Last Christmas season, my family walked through the downtown community where we live. In one of the store windows we passed were a small set of woodcarvings that included a baby, two adults right next to the baby, three kingly-looking persons nearby, and a scattering of cows, donkeys, and ducks. I still am not sure of the significance of the ducks, but we were looking at a crèche.
One of my children’s friends pointed out the Nativity scene. He said it was the strangest thing he had ever seen. Cows never hang out with ducks, much less people, he said.
“What is this?” he asked.
My wife responded by saying it was the Nativity scene.
“What is that?” came the response.
“It is the story of Jesus’ birth in the stable.”
To which our friend said, “Never heard of it.”
It is not necessary to recap the growth trends of people leaving Christian places of worship. Recent polls suggesting that 20 percent of U.S. citizens have no connection to any religious tradition surprise few. Most of us also know that there are people in our communities, like my child’s friend, with virtually no awareness of the basics of the Christian gospel. And yet evangelistic and missional practices in many churches seem to assume an awareness of the Christian story that clouds effective evangelism.
While “unchurched” was the term to describe the majority of people outside of the church a generation ago, a term that better describes people not part of a church is “never-churched.” This term reflects the reality that new generations did not grow up as part of a community of faith, and in turn never became part of a church to leave. Evangelistic ministry that brings never-churched people into the Christian faith and initiates them into the reign of God is different than in the past.
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Courtesy of Ministry Matters. The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.