A Few Surprising Perspectives about Your Unchurched Neighbors

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.


Posted on July 21, 2021

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Bruce Webster says on

    “Your church will have the number of people it’s prepared to serve.” One more surprising fact is that when people visit your church they will likely find it sociologically/relationally full. Many years ago Dr. Richard A. Myers collected head count data from over 15,000 churches. He found that every church had a predictable sociologically/relational capacity. He could account for close to 95% of the variance in church size. Once a church reached it’s capacity, adding people resulted in no growth. The new people either didn’t come back or they forced out marginal people. A church’s capacity was based on how many people it was structured to love significantly, more than just a greeting in the foyer. It depended on the number of what Myers called “Face to Face groups” in the church. These were groups of less than 20 (ideally less than 15) that regularly met together (usually at least weekly). He also found that Easter attendance is all the people coming the same week. Normally they spread out over 3 to 4 weeks. (I’ve used Myers’ research to accurately predict a church’s attendance.

  • Il Papa says on

    I notice you comment with *faux* concern about Captain Cassidy being ‘agitated’.

    Why SHOULDN’T a person be agitated when they’ve managed to escape your lies, and see you continuing to peddle them with zero concern for the lives you destroy with your lies?

    Why SHOULDN’T people be agitated / angry about being ABUSED, which is what you’re doing by lying to your own parishioners here in ways GUARANTEED to convince them to act in ways that’ll get their feelings hurt? We who’ve escaped know that this is just another nasty tactic to tie your parishioners closer to you by putting them in situations where their rudeness is returned in kind, while convincing them that religious rudeness ISN’T rude at all.

  • Il Papa says on

    You overstate the level of positive reception christianity gets.

    Your scandals are manifold, and your ham-fisted mismanagement of them, combined with collusion with the very party of babylon in oppressing the weak and exalting the strong, is destroying you.

    And you, and the rest of your leadership, don’t do anything to change that because such changes would decrease your power, and y’all don’t give a hot care.

  • About five years ago, a nearby neighbor of ours made friendship overtures toward my husband. Oh yeah. He struck up a jovial conversation, acted all friendly, then oh-so-subtly asked if we were attending church anywhere. Upon finding out that we were not, he slid a church invitation our way. My husband politely declined in a way that made it crystal-clear even to him that we would not ever be reconsidering the matter. The guy still lives here, but after he realized he would not be making any sales with us, he just began avoiding us forever. He’s said not one word to either of us since then, not even a hello as we pass each other. We see him all the time, but he pretends he has no idea who we are.

    And that’s really a best-case scenario with Christians’ false friendship ploys.

    So yeah. This was an appalling post. Not one bit of it sounds remotely like me or anybody I know. It’s based on old folk wisdom about what heathens are like. It’s not real. Please, evangelicals, leave your friends and neighbors alone. Stop trying to sell us your product (active membership in your group). If we want to know about your beliefs, we know we can ask. If we do not ask, assume we don’t want to discuss it. And always remember this: If you come at us thinking that you’ll be making a sales pitch at us as soon as you think you can get away with it, then you are not really loving us for ourselves. You’re just pretending, and we’ll be hurt when we find out — or angry. We will NOT be thinking wow, your religion is really neat, we need to check it out!

    Christians, your leaders want you to be alienated from us. They want you to see us as sales targets with a bullseye painted on our foreheads. That way, you can’t get to really know us and love us for ourselves.

    I did not know how to love people like that till I deconverted. I’m so glad I learned. What a sad, stale, dry life I led, so lonely and hurting, because I couldn’t really commune with others — not honestly, not truly. I didn’t learn how to speak People till I stopped being on 24/7 hyper-alert for a chance to push a sales pitch out at unwilling audiences. I think evangelicals in particular like their flocks to be like I was, because extremist beliefs only last in a bubble.

    • Sam Rainer says on

      If you want evangelicals to leave you alone, then why stop by our home here at this blog and then invite us to your blog via a link to your name?

      • LOL oh, there’s that Christian love I’m so familiar with! Sam, ask your dad how to react to heathens who show up on your blog to comment. Once upon a time, he knew the answer to that question. Until then, just keep showing us your “Christian love.” It just draws us heathens in, don’t you know? Makes us just marvel. You’re all so, I dunno, just different I guess.

        The truth is, you are dead wrong about us. Wouldn’t you want to know that, instead of perpetuating untruths that will only alienate people further from your product? If everybody takes the tack you want, then you’ll never know that you’re dead wrong. You’ll keep pushing these untruths out, and your audience will keep buying it and seeing us as their mission field. Love will not multiply — only alienation will.

        Is that what you want? To set your audience up to see us as subhuman, pitiable beasts who need fundagelicals to be our Mommies and Daddies? To set them up to see us as anything but people just like themselves, who believe what we do for reasons and who aren’t interested in buying fundagelicals’ product?

        Do you seriously want your audience to be set up to FAIL like this?

        Because if so, I can really see why you would resent seeing someone like me show up to rain on your parade.

