This week, for small group, I did a study on The Outsiders. What is that? A movie? A rock group? Probably both but, in this case, it is a term used in reference to people who are outside the church. Outsiders can be atheists, agnostics, people of other religions, or Christians who do not attend church services.
Christianity is losing the next generation. According to the book You Lost Me, 60% of Christians between the ages of 16-29 have left the church. Does this mean they don’t believe in Jesus or they no longer want to be churchy? I’ve said several times that Christianity has a PR problem, but it is bigger than that. Recognizing that you have a bad image (perception becomes reality) only matters if you are willing to do something about it.
Outsiders consider Christians to be:
- hypocritical (85%)
- judgmental (87%)
- sheltered/out of touch (78%)
- too political (75%)
- proselytizers (70%)
That last one, proselytizers, is interesting. Young outsiders see church as looking only for increased numbers. They don’t think we are interested in them personally. They think we see church as entertainment (Sunday morning concerts and motivational speakers) and they don’t think we are interested in the world around us. They don’t see us as being transformed by our faith.
Are they wrong? Many outsiders are still Christian believers, they just don’t think church has the answer for their spiritual growth.
Only 34% of young outsiders believe that Christians genuinely care about them. But among Christians, 64% say outsiders perceive their efforts as genuine. See the disconnect? 85% of outsiders see Christians as hypocritical but only 47% of church-goers say the same thing.
Perspective is important. Are Christians losing an entire generation because we don’t know that we are ineffective? Take a look at that 78% statistic again. Opinions can change. It happens all the time but it won’t happen if we sit and wait for people to “come home” to a church that doesn’t mean anything to them.
The lesson was inspired by statistics I read from the Barna group a while back. Most of the info is in the book unChristian. We also discussed the death of former Westboro hate pastor Fred Phelps and how real Christians can overcome such a negative message. We ended with a story about the confessional in Blue Like Jazz. If you had to apologize to outsiders for something in your faith life, what would it be?