Often, when people in the community talk about Watermarke Church, a similar comment can be heard: “It’s a church for unchurched people, right?.” When I hear that comment, I’m find myself both excited and frustrated.
EXCITED: Excited because we ARE a church where unchurched people can and frequently do attend. In fact, our surveys show roughly 40% of our attendees were “unchurched” prior to attending (unchurched = not regularly attending any church for five years prior to attending Watermarke). Excited because people in our community see our church as a place an unchurched person can come to church. Many people who attend OTHER churches invite their unchurched friends to OUR church. That’s exciting (and weird). I’m not sure why anyone would attend a church where they couldn’t invite their unchurched friends!
FRUSTRATED: But that’s statement is a little frustrating, too, because we are NOT a church for unchurched people. Better said, we are not JUST a church for unchurched people. We are a church unchurched people love to attend. We are also a church church-people love to attend – especially church people who have a desire to reach the unchurched. There’s a significant difference between a “church for the unchurched” and a “church unchurched people love to attend.”
Here’s are 6 key differences:
1. Preaching and Teaching
A church for unchurched people must limit their teaching content, because there is only so much that a room full of unchurched people can take in (or are willing to take in). At Watermarke, we see NO limit to what we can teach.
Now, we do closely monitor HOW we teach, and that’s the difference. A church unchurched people love to attend is built on a communication style that is comprehensible, not shallow or diluted, and helpful for everyone. The churched and unchurched can appreciate and apply this type of message.
2. Spiritual Growth
Obviously, a church for unchurched people is driven and created to attract unchurched people. We often label these churches “seeker sensitive.” That said, it can be difficult for Christians to find any depth of engagement in this type of church. On the other side, a church unchurched people love to attend will attract both the churched and unchurched in the community, and in doing so, create a healthy dynamic with a wealth of opportunities for each group to engage and grow together.
3. Small Groups and Community
Sure, a church of any kind can create a semblance of community, but a community creating spiritual growth will be difficult for a church intended only for the unchurched. In my opinion, a healthy spiritual community is homogenous in purpose (direction), but varied in perspective and growth. For this to occur, a community must contain a variety of people at varying spiritual depth.
Is it even possible for a church for unchurched people to operate and expand? Who will take on teaching roles? Pastoral roles? Who models servant leadership? Without church people, a church will find it difficult filling key lay leadership roles. And without these roles, a church is not scalable.
Unchurched people do not give. Generosity is a spiritual issue, not a financial issue. In a church, all attendees must be funded, but unchurched people typically do not even fund their own attendance, much less contribute to the financial vision for others. This might be the biggest obstacle for churches intended only for the unchurched.
Biblically, the church was created to both reach and grow people in their relationship with Jesus. When we create a church unchurched people love to attend, we can do that successfully with everyone in the community. When the church is created only with unchurched people, we abdicate part of the church’s mission.
So, what kind of church are you creating? Remember – there’s a big difference between a “church for the the unchurched” and a “church unchurched people love to attend.” Finding the balance can be tough, but it’s worth the effort, because the church is fulfilled best in the context of both reaching and growing all the people in our communities.