  • Sam,

    I am a bi-vocational pastor. I work from 2pm until 10pm. How do I listen to the podcast How Stalled Churches are Kickstarting Growth?

  • Charles Alumbaugh says on

    One of the things I have read is about us the Church using worldly terms like “President” and “Senior Consultant “ or in my churches case “ Executive Director”

    And my experience in the neighborhood over the years is the majority of people really don’t want to talk about it. Spiritual matters. Most of my family have stopped talking to me because of me speaking about sin and Jesus over the years. They don’t even want to talk about it.

    • I’m glad you got the message. (Or at least, that you seem to have gotten it.) It’s so sad to see how this growing hyper-focus on sales is destroying Christians’ relationships. As their leaders get more and more frantic to rebuild their numbers, we can expect them to make more and more strident demands for more personal evangelism.

      As evangelicals get more and more toxic as a group, people naturally want to hang around them or talk about beliefs with them less and less.

      The problem is that evangelicals keep pushing a product nobody wants, especially for the price being demanded. (That product is not Jesus, by the way. It is active membership in their own groups.) They’re taught all kinds of sneaky ways to snake in sales pitches at their loved ones and anybody who’ll sit still long enough, but the problem is the product, not the flocks’ efforts. The product itself isn’t appealing.

      Evangelical leaders have always displayed a shocking lack of concern for how their demands will impact their flocks’ lives. I mean, it’s not like they personally will be losing any relationships over their insistence on making more sales attempts.

      Once you stop seeing people as potential evangelism targets and just love them for themselves, you’ll see your loved ones blossom toward you again. That’s what happened to me after I deconverted. My whole family was so relieved — and at various different times, every one of them told me that they finally had “their Cas” back again. I just wish I hadn’t already driven away all my pre-conversion friends by then. I still wish I had those friends back. The evangelical friends I’d made all vanished, of course. Every one of them. But I made more, thankfully, who don’t care what I believe or don’t believe.

      That’s the only friendships that really matter. Love for itself. Love for just who we all are. Love without demands to change to be like me. Love without ulterior motives.

      It’s really too bad nobody’s ever made a religion based on that kind of love. I bet it’d be easy to sell a group based on it.

  • Todd Woodsmall says on

    Can you give some more details about the research itself? How widespread geographically and in how many socio-economically diverse environments was it conducted? How many data points are we talking about here…dozens, hundreds, thousands? Were the answers collected in person or via electronic/remote means? I don’t doubt that most, if not all, of the summary statements are accurate for most of our local communities, but it would be interesting to know exactly who and where the data represent.

    • Sam Rainer says on

      Todd, we did the study a few years ago. The research was done across the US. It’s a mixed-method approach (both quantitative and qualitative). We did not do validity and reliability testing (which is rarely done in studies like this one), but we feel confident the summaries in this article are accurate.

      • They’re not. I absolutely promise you they’re not. This research sounds incredibly shoddy to me, made more to sell your products than to actually help Christians make more evangelism sales.

        I’m guessing “a few years ago” is more like 20. I know I’ve heard your dad talking about it in the past, and I argued against it at the time but without success.

        If you didn’t do reliability and validity testing, whatever you got wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. It was a straw poll at best, and your audience needs to be a little more critical in how they assimilate your findings.

      • Sam Rainer says on

        Captain Cassidy – I won’t claim to be an expert in statistics, but I did take stats at the PhD level and spent 5 years working with Global 1000 companies in the energy futures markets (I used a lot of statistics). Anyway, I certainly don’t want to sound defensive. Just letting you know I have a background in stats. Maybe I’m reading too much into your late night comments here, but you seem agitated. Perhaps a Robert Tilton video will help? He’s not an evangelical, but I find he lifts my spirits. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CSsuh1xqXI

      • Alas, your comment engine will not allow me to reply to your reply. This is in response to 7:40pm.

        Your background in stats somehow allows you to push out blog posts that are categorically in error. You and your dad both have this lamentable habit of not being transparent about exactly where and how you got your results. You also both tend to present very old pseudoresearch as current findings. (And I’ve NEVER figured out where your dad got his 6k-10k churches closing per year thing, which he’s pushed repeatedly for about 10 years at least; he seems to have gotten it from another blogger even longer ago, but he has never said.)

        You’re making an argument from authority here, and it doesn’t work. Arguments aren’t evidence, and neither will a claim of expertise substitute for actual information.

        It’s funny, you know. I mean really funny, like makes me quirk a smile kinda funny: when apologists get pressed, they tend to go all-out on arguments from/appeals to X and ad homs. But fundagelical pseudoresearchers tend to go all out on their credentials. It’s like they all know they don’t have the goods to offer. If they did, they’d pony up. But they don’t, so this is the route they choose to go instead.

        Like dude, just admit the truth. I already know that if I knew your exact source and methodology I’d be able to tear your pseudoresearch to ribbons. You don’t have to be coy here. I used to be fundagelical; I know exactly how the tribe likes to distort the truth.