The Church of No Man's Land

Currently, there is a lot of discussion regarding a growing segment of our culture, lovingly labeled "the Nones," because when asked the question of religious affiliation, their response is "none."  Recently, I've encountered a stat from the Barna Group that only about 20% of people in our culture attend church worship gatherings each week.  A growing portion of the other 80% are these "Nones." Beyond the stats, I have personally experienced this reality.  

The dilemma for the church is, how to live and love in such a way that introduces the "unchurched" to the life-giver, life-changer, Jesus? This is usually phrased something like, "how will we reach the unchurched?" Granted, this phrasing leaves much to be desired, but let's work with it.  It's simple, and we know what it means... at least I hope we do. 

Missional.  That's what a church is called that makes it's focus the mission of Jesus to "go and make disciples of all people groups..." In this case, the church (which is the people in the fellowship, btw) chooses to put their unchurched neighbors first in regards to why they exist (after the obvious reason of corporate worship of the Creator).  The most obvious way this is usually displayed is by what happens when the church comes together: teaching, music, prayer, welcoming, explaining, time-expectation, etc. However, this also impacts who the church is and what the church does 7 days a week, as individuals as well as a group.  A church catches a specific vision for their community/city, and can become a church that their "unchurched" friends and neighbors would attend when invited, and even desire to come back.  It happens.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the church that is Missional, is a church that sees its reason for existence to be the pleasure of a particular denominational heritage, doctrine, style, skin color, social class, etc.  Of course, this is more observed than stated.  I have experienced many churches that fit this description, but none have as a stated purpose statement, "To exist for our own good pleasure." Honestly, I believe most are more well meaning than that.  However, stated purpose is easily denied by actual purpose observed.

In short, on one side we have a church that exists to reach the "unchurched," by doing whatever it takes (short of sin) to share the love of Jesus to "those who are not here yet."  On the other side, we have a church that exists for those who are already churched. I realize this is too big for a simple blog post, but bear with me as I work through this.

I don't think we have to debate/argue about who's right.  That's not the purpose of my attempting to bring this to light.  I'm noticing a real dilemma in all of this. A church or pastor decides to be a church that reaches the "unchurched," which obviously means changing things that are familiar to those who are churched.  This displeases (infuriates) those who are churched, so the church/pastor pulls back.  Then, the "unchurched" finally decide to drop in and check you out, and it feels/looks/smells just like the reason they now check "none."  So, the church isn't effectively reaching the "unchurched" while at the same time, enough change has been made that the churched don't like it.

You have become the church of No Man's Land.

To the churched, you feel like you've lost all the things that identify you as a church (it feels like "all" even though it's not... not even close).  And to the "unchurched," you still very churched (which the churched you finds quite laughable).

But it isn't funny.  Churches are closing their doors, which is sad.  But what's sadder, and more important is that people who God loves are moved further and further away from the life-transforming love of Jesus. I think we're quickly coming to a place where churches have to get real within themselves and decide who they will be - will we be a church that will do whatever it takes to reach the "unchurched" in this daily-changing culture? ...or will we be a church that exists for the churched?  And let's not debate about it - let's just be honest and be one or the other, because No Man's Land isn't helping anyone.


Unknown said…
So what does a man in a "church of No Man's Land" do to prevent doors from being closed?
Honestly I have become filled with what I believe to be righteous anger like Jesus in the temple. I feel like flipping tables an bring to light the fact they are taking up the place where my people (The Nones cause I once was one) should be able to come and experience new life in ways the have never before. But, to say out with the old in with the new is seen to be
to harsh. I feel I should say my mind and speak with truth. But where is the fine line? Fear not. But I do. I fear a lot of what the out come would be of that. I guess In the end the big question is, when do you leave? When your in a room of 80 people but it feels as if less then 10 care.

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