“Really? You’re joking.” The 27-year-old woman laughed, then stared back at me from across the table. “is that really what Jesus taught? I had no idea.”
It was that day it hit me. Amid the growing crowd of “nones” – those who don’t claim Christianity, atheism, or any other religious belief – I need to remember to enter conversations with the realization we don’t all have Christianity as our common base.
I take for granted that everyone – even if there isn’t active faith present – has been to Sunday School in the past. I’s not true. And many people, like the friend I was talking with, don’t truly know who Jesus is, but they have a laundry list of reasons why the organized church, and thus Christianity, isn’t for them.
They aren’t alone either. Many young adults who did grow up in Sunday School are joining the ranks of the nones. In his book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith, David Kinnaman, president of the evangelical research group Barna Group, wrote 18- to 29-year-olds have disappeared into a “black hole” when it comes to church attendance. He noted a 43 percent drop in church attendance when teens hit young adulthood.
So what can you do to reach out to the rapidly growing population of nones? How can you help stop the attrition of your church and invite those in who have never been a part of a church before?
David said members of the young generation especially are craving depth, so the first thing that will attract them to Christianity and the church is relationships.
The second thing is to truly show them Jesus for who He is. It’s not “Jesus in a vacuum” but Jesus who affects every aspect of life – it’s purpose, mission, and vocation, David said.
While many nones may claim to be uninterested in looking for a religion that fits them, LifeWay Research reports 82 percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited by a Christian friend or family member, as shared in former LifeWay president Thom Rainer’s book Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts.
As the number of nones grows, so should our determination to pray for and build relationships with the lost for the purpose of sharing the gospel – especially since we know they probably won’t come looking for us.
Reprinted from the March 2022 issue of Missions Mosaic, Woman’s Missionary Union, Birmingham, Alabama. Written by *Ava Thomas. Used by permission. To receive this issue, or subscribe to Missions Mosaic, call 1-800-968-7301.
Ava Thomas is a writer and lived overseas in England and the Middle East. She traveled extensively into different contexts to meet people and tell stories of what God was doing in their lives.