Reflections on the Word "Unchurched"
I think that one of the oddest words in the Christian lexicon is the word unchurched. Have you heard someone use this word? Usually it's spoken by pastors or church leaders talking about the people they want to save. At some point in the 1980s somebody decided that terms like unsaved, unbeliever, non-Christian, sinner and hell-bound pagan were offensive to the people they described. So they came up with the term unchurched in order to have a nice way of talking about people who are not Christians.
This fascinates me. Who decides when new words get to be made up? It seems like a pretty big deal. Was it a group effort? How long did they brainstorm? Did they have a whiteboard? And what were the other options? They could have chosen unchristianed or unjesused.
I don't know who came up with unchurched, but personally, I think it's kind of lame. If you're the person who thought of it, I hope you're not offended. And I hope you've gotten royalties from all the times people have used your word. (I owe you a couple bucks just for the last few paragraphs.)
The problem I have with the word unchurched is that it conveys the idea that what people really need isn't salvation so much as getting "churched." And what the heck does that mean?
Think about this for a minute. How do you church someone? How many times do you have to go to church before you're churched? Once? Twice? A month? A year? Is it something you feel? When you're being churched do you know that it's happening? Does it tingle? And can you be churched but still not be a Christian? Does it matter what you believe? For example, can you be an avowed atheist and still get churched? Wouldn't that probably really tick an atheist off? And then how many meetings do you have to skip before you become unchurched again? Or is it a "once churched always churched" kind of deal?
These are the questions that keep me up at night.
The above is a random scrap from my work on a chapter about the church for my new book. I doubt it will make the chapter so I thought I'd post it here. Please forgive the strange ramblings of a deadline-twisted mind. If you think of it, please pray for me. I have to finish in the next six weeks.