The Unchurched

The Barna Group released a report yesterday claiming that the “Unchurched Population Nears 100 Million in the U.S.”

It would be fun if atheists could take some credit for this. But the rate hasn’t statistically changed since 1994, says the report. Still, “unchurched” people represent approximately 1/3 of the people in the country.

What else does the Barna report tell us?

  • 47% of political liberals are unchurched, more than twice the percentage found among political conservatives (19%).
  • [W]hile about one-third of heterosexuals are unchurched (31%), half of the homosexual public (49%) met the unchurched criteria.
  • [E]vangelicals are the most reliable church goers: just 1% is unchurched.
  • [C]hurch size was related to attendance patterns: 24% of the people who attend small churches were unchurched, compared to 15% who usually go to a mid-sized congregation, and just 5% of those who affiliate with a large church (defined as attracting 500 or more adults on an average weekend).

The report also included a nod to the recent release of Jim Henderson and Matt Casper’s new book Jim and Casper Go To Church:

These results coincide with a unique book released this week by Tyndale House Publishers, entitled Jim and Casper Go to Church. That book describes the experience of a former pastor and an avowed atheist who together visited a dozen significant churches across the nation. Jim Henderson, who has been a pastor of small and large churches, interviewed the atheist (Matt Casper) during and after each church service they attended to gain insights into what it’s like for an outsider to attend such churches. Among the congregations visited were well-known ministries such as Willow Creek (pastored by Bill Hybels), Saddleback (led by Rick Warren), Lakeside (featuring Joel Osteen), and The Potter’s House (home of T.D. Jakes).

Many of the insights drawn from the experiences of “Jim and Casper” parallel the findings of Barna Group studies among the unchurched. Some of the critical discoveries were the relative indifference of most churched Christians to unchurched people; the overt emphasis upon a personal rather than communal faith journey; the tendency of congregations to perform rituals and exercise talents rather than invite and experience the presence of God; the absence of a compelling call to action given to those who attend; and the failure to listen to dissident voices and spiritual guidance to dig deeper in one’s faith.

It’s a pretty powerful plug :) The book has already cracked the top 1,000 on Amazon.

Incidentally, I’ve heard from many Christians who dislike Joel Osteen. But does anyone else find it interesting that the press release listed Osteen’s church as “Lakeside” instead of the correct “Lakewood”? Probably a typo. But it is fun to hypothesize about how this “accident” might have occurred…

[tags]atheist, atheism, Barna Group, Unchurched, Christian, liberal, conservative, heterosexual, homosexual, evangelical, Jim Henderson, Matt Casper, Jim and Casper Go To Church, Tyndale House Publishers, Willow Creek, Bill Hybels, Saddleback, Rick Warren, Lakeside, Lakewood, Joel Osteen, The Potter’s House, T.D. Jakes, God, Amazon[/tags]