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The Most Overlooked Outreach Resource

Sitting in your church today are individuals who have an incredible amount of evangelistic potential. And though uniquely positioned for maximum impact, they’re largely overlooked and often frustrated. In a very real sense, churches are squandering this valuable resource.

Who are they? The Christian wives of non-believing husbands.

As Thom S. Rainer, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., discovered in his research: “The wife is the most important relationship in reaching the unchurched.” That’s a big statement! 

Among those surveyed who had been influenced by a relationship to come to church, one-third of them said the biggest factor had been their wife. Rainer stressed: “We cannot overstate the importance of wives in bringing formerly unchurched persons to Christ and to the church.”

In light of the untapped potential of unequally yoked Christians, Rainer wondered why churches are not systematically encouraging and training them to reach out to their non-believing mates. That’s a good question for all of us!

In his book, Surprising Insights From the Unchurched, Rainer describes how one husband not only became a Christian through his spouse but went on to help organize a ministry in his church to equip Christian wives to reach their non-Christian husbands.

“The results have been outstanding,” Rainer reported. “In the first three months of the class, four husbands became Christians.”

Based on 2 Cor. 6:14’s caution against unequally yoked marriages, it’s important for churches to actively discourage Christians from marrying outside the faith. Still, the more God blesses our overall outreach efforts, the more spiritually mismatched marriages we’re bound to encounter, since both spouses rarely come to Christ at the same time.

When husbands and wives are already spiritually mismatched for whatever reason, churches should do all they can to help the Christian spouse bring their non-believing partner to Christ.

I know this story well. Neither Leslie nor I was a Christian when we got married, but Leslie received Christ a few years later. Suddenly, I was in the relational vertigo of a spiritual mismatch.

Fortunately, Leslie’s church helped her understand that she could not only survive a mismatch, but that she could actually thrive in the midst of it. She was encouraged to pray for me and to live out her new faith in a winsome and attractive way in front of me (1 Peter 3:1-2). Finally, I became intrigued enough to check out Christianity for myself. Nearly two years later, I became a follower of Jesus.

Now Leslie and I are together challenging churches to tap into the evangelistic potential of unequally yoked Christians. We’ve written a book called Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage to train Christians how to effectively and naturally reach out to their non-believing partners.

Churches around the country are using the book in seminars, classes and small groups aimed at helping mismatched Christians understand and influence their non-Christian mates. The result? Many husbands and wives are coming to Christ.

So ask yourself: How many unequally yoked Christians do you know? Chances are there are quite a few! Then ask: What are you doing to take advantage of their unique ability to impact their spouses?

If Rainer’s research is right, there’s a powerful new outreach ministry just waiting to happen in your church!  

by Lee Strobel
Lee Strobel was a legal editor for the Chicago Tribune and former atheist. Today he is a Christian apologist. He has served as teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback Community Church. He is best known for writing the semi-autobiographical bestsellers The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator and most recently, The Case for the Real Jesus. You may visit Lee’s popular video apologetics web site LeeStrobel.com.