Based on surveys it conducted last November, the Barna Group recently published the first of a two-part look at faith and spirituality outside the church. The focus was on the adult population in America that fits the description of “love Jesus but not the church.” Those in this group attended church in the past, but have not done so the past six months.
According to the findings of the survey, those falling into this group have a sincere faith in God and Christ. They self-identify as Christian. They have made a commitment to Christ that is still important to them today. Though they no longer attend church, they maintain a strongly orthodox view of God. In a number of key areas, their views about God rival those of practicing Christians.
Though they no longer attend church, the “love Jesus but not the church” group maintains a positive view of religion, according to the survey findings. Seventy-one percent disagree with the statement that “religion is mostly harmful.” This percentage equals that for practicing Christians.
But Barna’s research also highlights some differences between this group of self-professed Christians and practicing Christians. The former prefer to keep their spirituality to themselves. They seldom discuss their faith with others. Only 18 percent of them say they talk about spiritual matters often with their friends. Most of them, more than 70 percent, do not feel a responsibility to share their faith with others.
I believe the findings reflected in this Barna Group survey underscore at least two concerns. One is the increasingly secular culture in which we live. Abandonment of the local church is a symptom of this trend. According to the Barna Group, nearly half of America is unchurched. That means about one out of every two people you meet does not attend church. How can the Christian church stem this tide?
Two, the church no longer has the cultural appeal she once did. Counter to what the Bible teaches, some who once regularly attended church have forsaken the assembly. So not only are less people turning to the church today, but some who used to attend church have abandoned the same. Of course, this sobering reality is not all the church’s fault. But perhaps it should be an occasion for the Christian community to do some soul-searching. How relevant is today’s church to the culture we are called to reached?
Copyright © 2017 by Frank King. All rights reserved.