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Over the years, I've found these same four complaints common among those who don?t attend church:

  1. "Church services are boring, especially the sermons. The messages don?t relate to my life. Why should I go? I don?t understand it and it doesn?t really help me."

    In the Saddleback Valley, this is the number one excuse for not attending church. Frankly, this complaint has some validity; there are some pastors who take the most exciting book in the world and bore people to tears with it! Miraculously, they?re able to turn bread into stones!

    The tragedy of being a boring speaker is that it causes people to think God is boring! So when I heard this first complaint over and over, I determined to somehow learn to communicate God?s Word in a practical, interesting way. I hope I?m getting better at it, because I do everything I can to be interesting.

    A sermon does not have to be boring to be biblical, and it doesn?t have to be dry to be doctrinal. This is an extremely important distinction: The unchurched aren?t asking for watered-down messages—just practical ones! They want to hear something on the weekend that they can apply to their lives immediately.

  2. "Church members are unfriendly to visitors. It feels like a 'clique.' If I ever went to church, I?d want to feel welcomed without being watched or embarrassed."

    Many unchurched people tell me they feel like church is a "members only" organization. They don't know the "inside" terminology, songs or rituals; they feel foolish and feel church members are watching them in judgment.

    The number one emotion unbelievers feel when they visit a worship service is fear! They are honestly scared to death of what might happen. And that means they raise their defenses, so communicating with them becomes very difficult.

    When I heard this second excuse from unbelievers, we determined to do whatever it takes to make visitors feel welcomed and wanted without feeling watched.

    There?s a simple word for this: politeness! It?s thinking more of others than we do of ourselves. Being seeker-targeted is NOT compromising what you believe. It is just treating non-believers the way Jesus would!

  3. "The church is more interested in my money than in me. All they care about is getting my money—and who knows how they spend it!"

    Due to the highly visible (and often highly questionable) fund-raising tactics of televangelists and many Christian organizations, the unchurched are incredibly sensitive to appeals for money. Unfortunately, many lost people believe that pastors are "in it just for the money." Opulent church buildings have only added fuel to the fire.

    At Saddleback, we decided to counteract this complaint by giving a disclaimer when we take an offering. We explain that the offering is only for those who are a part of our church family. We simply announce, "If you are visitor at Saddleback, you are not expected to give an offering. We want you to get something today!"

    Besides, asking unbelievers to contribute before they have given their lives to Christ is getting the cart before the horse.

  4. "We worry about the quality of the church?s childcare. What will be done with our baby and our children? We?re not sure we can trust strangers with the care of our kids."

    The Saddleback Valley is filled with young couples, so it is not surprising childcare at church is a critical issue to our visitors. Every church must earn the trust of parents.

    At Saddleback, we have adopted a set of very stringent guidelines for our children?s ministry, including FBI checks, fingerprinting, and personal interviews of all children?s workers to insure safety and quality. We have a very secure check-in and check-out system.

    We?d rather go overboard on safety than be thrown overboard with a lawsuit. If you want to reach young couples, you must spend the effort to create a safe and attractive children?s program.

    Get The Message Out
    Jesus told the disciples to be strategic in their evangelism. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16 NIV). When it comes to reaching unbelievers, I think this means identifying and understanding their perceived concerns with the church—and then working to defuse those issues so the message of Christ can be heard.

    In American football, successful teams know how to "read the defense." That means when the offensive team lines up for each play, the quarterback looks out at the opposing team to see how they are lined up. He tries to figure out in advance how the defense will respond and what barriers might prevent the execution of the play. Sometimes that means calling an "audible"—announcing a change in plans. If the quarterback doesn?t do this, he usually gets flattened!

    In evangelism "reading the defense" means understanding and anticipating the objections unbelievers will have before they voice them. It?s learning to think like an unbeliever. That, by the way, becomes increasingly more difficult the longer you are a Christian.

    No Complaints About God
    What is most interesting to me about these four common complaints is that none of them are theological issues. I rarely meet people who say, "I don?t go to church because I don?t believe in God."

    The truth is many people are very open to learning about God and spiritual issues, they just don?t feel welcome at church or feel that it has anything to offer them. That is OUR problem. We must take the initiative, like Jesus did, to meet people where they are and then move them to where they need to be.

This article is used by permission from
Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox by Rick Warren.
More information available at

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