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Prof’s book calls for outreach to the ‘radically unchurched’

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Christians and churches can reach those outside the typical church’s sphere of influence, Alvin Reid believes, and he has written a book explaining why and how to reach people who have no connection with the Christian message, a group he calls the “radically unchurched.”

“We’re really good at reaching people like us,” Reid said. “We’re not reaching people who are not like us.”

Reid, who holds the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., gives practical advice on how to reach out to outsiders in “Radically Unchurched: Who They Are and How to Reach Them,” which debuted in bookstores in October from Kregel Publications.

Reid argues that the radically unchurched come from all walks of life, all ages and races, and can be found in any area of the United States. They are oblivious to the claims of Christianity, maybe even hostile toward those claims, and many churches simply do not make an effort to reach these groups of people.

Radically Unchurched is part “how-to” and part “why?” Reid said, noting that some of his motivation for writing the book was to help pastors who had told him that many books on the unchurched were all theory, with little or no practical advice.

Reid spends the first 100 pages of his book explaining, from his research, who the unchurched are and then laying out a biblical case for the necessity of reaching them. For the second 100 pages he gives practical advice on topics like how to use personal testimonies, planning a worship service with the radically unchurched in mind, and building a church to reach the unchurched.

With the practical examples and academic research, Reid demonstrates that Christians can effectively reach out to those who have no concept or familiarity with the Christian message to fulfill the commands of Christ and penetrate the larger culture.

“Truth is what will reach people,” Reid said. “This is a call for Christians to be radicals.”

Radical Christianity has been a theme of Reid’s scholarship. An expert on spiritual awakenings, Reid has written several books about historical revivals and the nature of revival among Christians. He also is the author of “Introduction to Evangelism,” popular in seminary and college classrooms, and “Light the Fire,” a book aimed toward teaching young people about spiritual awakenings and their relationship to real-life Christianity.

Unlike some methods of reaching the unchurched that call for watering down the gospel, in Radically Unchurched Reid writes that the truth of Christ and exclusivity of Christianity should be proclaimed even more, and that a higher level of dedication among Christians will attract those searching for the answers to life’s toughest questions.

“It’s not the message that has driven people away from the church,” Reid said. “It’s the messenger.”

Reid pointed out that Radically Unchurched is not a book about reaching Gen-Xers, or a book about reaching postmoderns. Rather, it is holistic in its approach to reaching all those, young or old, who have no affinity for or sympathy with the Christian message.

Evangelist Luis Palau, in endorsing the book, notes, “Reid’s heart burns with passion for the church to reclaim its mission and invade our unchurched culture.”

In the foreword, Southeastern President Paige Patterson points out that Reid understands the sometimes-fuzzy line between method and message.

“He comprehends the distinction between that part of Christianity that cannot be altered without changing its basic character, and the accretions of tradition that can and often should be jettisoned,” Patterson said. “He knows that the leopard cannot change his spots, and he has no desire to do so. But he also knows that you can breed a sleeker, faster, stronger, more efficient leopard and that is precisely what this book is about.”

Interested readers can check out a sample chapter of Reid’s book on his website, www.alvinreid.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: RADICALLY UNCHURCHED.

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  • Jason Hall