George Hunter in his book How to Reach Secular People identifies “Ten Characteristics of Secular People.” They are as follows:
- They are essentially ignorant of basic Christianity. They are “ignostics”; that is, they are simply ignorant of biblical information. They may have cursory cultural knowledge of Noah, David and Goliath, and so forth—not because of the Bible, but because these stories have crept into the psyche of society.
- They are seeking life before death. They fear extinction more than they seek heaven or fear hell. No longer existing is what is scary, not where they will be—if anywhere. They are not interested in “fire” insurance (avoiding hell), but “life” assurance (the quality of their life now).
- They are conscious of doubt more than guilt. Guilt is no longer motivating—we have learned to shun responsibility. They doubt much of what the Christian faith offers. The people we engage in our world are in various stages of doubt.
- They have a negative image of the Church. They doubt the intelligence, relevance, and credibility of Christianity, which makes many of them indifferent to the Church. They are interested in what we believe, but what they really want to know is if what we believe makes a difference in our lives and a practical difference in the world.
- They have multiple alienations. They are alienated from neighbors, family, co-workers, and so forth, and this results in incredible loneliness.
- They are untrusting. We need to relate to them as leery or distrustful of our faith, not as evil opponents. It may be that they want to trust, they’re just unsure how.
- They have low self-esteem. People struggle with accepting themselves as they are. This makes it difficult to believe anyone else can either.
- They experience forces in history as out of control. Nothing, or no one, is in control. History was out of control, life is out of control, people are out of control. This is reinforced by the disturbing images streamed into their homes daily.
- They experience forces in personality as out of control. Who I am and what I do is out of control. I can’t control my family, my friends, or myself.
- They cannot find the “door.” People want God, but cannot find God. The door they need doesn’t seem available. The door we offer may appear too simple.
Phil Stevenson, 5 Things Anyone Can Do to Help Their Church Grow, You Can! (Indianapolis, IN: WPH, 2007), 11–13.
I have just completed a series of lessons based on becoming a welcoming church. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.