Over the weekend, I did my first reading of Thom S Rainer’s Surprising Insights from the Unchurched . Rather than simply looking at growing churches and copy what they do, or survey people who don’t attend church, this book describes the attitudes of the formerly unchurched, now active in a local congregation. And that’s who we all want – new believers excited about the faith.

(Too many of the “fastest growing” churches do so with transfer growth. Members of small or dull churches leave and join the one with lots of programs. Rebaptizing the current population based on the emotion of a revival moment.)

What Rainer found was that the formerly unchurched used to ignore church because it was dull, or wimpy. Why take time out of their schedule to sit through an unprofessional hour? He found that they are willing to listen to more deep theology than we give them credit for. As one lady said, she didn’t understand all those financial terms when she started watching CNBC, but she kept at it because it was important to managing her investments – so why shouldn’t she take a little time learning Christian concepts to satisfy a spiritual need?

I was thrilled he quoted Dean Kelly’s Why Conservative Churches are Growing (NY: Harper & Row, 1972). Kelly also found that the most successful churches were unapologetic about doctrine. Rainer found that formerly unchurched actually indicated greater interest in doctrine than those who had been in the church a long time. And he found that churches that stressed “doctrinal certitude” hold onto these converts and are more successful in teaching the new people how to evangelize.

If you haven’t read Rainer’s book, do so. It’s not the best available, but certainly worth the read. Once you’ve got the introduction from Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, go find a copy of Kelly’s book.

And go spend more time on your sermon. The unchurched next door are counting on it.

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