Reaching out to your neighbors! Reaching the unchurched! (By Thom Rainer)
They are your neighbors. When you pull out of your driveway, you wave at them as they water their lawn. Your kids attend the same school; they play touch football in your yard. You may have even picked up their mail while they were on vacation. But have you ever invited them to your church?
We are all guilty on some level of not being obedient to the imperative of Acts 1:8, sharing the gospel message with all who will listen. And many of us have not taken the step of inviting our neighbors to church. Some of us may not even know our neighbors.
We get home, pull the car in the garage, and hurry inside. In the morning, the process begins anew. If we know our neighbors, it is many times only on a superficial level.
Many of your neighbors are unchurched. Several of them may not know Christ. Who are they, and what are their perceptions? Our research team asked this question and found several things you must know about the unchurched.
Receptivity. Surprisingly, many people who are not currently attending a church are receptive to going. The reason they do not hear is that they have yet to be invited. If invited and accompanied, 82% of the unchurched are open to attending church with a friend or acquaintance.
Opportunity. One of the most saddening aspects of our research revealed that most of the unchurched have never had the gospel message presented to them! Very few of those outside of the church have ever had anyone, much less a neighbor, share their faith with them.
Positivity. While many of us may fall into the trap of believing that those who do not attend a church have a negative perception, the opposite is true. Most of the unchurched believe pastors and churches are beneficial to the public. Such positive perceptions should be an encouragement for the local church to reach out to their communities.
Courtesy. We all have a desire to be treated with courtesy. The unchurched segment of the population is no exception. While they are open to invitations and have a positive view of the church, they would rather be notified before someone showed up at their house. In other words, the best way to invite them into church is perhaps to invite them first into your home. Having them over for a meal and truly making the effort to get to know them is a good way to open them up for an invitation to church.
Sincerity. The majority of the unchurched would like to develop a real and sincere relationship with a Christian. Our neighbors who do not attend a church value relationships that go beyond a superficial wave and hello when we pass by them on walks through the neighborhood.
Spirituality. Most of the unchurched that have children are more concerned about the spiritual welfare of their children than themselves. The old adage “get the children in church, and you’ll get the parents there too” rings very true.
Honesty. One of the more surprising elements of our research involved who the unchurched wanted to talk to about spiritual matters. In fact, most of the unchurched would rather speak with a layperson than a minister about spiritual matters. The excuse that you lack theological training is simply not enough to pawn off your responsibility to share your faith. The unchurched want to hear about your honest spiritual struggles and victories.
Most of your neighbors who are not part of a local church are receptive to an invitation and have a positive view of the church. More importantly, the opportunity is there for gospel work. Be obedient to the calling of the Great Commission, and God will work great things in the church.
This could be the year of breakthrough for your neighbor and them joining you at church. Start praying for your neighbor and those who don't know the Lord. Then reach out to them. Coming in September is back to church day on the 19th. We are going to make it the whole month long. Every Sunday in September is BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY - BRING A FRIEND (neighbor) SUNDAY. If we do our part God will do his!