A few times in the past day I have been part of discussions about "better terms for 'unchurched.'" There have been attempts to explain/differentiate: "those who've not connected yet," "those who have disconnected," or "those who may never connect" and snarky responses: "Hell-goers," "heathens," "target population," "opportunities," or "lucky." Mixed in all these "typical" responses there were also a few more honest attempts (from varied backgrounds, and all with issues admittedly) "Lost," "Missed/Missing," and "Seeking." "Lost" and "Seeking" come from the same argument. People out there are looking for something they can't or haven't found yet, and WE have it, so how do we let them know they can find it HERE. They are cheap advertising words, not words that should be used when talking about real people or a real community (church). "Missed/Missing" is an interesting idea: We miss these people in theory and want them in community, and God likewise misses these beloved treasures that are not in a relationship supposedly. Of course again there is a major issue here: We're assuming a lot about what is going on inside of these actual people and trying to put a label on them. Same problem that comes with the attempts to differentiate sub groups of this "group" that we so often talk about in the church and in relation to evangelism.
So if it's not about "The Missed" then what is it about? I want to argue it's about "What's Missing." We shouldn't be worried about "who" is out there and how to describe "them." We should be doing our job as the Body of Christ. Jesus doesn't go around asking who is going to come to him, people just do. The sense something they want there, they sense a spirit of love and healing, they see someone who comes to them without question, without judging, without requirements. We don't do that, we rarely even get out and do good in a lot of cases. We may do a little here, and a little there, but Jesus says that The Son of Man has no where to lay his head. And well if we're Christ's body, that means we also shouldn't be looking for a home, but going, doing, acting as Christ to this world. Yes, God wants people to come to know Christ and through him Godself, but people will come to know God because God is active in their lives, not because we bring them to church.
I do believe people want community, I believe God made our deepest desire one of escaping our aloneness, to feel part of something greater, to understand love in it's truest form, to build relationships. As the story goes, after Adam and Even had eaten of the tree of knowledge, after they have become aware of themselves, the world, and each other, they
are aware of their separateness. The awareness of separation is the
source of anxiety and the deepest need of human beings is our need to
overcome our separateness, to leave the prison of our aloneness. This is an internal pull, we can do nothing to change to what extent someone feels it, nor are we able to really understand how it manifests itself in another. Thus I argue that we need to get beyond a desire to know who we're "evangelizing" to, and just "evangelize" the world through action, actions of love, of justice, of care and concern for others regardless of who they are or where they are in life. We are all seeking, we all are a bit lost, we all have parts of church we love, hate, and are ambivalent about, we all are unique but connected in that we all are made in God's image. May we treat all people as such.