However, they do not want to be tied down by any one belief or give up control to God. As I talk to many unchurched youth I am overwhelmed by their desire to know about God, faith, and the afterlife, but not commit to it. 4 out of 5 American’s call themselves deeply spiritual [Aug.26, 2002 Barna Update], but base their faith on their circumstances not on absolute truth or formal religion. People do not want a religious system running their lives, telling them to stop sleeping with their partner, to obey “stupid” moral standards, to quit abusing substances, or to start forgiving their parents.
3. Unchurched do not know what Christianity really is all about.
A few weeks ago I was meeting someone for lunch. While waiting I was talking to another person waiting for a friend too. This person began to complain about their work and how they were glad to be on lunch break. Every other word that came out of their mouth was an expletive. When they were finished venting they asked, “What kind of work do you do?” I have to laugh inside when people ask this question. Mostly for the response that follows, “I am a pastor”. He just looked at me with that I-am-embarssed-for-cussing-like-a-sailor-in-front-of-a-minister-look.
After an awkward pause he said, “Oh, you know, I am a Christian too!”
I did not doubt him, but I did question, “That’s great. Where do you go to church?”
“Oh, I do not go to church.”
“Why is that?”
“Well you do not have to go to church to be a Christian,” was his dogmatic reply.
Many consider themselves Christian by default because they live in America, their mom was a Christian, or because they went to a denominational church sometime in the past. Two-thirds of people who do not go to church say that they are Christians [Barna, 2000], while half of those same people do not celebrate Easter which is a big Christian holiday. It doesn’t take you long to learned that not everyone who says their a Christian really believes that Jesus Christ can save them from all their sins or that He is the only way to eternal life.
4. Unchurched do not know what to believe for certain.
Many who claim that they are Christians in the previous point are uncertain about one thing: where will I go in the afterlife? That is the age old question. The common answer is, ” I do not know. Does anybody? I think I am good enough.” Today, there are many unfounded theories about God and His plan for life after death. Some will say, “God is a good God and will be gracious to me. Of course, He will forgive everybody.”
5. Unchurched are searching to fill an empty void.
How good is good enough? Who sets the standard of the scale of goodness? We like to set the standard by weighing our goodness against anthers goodness. I might think, “Well, I am not as bad as Hitler or that molester I heard about on the six o’clock news.” Who says you are not as bad? We like to project upon God our good standing and impose upon Him mercy.
I would like to propose that when reading the Bible from cover to cover it is clear–I do not deserve His mercy, I am not a very good person at all, I desperately need God’s grace to cover my sin, and belief in God’s Son is the only means to an afterlife of peace. I absolutely believe that a daily relationship with Jesus Christ is what will fill the empty void and longing of our heart. Jesus is certain, poses great questions to the ultra-religious [John 8:54-59], and claims to be the way truth and life [John 10:20]. Nobody goes to heaven but through Him [John 14:6].