Sometimes it is hard to know how to gauge these things…overt religious behavior is not necessarily the only "sign" of spiritual vitality. Yet Jesus said some powerful things about a "tree is known by its fruit." Now, these types of behaviors are the types of things that are easier to measure than what's really going on in a person's heart. You can test a person on bible knowledge where it is a bit more difficult to test a person on how they are "loving" or patient or demonstrating gentleness of spirit in relationships. It is easier to see how a person is acting in terms of ministry volunteerism than it is to check a person's financial "house" to see if they have a generous spirit or to put people through a "beatitudes grid" to see how that aspect of their character is being shaped by the power of the Spirit. You can measure church attendance but it is more difficult to watch a person LIVE kingdom realities in their life…so, some of this information must be taken contextually from a broader perspective. YET, and I mean that, these are interesting statistics on how the nature of the public faith is taking a hit in a post-christendom culture…so, take a peek. Barna promises that more information is coming soon…I have met George and I know he is sincere and passionate about what he does and how his ministry benefits the Church as a whole…although I always try to contextualize and couch his findings with a bit of a broader perspective, his work IS important and "prophetic" (in a sense that it does grab and demand attention). You can check it out on your own HERE.
Religious Trends over the past twenty years:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.