Repost from Nov 2015.
How do you refer ‘non-churched’ people? How about by name? The church is supposed to be a community for the ‘other’, yet in many instances we’re no different than others when we impose labels for those who are different.
In the post-Christian/post-Christendom worldview language matters. It’s unhelpful, and sometimes offensive, to categorize people into different group names. In the least it immediately distinguishes between who’s ‘out’ and who’s ‘in’, and worst, it contains terminology reminiscent of a colonial era.
One term–‘unchurched’–identifies people who are not churchgoers. In Christendom, attending a service was primary the critical piece to identify someone’s religiosity. Regular attendance usually (even to this day) replaces embodied faith, or to put another way, going to church Sunday could cover up a lazy life.
Apart from building into an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, using ‘unchurched’ reveals a core issue for Christendom today: the opposite of unchurched is churched.
It implies the function of the church is the creation of more churchgoers! What appears more important is just that, the appearance of faithful service attendance. Is the point of the church really to find more adherents to run its programs and fill its pews? It’s a debased kind of missiology that does more to impede mission than empower the priesthood of all believers.
How about this idea instead?
Rather than calling people ‘unchurched’, drop the suspicions and get to know the ‘other’. ‘Unchurched’ is more of a testament to our own inability to faithfully embody the Gospel–to love thy neighbor. If we did we’d use NAMES like, Matt, Jen, Terry, rather than TERMS like the ‘unchurched’, ‘unsaved’, or ‘pagan’ (people seriously use the latter much to my dismay).