Survey on Belief and Church Attendence

A few excerpts:

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."
Many of the unchurched are shaky on Christian basics, says LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer.

Just 52% agree on the essential Christian belief that "Jesus died and came back to life."

And 61% say the God of the Bible is "no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.," although Buddhist philosophy has no god and Hindus worship many.

Non-churchgoers "lean to a generic god that fits into every imaginable religious system, even when (systems) contradict one another," Stetzer says. "If you went back 100 years in North America, there would have been a consensus that God is the God in the Bible. We can't assume this any longer.

"We no longer have a home-field advantage as Christians in this culture."
"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.

"Most people have already heard the basic Christian message. The question for evangelism now is: Do you have a take that is authentic and engaging in a way that works for the unchurched?"

Link: Survey: Non-attendees find faith outside church
ROUS  Annette Collins, Wednesday, 1-9-08 8:44 AM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
I have thought about that very question SO much lately. I've been talking with a friend at work who is an atheist and just don't know how to be engaging or relevant to him. I find it hard to know how to be invitational with my Faith. I mentioned this at the retreat but I just don't see how 'church' is relevant to the unchurched. I wish it wasn't that way! I really want to see people find Jesus and come to church.

I think people long for community and I think that is the thing I've seen bring people in. Not necessarily the hope or the grace but the sense of family in a disconnected world. People long to BElong and I think the family of Christ does offer that to lonely people.

Anyway, this thought is still brewing in my mental crock-pot so I'd love to hear other thoughts to add flavor!
ROUS  , Wednesday, 1-9-08 4:15 PM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
I think people long for community and I think that is the thing I've seen bring people in. Not necessarily the hope or the grace but the sense of family in a disconnected world. People long to BElong and I think the family of Christ does offer that to lonely people.

Its interesting. I was just talking with a coworker today about community. About a year ago, he had a huge life-threatening accident that involved alcohol. That shook him up and he's really making huge changes in his life. Our conversation was very existential in nature, and involved questioning the need for community. He observed how much people need it, and to find their "higher power". Now, part of me wanted to scream "There is only ONE higher power!" but truthfully, his AA meetings were allowing people to question their existence and be open to the possibility of God. Atheists, agnostics, and people burned out on church would find this a safe place to ask questions for themselves, and figure things out. Those people might not feel comfortable in a church for whatever reason , whether they need to start small, or don't want to be TOLD what the answers are but be allowed to figure them out on their own.

We all need community. We were not created to be alone.
ROUS  Christina Reagan, Wednesday, 1-9-08 5:37 PM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
Here are a few cents worth of thoughts from me:
First, the serious number of people who say "The church is full of hypocrites" or "Christians get on my nerves."

My automatic reaction to statistics such as these is one of two things: (1) Defensiveness - i.e. "we are NOT all hypocrites. At least, I'm not! But I'll bet YOU are!" or (2) Sadness / Resignation / Despair - i.e. "Yeah, you're right. We all suck. I am a hypocrite, and most of my fellow believers are worse. And have you *been* to a women's retreat lately? I can't even believe I believe sometimes."

While there are elements of truth in both reactions, I think they're mostly missing an important point, which is that were the church made up of no-one but the Apostle Paul, Saint Augustine, Mother Theresa, and Billy Graham, the accusation that the church is full of hypocrites and annoying people would be equally valid. It is no more than saying "The church is full of sinners, which is a tautology . Secondly, if the church was made up of only Jesus himself, there would still be someone - probably many someones - who would say "the church is full of hypocrites and annoying people."
People make up, repeat, and eventually start to believe a lot of things that aren't in the least true, and they do it as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from an inconvenient truth (to accidentally quote Al Gore.) Although in this case, they're protecting themselves from a lifestyle-threatening Truth.
It's very easy to say "I want nothing to do with a God who has followers like *that.*" It shields you from the need to rationally, honestly consider the truth claims of the Bible / Christianity itself.
Which begs the question, why did God fill up his church with a bunch of hypocritical, annoying people? In some cases, maybe it actually Is to give people who want one an excuse not to believe. I thought the passage I was after to support this thought was Romans 1:22
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
But I think I'm actually remembering a different sermon - a more recent one. Dan? There was something you preached on some months back that pointed out how God actually provided reasons not to believe for those who are not "being saved." Something about closing their ears lest they believe?

