The help churches to grow. At the

The Church Next Door: Understanding the Faith
As Key To Sharing Your Faith


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Thom S. Rainer



A Book Review

















Valeria Gray

Pastor Trevor Crenshaw

(Fall 2017 Online)

10, 2017



INTRODUCTION……………………………….…….…………………………  1

SUMMARY…………………………….…………………….…………………..   3      

EVALUATION…………………………………………………………………. 4

CONCLUSION…………………………………………………………………. 7





























Thom S. Rainer (PhD, Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary) is president and CEO of Life Way Christian Resources in
Nashville, Tennessee. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of
Missions, Evangelism and, Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary. His books include Surprising
Insights from the Unchurched, The
Unexpected Journey, Breakout Churches and The Autopsy of a Deceased Church. Thom Rainer and his staff did a research project on 300 Americans
over a span of 3 years and this book was the result. Thom Rainer is a specialist in church growth,
and he wants to help churches to grow. At the same time, he wants to make sure
that it’s the church that grows, and not a crowd. He is an advocate for
expository preaching and clear Gospel proclamation. Even though it was a huge research project,
Rainer did not overload us with figures and statistics.  

Unchurched Next Door will prompt much
thought and should move every thoughtful Christian toward greater faithfulness
in evangelism. This book will also help us to understand our unchurched
neighbors. “They are the unchurched next
door. They are your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your
coworkers, your merchants, your acquaintances, and your family members. It will
help them to understand that they need Christ and they are waiting to hear from

Rainer said 8 out of 10 unchurched men and
women would come to church if someone would invite them. Rainer helps us figure
out where our neighbors, friends, and coworkers are in their spirituality, and
how we can know who the unchurched people
are in our lives. In this book, Rainer identifies five “faith stages.” They represent
our running buddy, our sister-in-law, and


our hairdresser (Communicate
Jesus). “A discovery we made is that reaching lost and unchurched people is
not always best accomplished with some cookie-cutter strategy,” Rainer writes.
“The unchurched are different in how
they respond to the gospel.  You will be
amazed at the differences people have for the Christian message. Open this
book, mind and heart to reaching The Unchurched Next Door”. This book was a
review assignment in one of my classes at Huntsville Bible College.  Before this book, our Bible Study at church
studied, “The
Autopsy of a Deceased Church”
by Rainer.  Both books were awesome. I was inspired, convicted and transformed as I read this
book.  Both books made me look at myself
and see my own short-coming.






























The Unchurched Next Door looks at a serious problem. The fact is that America’s
churches are falling behind in the challenge of reaching the unchurched. Data shows that the population actively in
Christian churches has failed to grow.  Churches
have not grown even at a rate that would equal the growth of the population.
America is being transformed into a society at a rate that would shock most

Rainer classified the unchurched into
5 categories, from U1, U2, U3, U4 to U5.
“U1” identifies unchurched who
are highly receptive to hearing and believing the Good News. They know
something about Christianity, and have a positive attitude towards the church.
“U2” individuals are receptive to the gospel and willing to hear a message from
the church. Those in “U3” are identified as neutral, “with no clear signs of
being interested, yet perhaps open to discussion.” The “U4” group shows
resistance to the gospel but no hostility. The most unresponsive group is
identified as “U5” Many believers assume that the U5 category would include many
our fellow citizens. That assumption is not true. Rainer’s research indicates
that the U5 category fits only about five percent of the population.  These categories helped Christians better
understand that there are different groups of unchurched people and it would be
unfair to group them together.  The unchurched will meet with a greater
success once they know what their purpose is. 
Personal testimonies from interviews conducted with the unchurched made everything more personal and I believe whoever
reads this will be able to identify with the examples and their friends they
are trying to reaching out to.




Rainer and his
team came to some surprising conclusions.
most Americans have never been invited to church. Yet, 82%
indicated that they would be at least “somewhat likely” to attend church if
invited.  I will admit, I am one of those
that rarely invites anyone to church.  It
is not intentional, it just never comes to mind.  The last sentence in this paragraph gave me
an “ouch moment”. Rainer says, “Only twenty-one percent of active church goers
invite anyone to church during a year. But only
two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church.” Rainer also
says: “Perhaps the evangelistic apathy so evident in so many of our churches
can be explained by a simple laziness on the part of church members in inviting
others to church”. I did some personal research to see what are some of the
reasons that Christians are giving as to why.

Christians feel the personal invitation is much more effective means of
bringing unbelievers to church than a brochure in the mailbox.    There
is only so many times you can ask, and if you’ve asked your friends numerous times,
then you feel defeated by not knowing the next approach.   As Christians, it’s easy for us to only
associate with other Christians. If you don’t know people who aren’t Christians,
do you just randomly invite people? We might know people who aren’t Christians
but feel that the relationship isn’t deep enough for us to invite them to
church. Work provides us an opportunity to develop relationships with
unbelievers. In large cities, co-workers don’t live near us.  It may be difficult to ask a co-worker to
travel a long distance to come to church especially if they begin attending
regularly. Christians must take that a step further.  If that is a response, always encourage them
to look at the places they go that are leading them to hell.


One of the most
devastating things from this research is the
fact that most unchurched feel themselves safe from the reach of believing Christians. They don’t think that Christians are “wanting” to share the gospel with them.  Many non-believers wonder what makes Christians so reluctant to talk about
their faith.  For me, I think it’s the fear of rejection or
asking me a question, and me not knowing the answer.  Some of the
unchurched say that their Christian friends have little actual influence on
their lives.

 The withdrawal
of men
in many churches has led many to believe
that men are most highly resistant to the gospel. Rainer’s research says that
most men are grouped in the middle categories,
and show low interest in the gospel, either positive or negative. Men offered up the words like boring,
irrelevant, and hypocrite.  The real reason men don’t go to church is that
they are already practicing another religion. That religion is masculinity. The idea of
masculinity has replaced Christianity as the true religion of men. Research
indicated that the unchurched classified in U5
are more likely women. Women tended to
predominate in both U1 and U5.  Women are more likely to place a high value on
the issue of faith, and tend to be more
passionate Christians. Rainer
discovered that the U5s tend to be highly
educated, wealthier, and more condescending toward the Bible than the unchurched.
This group is marked with a secular lifestyle. One woman interviewed for the project said, “I have no need for the Bible. The Bible was
written for simple people. It was written to give moral and ethical guidance to
uneducated people”.




We live in a society with a female religion and
a male religion: Christianity, of various sorts, for women and non-masculine
men; and masculinity . . . for men. Male
religion demands that they avoid anything that might call their manhood into
question. This includes church, they believe deep in their heart that church is
something for women and children, not men (CBN).

It is so easy to live comfortably in our
Christian bubbles without thinking about those who are not saved. But the truth
is hell is real and those who do not accept Jesus will spend eternity there (John 14:6). The denial of Hell is another
issue.  There is a lack of concern for
sharing the Gospel and hell can be a Christian’s home. The denial of Hell is
now found among those who claim to be Christians, and Hell has disappeared
almost entirely from the public vocabulary. Today’s Christians should note Jesus
himself was bold to warn sinners they should fear Hell and understand it is
very real and a pressing threat. Many Christians see Hell as an embarrassment
rather than a motivation for sharing the gospel.  It is time to start talking about hell and Jesus.


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