Friday, April 21, 2006

Survey results: Church not important for spiritual growth, Americans say

By Hannah Elliott
Published April 21, 2006

DALLAS (ABP) -- Almost three-fourths of Americans claim to be Christians, but only a small fraction consider church the place to deepen their faith, a new survey says.

Less than 20 percent of American adults believe participation in a congregation is critical to spiritual growth, and just as few agree that only through participation in a faith community will they reach their full potential, the Barna Research Group reported April 18.

Based on interviews with 1,003 adults from across the nation, the telephone surveys also found that as few as 17 percent of adults said “a person’s faith is meant to be developed mainly by involvement in a local church.” What’s more, only one-third of all evangelicals -- the group most likely to attend church -- endorsed the concept.

And while 72 percent of Americans claim they have personally committed themselves to Jesus Christ, less than 50 percent attend religious services on a weekly basis.

“These figures emphasize how soft people’s commitment to God is,” evangelical researcher George Barna said in the report. “Americans are willing to expend some energy in religious activities such as attending church and reading the Bible, and they are willing to throw some money in the offering basket, but when it comes time to truly establishing their priorities and making a tangible commitment to knowing and loving God, most people stop short."

Barna also said the results should challenge church leaders to foster a “more positive community experience.” Instead of a generic church model, which emphasizes attendance and experience-driven services, Barna said, churches should try for relationships that are less fluid in nature.

“Jesus’ example leaves no room for doubt about the significance of involvement in a faith community,” he said, adding that a “biblical understanding of the preeminence of community life” takes strategic planning and time.

The survey, conducted in January, queried a random sampling of people 18 years and older living in the continental United States. The geographic distribution of survey respondents corresponded to that of the U.S. population.


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