Researcher Says Churches Have Lost Their Spiritual Passion
Despite having more born-again Christians today than 10 years ago, America is spiritually stagnant. A new study on the state of Christianity in the nation has revealed that Americans remain interested in faith and consider themselves to be religious people — but it concludes that believers are seemingly mired in spiritual complacency.
The verdict was delivered in the State of the Church report by the Barna Research Group (BRG), a California-based Christian organization that annually conducts a nationwide study of the country’s faith practices and perspectives.
Not everything is gloomy. The study of 1,005 Protestants and Catholics found that the percentage of adult born-again Christians increased from 35 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2001. Since 1995, there has been a five-point increase in the percentage of adults who say they are “absolutely committed” to the Christian faith.
But the report found a decline in other significant faith areas. Regular Bible reading dropped over the last decade from 45 percent to 37 percent. Volunteering at church declined from 27 percent to 20 percent over the same period. Church attendance has slipped from 49 percent to 42 percent.
The study also revealed other disturbing findings. Four out of 10 Christians do not attend church or read the Bible in a typical week, while seven out of 10 are not involved in a small group that meets for spiritual purposes. The report also confirmed that there are more than 10 million Christians who are unchurched.
BRG’s president said the findings point to America’s need for a spiritual shake-up. According to George Barna, “in a typical week, 41 percent of the adults attending Christian churches are not born again. Although the figures are substantially higher in Catholic churches, more than one-third of the Protestant churchgoers are not born again.” He added: “Most of those people have been attending Christian churches for years and years, without really understanding the foundations of the Christian faith and its personal implications.”
Reiterating comments based on previous BRG findings, Barna said that “America certainly did not experience the spiritual revival that many Christians hoped would emerge as the new millennium began.”
He added: “There are magnificent exceptions throughout the country, but overall, Christian ministry is stuck in a deep rut…Like the churches of Laodicea and Sardis, described in the Bible as distasteful to God because of their complacency and spiritual deadness, too many Christians and churches in America have traded in spiritual passion for empty rituals, clever methods and mindless practices.
“The challenge to today’s church is not methodological. It is a challenge to resuscitate the spiritual passion and fervor of the nation’s Christians.”
Barna’s views contradict those of Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson, who told the Virginia Press Association last week that a religious revival was under way in America. He said the revival was significantly impacting America’s politics because religious people were working together with politicians to make the country a better place. The involvement is “a very healthy trend,” he said.