The Church Must Scatter
By Dan Kaskubar
Fifty years ago, or even 30 years ago, people went to church. Even people who didn’t really believe, went to church. It was the thing to do. And when someone wasn’t going to church, they would often politely oblige if they were invited by a friend.
Not so any more. 75% of Americans still self-identify as Christians, but two-thirds of those are “nominal” Christians, meaning they don’t orient their life around their faith. About half of these folks are not part of a local congregation. The percentage of Americans self-identifying as “Christian” will continue to dwindle as Americans increasingly become comfortable not associating themselves with Christianity.
Indeed, 43% of Americans (156 million people) are “unchurched,” meaning they’re not a part of a local congregation. That’s more than the entire population of Canada, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and New Zealand, combined.
Yet, 99% of the “unchurched” are aware of Christianity. Over 75% own a Bible, and have attended church in the past. Two-thirds say they tried to grow spiritually in the past month by talking with family and friends about their faith. They are more likely to identify a negative influence of Christianity than any positive. And for the first time since these statistics have been tracked, a majority of them are not open to an invitation to a church service from a friend. Yet over three-fourths of people on the Front Range say it’s important for them to practice spirituality or religion of some kind.*
All in all, Americans are less likely than ever to be part of a local congregation, and they’re more comfortable than ever not being identified as Christian. Yet, they continue to seek spiritual truth and are open to dialog about the spiritual. The vast majority of people still believe they have things in common with Christians, but they’ve also got baggage against Christianity. As a result, they’re less likely than ever to have an encounter with God through an invitation to a weekend service. Christianity has a marketing problem. If there’s ever been a need for more real ambassadors, more laborers in the Kingdom harvest fields, it’s now.
So how are we to be effective ambassadors to those who already think they know what the “good news” is, and don’t believe it is “good news” for them? Through real-life change that causes curiosity. The unchurched are most likely to become interested in Christianity (again) if a relationship with God has changed someone they know, for the better. They’re looking for real results.
In other words, more and more, the way non-Christians are experiencing the kingdom reign of Jesus is through people who embody it outside the walls of the embassy. We are their encounter with God. God literally makes his appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5.20). Jesus’ strategy is for each of us to go, to be sent, and to bring the Kingdom reign of Jesus with us.
Perhaps nowhere is this more critical than in our workplaces. We don’t have to wear our relationship with God on our sleeve; rather, as we live out the values, strategies, and tactics of the Kingdom, Jesus’ reign will show through. There is no other possibility. Through our work we spend more waking hours interacting with people than any other venue, whether it be co-workers, customers, or clients. The way we honestly deal with shortcomings, disappointments, failures, anxieties, and frustrations (for they’re bound to come in the workplace) says more about God’s reign in us than perhaps anything else could.
Dan Kaskubar is the pastor of Business and Mission at Hope Community Church in Denver.