Great Stuff — New Pira Survey Reveals Real Reasons the Unchurched Don’t Attend Church

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INDIANAPOLIS – A newly released Pira Survey of the Biblical texts reveals the real reasons why the unchurched do not attend church and the results are sending shockwaves through the seeker-driven and missional camps.

Chris Rosebrough, lead researcher for Pira, the organization responsible for this Biblical survey said, “For decades the conventional wisdom in the broader church growth and missional movements has told us that the reason why unchurched people don’t attend church is because they think church is boring and irrelevant. Although true, the conventional wisdom has not been able to satisfactorily explain why unchurched people feel that way. Our survey, of the Biblical texts, strove to dig down and uncover the real reasons why our pagan non-Christian friends and neighbors feel that way about church. What we discovered was shocking and its implications regarding the newly adopted church methodologies in seeker-driven churches will challenge the core assumptions of the entire church growth industry!”

The Pira Survey reveals that non-Christians, contrary to the assumptions of church growth consultants, are not basically good people who would love to attend church and worship God if only their pop-culture tastes and preferences were employed in church. Instead, the survey reveals that the unchurched abhor and hate God, they’re born dead in trespasses and sins, they do not seek God, they love the darkness and sin and hate the light, and their continual intentions and thoughts are only evil. Please consult the chart below.

Said Rosebrough, “The results of this Biblical survey make it undeniably clear that the only way you could make church ‘relevant’ to a non-Christian would be to give them what they want i.e. sin, idolatry, false doctrine, fleshly delights, and worldly entertainment. But when you bring those things into the church then your church ceases to be a church and just becomes a popular entertainment venue with a thin Christian-ish veneer. And, since unbelievers hate God, they’ll leave as soon as you try to confront them with their sins or try to make Jesus and Him crucified the true center of the church service. The reason for this is that the unchurched don’t want to have anything to do with the One True God. They hate Him and the cross is foolishness to them! I guess that’s why regeneration is so important. Because if you haven’t been born again then there is no way you’re going to think that church is relevant.”

The raw data for this survey is reproduced below.

Genesis 2:15–17 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””

Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”

Romans 5:19 “for as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners

Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Genesis 8:21 “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth”

Psalms 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

John 3:19 “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

Ephesians 2:1–3 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”

Psalms 14:2–3 “The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God…They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:10–18 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.””

Isaiah 59:2“ but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Exodus 33:20 “But,” he [the LORD] said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.””

John 1:10 “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.”

Jeremiah 17:9“ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Matthew 15:18–19 [Jesus said] “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

Ephesians 4:18 “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

Matthew 7:11 [Jesus said] “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

John 8:44 [Jesus said] “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Colossians 2:13 “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh”

Colossians 1:21 “And you, who once were alienated [from God] and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,”

Ephesians 2:12 “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”

Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — New Pira Survey Reveals Real Reasons the Unchurched Don’t Attend Church — 16 Comments

  1. Reminds me of one of my all-time favorite blog postings “P.S. I Hate You (Part 1)” by Pr. Fiene!

  2. Well put Rosebrough! Going along with this aversion to the church is the popularity of spirituality over religion. Spirituality is a tailored made “faith” that fits well the heart & mind of the sinner but not the Word of God.

  3. Chris always has some of the best & bare basic stuff. Thanks for posting this.
    Like we didn’t already know it. It’s the old spirituality vs true Faith, that’s been around for thousands of years, just different packaging w/this garbage.
    Great article Chris!

  4. The unchurched don’t attend church because they are unchurched and don’t understand it’s importance. I honestly wouldn’t expect my average evangelical friends to understand why I go to church. Why I NEED to go to church to receive the sacraments. How if I miss a Sunday I feel it all week. They have a warps view of Christianity – in my humble opinion.

  5. Well said and well put. The gospel is, by its very nature, offensive to sinful man, and apart from a regenerative work of the Spirit in the heart no man will come to Christ.

  6. That simplifies the problem, and unlike church growth tactics, they look at the peson who isn’t attending for reasons and doesn’t assume that because people aren’t going to church that there’s something wrong with church.

  7. Matthew 9:37-38 “Then [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”

  8. Seems a rather useless post to me, if not self-righteous. The chart above describes 100% of the Christians attending church as well. And what about the non-believers who are attending church anyway? (Can you say, “simul iustus et peccator”?…I knew you could.)

  9. Well, when only 0.1 % of pulpits in the world preach the pure gospel, is it any wonder that so few are attending church?

  10. Everything in your piece is true. But that’s not the complete picture of why people don’t attend Church. We excuse ourselves from the equation. We can make the same mistake as the “Church growth at any cost” marketers make, by excusing our crappy sermon prep, and insipid efforts to teach doctrine, and fluff it off with an idiotic and loveless comment like, “The Word is efficacious on its own,” which it is, but what good is that if, by OUR sloth, the people never hear that efficacious Word? I’m just saying, I’ve been to a lot of Lutheran Churches, even in our confessional Churches, and preaching suffers. Guys don’t grapple with the text, and preach the Law from that text, and preach the Gospel as cure from that text. They have to browbeat people to come to Bible Study, because they are not excited to take the congregation into the land of exegesis, because maybe they’ve never been !
    So while I wholly concur with your graph, maybe we could have pulled 10% out of the fire?

  11. @Pastor Don Colageo #13

    I agree, Pastor Colageo. I do appreciate that Chris’ survey (and all his work at PCR) is trying to let churches/pastors know that doctrinal and theological compromise just means making a confessional church more like a “mainstream” pop culture church. This so that more people join–people who are likely more interested in slapping a label over the last label they wore than in the pure doctrine of repentance, Word and Sacrament found in Scripture and handed down through the apostolic catholic Church.

    But at the same time I fear the classic introverted Israelite mentality that may be encouraged with his survey–or “it’s for us and not for them”; this would be contrary to Matthew 5:16 which doesn’t say “let your light shine before others who you think might believe”. It’s not for us to determine who is who in the Parable of the Sower, it is only for us to preach the Gospel and let the Spirit do His work.

  12. @JoshRadke #13

    When you say, “it’s for us and not for them” I assume you are referring to the attitude of church members towards unbelievers “out there,” right?

    Well, I think that attitude also applies to the voters assembly when they refuse to deal with unbelievers on the church roster in carrying out church discipline, don’t you?

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