NASHVILLE, Tenn. — People who don’t attend church are not too bothered by what they view as hypocrisy in the church, but there are some things they don’t like about Christians, says the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm.
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, has been researching the “formerly unchurched” — men and women who have been Christians for less than a year — for nearly a decade. He says the results are surprising.
Contrary to popular belief, Rainer says, non-Christians by and large are not turned off by the church, preaching or Sunday school and are quite responsive to direct one-on-one evangelism.
But there are some things non-churchgoers don’t like about Christians, Rainer says in a recent blog:
- Christians who treat other Christians poorly. “The unchurched don’t expect us Christians to be perfect, but they can’t understand why we treat each other without dignity and respect.”
- Holier-than-thou attitudes. “The unchurched know that Christians will make mistakes, and they often have a forgiving attitude when we mess up. But they are repulsed when Christians act in superior ways to them.”
- Christians who talk more than they listen. “Many of the unchurched, at some point, have a perception that a Christian is a person who can offer a sympathetic and compassionate ear. Unfortunately, many of the unchurched thought Christians were too busy talking to listen to them.”
- Christians who don’t go to church. “The unchurched saw the disconnect between belief and practice in the lives of Christians who did not or who rarely attended church.”
Rainer’s original research was published in a 2008 book titled Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, but he has continued to follow those groups since.
Rainer says that contrary to the stereotype that hypocrisy is the main obstacle to evangelism, non-churchgoers are really not too bothered by some hypocrisy with Christians.
“They are well aware that any human will stumble at times,” he says. “But these lost men and women want to know that Christians will treat each other well. They want to see humility in our lives. They want to know that we will take the time to listen, and even take more time to really be involved in their lives. And they want to know that we love our churches.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)