Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I have designed a new resource BRIDGEBUILDERS-HELPING TRADITIONAL CHURCHES REACH THEIR UNCHURCHED NEIGHBORS.  This is the first of a series of articles about the ministry.


4 05 2012
We live in a church culture that is enamored with programs and prescriptions. What’s the sure-fire program to bring people to Jesus Christ? What three simple things can we do to achieve our responsibility to share the faith (and maybe make a few new Christians). This seminar is built on the premise that people are more important than programs in the process of evangelism. People living a Christ-like life committed to helping others to be transformed by Christ are the most valuable resource in evangelism after the work of the Holy Spirit.

Three observations have prompted this seminar. Three reflections, which I believe are grounded in God’s Word, form the foundation of its message.

(1) Many times traditional churches engage in evangelism because of survival issues. They equate evangelism with church growth. True evangelism is committed to growing the Kingdom of God.

(2) Still others are drawn to evangelism to make a better community. We downplay that people are lost without Jesus Christ. True evangelism seeks to transform lives.

(3) And too many churches want to engage in evangelism without leaving their comfort zone. To quote BIll Hybels, “God does his best work in the zone of the unknown.” True evangelism requires us to enter someone else’s world, not to expect them to meet us in ours.

Bridgebuilders was conceived out of my personal encounter with the writings of four men: Bill Hybels, Walt Mueller, Dan Kimball, and Leslie Newbiggin. You will see their influence in this material and I am indebted to them.

Bill Hybels is perhaps the most familiar to many for his teaching at Willow Creek and particularly his evangelism training Becoming a Contagious Christian. Bill is the first person to ignite in me the profound realization that “Lost people matter to God. Lost people should matter to God’s people.”

Walt Mueller is the head of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding. His excellent work Inside the Mind of Youth Culture helped me grasp how truly different the world is today and the major issues involved in passing along the Faith to people who have been shaped by the postmodern mind.
Dan Kimball serves the interesting Southern Baptist congregation called Vintage Church. His work on They Like Jesus, But Not the Church helped me understand the challenge of mobilizing the traditional church to genuine evangelism and the terrible dilemma the world finds itself in because too many authentic Christians chose to live within “the Christian bubble.”

Early in my evangelism training I encountered Leslie Newbiggin, the great missiologist who wrote Foolishness to the Greeks. Newbiggin has written convincingly of the mission field that is the United States and the need to exegete the culture as would any good missionary who desires to be faithful and fruitful for the Kingdom.

It is my privilege to share this material with you. I passionately hope that it will help the traditional church live out its calling and privilege of being the body of Christ. For I believe in the church—in all its forms—because it is the bearer of Christ Jesus. Or as Paul would say, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Ephesians 1.27

His and yours, living in His amazing grace,
Steve Dunn
Landisville, Pennsylvania
September 2010

Monday, June 4, 2012


8 Things the Unchurched Think About Your Church

8 Things the Unchurched Think About Your Church
What do the unchurched say about church buildings? Thom and Sam Rainer researched the answer.
The e-mail in our inbox began with a simple question:  “What do the unchurched say about church buildings?” Asking the question was a group of church builders, including Cogun, Aspen Group, and The Cornerstone Knowledge Network, who wanted to convey to pastors what features, if any, of a church building help or hinder unchurched people in coming to church.
A study of this nature had never been completed, but our team knew based on a previous study that 42% of those currently attending a Protestant church were unchurched prior to their decision to attend that church. With such a large portion of congregations consisting of people who are new to church, could the actual church building have anything to do with attracting or pushing them away?
Recognizing this tangible aspect of how the unchurched view the Church is crucial to reaching them for Christ. So our researchers began the task of interviewing more than 350 people of different age groups from 45 states. The interviewees were all formerly unchurched and had recently joined a local body of believers. These are the important points we discovered about church facilities.

1. The church facility plays an important role in attracting the unchurched.

Each church body’s unique situation calls for a different type of style, venue, and size, but in short, attractive, organized, and well-maintained church facilities help attract the unchurched.

2. The church building is not the primary motivating factor for the unchurched.

While the appearance of the church building is clearly important, it is not the primary reason the unchurched choose to attend. They go to church due to feeling a void in their lives or because someone invited them. Therefore, the main factors are still the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and the obedience of churchgoers to the Great Commission in inviting their unchurched friends and neighbors.

3. The worship area is the unchurched’s favorite part of the church.

The formerly unchurched group we interviewed declared the worship area to be the most important part of the church building. Our respondents ranked beauty, comfort, and worship setting as the three key components of a worship area. Therefore, an attractive, comfortable, and worshipful sanctuary is extremely important when drawing and keeping the unchurched.

4. The unchurched blame poor finances for unattractive buildings.

Churches that did not have adequate or attractive buildings were perceived by the unchurched as underfunded. But the credit for attractive facilities was given to the leadership of the church. Church leaders need to know that pouring more money into their buildings is not a solution in itself. However, if little financial care is allotted to the church facilities, the formerly unchurched see lack of money as a major hurdle to their attendance.

5. A “third place” area draws people to a church building.

A “third place” area is a social gathering point, such as a coffee shop, outside the usual community environments of work and home. As the importance of these gathering areas grows in our society, churches that provide places for the community to socialize throughout the week are much better positioned to reach the unchurched people in their neighborhoods.

6. Church gyms are not appealing to the unchurched.

Many pastors hear their members saying that building a gym will help attract the unchurched in their community. Our research, however, found the exact opposite to be true—one of the church areas considered least important to the unchurched was a gym. In general, gyms or fitness centers serve their current membership and have little effect on attracting the unchurched.

7. The church building is rarely a cause of conflict.

Our research dispelled the axiom that church facilities or building programs are major instigators of church conflict. We found little to no conflict directly attributed to the church building. Additionally, the formerly unchurched people we interviewed perceived little conflict surrounding the church facilities.

8. The church building aids evangelistic efforts.

A building is certainly not a necessity piece in obeying the evangelism imperative, but appealing church facilities can increase a newly churched person’s comfort level in inviting others to church. This invitation plays a huge role in the process of seeing people come to Christ. Our research demonstrates that the most evangelistically successful churches have facilities that people perceive as attractive.
Pastors and lay leaders can learn valuable lessons about their church building by viewing it through the eyes of the unchurched. Invite someone from the community who has never visited your church and ask them to write a step-by-step narrative of their experience in your church building and worship service. You may be surprised at what they say about your signage, seating, navigation, and other aesthetics. What’s more, they may give you some fresh ideas on how to better draw visitors to your church. 
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.
Sam S. Rainer III serves as a pastor at Sarasota Baptist Church. Sam is the co-author of the recently released book, Essential Church?:  Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts. He also serves as president of Rainer Research, a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He is a frequent conference speaker on church health issues. Sam enjoys hanging out with friends and family in the Florida sunshine.
Copyright © by Outreach magazine.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Just for fun, enjoy a little Tim Hawkins. A reminder of being mindful of how we must learn to translate ourselves to non-churched people with whom we connect.