VENTURA, CA – The Barna Group has released the second of its monthly articles on the State of the Church 2020. The March 4th report is entitled, “Signs of Decline & Hope Among Key Metrics of Faith.” Unfortunately, there are more signs of decline than of hope.
The report is based on more than nearly 100,000 surveys conducted by Barna over more than two decades. The length of time over which the studies have been taken uncovers trends that reveal some rather significant changes in church attendance, Bible-reading, and prayer habits.
One might describe Christianity today as the proverbial frog in the cultural frying pan as our senses have been dulled by the infusion of the now apparent moral decline that surrounds us. Meanwhile, the “frog” is in danger.
The results follow the path of three sectors of society in America.
- Practicing Christians identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives, and have attended church within the past month.
- Non-practicing Christians are self-identified Christians who do not qualify as practicing.
- Non-Christians are U.S. adults who do not identify as Christian.
At no time since 1993 has church attendance risen to reach 50 percent of Americans. With more than half of Americans not attending church, it is somewhat ironic that some still refer to the U.S. as a Christian nation. We are a nation founded upon Christian principles, but the evidence indicates that many have chosen to follow a different path – at least on Sunday mornings.
Sadly, only 29 percent of individuals surveyed attend church at least once a week this past year. Church attendance is not the same as being a Christian but is a reasonable indicator of one’s personal priorities, especially in light of the First Great Commandment and the Bible’s injunctions for us not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together.
Perhaps, even more disturbing is the data that reveals that only 32 percent of Baby Boomers attend church weekly. That represents a 13 percent decline since 2012.
The overview of Bible-reading frequency compares results from the years 1999, 2011, 2015, and 2019.
The good news is that the percentage of people who read their Bible either daily or several times a week has remained relatively steady.
The bad news is that no more than 14 percent have claimed to read their Bible daily during any of those four years. Although the several-times-per-week group had been 15 percent during 1999 and 2011, it, too, has remained steady at 14 percent during the latter two survey periods.
All told, only 28 percent of Americans currently read their Bible either daily or several times per week. More than 60 percent of respondents read their Bible once a month (7%), three or four times a year (6%), once or twice a year (7%), less than once a year (10%), or not at all (35%).
“Over the last 10 years, however, there has still been a steady, if slow, decline, with just under seven in 10 Americans (69%) affirming they pray weekly.” Weekly? In light of what we know about church attendance and Bible-reading, we can infer that many of that 69% pray “weakly.”
Assuming that readers will forgive my sarcasm, we need to be reminded that our Scriptural mandate is to pray without ceasing. No matter how prayer is measured against that gold standard, once a week is partial obedience at best – and partial obedience is disobedience.
The question might be asked if a once-a-week prayer can possibly be effectual, fervent, and the product of a righteous man.
The survey results are so stark that we who pray daily need to come to grips with the realities of the country in which we live. We need to realize that the Enemy is attacking Christ-followers in America just as he is in remote regions of the world. He is only using different tactics to destroy faith here.
Deception in the U.S. entices people away from the faith. The persecution of believers in other countries drives people to Jesus.
What will it take to turn America back to Him?
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Sources: Barna Group, Signs of Decline & Hope Among Key Metrics of Faith