The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God~ 2nd Corinthians 4:4 NIV
One of the most contentious and thought-provoking debates in church circles these days’ centers on unbelievers and why they don’t go to church.
Some believe that unchurched people avoid church because the stuff we do in church is simply too complicated for them to understand. Champions of this theory believe that the solution to Christianity’s dwindling conversion rate is to simplify and explain the heck out of how and why we do what we do in church. They sincerely believe that non-Christians will go to church if churches will remove any language or ritual that anyone who is not already acquainted with church might find even vaguely baffling.
Churches that buy into this philosophy are not difficult to spot. Services last precisely one hour. The messages tend to focus almost entirely on practical issues like parenting and marriage. Communion is rarely if ever served. The songs are fun to sing but devoid of any thorny theological references (sometimes the songs are secular). And there is always a conspicuous “What You Can Expect Today” section in the bulletin or on the screen before the service.
Others believe non-Christians avoid church because church is just too offensive and weird. These folks strive to make their churches as non-judgmental, wishy-washy, and agreeable as possible. Churches that have chosen this path seek to be inspiring and encouraging above all else. Sermons tend to be short on the topics of sin, sacrifice, and repentance and entirely focused on positive thinking and positive living.
In my view these notions are outrageously elitist and disturbingly humanistic. The premise of the first theory rests entirely on the belief that non-Christians are just too dumb to grasp any concept they are not already entirely familiar with. This is untrue, and in my experience that sort of contempt has never prompted anyone to embrace anything.
Moreover, the only way to transform Christianity into something unfailingly positive is to purge it of teachings related to sin, guilt and repentance. When we remove the tough, thorny and convicting stuff (Romans 1:18-32) from Christianity we are effectively saying that we (flawed human beings) have a superior plan of action for presenting the gospel than God does.
I am not an expert on why people do or don’t go to church. However, I am closely related to a number of pagans, atheists, agnostics and heathens. To this day few of my relatives attend church, and I did not convert to Christianity until I was an adult (early twenties). As a result I know a lot of unsaved people really well and clearly remember what it felt like to be unsaved. Following are five actual reasons unchurched people don’t go to church:
There is no reason for them to go-
Contrary to popular belief, church was never intended to be a place for non-Christians. Church was meant to be a place where Christians get equipped to reach non-Christians with the gospel (Ephesians 4:11-13). If we want unbelievers to want to go to church we need to find ways to reach them with the gospel first.
They fear judgment-
What they really dread is hearing someone say something that will confirm their deepest fear that they aren’t good enough and that God will judge them for it. The irony is that their fear is firmly grounded in fact. NO ONE is good enough and God will judge EVERYONE who dies without repenting and putting their faith in Jesus. Our job is to tell them that God loved them enough to provide a solution to the problem of not being good enough.
They don’t want to change (repent)-
Most non-Christians know instinctively that if there is a God they are doing things that are totally not cool with that God (Romans 2:15). They also know (instinctively) that they will have to stop doing those things if they want to get into a right relationship with Him (Luke 13:5). Some churches have gotten around this problem by lying to unbelievers and telling them that they can be Christians without repenting. Regrettably, all this so-called solution has succeeded in doing is filling our Churches with heathens who sincerely believe they are Christians. The right answer is to lovingly present unbelievers with the truth and let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts.
They have observed that many Christians don’t live what they believe-
I think this is because some Christians have bought into the lie that in order to reach the unsaved they have to act like the unsaved. All this does is convince non-Christians that being a Christian is really no different than being a non-Christian and is therefore a pointless waste of their time.
No one has ever invited them-
Seriously. This really is the main reason non-Christians don’t go to church.
I do not believe Christians or churches should ever be unnecessarily weird. I also believe that the answer to the problem of unsaved people who don’t go to church is not as complicated as we’ve made it. We just need to love them, pray for them, present them with truth and invite them into our world.
It worked for me.