Anyway, Other thoughts
None of the above should be construed as license to *be* hypocritical, or even annoying (in a non-necessary way. Jesus was annoying, but only because He had to be!)
Bonnie and Christina both discussed the extreme importance of community. This is - must be - the key. In fact, John 13:35 says as much: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Something else that Dan said that stuck in my head is that many churches want people to Behave, Believe, and then Belong - usually after 10 or 15 years of doing the first two. We want people to Belong, Believe, and then Behave, when the Spirit leads them and convicts them of sin.
The order is highly key. People must know that they are loved, and in a loving community that values them and will continue to value them long term - and they must know that this is true even before they believe, and even if they do not behave.
If you think about that, it's Really dangerous. How crazy would you have to be to allow people into your community who don't believe what you do, and don't even have the good manners (or hypocrisy) to pretend? They could start asking difficult questions! Stirring up the youth! Planting seeds of doubt! Making it uncomfortable for the rest of us!
And yes, obviously there's got to be some discernment applied to those who are in your midst. That's just plain sense.
But how else can someone know if they want what you're selling if they can't sample it? :}
ROUS  Annette Collins, Thursday, 1-10-08 5:47 PM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
I also agree with the statement, "Christians get on my nerves" but I'm pretty sure that I also get on their nerves. Does this make me a bad Christian? I still believe in God. In fact, Christians getting on my nerves makes me appreciate God more. I never "get on His nerves" no matter how hard I try. I think the point of this whole thing is just this. God is long-suffering, compassionate and gracious. We're supposed to be the same. I am not surprised that people who do not understand what God is like think Christians are idiots and are willing to express that in an opinion poll.
Maybe I'm too passive or just too nitpicky about wording, but I want Christ to draw others into community (belonging), into belief, into holiness (behaving) through me. This is scarier than just going to church. It means that He gets everything. It means I have to be the same person at church that I am at work. I think that's what people are looking for. I think we've all figured out that modeling a changed life, in fact living a changed life (imprinting) is more important than only talking about it. But we have another tendency also - to be afraid to talk about it because people might not understand, or they might have wrong ideas about Christians. Personally, I don't care if someone has wrong ideas about "Christians" in general. I only care if personally they have wrong ideas about my brothers and sisters and more importantly about Jesus.
Katy, Wednesday, 1-16-08 3:10 AM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
Katy, I look forward to meeting you, and having these conversations in person! :-)
Christina, Wednesday, 1-16-08 12:40 PM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
See you in church on the 17th of February - as far as I know...
Katy, Thursday, 1-17-08 2:08 AM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
My thought on this as I read it is that the face of Christ that the world sees is one that is legalistic and is a threat to their freedoms. The face that the Church puts on is one of Anti-choice on abortion, fighting gays and lesbians on unions and marriage, etc... Not only does this push people away from wanting to know Jesus, it gives deceitful polititions a platform and voters in a can. Being a Christian is about how we treat others. Jesus drew a line in the dirt and wrote some words. We don't know what it said, but He did say, "let him without sin cast the first stone." He was not about this earth changing it one law at a time, but one heart at a time. Maybe if We as Christians went about being a light in this world by the love we show one another we won't need to push our beliefs on others as laws written on paper, but show them the joy and love in our hearts that is Christ.
Juniper, Monday, 12-7-09 7:40 AM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
I need to mention, regarding my post, there is no Friends church here in GP, so I am looking for a home church. This complaint is about The Church as a whole, not the Friends church.
Juniper, Monday, 12-7-09 12:30 PM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
Juniper, we don't know you of course (I'm not even sure where GP is!) but you are welcome in our discussions. I read through the rest of this very old thread and think there's some interesting stuff in there: now that it's been bumped to the top I'd encourage other to read or re-read and give the issues some thought.
In response to your comments:
While I agree with the pith of what you say regarding Jesus' changing of the earth one heart at a time, I do not believe this requires or even suggests that Christians ought to have nothing to with the more macro side things such as law making. (For one thing, it's simply impractical. Do you want to imagine a world in which the laws are entirely divorced from any sort of Judeo-Christian values?!)
It is regrettable both that there are those who do share or even push the truth without love (i.e. legalism), but also that there are many more who - often quite willingly - paint the entire community of Christ with the same broad brush. So... while nearly all of my own interactions will be one on one, showing love as best He allows me and I allow Him to work through me, and not beating any one particular political or social drum, neither do I think it will do any good for me to eliminate, change, moderate, or even refuse to discuss my true beliefs on controversial issues. The Truth is too important.
ROUS  Annette Collins, Monday, 12-7-09 10:09 PM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
Scripture has been fairly clear on what the role of law is in a fallen world---the magistrate that bears not the sword in vain as in Romans 13:4. Basically the law's purpose is the punishment of evildoing, not the perfection of man, a task for which it is woefully inadequate anyway. It is perhaps unfortunate that most of our site's posters live within a society with at least nominally a democratic or republican form of governance. I say this because this makes all of us a very dilute form of Caesar, whereas in a monarchy or the imperial form of government that all the books of the New Testament were written in, few had the belief that they could direct the magistrate through political action. Imagine the spiritual perils that confronted the average king during say, the Middle Ages. The decisions of which evildoers to punish, for what evildoing, and with how much vigor are ones we should not relish, because there is a great deal of danger in such judgments. Unfortunately, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, mercy when separated from justice becomes unmerciful---for an object demonstration of such, visit any place wherein the civil authority has lost the will to enforce a modicum of public order. Therefore we are, like or not, drafted, just like our nonbelieving, misbelieving, apathetic, or fanatical neighbors, into fulfilling the role of Caesar insofar as we cast our votes or otherwise participate within the political process. There are many different traditions as to how a Christian should vote or otherwise participate in public life, from the extreme isolationism typified by the Amish and other retreatist sects to the more stereotypical religious right or left. A reasonable case can be made for most political positions taken by Christians, but scripture and tradition is pretty clear that Christians are not to, as the Catholics put it, 'formally cooperate with evil'. Sometimes this may well force us to disdain both major candidates in an election, as we do not favor Satan over Molech.
David C, Monday, 12-7-09 10:33 PM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
I re-read the article. I found the following quote interesting: "We no longer have a home-field advantage as Christians in this culture." because it made me wonder if we ever did think we had a home-field advantage as Christians. If so, it is small wonder that there are a lot of misconceptions circulating in our culture about Christianity.

