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7 Things Christians Should Give Up To Reach Unchurched People

So you want your church to reach people who don’t go to church.

That’s wonderful because that’s basically the mission of the church: to share the love of Christ with the world in the hopes everyone will come into a relationship with Jesus.

The challenge is that unchurched people aren’t exactly flocking to most churches, and many Christians seem stumped as to why that is.

There are many reasons, but a surprising number center around one thing: Christians who treat the church as if it’s their private club.

The gravitational pull of human nature is toward self, not towards others, and churches behave the same way. You will focus almost exclusively on your needs and wants unless you decide not to.

And that’s exactly what far too many churches do: focus exclusively on the needs and wants of their members.

Okay, it’s worse than that. Maybe it’s not even about needs and wants. Maybe it’s about preferences.

So many church leaders (staff and volunteer) struggle to lead beyond the preferences of the church members. And as soon as they try, they get inundated with complaints and angry emails. Too many Christians feel like it’s their right to have a church that caters exactly to their tastes and whims, and millions are paying the price for that (including unchurched people).

Catering to the preferences of members is a terrible idea for three reasons.

First, it’s killing the church. Attendance continues to stagnate or decline as people drift further and further from Christ (here’s a 5 part blog series I did on declining church attendance).

Second, it’s an unwinnable game. Even in a church of 100 people, you’ll never be able to please everyone.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s just wrong. Since when did the personal preferences of members become a legitimate reason to keep people away from God’s love?

When your preferences keep unchurched people from the promise of Christ, it’s time to change your preferences.

Here are 7 things Christians should give up to reach unchurched people.

give up

 

1. Music

You would think by now we might have solved this one. But even churches who think they’ve solved it often haven’t.

Many churches who call themselves contemporary… aren’t. They’re just more contemporary than they used to be.

Have you listened to the top 40 on iTunes or Spotify recently? Probably not… because you hate that music. You even tell yourself it isn’t music.  There’s no guitar. It’s all beats. And what’s with the vocal Olympics? Why can’t they make music like they used to (like in the 90s), you say to yourself?

Which may be part of the reason your church struggles to reach anyone under 40.

Be honest. Don’t call yourself contemporary if you’re some paler version of it. Self-awareness and honesty actually matter if you’re trying to reach unchurched people.

Sadly, well-meaning self-deception runs rampant in church leadership today.

Be truthful about what you’re doing. If you are, it might just make you frustrated enough to make you change again.

In the meantime, realize that despite all the change, you could still be miles away from being relevant to the people living around you.

If you want more on music, here are 5 ways to battle the never-ending worship wars.

2. Politics

I’m not sure politics has been this divisive in a generation or two. But I promise you; it’s divisive. Just check your social media feed.

I know many people who say they have stopped following people on social channels and avoid the news because they’re so upset by the divisiveness.

By definition, your church needs to include people who are different than you.

God is not a Republican, a Democrat, a conservative, a liberal or a socialist. He transcends all our political categories, however important they might be to us.

Politics matters, but it will never change the world the way the Gospel can (or has).

Should Christians vote? Of course. Should Christians run for office? Absolutely. We need more women and men of character and conviction in government.

But the church doesn’t exist to elect or defeat politicians. It exists to glorify Christ and grow his Kingdom (which is an alt Kingdom) in the world. (Here are a few more thoughts on being the church in the present political climate.)

Just know this: if God has all the same opinions your political party does, you’re probably not worshipping God.

3. Style

It seems the likes and dislikes of Christians run deep and wide these days.

We have opinions on everything from the coffee we serve to the color of the paint to the flooring in the auditorium to what we call the auditorium (“It’s a sanctuary, people!” he said, loudly) to the color shirt the greeting team wears.

Christians seriously leave churches and try to divide churches over issues like that?

You know what that is? It’s pettiness.

Obviously, at some level, all those things matter.

But instead of running it through a filter of what you like, run it instead through a filter of whether what you do is effective in reaching the people you’re trying to reach.

And church leaders, you need to choose who you focus on: members or those not yet coming to your church.

I agree with my friend Reggie Joiner who says leaders should focus on who they want to reach, not who they want to keep.

4. Buildings

As Christians, sometimes we get more attached to our buildings than we do to our mission. Christians should also be willing to give up their buildings to reach more people.

This can happen on several levels.

First, don’t resist renovations. If you’re still asking toddlers to meet downstairs in a mouldy basement with green carpet, don’t be surprised when you can’t keep young families coming to your church.

Second, be willing to do what it takes to reach people. Sometimes that might mean moving from a permanent to a portable location. Other times it might mean doing a huge expansion. Don’t resist.

Finally, in a growing number of cases where churches are dying, this will mean flipping the keys to a growing church that lacks a building.

One of the oddities of the era we’re in these days is that the churches who have buildings often have no people, and the church plants that have people often have no building. Flip that.

I love hearing about the growing number of churches who are giving their building, assets, and leadership over to a young church that’s reaching people.

5. Money

Dying churches that own buildings also often have money.

If a church doesn’t flip the keys and simply closes, then in many cases, denominations (many of which are also in decline) often take the money after a church closes and uses it to prop up, well, a dying denomination.

What if instead that money was redeployed to plant new churches? Even new churches that aren’t part of that ‘denomination’?

In the emerging post-Christian era, it’s time to build THE Kingdom rather than YOUR Kingdom.

Similarly, older Christians tend to have more money than younger Christians.

What if Christians who had money used their resources to fund innovation rather than fight it?

Could you imagine what might happen?

6. Time

Being the church is about a lot more than showing up for an hour on Sunday or tuning in online.

If you’re really going to reach the next generation, it means giving your time too.

Authentic Christianity is more about what we give than what we get. Our giving doesn’t earn us our salvation, of course, but it’s a joyful response to a God who gave everything for us.

7. Our lives

Christians should be the most generous and selfless people on the planet.

Sadly, we’re often known as the stingiest and most selfish (ask any non-Christian who’s worked at a restaurant).

