Stop Saying “Unchurched”? by Stephen Gray
I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague recently (Darrell MacLearn) about using the term “unchurched” to describe a person. It is a favored term among most of us in the church world. But, should we use the term to describe those outside the church?
First, let’s set the terminology. When most of us refer to the church, in theory we mean “the people of God,” however in our practice we often refer to the “Unchurched” to refer to those who have not entered into the doors of our location, place of meeting or at least someone’s place of meeting. Usually the term “unchurched” focuses in on conventional models of “church” and builds a case for doing it another way. In doing so, even those who look to another mode of “church” have reduced the use of the term unchurched to a program or method of operations. Does that make sense?
If that is the case, then we are saying, “If you fall into my node, method and style of “church” then you are good.” Yet, we all know that there are many in today’s church (conventional way of speaking) who are not Christians. By using the term, are we inferring that if someone is no longer “unchurched” then they are ok? Could someone who attends our church become churched and yet unchristian? The quick answer is “Of course!” (if you are using the term church incorrectly). Darrell was right!
Secondly, as my colleague shared, speaking to someone about being unchurched is like saying they are “un-bingoed,” and our goal is to make them Bingo players and therefore bingoed. The goal has little to do with their soul. As long as they are bingoed, they are ok. So the goal becomes to get people “churched” and less focus is placed on life-transformation.
Ben Sigman, pastor of Timberlake Church and a good friend of mine said, “We should stop using unbiblical terms to define the church, like attractional and missional, which you fidn no where in scripture, and instead talk about transformational churches.” It was a good point and one we should all pay attention too.
Maybe we should be careful as well using terms like “unchurched” and find a way to talk in terms of those not yet transformed by Jesus. That levels the playing field doesn’t it? What do you think?