Convincing the “Nones”: Loving the Unchurched*

Emanuel AME Church

“When I am on the water on Sunday mornings, that IS my church!” my friend Jeff passionately exclaimed.

I could not remember the last time I saw Jeff in our church, although he was a long-time member from childhood. I missed him.

Jeff is so fun and is an influential leader in the community. He had recently purchased a new boat. He went out every day after work and every day of the weekend.

Jeff represents the fastest- growing demographic in the US—the unchurched or “nones.” According to the Barna research group, the “nones” are the group of people who check the “none” box under “religion” or “church.” Sadly, this group is the most rapid growing demographic with approximately 100 million people in the US. Of that 100 million, 2/3 haven’t been to a worship service in the last six months. One statistic showed that of these unchurched, 40 percent used to attend church regularly. Ouch.

It’s not about being religious or simply attending church. Or at least it’s not for me.  It’s about discovering and strengthening a faith relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. How can we love on and convince the “nones” in our life to grow in their relationship with the Lord and want to attend church?

Attending church doesn’t make me a Christian, just as sitting in a doctor’s office doesn’t make me a doctor. Sunday morning worship at church is my favorite time of the whole week. Involving myself in church Sunday School and activities, hearing Biblically-sound sermons, and fellowshiping with fellow believers all strengthen my faith.

“In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” –1 Peter 3:15

Based on this wonderful life verse, the following are three ways you can be used to encourage others to deepen their faith and find a church home:

  1. Be ready, passionate and authentic with your testimony and your love for your church. No one can dispute your eyewitness account of how faith in Jesus has transformed your life. You are an ambassador (and cheerleader) for Christ and your church.
  2. Be humble about what God is doing in your life. Give God the glory. Don’t take any of the credit for God’s miracles.
  3. Be respectful of those God places in your path. We are not to judge. We are simply “fruit inspectors” of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The following story I heard long ago epitomizes our need for church fellowship. May the faith fires of our hearts continue to burn brightly, warming the “nones” and those all around us. May our churches and hearts experience revival as a result.

The Fiery Sermon

A member of a country church had gotten upset with one of the church committees and decided he didn’t need to attend church anymore. After a few weeks, the minister decided to visit him.  It was a chilly day.  That evening, the minister found the man at home all alone sitting by a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for his minister’s visit, the man welcomed him, and led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.  The minister made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs.  After some minutes, he took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone.  Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.

The host watched all this in quiet contemplation.  As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead. Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.

The minister glanced at his watch and chose this time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire.  Immediately it began to glow once more, with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the minister reached the door to leave, his host said, with a tear running down his cheek, “Thank you so much for your fiery sermon.  I shall be back in church next Sunday”.

*Danya’s message is reprinted from the Charleston Mercury’s Carolina Compass, July 2016 Edition.

Reflect:

Who are your neighbors or loved ones who can show God’s love and invite to church with you?

Renew:

“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18b.

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus,’ is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and will all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.'” –Mark 12:28-31.

Resources:

https://www.barna.org/barna-update/

www.theaquilareport

www.smithvillechurch.org

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Planting Seeds or Pulling Weeds

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I reflected  as I drove on South Carolina’s back roads, heading home from my beautiful 86-year-old aunt’s funeral. My classy, elegant aunt had lived a life filled with serving the Lord and telling everyone she could about Jesus. It was such an uplifting service.

Only a few miles into my journey back to Charlotte from Georgetown, SC, I passed this profound message on the side of the dilapidated barn. Although in a hurry to get home, the Holy Spirit nudged me to turn around and take photos of the barn.

The urgent and it’s weedy, rusty surroundings seared in my memory. The sign says it all, even amidst the unkempt bushes and vines, and rusty tin roof.

Oh, how easily life and spheres of influence  can become “unkempt” if intentionality and care are not shown. How about our marriages, our family, our friendships, our coworkers? All those relationships can have weeds of problems grow up in the middle. It takes work to keep the weeds out, to water and fertilize the relationships.  Weeds can be dangerous, stunt growth, and even choke your yard and your relationships.

Telling people about Jesus is different, though. We are to plant seeds about Jesus and His love and salvation.  Pulling those “weeds” of non-believers is God’s job.  We are not to judge.

“Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared…’The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”

‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grown together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters; First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'” –Matthew 13:24-26, 28-30.

As we go about our days, may we tend to the gardens of our hearts with love and tender care, planting, fertilizing, watering, and even pulling weeds of  obstacles out of our relationships.  Keep planting seeds for Jesus, friend. He will harvest them in His time. May we all sense the urgency to tell others about Jesus before it’s too late.

Reflect:

To whom have you planted seeds about Jesus and His love recently?

How are you tending the gardens of your relationships and your heart?

Renew: 

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Respond:

What seeds will you plan to plant for Jesus this week?

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He’s Working With Us

He is Risen, Indeed!

This Easter was my first away from my immediate family. It wasn’t easy, and as a result, I learned some valuable life lessons.

In preparation for the Easter weekend, my pastor encouraged the congregation to read Jesus crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection in all four Gospels. In doing that, there were many poignant details I had never noticed.

I parked for a bit at the end of the Gospel of Mark. Mark 16: 14a, 15 says: “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating…He said to them. ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to ALL (emphasis mine) creation…’

The next part jumped out at me and encouraged me so much:“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it.” –Mark 16:19-20

How refreshing! Jesus didn’t leave the disciples on their own to tell others about the resurrected Jesus. Pentecost was coming and they would have the Holy Spirit in them, through them, working with them.

Precious friend, if you are like me, sharing our faith or evangelizing may seem intimidating. May we be renewed and inspired today knowing that the Lord is “working with us” and “confirming His word” as we share the Good News of Jesus. There is no way we can mess up God’s plan.

May we have the courage and sense the urgency to tell others what Jesus has done in our lives and will do for them. We have a voice to use it for His glory to tell this Good News and encourage others to strengthen their faith.

I am reminded of the following story about using our voices to tell others about Jesus.

In the mid-1950s, the Rev. W.E. Sangster noticed a strange feeling in his throat and that his leg had begun to drag. He promptly went to visit his doctor. Rev. Sangster was diagnosed with an incurable disease that caused progressive muscle atrophy. His muscles would continue to waste away, including the muscles in his throat, and he would eventually be unable to swallow.

Knowing that his time was growing short, Rev. Sangster decided to use his time in writing for British home mission and in prayer. During this time, he wrote numerous articles and books, and organized prayer groups throughout England. His disease did progress. Eventually he was unable to talk, but he could hold a pen.

On Easter Sunday, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. Barely able to control his pen, he wrote, “It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and no voice to shout, ‘Christ is risen, indeed!’ But it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout.Amen.

Reflect:

–What does sharing the Good News mean to you? Please comment.

–How does today strengthen your faith and how will you use your voice to tell others?

Renew:

–“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: He has risen from the dead…’ So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples.” –Matthew 28:5-8

–“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” –1 Corinthians 15: 3-6 NIV

–“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” –Galatians 5:22-25 NIV

Recharge:

–What will you do this week to spread the Good News? To bear fruit?

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