The 4 Kinds Of Unbelievers In Your Church & What They Need

There are various kinds of people that will end up in your Church on any given Sunday. I think it is useful to think about what those kinds of people are, and how we can plan to help them in our congregation.

There are four major categories of unbelievers: nominal Christians, people looking for answers, those compelled to come, and persecutors.

Nominal Christians

Nominal Christians are those who, confessing the name of Jesus, do not have a true foundation of belief undergirding their proclamation. They go to church for various reasons, but mostly because that is what you do if you’re a Christian.

What they need:

Clear, Biblical teaching and preaching will always lead back to the Gospel, and these folks need to hear (as do we all) the Gospel, over and over again. If the Lord extends his mercy to any, their hearts will be softened and they will come to a real faith in Jesus.

People looking for answers.

Many churches have people that often come into the church who are curious. They are in various states; some may have exhausted every worldly avenue of promised satisfaction, others having an undefinable lack of something in their life, or others who need help.

Within this category I would also place those who come for other reasons, such as enjoying the beauty of a building, the choir, the sense of belonging, etc. Whatever it is, they have needs that they hope the Church can help with.

What they need:

Answers—not the answers they expect, but the answers they need. The gospel should be the central message for answer-seekers, and the practical application of Christian doctrine, too. No worldly truth can satisfy the longing for which we are all created—that is, to fully enjoy and glorify God; but the grace to so see and relish Jesus as Savior can only be granted through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

People compelled to come.

This happens a lot around the big Christian holidays: Christmas and Easter especially. Family members who are not believers are pressured into attending a service; and in some cultures there is still a cultural pressure to do so.

I have also seen parents who drag their children in because they believe that attending church will train them one way or another towards the good.

What they need:

As with the other categories, they need to hear the gospel, and they need to hear of the love of God as something greater and deeper and sweeter than a simple set of rules. We don’t go to church simply because hat is what is required of us by man or by God. We go to church because we long to commune with other believers in worship and reading of the Scriptures and prayer and eating together (Acts 2:42).

These people also need to interact with believers within the congregation normally. There is an uncomfortableness that will come from teaching Scripture, but its is another kind of discomfort entirely when one is forced into some well-intentioned interaction. Think along the lines of “turn to your neighbor and tell them, ‘God loves you’.” While it is true, it is very awkward for some, and not likely to endear them to your fellowship.


These are the wolves amongst the sheep—they come with perverted doctrines and heresies, they come to disrupt the church in it’s meetings, they come to attack it’s people psychologically, socially and physically.

What they need:

The church, and especially the elder-shepherds, need to stand firmly to protect the church-flock. Clear, deep Biblical preaching and teaching from the pulpit stands against perverted messages and prepares the congregation to bear the suffering inevitable to the Christian.

These persecutor-wolves need to see that Christ is of far greater worth than our own lives; the church must be willing to lay down it’s life to both defend the faith and to demonstrate the same suffering that Christ endured—even unto death.

A Common Need

It doesn’t matter who comes to your meeting, they all need Jesus desperately—believers as well as unbelievers. And truthfully, if we are not offering  Jesus, there is little benefit for anyone to come into our congregation, at all.

Do not hide the truth from those who need it because you fear that they might be offended. Otherwise, how could they believe and repent if they have not been told in whom to believe or of what to repent?

It is a worldly sort of wisdom and fear that hounds us to water down the gospel and the Scriptures—don’t offend, don’t push away, don’t make people uncomfortable. But that is not a voice we are to listen to; no, we are the salt of the earth, a city on a hill, a lamp that gives light to the whole house (Matthew 5:13-16).

Finally, you do not know the state of the heart of anyone walking through your door—and you don’t have to. Focus on discipleship, encouraging and exhorting believers and unbelievers alike to humble themselves before the cross, read the Scriptures, commune in prayer. Where your ability as a teacher or pastor falls short, the Holy Spirit shines through, making even the most challenging passage of Scripture a breath of fresh air to the quickened heart.

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