13 Things You’ll Never Hear an Unchurched Person Say
Dr. James Emery White
- 2019 Dec 12
In talking about the pros and cons of “celebrity pastor” culture, my friend Carey Nieuwhof quipped that one thing you’ll never hear is an unchurched person sitting around evaluating preachers. “Comparing preachers is something churched people do, not unchurched people.”
He’s right, of course.
And he also noted why it’s a silly thing to be concerned about, much less competitive about, in light of reaching the unchurched. An unchurched person comes to a church not because of a celebrity pastor (They don’t know any of them, and if they do it’s usually not a positive assessment.), but because a friend invited them.
And then, when they do come, they do not think about or evaluate things the way a churched believer might.
So just for fun, here are 12 more things you’ll never catch an unchurched person saying—specifically, as they are walking out of a service they attended with a friend:
1. “Your pastor wasn’t hip enough. I was looking for skinny jeans, shaved hair, jewelry, hip sneakers. Something Kardashianish.”
2. “Where do you stand on Calvinism, complementarianism and pre-trib eschatology?”
3. “What denomination are you?”
4. “I wish they had played hymns and worship songs I knew. These were all new to me.”
5. “The sermon was too short. And there wasn’t enough Scripture.”
6. “Why wasn’t there an invitation at the end? There should always be an invitation at the end.”
7. “It would have been nice to have had more time for prayer.”
8. “I was a first-time visitor and was disappointed I never met the pastor, and I was also disappointed that I was never recognized or singled-out as a first-time visitor.”
9. “I didn’t hear anything about how to join a small group. That’s important to me.”
10. “People didn’t seem very engaged with the worship. Some weren’t even singing. And why weren’t more people raising their hands?"
11. “Everybody came and then left. I was looking for more fellowship.”
12. “I never did see a cross. Or a fish. Or a dove. Or even a Chick-fil-A logo. Just didn’t feel like church to me.”
There’s much more that you’ll never hear an unchurched person say, but you get the point. Too many churches and their leaders have fallen prey to thinking solely as a traditional churched believer might think, and then catering to those sentiments as if that’s what it means to reach people.
And to be sure, it is a way of reaching people.
Just not the unchurched.
James Emery White
Carey Nieuwhof, “The Pros and Cons of a Celebrity Pastor Culture,” read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president.
His latest book, After “I Believe,” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast.
Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.