When John Henry died, he left an estate of $12 million, and a will which said all of this money would go to his nephew, Joe. But there was a slight problem. Joe could not be found. The lawyer did some initial investigation, tracked Joe to the Colorado area, but then lost him. So the lawyer hired a detective agency to track Joe down. “I’ll put my best detective on the case,” the chief detective told the anxious lawyer. “She’s young and bright and extremely ambitious. She’ll find your man.” A few weeks later the lawyer received a phone call from the young female investigator. “I’ve found him,” she exclaimed to the lawyer. “Fantastic,” said the lawyer, “where is he?” “He is here with me in the northwest corner of Colorado,” she explained. “And when will he come back here?” queried the lawyer. The detective explained, “We’ll come back tomorrow, right after the wedding!” When opportunity knocked, she answered the call!
Extensive research by Thom Rainer reveals that opportunity is knocking for churches to be reaching their communities today. Rainer assembled a research team of 15 who spent hundreds of hours, over a period of two years, interviewing lost and unchurched people in all 50 states and Canada. They listened to the rich, the poor, and the middle class. They heard from people of many races and ethnic backgrounds. They interviewed the uneducated and the highly educated. Older youth and adults of all age groups participated in this study. Rainer insisted that the mosaic of North America was well represented in this research project. The purpose of the project was to find out what was on the minds of the unchurched, so that the research team could provide church leaders with information to use in reaching the growing unchurched population.
The Rainer Team developed a faith stages concept, assisting them in understanding the receptivity of the unchurched to the Gospel. Their research led them to conclude that the unchurched could be divided into five faith stages. The five faith stage catagories, their description, and the percentage of people they represented, are as follows: “U” stands for Unchurched, and the numbers 1-5 indicate very receptive or non-receptive.
U5 Antagonistic 5%
U4 Resistant 21%
U3 Neutral 36%
U2 Friendly 27%
U1 Very Friendly 11%
Rainer wrote The Unchurched Next Door as an urgent plea for Christians to share their faith. Listen to his introductory comments about each of the groups on his Faith Stages Scale.
THE U5s: The Antagonistic:
The Research Team learned that only 5 percent of the unchurched in America are antagonistic toward the Gospel. To say it another way, that means one out of 20. Satan has duped many Christians into believing the majority of their neighbors, co-workers, school mates, etc., are rigidly belligerent toward the church and the Gospel. Five percent is not nearly a majority.
THE U4s: The Resistant:
There is a subtle but distinguishable difference between a U4 and a U5. The U5s are hostile in their conversations and antagonistic toward anything that looks Christian. The U4 is equally resistant to the claims of Christ, but he or she does not express that resistance in a hostile manner. When presenting Christ to the unchurched seems a disheartening endeavor, remember, these two most resistant groups comprise only 26 percent of the unchurched population.
THE U3s: The Leaners and the Apathetics:
The U3s are the largest segment of the unchurched population. Of the 160 million unchurched people in America, they account for more than 57 million, 36 percent of the total.
THE U2s: The Seekers:
This group of unchurched people are truly seeking something in their lives, and many of them are fully aware that they are seeking God himself. The U2s are the second largest group of unchurched people in America. Rainer estimates that nearly 43 million in America fit into this category, and are searching for answers. The U2s represent one out of every four, people we know in our neighborhoods, at work, at school, or in the marketplace.
THE U1s: Waiting On You:
This 11 percent of the total unchurched population comprise 17 million people. Rainer says they tend to be younger to middle-age adults; 83 percent of them are below the age of 51. They are literally waiting for someone to tell them how to be saved. Amazingly, the Research Team had the privilege of leading a number of those they interviewed to faith in Christ.
The door of opportunity is wide open for us to rush into this spiritual vacuum this spring. Eighty-two percent of the unchurched have said they would attend Church on Easter Sunday, if invited. Missouri Baptists are gearing up to prayer walk (or prayer drive) their communities, March 6 and 13. Then return March 20 and 27 and place a plastic bag containing a Gospel presentation as well as an invitation to Easter Worship, on each door. Several hundred thousand plastic bags and Gospel presentations have been ordered by Missouri Baptist Convention churches and associations. Several hundred have been trained in prayer walking. If your church has not placed an order for the plastic bags and Gospel presentations (seven cents), see your Director of Missions, or call the Evangelism Office (800-736-6227). If we can assist in prayer walking training, let us know.
The enterprising detective took advantage of her opportunity, and became heir to $12 million. Our pursuit is eternal, not temporal – the souls of men, women, boys and girls. Truly, “The fields are white unto harvest” (John 4:35). (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)