By Aaron Earls
Most unchurched Americans say they have multiple Christian friends, but those friends haven’t shared with them how or why they should follow Christ.
In a 2016 study of 2,000 unchurched Americans, Lifeway Research found an openness to religious conversations, especially with Christian friends and family. Yet, few unchurched individuals say they’ve ever had someone explain how a person becomes a Christian—despite many unchurched Americans saying they’re Christian themselves.
Compared to the U.S. population as a whole, the unchurched are predictably less Christian and more nonreligious. Yet most of the unchurched still identify as Christian.
More than half of unchurched Americans say they are Christian (25% Catholic, 20% Protestant, 11% nondenominational). Around a third (32%) are nonreligious, and 12% belong to another religion.More than half of unchurched Americans say they are Christian (25% Catholic, 20% Protestant, 11% nondenominational), according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
Among those who identify as Christian, only a quarter (24%) say they have a strong faith. Even fewer, however, say they are currently questioning their Christian faith (6%). Around 2 in 3 unchurched Americans who say they are Christians consider themselves Christian but are not currently practicing it (31%) or Christian but are not particularly devout (32%).
The unchurched say they’re open to having religious conversations. Close to half of unchurched Americans (47%) say they would discuss freely if someone wanted to talk about their religious beliefs. Another 31% would listen without actively participating.
Few say they would discuss with some discomfort (12%) or change the subject as soon as possible (11%).
They also say they would be more willing to listen to Christians talk about their faith if they saw Christians living out their faith in public.
Close to 2 in 3 unchurched Americans say they have multiple Christian friends they interact with regularly (21% have 2 to 4, 21% 5 to 10, 7% 11 to 20, 14% more than 20).Close to 2 in 3 unchurched Americans say they have multiple Christian friends with whom they interact with regularly, according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
A third of the unchurched (33%) say they admire the faith of their Christian friends. Fewer say they merely put up with it (18%), ignore (13%), give their Christian friend a hard time about it (1%), or try to change their friend’s faith (1%).
While 47% are open to general religious conversations, 79% of the unchurched say they don’t mind their Christian friend talking about their faith. Few (23%) think their Christian friends talk about their faith too much, including only 5% who strongly feel that way.
Not much evangelism
Despite the openness and relationships with Christians, few unchurched Americans have ever had someone explain exactly how to become a Christian or why they should think about doing so.Only 3 in 10 unchurched Americans (29%) say a Christian has ever shared with them one-on-one how a person becomes a Christian, according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
Only 3 in 10 unchurched Americans (29%) say a Christian has ever shared with them one-on-one how a person becomes a Christian. Only slightly more say a Christian has told them about the benefits of participating in a local church (33%) or the benefits of becoming a Christian (35%).
For 4 in 10 unchurched Americans (40%), they’ve never had a Christian explain any of those things to them.
As pastors think about personal evangelism for themselves and their congregation, they can take comfort that the unchurched around them are willing to have conversations about faith. They should also be challenged that so few unchurched Americans have actually had Christians share the gospel with them.
Aaron is a writer for LifewayResearch.com.