Monday, April 12, 2010

Lee Stroubel’s Four Populations

By Ben Zemmer

In explaining the different types of numeric growth in American churches, Lee Stroubel charted out four different groups: churched Christians, churched non-Christians, unchruched Christians, and unchurched non-Christians (Hunter, p.26). These categories are helpful in understanding how large congregations can popup in one place or another without a significant number of conversions. However, the third item in the list is problematic, “unchurched Christians”. Within this title is the dangerous presumption that just because someone claims to be a believer but has never been involved in a local church is actually a believer. The Apostle John made it very clear that those who are true believers express love for other believes in the context of community. George Hunter called unchruched Christians, “people who believe but do not belong” (Hunter, p.26). This is a direct contradiction to the biblical theme explained and detailed in several of the epistles regarding the body of Christ. It is not possible for any member of the human body to survive if it is severed from the rest. The same is true for professing believers. No true believer will deny his need for and identity within the body of Christ. Nearly all the imperatives in the New Testament take place in the community of believers. Look for instance, at the repetition of the phrase of “one another” all across the books of the New Testament.

It is indeed helpful to understand where growth in numbers is coming from, but every believer must be wary of selling the gospel short. The vast majority of people who wander about in the western world apart from the local church are demonstrating themselves to be apart from Christ, and they need to hear a loving and clear proclamation of the gospel.

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