The Unchurched Next Door are Receptive

Sam Rainer

March 26, 2009

Ed Stetzer and team recently released one of the largest surveys on Americans’ receptivity to different methods of church invitations. Conducted last December, the study included a survey of over 15,000 adults.

It should not come as a surprise, but the best way to reach people is through friends, family, and neighbors:


Personal invitations are generally well received. It is yet another example of statistics screaming for us to be bold in sharing our faith and inviting others to church. This level of receptivity should encourage the church – our unchurched neighbors are not as adamant against attending church as we might think.

USA Today reported on the story from the perspective of the Southern Baptist Convention (with which my church cooperates). The survey was commissioned by the North American Mission Board and conducted by LifeWay, two agencies of the SBC. This from Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today:

The Southern Baptist Convention, which is launching a new national campaign to bring unbelievers to Jesus, is up against a major obstacle: motivating its own members to evangelize.

But it may be the only effective way to reach people, according to a survey of 15,173 people by LifeWay Research, a Christian research firm.

The survey found only two ways most people said they were somewhat or very willing to “receive information” about Jesus: 63% would hear it in a “personal conversation with a family member,” or with a friend or neighbor from the church (56%).

“Baptists like to talk more about evangelism than to actually do it,” says LifeWay director Ed Stetzer. Personal evangelizing is “a great concept that’s hard for people to get motivated to do.”

I’m all for a Great Commission Resurgence in my denomination and others. And it begins with me.

10 comments on “The Unchurched Next Door are Receptive”

  1. Greg Ryan says:

    Forgive my sports analogy but the game is played on the field and not in the stands. I believe for too long the church (believers in the pews) have sat on their backsides and expected the Pastors to do all the work.

    Believers need to be reminded (probably daily) that the road to Hell is wide and their neighbors are probably traveling on it. The “how-to” reach your neighbor is still a very important lesson the church needs to learn.

    However, it is very encouraging to know our neighbors can still be reached.

  2. Franklin Morella says:

    Thanks for the good post Sam. You are fast becoming the go-to guy for research and commentary on the unchurched and the church.

  3. Sam Rainer says:

    Franklin – Thanks for stopping by the blog and for your kind words. Tell your brother I said hello. I hope he enjoyed his time in St. Pete!

  4. Chris Vaught says:


    Thank you for the great work you put into this blog. Your information is so helpful to pastors in the local church trying to motivate God’s people to have a heart for the unchurched.
    God Bless,

  5. Jason says:

    I was wondering if there’s any information about where the survey was conducted and what effect geographical location has on the results? The reason I ask is that I find the last three “means” troublesome; on the West Coast, newspapers are closing down or going online because people don’t read the paper itself. The only thing really proven to work in our current situation is conversation and relationship. I was also a little surprised to see that church websites/internet weren’t listed – Our website plays a major role in bringing in visitors.

    All in all, an interesting study…

  6. Sam Rainer says:

    Thanks Chris! I hope all’s well up in KY!

  7. Sam Rainer says:

    Jason –

    The sampling methodology is below:

    “The sample for the study is a national, random, stratified sample of Americans using a demographically balanced online panel.

    The survey was administered via an internet survey interface between December 12, 2008 and December 22, 2008.

    With a total of more than 15,000 responses, the sample provides 99% confidence that the total sampling error does not exceed +1%”

    The study did not breakout regions.

    The website plays a major role in people finding out about our church as well, so it is a bit of a surprise not to see it in the top five.

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