Barna's findings beg the question, 'Are the lost reachable?'

by Will Hall |

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) – George Barna released parts of a study in conjunction with the publication of his new book, "Churchless," showing the number of unchurched adults is climbing and this group is less likely than in the past to have any church background at all.

Moreover, he also found more of the unchurched reject any form of outreach now than ever before.

Barna's findings largely reflect generational changes.

In 1990, 30 percent of adults were unchurched with this segment growing to 33 percent in 2000 and reaching 43 percent today, and this buildup parallels Millennials' entry into adulthood. Fifty-two percent of this generation's adults—roughly 18 to 33 years old—are unchurched (and some Millennials are still teens).

His results also reveal the unchurched lack interest in visiting any church, regardless of the mode of invitation, and even their receptivity to relational evangelism has slipped.

Barna wrote, "Twenty years ago, two-thirds of churchless Americans (65 percent) were open to being invited to church by a friend. Today, that percentage has slipped to less than half (47 percent).

But other methods of reaching the unchurched were noted as remarkably less effective.

-- Between 20 and 30 percent welcomed home visits or phone calls.

-- Social media, TV, radio and newspaper ads, direct mail and billboards were rated in the teens.

What the data underscores is people want a relationship.

Likewise, the findings imply that if more and more adults are reporting no substantial church background, outreach needs to start earlier and greater emphasis should be placed on programs for children, adolescents and youth.