BARNA POLL (Barna.org – “Americans Divided on the Importance of Church,” March 2014)
According to a 2014 Barna poll, what percentage of Americans consider church attendance to be “somewhat” or “very” important? 49, 69, or 89%? The answer is 49%. [slide] That leaves 51% who consider church attendance “not too” or “not at all” important. Now in days long, long ago most Americans had a supreme respect for church. Even those who never darkened the stained glass windows of the door to the sanctuary, the vast majority believed church was important to our life and culture. This, sadly, is no longer the case.
You might speculate about the adult “age group” which is most resistant to church attendance…the Millennials (approximately age 30 years old and younger). What percentage of this group believe church attendance is important? Is it 10, 20, 30, or 40%? The answer is two out of ten (20%). Which age group is most likely to consider church attendance important? The group known as “Elders,” that is, those over 68 years old with 40% who believe attendance is “very” important. The percentage decreases as age decreases with “the Boomers” (49-67) and “Gen Xers” (30-48) down to the Millennials.
Now, speaking of young adults or Millennials, Barna shows another interesting statistic. 59% of Millennials who were raised in the church have dropped out at some point. Isn’t that astounding? Two important questions remain in regards to the future of the church, “Why did they leave?” and “How many will return to church?” Do you personally know a young adult who does not attend church? Let us take a moment and pray for them now.
Well, Barna simply asked those Millennials for the reasons they do not attend church or dropped out. Here is there response: “35% cite the church’s irrelevance, hypocrisy, and moral failures of its leaders.” 20% believe God is missing entirely in church. Finally, one in ten does not attend because they believe any doubt whatsoever is forbidden. Church, we have some work to do to become the anointed church God expects.
So why do adults attend church? What do you think? Let’s take a look. 44% attend because they want to be closer to God. 27% attend in order to learn about God. 22% attend because they believe the Bible admonishes us to worship together. Less than one in ten attend because they desire fellowship and a close community.
Therefore, 71% of the people who attend church do so because they want to be closer to God and learn about Him. So how is the church doing in fulfilling this vital Spiritual need? Apparently not very well. Less than two out of ten churchgoers actually “feel” close to God on a monthly basis.
Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers who DO value church attendance attend in order to learn more about God. Nevertheless, only 6% who have ever been to church say they learned something about God or Jesus the last time they attended. 61% say they did not gain any new insights about their faith when they last attended.
Now, interpreting such data is always a little more complex. Barna believes the statistics show that even though many Americans continue to be aware of their Spiritual need, they are increasingly dissatisfied with the church’s effectiveness in meeting those needs.
One final stat regarding unchurched Americans; can you guess the two primary reasons given by the unchurched for not attending church? 40% say they find God elsewhere, and, close behind, 35% say the church is not relevant to them personally.
Granted, these are a good number of statistics (the majority being unflattering) to digest regarding Christ’s church. But each statistic represents a person wholly loved by God, a person who needs a Savior, a person the church is expected to reach. In the near future I hope to share some ways we can make the church (at least Trinity Church) more relevant and appealing to the unchurched. For today, let me summarize the need very simply and clearly by saying “The church needs to be the church.”
We need to fulfill Scriptures and be that fullness of Christ on earth. We need to become the place where God’s glory dwells. Although we will never be perfect this side of heaven, we need to be sure the lives we lead outside of church are not completely contradictory to the life we confess inside of church. The transformation deep within our hearts and souls wrought by the work of the Holy Spirit must eventually begin to bear fruit outwardly and openly. In other words, our genuine inward “self” will eventually manifest outwardly…always. We need to grow day by day in faith and allow God to transform us daily into the image of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
We need to dedicate ourselves wholly to the advance of Christ’s Church.