After graduating from college in 2012, I entered into a pastoral staff position at a local church. After a few weeks of sitting in the Sunday morning worship services, I suddenly realized that I had zero interest in inviting my unchurched friends to visit. It’s not that our church or worship gatherings were bad, per se, but rather that I knew we were missing the felt needs of unchurched people in our community. Over the past five years, the disconnect between my experience on Sunday mornings and my interactions with unchurched friends seems to be ever-growing. It’s clear to me that our Americanized ways of “doing church” are simply no longer cutting it as we try to engage those both near and far from Christ in the world around us. In Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them, George Barna and David Kinnaman help churchgoers make sense of why we’re unable to reach our neighbors.
In fourteen quick and simple chapters, Barna and Kinnaman explore the qualities that make churched and unchurched people both similar and distinct. The authors affirm most peoples’ experiential knowledge like “the younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is” (17) and provide statistical analysis to prove their claim, yet they also insert new ideas that churched peoples can easily skip over, like the facts that churchless people are more willing to participate with a local church in community service than in a worship service and that single adults constitute one of the largest demographics of churchless people. To conclude the book, Barna and Kinnaman commit the final chapter to presenting some practical steps local churches can make to better reach churchless people in their communities.
Overall, I really enjoyed this work from the Barna Group. I underlined a ton, wrote lengthy notes in the margins, and have brought the information into many conversations with friends. As a person looking into church planting, Churchless has become an invaluable resource material aiding my research. Not only was Barna and Kinnaman’s research informational, it has also been spiritually formative for me as I have prayed while reading and feel even more convicted and compelled to reach beyond the four walls of my local church. After reading just the first chapter, I wrote:
I’m more convinced with this chapter that our churches will be more influential and transformative when they:
1) actively invest in the development and healing of their local communities,
2) prioritize deep, meaningful, and thriving relationships as the center and heartbeat of their communities of faith, and
3) critically engage what it means to follow Christ holistically.
I think that sums up my experience with the book pretty well.
My only somewhat negative critique is that the latter half of the book starts to feel fairly redundant. Regardless, the quality of the content and clear presentation through infographics make this a book that every pastor and church leader will benefit from reading thoroughly.
My final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
* A special thanks to Tyndale for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.