Surprising Insights : Conclusion

The second part of this book describes the leader of the church that reaches the unchurched. A great deal of attention is given to to the leader and to the subject of leadership. Although the pastor is referred to often, the principles can be transferred to anyone in a leadership position. This is especially true of the chapter that covers what makes the leader tick. The following is a six-point profile that is painted of the unchurched-reaching leader. First, the leader had tenure. The average tenure of a pastor in America (all denominations), according to Rainer, is 3.8 years. The average tenure of an unchurched-reaching pastor is 11.8 years. As I see it, tenure is vitally important. It is with tneure that that a leader earns the confidence of the people and then the right to take then where he believes God is leading. Second, formal education was present. The majority of these leaders were seminary trained. Third, passion marked the life of the leader. Passionate was the word used to describe their attitude toward the church. Fourth, reading was imporant. These leaders were avid readers and were always seeking to learn something new. Fifth, preaching was fundamental. Sixth, these leaders were overwhelmingly conservative in their theology.

Leaders are not perfect. I don’t know anyone who is. In one of the chapters, Rainer included research that both surprised me and encouraged me. He listed the top twelve strengths and weaknesses of the unchurched-reaching leaders. These strengths and weaknesses are the result of questions asked of the leaders themselves. I want to share the top six in each category.

Strengths of the Unchurched-Reaching Leader

1. Ability to Cast Vision

2. Sense of Humor

3. Work Ethic

4. Persistence

5. Leadership by Example

6. Integrity


Weaknesses of the Unchurched-Reaching Leaders

1. Pastoral Ministry

2. Lack of Patience

3. Dealing with Staff

4. Dealing with Criticism

5.  Always Task-Driven

6. Too Little Time in Prayer


In conclusion, I want to repeat what I said at the beginning. If you enjoy research, you will enjoy the format of this book. If you are not a research person, you may find yourself bogged down in percentages, numbers, and graphs. That being said, I highly recommend this book. Anyone who is involved in the work of the church, as it relates to connecting unchurched people to the body of Christ, will benefit from this book. In my opinion, the benefit of this book is insight. It is tremendously helpful to know how the unchurched think and what has kept them from the church. It is with this knowledge that we as leaders and laymen can better build the bridges the unchurched need.


Surprising Insights : Part #6

Chapter 6 is a straight forward and a no-nonsense chapter. A good reminder. This chapter deals with the issue of doctrine and the importance of it in the mind of the unchurched. A false assumption is put to rest by the research conducted in the writing of this book. The false assumption is that you have to water down and compromise on sound biblical truth in order to reach an unchurched person. The point I found most interesting was the unchurched were looking for absolutes. The doctrine of the church provided absolutes in a culture where very few exist. The unchurched also looked to the church to actually believe and live out the doctrine they say is important. As a church, we must keep a focus on the importance of living before the world what we say with our mouths to be important. The unchurched are counting on it.

Surprising Insights : Part #5

Once the individual comes to the church, what will cause them to stay? Chapter 5 answers this question. Rainer lists six issues that were key for keeping members and increasing the return of guests.

1. Doctrine Clarified

2. High Expectations

3. An “Entry Point” Class

4. Small Groups and Sunday School

5. Clarity of Purpose

6. Ministry Involvement

Surprising Insights : Part #3

Chapter 3 handles an issue that I have always felt to be the most important to an individual connecting to the church. I am glad to see the research supports it. I read recently where it was stated that a person who is new (or returning) to the church needed to establish at least seven meaningful relationships. These relationships help to connect them to the body of Christ. Rainer gives us five conclusions as  it relates to relationships.

1. Relationships are very important.

2. Rarely do relationships alone explain the best way to reach the unchurched.

3. God sometimes works to reach the unchurched without using any relationships.

4. Family relationships are the msot important.

5. The wife is the most important relationships in reaching the unchuched.

Surprising Insights : Part #2

Chapter 2 of this book speaks to the impact that the pastor and his preaching had in the formerly unchurched becoming connected to the church. I am not going to spend a great deal of time here for the fear of sounding braggish. That being said, the pastor has a vital role in reaching the unchurched. Through the research of 353 formerly unchurched people, when asked, “Did the pastor and his preaching play a part in your coming to the church?” 97% answered “yes”. This chapter gives 8 factors that relate to the influence the pastor had on the unchurched. I’ll list the top 4.

1. Preaching That Teaches

2. Preaching That Applies To My life

3. Authenticity of the Pastor

4. Pastor’s Convictions

Surprising Insights – Part #1

Today, I am beginning my review of Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them by Thom Rainer.

This book is a research project. If you enjoy research, you will enjoy this book. Surprising Insights is about the formerly unchurched and their journey to becoming active in the local church. The goal then is to study what moved them to the church and develop strategies to reach the millions who were previously like them. The working definintion of formerly unchurched, according to Rainer is, one who has not been in church except sporadically, for at least ten years, but has recently become active in a church.

America is becoming an increasingly unchurched country as each generation passes. Chapter one gives the telling statistics. Only 41% of Americans attend church services on a typical weekend. In America, at the printing of this book (2001), it takes 85 church members to reach one person for Jesus Christ. I have a feeling that number is higher in 2009.

The bulk of this chapter covers nine myths the formerly unchurched destroyed about reaching the unchurched population. I have to admit, I have been guilty of believing at least one of these myths. I list them here for you to consider.

1. Most unchurched think and act like Anglo, middle-class suburbanites with no church background.

2. The unchurched are turned off by by denominational names in the church name.

3. The unchurched never attend church.

4. The unchurched cannot be reached by direct personal evangelism.

5. The Pastor must be a dynamic and charismatic leader for the church to reach the unchurched.

6. We must be careful in our teaching and preaching so that we do not communicate deep and complex biblical truths that will confuse the unchurched.

7. The Sunday School and other small groups are ineffective in attracting the unchurched.

8. The most important evangelistic relationships take place in the marketplace.

9. The unchurched are only concerned about their own needs.