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Aug 13, 2010

Back to Church Sunday: Reaching the UnChurched and DeChurched

Today, I have my friend and co-worker Philip Nation dropping by as a guest blogger.

As a pastor, I have always tried to focus on reaching the unchurched rather than trying to swap sheep from neighboring congregations. But, the fact is, many of the unchurched are actually the formerly churched. In other words, they perhaps grew up in church and later dropped out.

When I was in Buffalo and Erie, most of the people we reached were actually formerly Roman Catholic. They were generally out of church, but they had a religious memory. Here in middle Tennessee where I live now, it is primarily made up of former low-church Protestants. But, they perceive themselves as having "grown up" in church, and often "going back" is part of their spiritual journey.

Now, going "back to church" is not the same thing as redemption. But, for many people, it can be a bridge where they can then be presented with the truth claims of the gospel. That's what "Back to Church Sunday" is about.

Philip is the National Spokesman for Back to Church Sunday so I will let him explain:

Recently, much was made in the news and social media about Anne Rice's departure from church. Anne's return and quick departure from the Roman Catholic Church is its own distinct story because it is about one individual. Nevertheless, such a high-profile departure from church affiliation left many Evangelicals wondering what effect it would have on church attendance. Will she--and the people like her--ever return?

Over the last few years, LifeWay Research (as well as other research groups) has intently studied the outreach methods and evangelistic works of churches in America. Much to the surprise of the "Chicken Little" crowd, people are still going to church. And, more people would attend if given one simple thing--an invitation.

LifeWay Research discovered this in a study (done in conjunction with the North American Mission Board) about outreach by churches in America. The survey included more than 15,000 adults in December of 2008. We found that the effectiveness of the invitation was often tied to its form: the more personal, the more effective.

The study revealed that 63 percent are willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member, and 56 percent are willing to receive such information from a friend or neighbor.

In the same study, out of the 13 approaches, the one that comes out on top is the approach of personal invitations. The question we are left with is simple: Are Christians inviting their friends to church? We need to spread the positive discovery that we will not face the push-back that many have previously thought.

When asked "If you wanted to find out more about God, what would be your first response?" 33 percent chose "Read a Bible" as their option. It's a high percentage. But of those surveyed, 19 percent said they would attend a church service, 10 percent indicated they would talk to a Christian friend, and 9 percent said they would talk to a Christian family member.

The study leads us to the understanding that issues of faith and church are on the minds of those in our community. It is a time to move forward with engaging neighbors rather than waiting to see what will happen next.

I am honored to serve as the National Spokesperson for Back to Church Sunday this year to be held on September 12, 2010. Last year, this effort initiated by Outreach, registered over 700,000 invitations given for people to join a friend at church. This year, we anticipate seeing more than 1 million invitations as a part of the Back to Church Sunday on 9/12/10. Imagine the impact if another 1 million people began to attend church. Imagine if the people in your church simply caught a sense of urgency about inviting their friends and neighbors to attend worship and small group Bible studies.

Churches can access numerous resources through the BTCS website including a campaign kit, statistical information, and stories that will serve as inspiration for a local church to sense the urgency of the mission. Additionally, any church can join the BTCS Facebook page, record the number of invitations they are making, and join the growing movement of almost 2,600 churches

The tools are available for outreach to happen, and the next step is to get your church involved and excited about reaching their community with the gospel.

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Posted:August 13, 2010 at 12:00 am

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Back to Church Sunday: Reaching the UnChurched and DeChurched