One of the widely reported changes in America today is the increase in the number of religiously unaffiliated, the so-called “rise of the nones.” The percentage of people not affiliated with any church was 5% in 1972. Today it’s 25%.
Thoughtful church leaders point out that the “nones” are not all the same. Some are atheists—they don’t believe God exists; some are agnostic—they don’t know what to believe; and some are apathetic—they don’t believe God matters to their lives. Because their reasons for being a “none” are different, reaching them with the gospel requires different approaches.
Many people are two generations removed from participating in church. The church can’t wait for them to “come back,” because they were never in church to begin with.
Part of the answer lies in Jesus’ great parable about a wealthy man with two sons. Both sons were after the father’s wealth. One’s approach was to be very bad, the other’s approach was to be very good, but neither son loved the father. But the love of the father was so great that he ran to both sons, taking all the pain and humiliation of their brokenness upon himself. Even though both sons were a long way off, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the father never stopped seeking to bring them home.
At the most basic level, this is what the church is called to do today. We’re to seek the lost, beginning in our own neighborhood. We must to do it lovingly and unconditionally, just like the father in the parable. And like the father in the parable, we need to listen first.
I believe this is our greatest calling today.