Carey Nieuwhof: Why Andy Stanley Is Right About Reaching Post-Christians

If you want to reach post-Christian, post-modern people—in other words, the next generation—how do you do it, effectively?

Although you might not know it if you just perused social media, the majority of churches are plateaued or dying. And even among growing churches, not all growth is coming from people with no church background.

Some—not all, but some—growing churches are just consolidating the Christians who are still around and giving them a new place to gather.

If you really analyzed what percentage of churches are truly attracting post-modern, post-Christian people, you might be a little surprised at how low that number is.

Three typical responses to this problem include taking pot-shots at growing churches, criticizing church leaders and lamenting about how bad current culture is. But none of these responses is in any way productive.

So, instead, what if we focused on the real issue, namely, figuring out what it takes to reach people who don’t know Jesus?

That’s why I’m so grateful for Andy Stanley’s recent contributions to the conversation.

Andy Stanley’s new book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed on the World, does a deep dive into exploring the kind of message Christians need to focus on to connect with unchurched and de-churched people.

You can listen to an interview I did with Andy on his new approach to apologetics here.

Whether or not you agree with everything Andy Stanley says in the book (Andy’s had a few critics as he’s made his arguments), what the critics seem to miss is that the current generation of church leaders is losing the conversation with non-Christians. In fact, often, we’re not even in the conversation anymore.

That’s why what Andy has to say is so valuable. We need to change the conversation because the current conversation is making less of a difference every day.

Something fundamental is changing in our culture, and many Christian leaders are missing it.

Arguing among ourselves or rehashing apologetic approaches from generations ago isn’t going to reverse the growing indifference Christians face when we share our faith.

Radically different times demand radically different approaches. The apostle Paul varied his approach depending on his audience. Speaking to Greeks in Athens required a different line of argument than speaking with Jews.

I think Andy Stanley is right in sounding the cultural alarm bells that our current approach isn’t working.

Here are five reasons what a lot of us are doing today won’t advance the mission the way we hope tomorrow.

1. YOUR VOICE IS NO LONGER THE ONLY VOICE

Just a generation ago, the majority of people went to church, North American culture was at least nominally Christian, there was no Internet, information was harder to come by, and most people simply trusted what they heard from their local pastor. In some cases, the pastor was the most educated and most listened to person in the community, and certainly in a church attender’s life.

It could hardly be more different today. The Internet means you can learn about anything, anytime, anywhere. And people do.

Of course, you know all of this, but in most churches, we still behave like it wasn’t true.

Most of the people who attend your church and everyone you’re trying to reach has googled their way to an opinion on almost everything. They’ve binge listened to Joe Rogan, Sam Harris and a host of others, and come to you with pre-formed opinions on almost everything.

It’s not just going away to college that crumbles faith anymore. Many teens and young adults have YouTubed and Reddited their way to their own views on God, Jesus, spirituality and the church.

Do all of these views hold water? Of course not.

But that doesn’t stop people from holding them.

2. HOSTILITY IS GIVING WAY TO INDIFFERENCE

If you look at the way many Christians are approaching the culture today, you’d think the church is under siege from critics. And in some respects, that’s true.

But look more deeply, and you’ll see the real issue isn’t hostility, it’s indifference.

And indifference is a much harder issue to deal with. Hostility means the person angry with you is still engaged. Indifference means you’ve lost them…at least for now.

Indifference is a very different opponent than disagreement or hostility.

Maybe it’s rooted in the fact that the church has largely stopped caring about the world.

And when the church no longer cares about the world, it should be no surprise that the world no longer cares about the church.

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Source: Church Leaders