According to Lifeway Research, about 70-75% of the population calls itself Christian, but only about 25% practice their faith in an active manner. In fact, we are seeing Cultural Christians (Those who call themselves Christian because of family heritage or culture.), and even some Congregational Christians (Those who have some connection to a local church, but rarely attend.), now self-identify as religiously "unaffiliated.” The days when “everyone” went to church are gone for now. The assumption that “everyone” believes the Bible is God’s Word and are familiar with the Bible stories and teaching is also a thing of the past.
Why are these statistics important? If the church is to be effective in reaching people it must understand who it is we are seeking to reach. You see, we are trying to reach TODAY’S lost, not the lost 50 years ago. Should we approach outreach with a mindset that ignores the reality, our efforts will likely be ineffective in reaching the intended people.
HOW you reach people will vary depending on WHO you are reaching. For example, if you are seeking to reach saved Christians (Which we welcome to our church but who are NOT the focus of outreach.), your approach would be different than if you are seeking the lost and unchurched. Believers are interested in Bible studies, Gospel sings, men and women’s luncheons, etc. Believers uses expressions such as, “Bible-believing, missions-minded, soul-winning, pre-millennial, fundamental.” None of these things are wrong; they just aren’t things connects with the lost.
If our outreach seeks to reach unsaved and unchurched people, we must use a different approach. Lost, unchurched people don't understand our Christian verbiage; it only confuses them. Let’s ask the question - what NEED can we address that would resonate with our community? Is there an opportunity to serve our area that could lead into a spiritual conversation? What advertising could we use that would captivate someone who needs Jesus or needs to see the value of church?
It’s time we take an honest look at WHO we are seeking to reach and evaluate WHAT we could do to better impact their lives. The truth is, to reach people no one is reaching, we must do things that no one is doing. This means we must be willing to leave our comfort zone. We must be willing to do what we haven’t done before and move into unfamiliar territory. But with God’s help we can impact our community. Bill Hybels once said, “The lost matter to God, therefore they ought to matter to us.” Do they matter to you?