We do not, and, in fact, have never had a "home field advantage". It is an unsafe assumption that the average person we meet knows the transforming power of redemption through Jesus Christ. In fact, all such assumptions about someone else's spiritual condition are generally unsafe. (It is in fact, a very safe assumption that I don't understand it fully myself. And, by the same token, I never want to stop talking about it. I am an extravert so I do not always understand something until I talk about it. And this is the one thing I want to spend most of my life uncovering)

Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. Take courage. I have overcome the world." I don't think that means we should pit ourselves against every other person because we are the sole defenders of truth, but we shouldn't imagine that the people we talk to are on the same page when we talk about Jesus. And yet, we should talk about Jesus - who he is, what he's done, what he said - and generally we should be able to point them in the direction if they want to find him. I think one of the weaknesses in our culture is that people are not as familiar with what God has said about Jesus (in the Bible) as they used to be. Perhaps they don't think it's so important. Sadly, I don't think the place where people begin to see Jesus is always at church, but let's not give up altogether. At some point, being together to worship him is going to help other people find him. We do see something more of Jesus in community than we can see on our own. And we also see ourselves more clearly in relationship to Jesus and with others.

Thanks for joining in, Juniper. It's nice to have a broader discussion. I hope that you are able to find a place to meet with people who love Jesus and, in the meantime, it's great to meet with you here online.
ROUS  Katy Brumbelow, Wednesday, 12-9-09 12:59 PM
re: Survey on Belief and Church Attendence
David, From a modern society aspect the law is intended to punish and therefore act as a deterrent to offenders. On a biblical basis however the law has an entirely different purpose. The intention of God is to point out to us how sinful we are and how much we need him in our lives.

Romans 3:20 (New International Version)
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

It's not intended to be held over anyones head. It's intended to make us look inward to our own faults so we will let go and God can start working on us.

What we do to change our world starts with us and works outward. Only with the attitude of a grateful and forgiven soul can we approach this fallen world to help them want to do the same.

I agree that we should vote for the things we want our country to uphold and we should work to help people see the truths and the grace that we see as forgiven people. It's a combination deal. I don't think we can sit back and let non-believers be the only ones that make laws just because they want us to feel like we shouldn't have a say in our own government.

I agree with you Katy. We can't take for granted anymore that we know what version of God someone is talking about. We have to ask a lot of questions and really understand what people are saying and what they are asking before we can speak truth to them. If we don't, we can be easily misunderstood and not break through the barrier of misinformation.

ROUS  Debbie Day, Thursday, 12-10-09 11:47 PM
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