A Christian author and ministry leader says this Easter season the church should focus on the de-churched, not the un-churched.
Ed Galisewski, author of the book A Simpler Faith, said that during the season when most churches are gearing up for Easter services and encouraging its members to think about who to invite to church, "it is time Christians [should] rethink their target audience."
For him, that audience should be the de-churched – people who might have grown up in church or have had church experiences but now don't attend regularly, or at all.
And while Galisewski isn't ultimately saying the church should focus on just one category of "the lost," he does say that it should consider its motives. "If we do, we'll move much closer to the real meaning of Easter. It's not just an Evangelistic holiday," he said.
Galisewski believes the church should reach out to those most wounded "by the religious machinery we've made of Christianity." He asks, "Shouldn't we try to right some wrongs done in the name of God, and bring wounded believers back into a caring, healing fellowship?"
Many people were introduced to a faith community as a child, and how that experience affected them determined whether they stayed in church, rejected it outright, or took a break from it indefinitely and became "de-churched."
Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, explains on a video that part of the de-churched problem comes from a false gospel of "moralistic deism" being preached in many of today's churches. The idea that the Christian life essentially says that if you obey God's rules he will bless you with what you want.
He says that this is another form of "prosperity gospel" that has taken root in Christian culture, creating problems for people when God's blessings don't actually come. So when hardships arise, they often destroy people's faith in Christ because of their wrong understanding of the Gospel.
Skye Jethani, author of The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity, wrote on his blog that there is also another reason people walk away.
He writes, "These Christians have simply lost confidence in the institutional structures and programmatic trappings of the church. For them, the institutional church is not an aid in their faith and mission. Rather it's become a drain on time, resources, and energy."
Dr. Alex McFarland, director of Apologetics for North Greenville University, told The Christian Post that there are a lot of people in our culture who have been burned by the church, or assume that institutional, organized religion is a bad thing.
Because of that, he said, Christians need to reach out and ask them to take a second look. He said that for "the dechurched, Easter is a time to invite [them] back to the love and community of worshippers."
But he stressed that we shouldn't leave the unchurched out of the equation. For Christians, "the big leverage point is that Jesus rose from the grave. It's the most significant thing that differentiates Christianity from other beliefs. So it's important to share that with the unchuched," he said. "We've got an empty tomb, that's a game changer."