The Gospel calls us to die to ourselves so that others may live and to put something bigger than ourselves above ourselves.

If you give your life away, you find it.

When you die to yourself, something greater rises.

Let’s Help Change The Story in The Canadian Church

If you do ministry in Canada, I’d love for you to take some of these ideas (and many others) and put them into practice.

I’d love for you to join me for the first ever Canadian Church Leaders Conference in June hosted at Connexus Church.

We’re bringing top national speakers and practitioners for three days to learn together, grow together and equip you and your team to reach more people in your community. Plus, you’ll be seated around tables, not in rows, to learn and grow from each other.

The early bird rate is on through March 17th. So register your team today to get the best rates.

You can register here.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear what you think Christians should do to help reach our communities and the people God loves so deeply.

Scroll down and leave a comment.

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68 Comments

  1. Kevin Thompson on July 6, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I’ve served in “contemporary” churches for nearly twenty straight years. I last served in a church in 2015. I’m taking a break until an opportunity to join a GOOD church comes along.

    I’m not burned out on serving, I’m just tired of casting my pearls before swine. Who are the swine? The pastors who serve a dead community… As well as the dead community itself. Unfortunately, I’ve found that to be the norm and not the exception.

    Every church I served in, ranging from a couple hundred to nearly two thousand in weekly attendance, had moments of significant providential impact, followed by the arrival of both the local church community and a subsequent decline. When the church showed up, God and the lambs both left.

    I thank you for stating so clearly and eloquently what I’ve been saying for more than a decade. Seeing it stated by someone else doesn’t change the reality of the entrenched dysfunctional and ineffective church, but maybe your voice will help put the focus on what Jesus commissioned rather than apathetically continuing what many organizations have devolved to today.

  2. Jinny on July 5, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I rarely go to church anymore. I grew up in the church and drifted away in college. When I decided to come back to God, I did so by reading the Bible cover to cover – Apocrypha included. It changed my entire outlook. Now, when I try to get involved in a church I get discouraged. I know that there are individuals in a church, but at the churches I’ve visited, the church bodies as a whole are inauthentic. I understand that not everyone or every church is perfect, but there is an underlying arrogance in each one that it is. I have found two – out of dozens – of churches that are authentic. That know they’re on a journey, that reach out with sincerity and are driven to keep learning about God and how we connect with him during our human experience. So here are some things from an outsider: we don’t like being patronized with music that is supposed to elicit OUR emotions rather than exalt God, we want to learn something new – not hear the same thing over and over, we want honesty rather than “because faith”, and we want to continue the search for meaning. More often than not, what you hear from the pulpit is one of five sermons you’ve heard before – it’s only that the preacher’s own personal anecdotes have been inserted.

  3. Christoph on July 5, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    These 7 items are nice. But I do believe the issue goes much deeper. It is the reality of the LORDSHIP of Jesus Christ in our church life. It is what happens outside the 4 walls. I was at a church a few months ago, it was a Brethren Church. During the “breaking of bread” all ladies were head covered. They do not have a Pastor, but elders do the “preaching”. They built a nice tall gym next to the sanctuary. The brother who gave me a tour of their building told me why they built that gym. It was that they could invite Muslim men from the community to play Basketball. These Muslims hear also the Gospel inside a church that is not exactly contemporary. Do we do what we do to serve us better or that we can serve our community better?

  4. Dave Ball on June 7, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    This is a great discussion, and Carey’s points are certainly helpful (the ones on music and reaching the unchurched, etc) but I think we are still missing THE point…it is NOT about one style of music vs another…no matter whose style one prefers…it is NOT about how contemporary we are or we are not…it is not even about the manifestation of former expressions and experiences…it is about being a church where we in faith become people of The Presence of God, more sensitive to the WORD and the SPIRIT than to whether or not we are contemporary or sensitive to the preferences of the good people in either the pew or on the street. GOD is still God, and the kingdom is preeminently about HIM. This level of spiritual power is not humanly programmed, it comes only by the hand of God in response to a church which is broken of self, focused on Him. It touches and changes people beyond our best excellence and presumed skills. May God help us to get there.

    • Rob on July 26, 2017 at 10:21 am

      I couldn’t agree with you more Dave. What transforms hearts and lives is when people authentically encounter GOD in the Christian community. Life transformation will not occur because our churches are on the cutting edge of the latest cultural fads… it will happen because the Holy Spirit is alive within the church and when this happens… it’s not about the music or anything else drawing people… people are drawn by the Spirit of God because what they experience is real and authentic. My greatest fear for the church is that we are so focused on the externals that even when we do get people to come who don’t know Christ, that they won’t truly know Him because they are more focused on what the church can do for them than on what the church is really about… God and God alone.

      I once heard a quote that carried a lot of wisdom: “What you catch them with… is what you will keep them with.” If you catch them with entertainment, flashy services, and the next cutting edge technique… that is what you will have to keep them with. But if you catch them with the Gospel… you will keep them because of the Gospel. May this be true of our churches… that nothing ever outshines the Gospel.

  5. Rusty on June 5, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    God may not be a republican but I can assure you that Satan is a democrat.

    • Carol M. on July 5, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Rusty, that is just so lame. Both parties are made up of people. Imperfect, some “lost”, some “found”, but all created in the image of God. And Satan hates them all. God sent His Son to die for all of them and Satan wants to keep all of them from receiving that Gift.
      I am sorry, but I am just so tired of this kind of talk. We have so many blessings in North America. Yet we fight among ourselves and just make Satan so happy.

  6. Daniel on May 19, 2017 at 1:55 am

    I attend a large church which has grown leaps and bounds by doing this entire list. While I see a lot of debate going on here, I do think many here are missing the point of what being contemporary can mean to a lost generation.

