The church where I work has a passion to reach out to people who have not yet met Jesus. And yet, when attempting to articulate this value, we often get stuck at the phrase “people who have not yet met Jesus.” While descriptive, it’s lengthy. Other “labels” seem to have different issues. So we’ve been having a bit of discussion about how to refer to those people we want to reach.
Many of the words we use have a rather negative connotation. “Non-Christians” is a little like referring to people of other ethnicities as “non-whites.” It kind of presumes a superior position. We used to call them “the lost.” Which, while theologically true, is not such a great way to open a conversation. The “unchurched” also starts with a presumption that everyone should be “churched,” but more importantly, it doesn’t really describe our purpose. Which is not just to turn people into “churched” people.
Because what we really want to do is connect them with God.
We’ve tried a few others on for size recently. The “unaware.” Not bad, and not too negative. Or the “indifferent” which refers to an assumed lack of interest in religious things.
I think it was Leonard Sweet who suggested we simply call them the “normal” people. Which, when you consider getting up early every Sunday morning, regularly giving away a portion of your income, and all that turning-the-other-cheek stuff, actually kind of makes sense.
7 thoughts on “those people who don’t know…yet”
Interesting. I have no problem being called a non-Christian — I am, after all, not a Christian. I’d have more beef with someone who called me someone “who ha(s) not yet met Jesus” since for all practical purposes I have met Jesus in a theoretical if not literal sense. “The lost” really won’t work, I must say, even though it is theologically correct. The crux of all these is that their definitions are believer-dependent; the only one that makes both the believer and the “other” feel comfortable is statement of fact in a secular manner.
Thanks Jillian, for a good, objective summary. “Non-Christian” does make the most logical sense, since a Christian is a follower of Christ, non-Christian seems to adequately describe someone who does not follow him.
Eh, I’d call ’em average. A “normal” person is involved regularly with the Body of Christ, gives regularly, etc. The “average” person (in statisical terms) is not involved and does not give to Christian ministries.
i loved hearing len sweet talk about “normal” people. wish i could get a clip of him teaching through that.
words from the past…
“helping people find their way to God, hear his voice and follow Him”
seriously though… totally agree with what you are saying. we spend so much time defining categories of people in a way to communicate and not offend.
“meet people where they are at and introduce them to Jesus” is how I would say it.
The pastor of my former church, who was known for his servant evangelism books, referred to unbelievers as “pre-Christians,” a more positive way of looking at the issue.
So you want to turn the normal into the ABnormal? 🙂
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