The Church Next Door: Understanding the FaithAs Key To Sharing Your FaithByThom S. Rainer A Book Review Valeria GrayPastor Trevor CrenshawEvangelism(Fall 2017 Online)December10, 2017 TABLEOF CONTENTS I. INTRODUCTION……………………………….…….
….. 3 III.
EVALUATION…………………………………………………………………. 4IV. CONCLUSION…………………………………………………………………. 7 ii INTRODUCTION Thom S. Rainer (PhD, Southern BaptistTheological Seminary) is president and CEO of Life Way Christian Resources inNashville, Tennessee. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School ofMissions, Evangelism and, Church Growth at The Southern Baptist TheologicalSeminary.
His books include SurprisingInsights from the Unchurched, TheUnexpected Journey, Breakout Churches and The Autopsy of a Deceased Church. Thom Rainer and his staff did a research project on 300 Americansover 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 surethat it’s the church that grows, and not a crowd. He is an advocate forexpository preaching and clear Gospel proclamation. Even though it was a huge research project,Rainer did not overload us with figures and statistics.
TheUnchurched Next Door will prompt muchthought and should move every thoughtful Christian toward greater faithfulnessin evangelism. This book will also help us to understand our unchurchedneighbors. “They are the unchurched nextdoor. They are your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, yourcoworkers, your merchants, your acquaintances, and your family members. It willhelp them to understand that they need Christ and they are waiting to hear fromus.
Rainer said 8 out of 10 unchurched men andwomen would come to church if someone would invite them. Rainer helps us figureout where our neighbors, friends, and coworkers are in their spirituality, andhow we can know who the unchurched peopleare in our lives. In this book, Rainer identifies five “faith stages.” They representour running buddy, our sister-in-law, and 1our hairdresser (CommunicateJesus). “A discovery we made is that reaching lost and unchurched people isnot always best accomplished with some cookie-cutter strategy,” Rainer writes.”The unchurched are different in howthey respond to the gospel.
You will beamazed at the differences people have for the Christian message. Open thisbook, mind and heart to reaching The Unchurched Next Door”. This book was areview assignment in one of my classes at Huntsville Bible College.
Before this book, our Bible Study at churchstudied, “TheAutopsy of a Deceased Church”by Rainer. Both books were awesome. I was inspired, convicted and transformed as I read thisbook. Both books made me look at myselfand see my own short-coming.
2SUMMARYThe Unchurched Next Door looks at a serious problem. The fact is that America’schurches are falling behind in the challenge of reaching the unchurched. Data shows that the population actively inChristian churches has failed to grow. Churcheshave 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 mostChristians.
Rainer classified the unchurched into5 categories, from U1, U2, U3, U4 to U5.”U1″ identifies unchurched whoare highly receptive to hearing and believing the Good News. They knowsomething about Christianity, and have a positive attitude towards the church.”U2″ individuals are receptive to the gospel and willing to hear a message fromthe church. Those in “U3” are identified as neutral, “with no clear signs ofbeing interested, yet perhaps open to discussion.” The “U4” group showsresistance to the gospel but no hostility.
The most unresponsive group isidentified as “U5” Many believers assume that the U5 category would include manyour fellow citizens. That assumption is not true. Rainer’s research indicatesthat the U5 category fits only about five percent of the population.
These categories helped Christians betterunderstand that there are different groups of unchurched people and it would beunfair to group them together. The unchurched will meet with a greatersuccess once they know what their purpose is. Personal testimonies from interviews conducted with the unchurched made everything more personal and I believe whoeverreads this will be able to identify with the examples and their friends theyare trying to reaching out to. 3 EVALUATIONRainer and histeam came to some surprising conclusions.First,most Americans have never been invited to church. Yet, 82%indicated that they would be at least “somewhat likely” to attend church ifinvited.
I will admit, I am one of thosethat rarely invites anyone to church. Itis not intentional, it just never comes to mind. The last sentence in this paragraph gave mean “ouch moment”.
Rainer says, “Only twenty-one percent of active church goersinvite anyone to church during a year. But onlytwo percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church.” Rainer alsosays: “Perhaps the evangelistic apathy so evident in so many of our churchescan be explained by a simple laziness on the part of church members in invitingothers to church”.
I did some personal research to see what are some of thereasons that Christians are giving as to why.SomeChristians feel the personal invitation is much more effective means ofbringing unbelievers to church than a brochure in the mailbox. Thereis 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 onlyassociate 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 Christiansbut feel that the relationship isn’t deep enough for us to invite them tochurch.
Work provides us an opportunity to develop relationships withunbelievers. In large cities, co-workers don’t live near us. It may be difficult to ask a co-worker totravel a long distance to come to church especially if they begin attendingregularly. Christians must take that a step further. If that is a response, always encourage themto look at the places they go that are leading them to hell.
4One of the mostdevastating things from this research is thefact 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 abouttheir faith. For me, I think it’s the fear of rejection orasking me a question, and me not knowing the answer. Some of theunchurched say that their Christian friends have little actual influence ontheir lives.
The withdrawalof menin many churches has led many to believethat men are most highly resistant to the gospel. Rainer’s research says thatmost 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 thatthey are already practicing another religion. That religion is masculinity. The idea ofmasculinity has replaced Christianity as the true religion of men. Researchindicated that the unchurched classified in U5are more likely women. Women tended topredominate in both U1 and U5.
Women are more likely to place a high value onthe issue of faith, and tend to be morepassionate Christians. Rainerdiscovered that the U5s tend to be highlyeducated, 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 waswritten for simple people. It was written to give moral and ethical guidance touneducated people”. 5We live in a society with a female religion anda male religion: Christianity, of various sorts, for women and non-masculinemen; and masculinity . . . for men.
Malereligion demands that they avoid anything that might call their manhood intoquestion. This includes church, they believe deep in their heart that church issomething for women and children, not men (CBN).It is so easy to live comfortably in ourChristian bubbles without thinking about those who are not saved. But the truthis hell is real and those who do not accept Jesus will spend eternity there (John 14:6).
The denial of Hell is anotherissue. There is a lack of concern forsharing the Gospel and hell can be a Christian’s home. The denial of Hell isnow found among those who claim to be Christians, and Hell has disappearedalmost entirely from the public vocabulary. Today’s Christians should note Jesushimself was bold to warn sinners they should fear Hell and understand it isvery real and a pressing threat. Many Christians see Hell as an embarrassmentrather than a motivation for sharing the gospel. It is time to start talking about hell and Jesus.