    I am a first generation Chinese Canadian millennial who like many my generation, didn’t grow up in a church. My first church experience as an young adult was very off putting and foreign to me. I didn’t like the organ music, I couldn’t read the sheet music in the hymn books, I didn’t feel comfortable in the older chapels with the stain glass windows and hard pews. I just saw church as an old white folks social club with no room for me. It was a generational and cultural gap for me and I just felt the same way about Jesus. Thankfully I gave my current modern contemporary church a shot and I’ve been there since. In fact, my church is made up mostly of born again young adult Christians (nearly even between men and women) from many different backgrounds and ethnicity who never grew up in a church. It’s difficult for me to imagine anyone from my church not having a relationship with Jesus simply because there was no effort to help bridge that gap. Church culture and traditions shouldn’t be an obstacle to Jesus and yet it is for a lot of people my generation. The point of being contemporary isn’t selling out the faith but to bridge a gap that allows for non believers to experience Christ.

    Millennials are taught to despise church in our media and current culture. It’s cool for my generation to do it. My generation has such a negative connotation of what church is without realizing who Jesus is and what the church is really about. When Jesus made fishing and farming references to fishers and farmers, he was being contemporary and relating to them where they were in life. Well today we are speaking to the MTV and social media generation and where they are in life. It doesn’t mean selling out our beliefs, it means meeting people where they are, much like Jesus did.

    • Teena on June 6, 2017 at 10:20 pm

      I am a 55 yr Caucasian with European roots generations ago. I was born here. Grew up here. Do people like myself have a place in your congregation?

      • Dorothy on July 6, 2017 at 12:43 am

        I am a 54 yo Caucasian woman who attends Carey’s church and believe me it is a range of ages. Many Christ followers working to spread His love and to welcome all. Have you listened to music from groups like Hillsong United? Give it a try!

    • Jan on June 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Right on Daniel!

  7. Dan G on May 18, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Hi Carey this is very helpful. – Actually I wonder, whether you allow me to translate it into German (I’m Swiss) and give to the people of my church…?!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 18, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Would love to have you translate it!

  8. Austin Spain on April 27, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Most of this article is very convicting and very good to hear. I think you will cause irritation in people by saying these things. One thing this article does though, is it misses the main reason why the “churches” are in decline in first world countries. It’s not because we are alienating people or because the music isn’t hip-hoppy enough. The reason the churches are failing is because they are not relying on the God in the Bible they claim to cleave to. How many of these things listed above could any other organization do without prayer and dedication to YHWH? All of these reasons for failing mentioned above are ways that we as broken human beings can save people from themselves. The God in the Bible is the one who saves. If we think he can’t save people because the music is bad, then how big is our God? God can save sinners without any contact from a Christian. Take Paul for example.

    I am by no means hating on this article because I do think there are things we can do to help others feel comfortable in the body of Christ, I just don’t want people to believe that we are the reason someone accepts the gift of Christ rather than YHWH saving us all. If you really want to lead in the church and become a light to the unchurched, place Christ back in the center of the church. Rely completely and wholly on Him for everything and go out with the mindset of bringing the name of YHWH glory rather than growing a church attendance and thus the leadership’s glory. Do things that would push out the nominal Christians and make people decide on who they align with because that’s what Jesus did. Jesus did not care about numbers, he cared about the truth.

    • John on May 31, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      My thoughts exactly. Good comment.

  9. Andrew Soerens on April 13, 2017 at 11:09 am

    Reading the comments you would think that this blog post was claiming to be the ultimate treatise on church growth and life. It’s just pointing out 7 things – not THE 7 things. Lighten up people!

    Great article. I do have a couple thoughts:

    Regarding music, I’m not sure that the very latest style is the most important aspect in regards to reaching people any more than thinking hymns are somehow the most spiritual form of worship. I think some points about authenticity and accessibility might have been a stronger point.

    Regarding time, I really wish you had expounded on this. Lots of dying churches have people giving enormous amounts of time. Some suggestions on HOW our time should be spent to reach the lost might be more helpful than just suggesting that the AMOUNT of time we’re giving is not sufficient. I’m guessing that time in small groups and time involved in our community are more effective than time in committees or time in extra services or church activities.

    I think the strongest points in the articles are:
    STYLE – Give up the pettiness!
    OUR LIVES – church isn’t about us. It’s about reaching the lost.

    Great article. Thanks Carey.

  10. PastorWayne on April 1, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    There are some good points made here. I do agree that “many Christians seem stumped as to why that is [that churches are in decline and people are not flocking to the church]. I appreciate your last points that we are called to die to self and give freely of our time, money, and resources – both individually and corporately – and that the church is not very good at following Christ in these ways.

    However, there is also much, I believe, which is fundamentally wrong with this article. It makes a number of assumptions, which are contra-biblical.

    First, and most fundamentally, the author makes assumptions about why the church is on the decline. I don’t believe it is on the decline for most of the reasons listed in this article.

    The real reason the true church of Jesus Christ is on the decline is because the “church” is not doing things as Christ designed, modelled, and commanded, and His Apostles implemented. The Church, for the most part, is not being the Church as commanded and described in the New Testament.

    As another person commented, Christ gave the church’s mission as “Preach the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, and make disciples, and in the making of disciples, teach them to observe (i.e. DO) what I have commanded, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

    In the implementation by the Apostles (because Christ and the Apostles laid the foundation for the church), they established the purpose of the church (or from the Greek word for “church” = “ecclesia” which means the meeting together of believers/disciples of Christ) as delineated in Ephesians 4:11ff. The purpose of the Church and its meeting together is to (1) teach solid, biblical doctrine; (2) help bring believers into maturity in Christ; and (3) to train disciples to go out into the marketplace and do ministry there. Contained within these are other things we see which contribute to and facilitate these main objectives from Christ’s and the Apostles teachings and examples from the NT Church: (1) Love God with all you are and have; (2) Love your neighbour as yourself – first, loving your brothers and sisters in Christ above the world and secondly, loving those in the world; and (3) Edify and minister to one another through that love and the giftings, which the Holy Spirit supplies; (4) Keep prayer as a main activity of the church and central to all the life of the church, both individually and corporately; and (5) do all to build and grow the relationship between the believer, the church, and our God (worship would be part of this). This is “doing church” God’s way.

