Vibrant. Energetic. Optimistic. Those are terms we tend to associate with a healthy organization.
Lackluster. Apathetic. Pessimistic. We tend to relate these terms to something that’s unhealthy.
Using this simple exercise, where would most of us place the American church? Is it healthy—full of vibrancy, energy and a zest for the future?
Or is it hurting—lackluster, apathetic and nostalgic about days gone by?
Depending on our experiences and our current situation, we could probably make a case for either one—or somewhere in between.
The Barna Group recently released “The State of the Church 2016,” a report assessing the current state of Christianity and faith in America. You can read the full report here.
Among the report’s numerous findings, here are a few highlights:
- Just under three-quarters (73%) of Americans identify as Christians, while 20% do not claim a faith tradition.
- 73% believe that “faith is very important in their life.”
- According to the study’s metrics, 31% of U.S. adults are practicing Christians while 48% are what Barna calls “post-Christian.” (Read the full report for specifics on these classifications.)
- Nearly half of churchgoers (46%) attend a church with 100 or less members, while 37% attend a mid-sized church (101-499).
- Finally, three-quarters of Americans said they have “prayed to God in the last week.”
These are just a few snapshots from the study, revealing a couple of interesting developments.
First, Christianity is still the largest faith group in America. While the percentage may have slipped in recent decades, Americans still overwhelmingly identify as Christians.
Second, while the number of those who identify as “nones” continues to grow, more research into what that identification means is important. Some of the “nones” may be atheists while others may have left the faith. And even others still might be believers but refuse to identify with what they consider the “institutional church.” Additional work on the makeup of the “nones” is an urgent task researchers should undertake.
Finally, Americans continue to have a strong undercurrent of faith that informs their life. It might take different forms than it did 20 or 50 years ago, but its presence is still felt.
The task for 21st-century Christians is to continue to develop new ways to demonstrate their faith and the love of Jesus to a world that needs it now more than ever.
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