Thursday, January 10, 2008

Survey: Non-attendees find faith outside church

For Christians, this should be an interesting and challenging article, from last Wednesday's USA TODAY.

Some of these statistics really astounded me. It seems that so many people believe in God, and are willing to discuss issues of faith with their friends, but are not interested in visiting a church to pursue their faith. As a life-long churchgoer, I am astonished that this reality has been virtually ignored by church leaders.

Here are some highlights of the article:

A new survey of U.S. adults who don't go to church, even on holidays, finds 72% say "God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists." But just as many (72%) also say the church is "full of hypocrites."

Indeed, 44% agree with the statement "Christians get on my nerves."

Most of the unchurched (86%) say they believe they can have a "good relationship with God without belonging to a church." And 79% say "Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people."

"These outsiders are making a clear comment that churches are not getting through on the two greatest commandments," to love God and love your neighbor, says Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research. "When they look at churches … they don't see people living out the faith."

But despite respondents' critical views of organized religion, Stetzer is optimistic. He cites the finding that 78% would "be willing to listen" to someone tell "what he or she believed about Christianity."

And 71% agreed that "believing in Jesus makes a positive difference in a person's life."

"What surprised me is the openness of the hard-core unchurched to the message of God and Christianity — just not as expressed in church," Stetzer says.

New forms of community, such as Internet Bible study and prayer circles, also mean some people don't believe they need a church, Goff says.

"So much of American religion today is therapeutic in approach, focused on things you want to fix in your life," he says. "The one-to-one approach is more attractive. People don't go to institutions to fix their problems.

"The question for evangelism now is: Do you have a take that is authentic and engaging in a way that works for the unchurched?"

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

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