    Virtually no churches I know of – either locally or globally are really focussing on these fundamental, Biblical foundations. Rather, they employ many of the focusses of this article, copying man’s/business/worldly, institutional methods of success. I believe Scripture makes it quite plain that God’s work must be done God’s way. Why do we feel we must employ the ways of the world to vainly attract the world in the hopes that they will make some kind of a decision for whatever false image of Jesus we create in an attempt to be appealing or acceptable to the world? We come up with gimmicks and activities, which the world already is using and employing to be appealing to people of the world.

    Additionally, most churches are preaching a false gospel: e.g. believe [intellectually] the facts about the Jesus I just told you about, say this prayer after me, and now you’re saved and have your ticket to heaven; or Jesus will make your life better [like a whipped cream and a cherry on top make an ice cream sundae better]; or ask Jesus into your heart and He will prosper you and give you the desires of your [still sinful] heart.

    Certainly, the facts of Christ’s death and resurrection need to be central to the Gospel. However, there are other Biblical factors, too, which must be preached as Christ and His Apostles preached them. Chief among these is that man is a wretched and completely depraved sinner (see Romans 3:10ff; et al.), is under the eternal wrath of God, and can do nothing to save himself. Only when one truly knows the “bad news” can the “Good News” be appreciated and presented in reality.

    A second essential component of preaching the Gospel is that, as Christ made plain, “one cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless one is born again of the water [the Scripture] and the {Holy] Spirit.” In other words, unless the living, effective Word of God and the Holy Spirit work within the heart and spirit of a person, convicting them of their sin, leading them to TRUE repentance [turning away from self, sin, and the world], and putting a TRUE faith within a person, there can be no salvation. There must be an inner change wrought by the Word and the Spirit to bring that person to become a new creation or born anew spiritually. It DOES NOT come by someone telling them because they followed a formula and prayed a prayer they are now born again. It is entirely possible (and I believe is most often the case) that one can intellectually believe certain facts and say a so-called “sinners prayer” a thousand times and yet never be born again as described in Scripture.

    Once one has truly been born again (and he or she will know without someone having to tell them such because it is the Spirit, Who gives such inner witness), then they should immediately be baptized both in water and with the Holy Spirit (as taught in Acts and elsewhere).

    Then the process of teaching and discipling should be implemented. This, as Christ stated, should be done by teaching them what Christ taught about how they should live and behave. This also includes modelling this lifestyle as the discipler or teacher. The concept of New Testament/Jewish “teaching” is not like our western practice of merely classroom teaching. Rather, it primarily was similar to what an apprenticeship in the trades would be in our western world. In this situation, an apprentice follows the master tradesman around 5 days a week. For plumbing in my Canadian province of Ontario that takes 5 years of apprenticeship. Included in this is three 4-month classroom times of theoretical teaching. So, there is both the theoretical, in-class teaching plus the 4 years of on-the-job training where the apprentice (or disciple) learns to do exactly as the master plumber (or mentor/discipler) does.

    In other words, as the 12 Apostles (plus many other disciples) followed Christ for three years and learned in practical example how to “preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, and cast out demons,” so the Church must also make disciples by one who has been so discipled.

    Scripture quite clearly describes the Kingdom of God and its culture, and the fact that it is diametrically opposed to cultures of this world. WHY, WHY, WHY do those in the Church feel it necessary to change God’s culture to more closely resemble the cultures of the world? This is clearly seen in this article in the encouragement to change the music to be modelled after the world’s music. WHY?

    In the late last century, one so-called Christian song writer (who incidentally vacillated between being part of a secular rock group and so-called Christian rock, wrote the line in one of his songs, “Why should the devil have all the good music?” First of all, the devil has nothing good and if he has something (which is not good) then why would any disciple of Christ want it? This and other contra-Biblical foundations is what much of contemporary “Christian” music is built upon.

    Many churches have thrown out the glorious songs of Zion, which have sustained, taught, encouraged, challenged and edified disciples of Christ for centuries. WHY? To have music which is more appealing to the world? To make “church” more attractive to the lost? Where do you find anywhere in Scripture where the church is to model itself after the world’s culture in an attempt to fulfill Christ’s great mission or commission? I challenge all readers to this.

    What we do find in Scripture is that God’s Kingdom has its own culture which is diametrically opposed to the cultures of this world – as counter as light is to darkness; as counter as righteousness is to sin; as counter as life is to death. In the example above, we find we are to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs – birthed of the Holy Spirit, not birthed in the corrupt hearts of sinful men. BRING BACK THE SONGS OF ZION if we are to walk and live as disciples of the past followed Christ.

    As citizens in a foreign land we are called to be representatives of Christ and ambassadors for the Kingdom of God.

    Also, the author exhorts us to “do [whatever] is effective in reaching the people you’re trying to reach.” I think this presents several problems in that it assumes several things: (1) that we do whatever succeeds – according to whatever our definition of success may be. This does not necessarily take into account what God’s definition of success might be for the situation in which He has placed us; and (2) It does not define what it means “to reach.” Does that mean that we befriend people and hope they see Christ in us and will make inquiry? Does that mean that they are only “reached” when we have presented the gospel to them? Are they only reached when they become regenerated and are made disciples? Does it mean that we get them into “the church” by any gimmick or means possible? Does it mean we attract them with “stuff” they like, be it entertainment, family days, or the sponsoring of sports teams, or some such things?

    God’s definition of “success” to Isaiah was to be a prophet to a rebellious nation, even though they would reject the message and reap God’s judgement. God’s definition of success to Christ was to be obedient unto the cross – even though almost all forsook Him. God’s definition of success often looks like disaster or ineffectiveness from the human understanding.

