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 thought-provoking debates in Christianity centers on why non-Christians don’t attend church.
A significant number of church leaders believe the unchurched don’t attend church because the stuff Christians do in church is just too darn complicated. Champions of this theory believe the solution to our dwindling conversion rate is to simplify and explain the heck out of what we do in church. These folks sincerely believe the conversion rate will soar if churches get serious about removing all language and ritual non-Christians might find even vaguely confusing.
Churches that buy into this idea are easy to spot. Services last precisely one hour. Messages tend to focus almost entirely on practical issues like parenting and marriage. Communion is rarely if ever served. The songs are fun and easy to sing but devoid of theological references (sometimes the songs are even secular). There is typically a “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 too weird and offensive. These folks strive to make their churches as non-judgmental 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 humble opinion all of these perspectives are well-intentioned but 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. If this were true, the human race would still be living in caves.
To the second point, the only way to transform Christianity into something unfailingly positive is to purge it of some key teachings like sin, guilt and repentance. When we remove the conviction (Romans 1:18-32) from Christianity we are effectively saying that flawed human beings have a superior plan to present the gospel than God does.
I am not an expert on why people do or do not attend to church. However, I did not convert to Christianity until I was an adult (early twenties) and most of my family is unsaved. As a result I know a lot of unsaved people really well and clearly remember what it felt like to be a non-Christian. 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 before we invite them to church.
They fear judgment-
The thing unsaved people really dread is hearing someone say something that will confirm their fear that they really are not good enough and that God will judge them for it. Ironically that fear is grounded in fact. NO ONE is good enough and God will judge everyone who does not repent of their sin and put their faith in Jesus. Our job as Christians is to help them understand that God loves them enough to provide a solution to the problem of not being good enough: Jesus.
They don’t want to change-
Non-Christians understand instinctively that if there is a God they are doing things that God is totally not cool with (Romans 2:15). They also understand they will have to stop doing those things if they want to get into a right relationship with Him (Luke 13:5). Some well meaning Christians have attempted to skirt this issue by lying to unbelievers and telling them that they can be Christians without making any changes in how they live. Regrettably, all this “solution” has done is fill churches with heathens who believe they are Christians. The right answer is to lovingly present unbelievers with the truth that God empowers people to change when they come to Him in faith and admit that they have sinned.
Christians don’t live what they say they believe-
This is because some Christians have bought into the lie that in order to reach the unsaved they have to live 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 is the number one reason non-Christians have never been to a church and it’s an easy problem to solve.
Churches and Christians should never be unnecessarily weird. That said, the solution to getting people into church is not nearly as complicated as the experts have made it. Christians just need to love, pray for and then present people with spiritual truth. Then we need to invite them into our world.
It worked for me.