Last week, the Barna Group released a study showing that "one out of every three adults (33%) is classified as unchurched - meaning they have not attended a religious service of any type during the past six months. " The Barna researchers noted that:
"These results coincide with a unique book released this week by Tyndale House Publishers, entitled Jim and Casper Go to Church. That book describes the experience of a former pastor and an avowed atheist who together visited a dozen significant churches across the nation. Jim Henderson, who has been a pastor of small and large churches, interviewed the atheist (Matt Casper) during and after each church service they attended to gain insights into what it’s like for an outsider to attend such churches. Among the congregations visited were well-known ministries such as Willow Creek (pastored by Bill Hybels), Saddleback (led by Rick Warren), Lakewood (featuring Joel Osteen), and The Potter’s House (home of T.D. Jakes).
"Many of the insights drawn from the experiences of "Jim and Casper" parallel the findings of Barna Group studies among the unchurched. Some of the critical discoveries were the relative indifference of most churched Christians to unchurched people; the overt emphasis upon a personal rather than communal faith journey; the tendency of congregations to perform rituals and exercise talents rather than invite and experience the presence of God; the absence of a compelling call to action given to those who attend; and the failure to listen to dissident voices and spiritual guidance to dig deeper in one’s faith. "
I am fortunate to belong to a Church that is attracting new members every week (including a surprising number of twentysomethings). Nonetheless, I think that these results are very troubling. My fear is that most of the unchurched are so turned off by their preconceived notions of Church that they never come through our red doors. We need to reach them another way.
It seems to me that it is time to use technology to break down these misconceptions and draw in the unchurched. One young priest, Fr. Matthew Moretz of St. Paul's, Yonkers, NY, is doing just that: He has produces short, intelligent and funny videos on his You Tube site. Each of his videos is viewed by thousands--not bad for a young Curate at a small church. It seems to me that every church needs to similarly creative--using technology to the fullest to draw people back in our pews. Of course, once they come in our doors, we need to feed them the spiritual food that will keep them coming back for more.
Here is one of Father Mathews more timely videos. Enjoy!