    Going back to my third paragraph where I declared that the Church is not doing as Christ said, I’d like to give an example. As part of the Great Commission to the Church Christ commanded us to do and teach what HE taught and did. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus commanded His disciples to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you
    received, freely give.” How many disciples of Christ today, in the western church, actually do these things? Yet it is what Christ commanded us to do, is it not. In Acts 8, when Philip (the deacon of chapter 6, not the Apostle) went to Samaria, the preaching of the Gospel was accompanied by such miracles. Why is this not occurring much in today’s church? After all, this was commanded by Christ and modelled by the Apostles and other disciples in the NT church, was it not?
    I propose that our churches would be full and overflowing if we started to be obedient to the commands of Christ and His Great Commission. If the preaching of the Gospel was accompanied by healings, demonic deliverance, miracles, even the raising of the dead, Don’t you think there would be no greater attraction to those trapped in the kingdom of darkness, blinded by sin, whose consciences are seared?
    May God help us to die to self, take up our crosses daily, and follow Him as He commanded, both corporately and individually and follow wherever He leads and directs.

    • jo Phillips on April 9, 2017 at 9:23 am

      Pastor Wayne, I agree with much of what you said here.
      When I as at bible school we did a study on ‘lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the boastful prideful life’. What became clear is how much the Christian mindset has become just like the world. Ie, the way we measure/conclude success, the way we advertise our churches, conferences, theological colleges. It’s lost it’s Christ centeredness and become man centered. There are many ways in which the church thinks just like the culture it lives in. But the bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Unfortunately for the majority, thinking like the world is just far too attractive to give up.

      • Justin Vest on July 9, 2017 at 7:54 pm

        Your thoughts mirror my own, though you have the theological learning necessary to communicate these truths that I lack. The only thing you left out that I would include is a breakdown of the following statement:

        “People have left the church”.

        There are two nouns in this statement: “people”, and “church”. Now I know this is a crazy notion, but what if, just WHAT IF, the blame lies in the people? I can only speak for myself, but when I left the church for a period of years in the late 90s and early 2000s, it’s because I didn’t want to go, and wanted to pursue pleasure, sleeping in, drinking heavily and often, and everything else the flesh desires after.

        I came back when I repented. The church had nothing to attract me back, nor drive me away in the first place. Both decisions were fully mine.

        As an aside, I discovered that there was a thing called “the music wars” while I was away, and noticed that the hymns I loved as a child had been mostly and later completely jettisoned, much to my dismay. I further learned that was supposedly done for the benefit of my age group, though my opinion wasn’t sought on the matter.

        I’ll add only that for some people, this music works. God didn’t give everyone an ear for good music and a discernment to know the difference between poetic lyrics and tripe, and for them, CCM I suppose is a blessing. I wouldn’t prescribe one way or the other for every church. The Amish are Godly people and they’re doing things right for them. I admire them, while also recognizing the way they live is not God’s calling for all of us. So it probably is with our music choices.

    • Andrew Soerens on April 13, 2017 at 11:00 am

      I gave up 1/3 of the way through this response. It’s longer than the post itself.

      • PastorWayne on April 13, 2017 at 12:16 pm

        That too bad. I think your response may say more about you than you say about the response.

    • Justin Vest on July 9, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      Pastor Wayne,

      Thanks for this. Do you have a blog? I don’t know who you are, but this is the very best thing I’ve ever read on this subject. The American Church will never be effective again until they realize the truth of what you say. It would mean a lot of career bureaucratic types losing their ministries, though, so be sure it will be ignored unless God moves them to humility.

  11. antiutopia on March 1, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Behind you 100%

  12. Darren Young on February 27, 2017 at 5:11 am

    John 14: 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

    Matthew 28: 18 – 20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. We see Jesus’s promise here. He has all the power.

    19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    Here is a command. Go, Teach what Jesus did on the cross for all man’s sins and who he is.born of the virgin Mary, Problem-Sin/ Anon-dote; Jesus. Another command: Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

    20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    Here is another command: Teach them to do everything I have taught you. If you break it down, Jesus says all in verse 19 meaning everyone. Then again in verse 20 Them.

    He also gives us another promise: lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    This is what Jesus said after he rose from the grave and then he acceded into the heavens. If you want to follow Jesus here is a great way you can do that by following exactly what he said to do. Go, teach, baptize in the name of the father the son and the holy spirit, and then teach them to observe all things I have commanded you.

    Pretty simple

  13. Carla Zwicker on February 26, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Churches should not be paying retired folks to travel the globe under the auspice of missionary work. Its creepy

    • Gene Shoenake on July 5, 2017 at 10:24 am

      It’s a little suspect that people in churches spend spend a lot of money for ‘quick trips’ where they will do God’s work for a week or two and then come home. Austria, Hawaii, Australia, France, and the like. Vacations that are vigorously defended by those who make the journeys to ‘reach the lost’. Little of value is likely to occur during these ‘blitzes’, and the pictures shared via f.b. usually show ‘the sights’ rather than any fruit from doing ‘God’s work’.

  14. Carla Zwicker on February 26, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Money: I attended church in a school auditorium the money went towards enriching our community instead of a steeple.

  15. Carla Zwicker on February 26, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Racism has got to go. Listening to Church talk about who is right and who is wrong contradicts the foundation of the bible. Racism is what propelled Trump to his seat in Office.

  16. […] Carey Nieuwhof   |   7 Things Christians Should Give Up To Reach Unchurched People […]

  17. sisteract on February 17, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    I would like to hear of churches who did #4 and #5.

  18. Ryan Connor on February 15, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Some good points… but I’m not convinced that a church in decline just needs a renovated building, super hip Top-40 like music and an avoidance of politics. Sure, we can turn our preferences into sacred cows. But, I’d say the unchurched aren’t looking for a social club that caters to their preferences either. The church needs to retain some sort of otherness. People are looking for God when they enter a church, right? If they find God there, I doubt the out of fashion carpet will matter too much. Sure, update the carpet. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s really about the carpet.

  19. Mark Pasinski on February 15, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Carey, I always learn so much from you and contributors to your site. I pray for your success in the good fight of Gods work.

