Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. Last month they published their most recent findings in an article entitled: State of the Church Series
In this research project they evaluate trends in 14 Religious Factors over 20 years (1991-2001). You can read the entire article here but I want to share two key findings that I consider to be rather alarming.
- 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.
In short, fewer people are attending church services and the number of people who have no background with church attendance is increasing. What does this mean?
Reread Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus didn’t tell us to bring them in and make them comfortable. He told us to “go and make disciples…”
Have we turned a mission into a membership role with perks and privileges? I don’t believe that everything we are doing is wrong; we’re just not focused on the highest priority of reaching out to those who don’t yet know Jesus as Savior and Lord.
This should cause us to pause and ask: Why do we do what we do? Are we trying to keep the saved comfortable and accommodated or are we doing whatever we can to reach out to the lost?