Do you want the facts about church life? Well, George Barna will give them to you. I am a stats guy and I like Barna.org. I read a lot of data from Barna about the Church and “church-life” in America. I’m going to share Barna’s information and then make a comment or two along the way (in red). Again, all of this information can be found at barna.org. Please note these are results from a 20-year study from 1991 to 2011. The findings are astounding and shows why the Church is in trouble.
An examination of six religious behaviors tracked over the past 20 years among American adults shows that five of the six experienced statistically significant changes during that time frame.
- Bible reading undertaken during the course of a typical week, other than passages read while attending church events, has declined by five percentage points. Currently an estimated 40% of adults read the Bible during a typical week. (4 out of 10 Americans are reading the Bible weekly. Seems like a high number to me. I wonder if 4 out of 10 church members read the Bible each week.)
- Church volunteerism has dropped by eight percentage points since 1991. Presently, slightly less than one out of every five adults (19%) donates some of their time in a typical week to serving at a church. (Wow! Amazing statistic. Truly I believe this percentage is pretty accurate in most churches. About 20% of the people do the work. In fact in some churches I’d venture to say that about 10% of the people do the work of sharing the Gospel and working in some capacity in the church.)
- Adult Sunday school attendance has also diminished by eight percentage points over the past two decades. On any given Sunday, about 15% of adults can be expected to show up in a Sunday school class. (We no longer have an appetite for the Word of God. You’ll see more of this in a moment.)
- The most carefully watched church-related statistic is adult attendance. Since 1991, attendance has receded by nine percentage points, dropping from 49% in 1991 to 40% in 2011. (Ok, add another 20 years with the same decline and we’ll be at around 33%. Add another 40 years and we’ll be at about 25%. Now imagine 100 years from now. Statisticians tell us by 2145 at the rate we are going Christianity will be almost extinct in America.)
- The most prolific change in religious behavior among those measured has been the increase in the percentage of adults categorized as unchurched. The Barna Group definition includes all adults who have not attended any religious events at a church, other than special ceremonies such as a wedding or funeral, during the prior six month period. In 1991, just one-quarter of adults (24%) were unchurched. That figure has ballooned by more than 50%, to 37% today. (This goes right along with the statistic above.)
The only behavior that did not experience any real change was the percentage of adults who attend a church of 600 or more people.
The Barna summary included eight beliefs that have been tracked since 1991. Among those just three experienced statistically significant change.
- The percentage of adults who can be classified as born again Christians, based on their belief that they will experience eternal salvation based on their commitment to Jesus Christ, personal confession of sins, and acceptance of Christ as their savior, has risen by five percentage points. In 1991, the national estimate was 35% of adults met those criteria. Currently, 40% of adults can be classified as born again. (Really? Then why is church attendance down? Could it be that people “profess” Christ, but don’t “possess” Him?)
- When asked to choose one of several descriptions of God, the proportion who believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today” currently stands at two-thirds of the public (67%). That represents a seven point drop from the 1991 level. (Even the devil and his demons believe in God.)
- The biggest shift has been in people’s perceptions of the Bible. In 1991, 46% of adults strongly affirmed that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” That has slumped to just 38% who offer the same affirmation today. (This is the “big one” in my book. The Word of God is the standard by which we base our lives as believers in Christ. The Bible is being blasted today as a book of myths and old wife’s tales. Our universities are telling the students that it can’t be trusted and even in many seminaries, professors are teaching that the Bible is not totally accurate. We can only anticipate this trend to continue and therefore we will see a greater distrust in the Word of God as all-sufficient.)
Among the religious beliefs that have remained relatively constant over the past 20 years were the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christian (84%); (Are you serious! 84% of Americans describe themselves as Christians!! Wow! Can you see how deceptive Satan is? If 84% of Americans were truly Christians, would our nation be in the condition it is?)those who say their religious faith is very important in their life today (56%); those who have made a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in my life today” (65%); the proportion who agree that Satan is not a living entity but merely a symbol of evil (56%); those who strongly believe that they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others who believe differently (25%). (Again, oh how deceptive he is!!)
Friends, we are in trouble as a nation because we have left God, the Church and stopped believing in the Bible as God’s Word. Please pray for revival and a spiritual awakening in this nation. It’s the only thing that will change America. (2 Chronicles 7:14)