  20. diamondinruff on February 15, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    You say we need to give up politics and be more inclusive of people with other views. We are not to be OF the world but we are IN the world. We have to vote, to be a voice in our community – even if it’s considered political. For example, most democratic support abortion, most conservatives believe abortion is taking a human life. This issue is SO very important for our time, that its beyond political, it is a LIFE issue. We must talk about abortion IN the churches, we must be active in our community to support single mothers, to adopt unwanted babies, to be the voice for the voiceless. Scripture supports saving those being led to slaughter (Prov. 24 11-12) – if that is political, so be it. We must not be silent.

    • CramItClowns on February 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      Wow — and congratulations — I wouldn’t set foot in your church. Politics should have been issue #1.

    • Chris on February 27, 2017 at 10:30 pm

      Of course, I might also argue that the belief that life begins at conception is logically incompatible with the belief that Jesus is the way to heaven. If life begins at the moment of conception, then the consequence of that is that more people are in heaven than have ever been born, and that of the people in heaven, less than 1% got there because of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.

      It’s possible for two people to have opposite opinions that they both believe are supported Biblically.

    • Ben on May 1, 2017 at 12:26 am

      You don’t think climate change and environmental vandalism isn’t a LIFE issue? Your post is exactly why aligning oneself with any political party can be divisive and will eventually lead to compromise. Better to keep your total allegiance to Christ and if required, call out issues no matter what the party.

  21. britain on February 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    I see the problem with Christianity as the same as all other religions. For some reason there is this idea of “good guys” (Jesus, God, Allah, and all those claiming to be believers) versus everyone else that doesn’t believe in everything they believe in. Jesus Christ, Allah..God Almighty, live and let live. Allow God to make you a better person rather than trying to change everyone else. How about concentrating a little more on life after birth rather than life after death.

    • DBW on June 1, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Actually traditional Christianity (i.e. First Century) was not about life after death. It was about being Kingdom People here and now. The Sermon on the Mount really doesn’t discuss heaven (i.e. the place you go to when you die)–but how to live in this world: forgiveness, mercy, kindness, single-mindedness, justice (that word “righteousness” means “justice”).

      By the bye “justice” doesn’t live and let live. Justice seeks to set things right for the poor, abused, crushed–that means having to deal with systems of oppression and injustice–speaking truth to power. How could that ever translate into live and let live? Is it ok for corporate greed to destroy the poor? Or for men to abuse women?

      The very concept of concentrating more on life after birth mitigates an attitude that says live and let live.

  22. Jeff on February 13, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Doing “church” is for believers. We aren’t called to invite pagens to watch us worship God (even tho guy they are of course welcome to observe us).
    We regularity assemble to worship God through Christ exalting music (contemporary or not), the proclaiming of the Word (through exegetical preaching), and to perform the “one-another’s” of the New Teatament. All of these things will equip us to actually go out into the harvest field on our own and proclaim the Gospel to the lost.
    Once we redefine what church is (as this article does) we are no longer following the Bible, but rather the latest seeker sensitive, attrationnal model, or self help styled “church”
    Our highest aim should be to honor God – not make our worship services appealing to the lost. The lost hate Jesus. So if our worship is Jesus focused – they should hate it too.
    We need to witness to others and then point believers to good, biblical churches.

    • Robbie Neiman on February 13, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      Great comments, Jeff! I agree wholeheartedly!

    • Darryl Buckle on February 14, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Respectfully, I’ve never met a lost person who hates Jesus. I’m sure they exist but I’ve never met one. I have met a few who hate Christians and there’s always a pretty compelling story behind it.

      • Jeff on February 14, 2017 at 10:02 am

        I’m not so much basing this statement on my personal experiences, but rather on the Bible.
        Romans 8:7 says the sin nature (the only nature a lost person has) is hostile against God.
        This hatred of God is demonstrated in the fact that no one even seeks God (Rom 3:10-18)
        So while most people would not say they hate God – their words and actions prove otherwise.
        Before God regenerated me and saved me – I too was a God hater. This is simply how the Bible describes the relationship between the unbeliever and God.

        • PastorWayne on March 31, 2017 at 4:03 pm

          Exactly. The Bible teaches it (and no one more pointedly than Jesus Christ Himself).
          Sadly, many of the “Jesus Christ of the Bible” haters I have met are in so-called Christian churches, although I have met ones in the world as well.

      • loudstone on February 14, 2017 at 4:02 pm

        Building off of what Jeff said, lost people often love pop culture ideas of Jesus, but they hate the actual Jesus of the Bible. They love a Jesus that says “Love all the people and don’t judge” and stops there, but hate the Jesus that tells them He is the only way, the Jesus that calls people out for their sin, and the Jesus of Matthew 7:21-23 who says that not even all who claim Him will make it into heaven.

      • Tim Satterfield on April 1, 2017 at 3:57 pm

        Did you forget that Christ himself was hated by the world before us?

    • diamondinruff on February 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Churches need to ask themselves if they want a huge mega church with all the “stuff”, or do we want to go passionately after Jesus, obeying His command to love one another and show the world the fruit of the Holy spirit so that they are drawn to Him. Will we “seek Him first” or are we going after the trendy cool and hip chuch. God and His word never change, but the culture and society does. Stick to the truth and know that we are saved by Grace, not by the latest cool trend in our culture.

    • Gemmo Boon on April 6, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      Amen. Preach the Gospel and lay it out squarely for everyone. Call sin, sin (homosexuality, transgenders in the wrong bathrooms & adultery, adultery).
      Those who reject it can literally…go to Hades (and I’ll even help some of ’em pack).

  23. John Wallace on February 13, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Good article. We all profess that we want to please God and not people. Our problem is that each of us seems to act on the assumption that Jesus likes what we like. The points of this article challenge us to get over our egocentrism.

  24. Janie French on February 12, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I essentially agree with the gist of this however, the article assumes that all unchurched people are under 25. I applaud those groups that apply the same self last/ God first principles to reach groups that may be defined by being part of other generations as well as other cultures – all of whom are part of our communities and all of whom need to see the Church both BEING Good News and sharing Good News.

