In the early 1990’s George Hunter wrote a book titled How to Reach Secular People and made a list describing the characteristics of “secular people.”
- Are ignorant of basic Christianity and are often biblically illiterate.
- Seek life before death. They think more about life this side of death – how to find it, salvage it, give it meaning and purpose – more than they think about life after death.
- Are conscious of doubt more than guilt. They see themselves as victims and do not think they are responsible for their actions. Instead of guilt, they are skeptical and full of doubt, especially when it comes to believing absolutes.
- Have a negative image of the church and doubt its intelligence, relevance, and credibility.
- Have multiple alienations: work, nature, government, jobs, and one another.
- Are untrusting.
- Have low self-esteem, compounded with divorces, dysfunctional homes, and so on.
- See the world as out of control, with political unrest, the AIDS epidemic, and so on.
- Experience anything in their personalities, families, and lives that they can’t control as a problem.
- Are lost and cannot seem to find God on their own.
While I don’t know that I agree with everything on this list, I do think it is an important list to consider. It is important for two reasons. One, as our culture progressively shifts towards being more secular it is important to understand how people think and what they are wrestling with. Understanding people isn’t just about winning them over, it is about loving them regardless if they are won over. To accurately love our neighbors we must understand them.
The second reason this list is important to consider is because I do not believe it is a list that describes “secular people.” Hunter’s list describes a lot of people in my church. That isn’t to shame or judge the people of my church, but it to speak to a reality of what has happened and is happening in the world. Our changing world has undermined many of the presuppositions people have about religion, faith, Christianity, and the Church.
If the church hopes to reach its own people, let alone the culture, then it must think seriously about how to equip them to navigate and rapidly changing world.
I have a feeling that will involve more than another Bible study.
What do you think, is this list simply for “secular people?” How can the church respond?