Shortly after I stepped down from the pulpit last August, I realized I had made a mistake. No, not stepping down from the pulpit. Rather, I had preached for over 20 years about reaching the unchurched. That worked in some cultural contexts. For example, I spent almost 5 1/2 years living in Argentina in a city of half a million people, most of whom were definitely unchurched. That has not been the case in my ministry experience in the United States.
A month or so after I left the pulpit, it occurred to me that most of the 80% of the people in Tyler who were not part of a church were not unchurched–they were overchurched. There is a big difference.
Unchurched people have little knowledge of God, Jesus, or Scripture. They are truly secular.
Overchurched people know a lot of information about God, Jesus, and the Bible. They have simply chosen to not allow it to impact their lives. Overchurched people, for various reasons, have been vaccinated against Christianity. It is as if they have received a tiny injection of Christianity, and they have built within themselves a spiritual immunity to Jesus and his church.
I spent almost seven years asking the same question every day–how do we at Shiloh reach the unchurched people of Tyler? I was asking the wrong question. We are a generation away from Tyler comprising itself primarily of unchurched people. All along, I should have been asking–how do we reach the overchurched people of Tyler?
That question raises an entirely different set of questions, yet they are equally important. Neither the unchurched nor the overchurched know the Lord. However, each group is strategically approached in different ways.
I am still raising questions about how to reach the overchurched. I have some ideas, though. More on that to come.