  25. John Chisham on February 12, 2017 at 9:11 am

    I believe the problem lies deeper, and it is much simpler. Lost people are dead in trespasses and sins, members of Satan’s kingdom, and they HATE the Light because they love their sin (Ephesians 2:1-3, John 3:18-20, 36). No amount of cool music, clothes, and speaking and acting like the world and imitating its system is going to entice those who hate God and are in rebellion against Him to come to church. It is not about politics, money, buildings, time, or anything else. If God has a man’s heart, NOTHING will stop that man or woman from following Christ and desiring to be with His people. Look at is this way: would a criminal go and find a cop and a judge because the jail was more attractive?

    • Jeannette Shields on February 13, 2017 at 1:33 am

      I say this with all due respect Mr. Chisham: I was once ‘dead in trespasses and sins, a member Satan’s kingdom, and hated the Light because I loved my sin.’…etc. , but now by the grace of God, I am alive to serve my Lord and a member of His family. I think the real problem is me, I need to give up my pride in thinking I am better than them because I am a Christian and they are not.

      • John Chisham on February 13, 2017 at 7:27 am

        Amen! That’s what the grace of God makes us realize- I know I am a wretch who is only benefiting from the goodness of God in salvation. I am not good, certainly no better than anyone else. I am a Christian not because I am good but because God is good. And because He has seen fit to give His grace to me, I feel motivated to share it with others. You do not do that by making the church ‘cool’ or making yourself think,look,and act like the culture, you do that through loving and serving others as you proclaim the Gospel.

  26. Mike on February 11, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Good article, Carey. I’ve experienced my share of fights around these elements (especially music).

    One thing that kept me scratching my head was what you mean by “unchurched”? Do you mean people that have no relationship with Jesus Christ or do you mean people that don’t attend a structured gathering?

    If you mean the second I might have to politely disagree. For me when I hear the word “church” I don’t hear “ecclesia” or a group of people coming together to celebrate the presence of the risen Christ in their midst. I hear dead religion that is too scared to go up to God’s mountain and meet Him face-to-face.

    What would you say to people like me that equate being “unchurched” to being born again into a living relationship with the living Christ?

  27. Angela Coon on February 11, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    The article assumes that all our reaching the unchurched happens within the gathering space on Sunday morning. While I don’t totally disagree with the points I do disagree with the assumption. We are the church and we need to be changing the way we think about reaching the unchurched where they are instead of inviting them to church where the Pastor will do all the work for us. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples, teaching them.”

    I’ve had this gnawing feeling that we’re not doing church the way it was intended. The church is a parallel of the original synagogue which arose out of a need for a place of worship and teaching when the temple was torn down in the Old Testament. In the NT the church began in homes because of persecution. The eventual established church was a gathering of believers for worship, prayer, teaching and sharing the sacraments with a mission to go out and reach the unbeliever.

    The word church comes from the Greek word “Ecclesia” which means assembly. In the NT it referred to the Body of Christ in general and those meeting together for worship in a particular place. Church is people. The saved were being added daily to the church (Body of Christ) through the sharing of their lives with others in the marketplace and their homes. While some did bring unbelievers to the meeting, the main purpose of the meeting was for edification (maturing) of the believers and worship of God in preparation for going out to live life in a way that unbelievers would want what they had.

    I don’t know where the deception began but I believe it’s roots have been in the church for a long time and we’re reaping the results now in the 21st century. The church is being redesigned to be the place of attraction and assimilation of the unchurched. Everything we do or say in the building is filtered through this lens. We don’t want to offend so altars are taken out. Worship is shortened and sermons sanitized, and the place is redesigned to look more like a club than a place of worship. There’s nothing wrong with the space being warm and welcoming or modern as along as it’s used for its intended purpose.

    We need to be training our people to be disciple makers who engage and include people in their lives where they have the opportunity to lead them to Christ and help them learn to grow as disciples. Their lives and love should be attracting others to Christ. Then they invite them to join the assembly of believers in worship at church. Not that they can’t be invited before that decision but we don’t leave all the responsibility to the Sunday morning worship service.

    Even our use of “unchurched” is politically correct instead of using the “lost “or “unsaved.” This places the emphasis on getting them churched instead of inviting them to a relationship with God through the saving grace of Jesus. In reality, they would be “churched” while being surrounded with believers in relationship, whether they go to a building or not. (yes, I do believe going to church is important.)

    I think we under challenge our people and rob them of the joy of engaging the unchurched in a relationship that causes them to want to follow Jesus too. We rob them of the joy of leading someone to Christ and thereby fulfilling the great commission.

    While I agree with many of your points, especially #7, I think we get caught up in the outward trappings more than the spiritual dynamic of God’s power drawing people and moving in the hearts in such a way, while in that space, the Father is revealed, the Word made real and the unchurched want to come back. This has been the experience of people in our church and we have all ages, races and ethnicities.

    Maybe if we spent more time seeking God and being with people we’d see the mission of the church fulfilled without having to read lists of 7 this and 10 that.

    We are in a ripe time for the harvest because now more than ever people are isolating themselves and in desperate need of connection and accepting relationships – and, yes, a Savior. The church, as people, should be the very best at connecting people to people and people to God in heart to heart relationships; not buildings.

    8 Things to Give Up to Reach the Unchurched:

    1 Give up the False Idea that my only responsibility is to invite the unchurched to church.

    2 Give up my life to live as I want, how I want when I want – give yourself over to being a disciple of Christ who lives to make disciples.

    3 Give up time in front of TV, digital games, social media and time consuming hobbies to spend time being with Jesus so your have something to share with the unchurched. You cannot give what you have not received.

    4 Give up my comfort zone and move out of the four walls of the church building and my home to be with people. Leave time for hanging out at the Y after the workout. Go to community events and g to know new people. Hang out at Dunkin Donuts and buy someone a donut and share your space with them.

