Summary: Four myths commonly believed about the unchurched.
God’s Glorious Church
Shattering Myths about the Unchurched: Part One
Woodlawn Baptist Church
February 13, 2005
Introduction (See endnote)
You are probably familiar with the chapter in which our text is found. Jesus had been speaking with the woman at the well, had led her to saving faith, and had watched her walk back to town from the place where they sat. In the meantime, the disciples had just come from town, where they had gone for food, and when they got back to the well Jesus was speaking with this woman of ill-repute, a Samaritan woman, and what was worse was that she was of the wrong race. Even then, just as it still is today, followers of Christ could not accept those who were not like them.
Although they didn’t talk to Jesus about their concerns, Jesus knew their hearts. These guys were still along for the ride. They enjoyed Jesus’ fellowship; they enjoyed His teaching; they enjoyed the miracles, but they still were not in tune with His overriding mission of seeking and saving those who were lost. Jesus told the disciples why He was here, and He wanted them not only to understand His mission, but to make it theirs as well, so He said in verse 35,
“Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”
What did He want them to see? The fields! And what were the fields? The masses of people who were just waiting to be reached. Listen, the problem is still the same today. While we enjoy the fellowship and the teaching and the preaching the fields are waiting to be harvested. It is not a problem for our associational work. It is not a problem for our missionaries. It is our problem – it is our harvest – those are our fields, and this is our work.
Tonight I want to talk to you for a few minutes about the unchurched. Like the disciples, we make preconceived judgments about who or what they are. When those men walked up on Jesus that day, they weren’t concerned with getting to know this woman. They weren’t interested in her condition or her heart and soul – they had already made up their minds about her and so far as they were concerned she had been written off.
When it comes to the unchurched in our community, we can either try to gain and understanding of who they are, or we can continue to dismiss them like the disciples did. We know what we should do – we too should lift up our eyes unto our field – Denison and the surrounding area, and see the harvest that is awaiting our laboring hands.
Who are the unchurched? And what are they like? As we consider these questions, I want us to take a look at nine common myths that people hold about unchurched people. We are going to deal with four of these tonight, and the next five in a couple of weeks. The myths I am going to share with you are the result of research done by Thom Rainer , who is the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at the SBC Seminary in Louisville, KY. He is also the president of the Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm. These myths are the result of hundreds of hours of interviews with several hundred people who were at one time unchurched, and are now attending a place of worship. I say all of that simply to say that I’m not making these myths up; they are legitimate things that you and I believe, either consciously or unconsciously about those in our community who do not go to church, and it is important to realize that before we can ever hope to have the opportunity to change their lives, we must first change our attitudes and beliefs about who they are.
Myth #1 – Most unchurched think and act like white, middle-class suburbanites with no church background.
Why do you suppose that we would believe that about those who are unchurched? Why would we think that most of the unchurched think and act like white, middle-class people? Because we are white middle-class people! Even though a casual walk through the mall or Wal-Mart tells us differently, we assume that most people are just like us.
If you were to spend much time looking at church strategies for reaching their communities, many of them look the same. It is like we take a cookie-cutter approach to reaching the unchurched without ever considering that those we’re trying to reach may not respond to our “one size fits all” mentality.
Have you ever (and I know you have) been in the store and thought to yourselves…