The State of Christianity in 2019 America
I came-to after losing myself on Barna's website for several hours, realizing that the conclusions they are coming to are too valuable to our current situation not to share with you. Barna is a research group specializing in faith-related studies of America over the past 30 years, and their studies are spot-on relevant to what we're seeing in our ministries and in the United States right now.
I started at Barna's Year in Review and got sucked into the mesmerizing vortex that is their research articles, notably the top ten study results they published this year. In case you don't have time to dive into their site right now, I want to relay the main takeaways I find most relevant to life and ministry in America today.
Let's keep these conclusions in mind as we think and pray about where to focus our ministry and personal efforts in 2020.
Only 1 in 10 of young adults who identify as Christian are what Barna calls "resilient disciples". These people aged 18 to 29 "have made a commitment to Jesus, who they believe was crucified and raised to conquer sin and death; are involved in a faith community beyond attendance at worship services; and strongly affirm that the Bible is inspired by God and contains truth about the world" (from this article). This is a very small number, considering that Barna has found that only six percent of all adults in the US qualify as "evangelicals" by meeting nine specific theological criteria, listed here.
America's Northeast has the most post-Christian cities in the country. Out of the top ten post-Christian cities in the USA identified by Barna, eight are in the Northeast region. Four of the top twenty are in the state of New York. I live and minister in the Northeast, and this fact has begun to change the way I see my mission field.
Half of Millennials who identify as Christians believe it is wrong to share their faith. This makes sense, as the same study found that forty percent of these same Millenials believe that "if someone disagrees with you, it means they're judging you." These pieces of data coincide with the next takeaway:
US adults see evangelicals through a specifically political lens. In particular, many non-Christians describe evangelicals as narrow-minded, homophobic, uptight, racist, and hurtful. I have personally felt this opinion growing in the past few years, so it make sense to me that the research behind this article validates what I've been seeing. Finally, going along with this
Most non-Christians are open to talking about spiritual things with someone who "listens without judgement," but only 34% actually know a Christian they would describe that way. The article concludes, "However willing they may be, Christians’ ability to witness for Christ may be impeded by the simple fact that they don’t have meaningful relational connections with non-Christians, or the conversational skills necessary to talk meaningfully about faith."
We have definitely entered the era where being a true disciple of Christ is no longer cool, as only 6% of the population qualify as "evangelical Christians". In addition, people's opinions of these evangelicals are based on what they've seen of the other 65% of Americans who identify as Christian (see this article).
However, these sobering conclusions don't have to paint a hopeless picture. I believe God has big plans for this era. While I was praying about all of these things today, I asked Him, "What on earth I'm supposed to do in all of this?" And I heard Him say, "Keep obeying Me." I want to encourage you, keep pursuing Christ. Jesus said in John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." May we love each other and offer grace and love, not judgement or condemnation, to those who don't know Him.
All in all, "All I want to know is Christ and the power that raised Him from death." (Philippians 3:10a, ERV). Jesus, help me to just keep seeking You. Move through us and let us see You.
What do you think about these takeaways? How do these impact your ministry right now and what do you think you can do to adjust to the current state? Comment below; let's encourage one another!