    5 Give up the status quo for creative ways to connect with people in your neighborhood and community- head up an interest group, community project, fun activities for youth and/or families. Volunteer.

    6 Give up your privacy and invite people you’re befriending into your home for fun/food and interaction.

    7 Give up your self focus for Other focus – intentionally be mindful of others, ready to listen, ready to seize opportunities to engage. Stay off of social media in public so you’re ready.

    8 Give up your fear of man for God’s boldness and share your story and the Gospel with your new friends and invite them to follow Jesus with you – yes, even to church. (It won’t feel like an exclusive club when they have you as friends. )

    • John Chisham on February 13, 2017 at 7:29 am

      Amen.

    • Rosemarie Radcliffe on February 23, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      Sometimes the Holy Spirit leads you down the rabbit hole of the internet just to find gems like this response. Thank you, Angela Coon

    • jo Phillips on April 9, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Angela what you wrote was just beautiful.

    • Krystie Joy Hague on April 12, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      This should have been the article and what was definitely missing when I read it. We need to be worshiping our hearts our together with believers each Sunday so we can be in fire to take that message to the world. We need to be ready with the gospel at any moment. We need to be broken for the lost. I love that you said about looking for opportunities to reach out. That is what is missing in the church.

  28. Franck Schilling on February 11, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Thank you Carey for these good insites.

  29. corey sauer on February 11, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Really? Seven things to give up?/

    Take it from the “unchurched”, you only need ONE…

    Give up the hubris in thinking that other people need any church at all, especially the fatally flawed Christian version.

    The only thing this so-called list should focus on is the prioritization on being kind, decent, loving, generous, compassionate, non-judgemental human beings.

    Living one’s life in such a manner, especially in one’s own family and local community, would bring about more peace, progress, social justice and equality than a million churches loaded with tens of millions of “Christians” attempting to reach the so-called “un-churched.” In fact you’d realize that church itself is obsolete.

    Reaching us is not only completely unnecessary, but in reality a detriment to society. Your lives, time, energy and resources are far better spent actually serving HUMANITY, and not a church that is attempting with a gaudy, prideful vanity to reach the “unchurched” or the “godless”.

  30. Wild M Ranch on February 11, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    I think the very reasons you cite to fix the problem IS the problem. Churches, pastors and teachers need only one focus which they can find in Colossians 3:23. Quit trying to appease, please and appeal to people to fill quotas. Instead, focus work to please the Lord Jesus Christ. His promise is He will bless the work. His righteousness demands He honors it. Let Him figure out numbers. It is not about numbers anyway. A VERY small populus with positive volition can bless whole nations (see Genesis 18:27-33). This world needs Biblical truth taught from its church’s pulpits, not a “dumbed down” gospel to keep chairs filled and offering plates heavy. Please God, not man. He controls history and indeed it is HIS-story. Stay true to His Word. That’s all it takes. Watch Him do the work in ways our minds would have never imagined. Psalm 37:4

    • jo Phillips on April 9, 2017 at 9:45 am

      Amen. And so true it’s not about numbers. Football pitches have great numbers. A huge numerical church isn’t necessarily filled with disciples. As Kyle idleman puts it, ‘you can be a follower of Jesus, or merely just fan’

  31. […] Clergy Coaching Network […]

  32. Jason Bonnicksen on February 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Nailed it!

  33. Mark on February 10, 2017 at 11:16 am

    When we say “un-Churched” what we often mean is, “not coming to MY church.”

  34. […] 7 Things Christians Should Give Up To Reach Unchurched People by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  35. n9wff . on February 9, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    This article uses the model in which the modern church wants to follow. Our foundation in Christ is weak, we are so consumed with entertainment that the unsaved see very little difference. There is a great cost to follow Jesus and we don’t showcase this to the world. American churches have little separation from the world; we are nowhere near His holiness.
    I recently left a church that held selfishness among their own group. As soon as I challenged the leaders (both pastors left within 2 months, they weren’t getting paid), they removed us from their media. They lost half their people w/i six months, have no compassion for the “lost sheep.”
    Here is the real issue; we are not presenting the true gospel and the old rugged cross in its cruelest form. What I mean is A. W. Tozer wrote “Old Cross vs. the New.” The old is about death, the new is entertaining the flesh and keeping the old man satisfied. Pulpits are filled with business minded people who are not Spirit led. We boast more about who we are in Christ instead of Christ in us. We have lost the message of the Cross. This bloody spectacle is the core of Christianity. Sadly, it is no longer preached.
    We have more people believing they’re out of hell’s way but not living for Him. We want the crown but not the Cross. We want to reap the benefits but not dig into the soil to plant. All We care about only what we want. A country club/hospital that heals no one. As Billy Sunday said,
    “The reason why sin flourishes is we treat it as a cream puff rather than a rattlesnake.”
    We no longer walk in power because we don’t seek it for His glory; we seek it for our glory.

  36. ServantHeart2012 on February 9, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    If we just set aside our egos many of these obstacles to reaching the unchurched will grow smaller or even disappear. Everyone from the pastor(s) to the newest nursery worker has one. Some are more evident than others. But if we would just “check it at the door” and be open-handed to try new ideas without expecting OUR ego to be stroked in the process, perhaps we’d become more attractive to those presently outside our walls.
    In most cases, the individual local church does not ‘belong’ to the pastor. Why then must the pastor’s name be prominently displayed on everything from the marquee sign out front to the tissues in the ‘bridal dressing room?’ Also, when the pastor’s moniker is preceded with multiple titles (Reverend, Doctor, Bishop, Elder, etc.) and followed by an alphabet soup of degrees there might be an ego problem, and it’s often a turn-off to new comers. Don’t get me wrong. I admire those who have accomplished advanced educational goals, but do they automatically improve the character, competency, or work product of the person? No. (I’m not a fan of outdated parochial titles, but that’s a personal thing.) Most newcomers don’t care “who’s the boss” and aren’t impressed with titles and degrees. They just want to feel welcome and comfortable.

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