|What Has Barna Research Found About Christians Leaving Traditional Churches?|
Barna Research has found that increasing numbers of Christians are leaving traditional churches because their needs are not being met. There are many frustrated Christians who have a longing in their hearts for a greater and higher existence. They have a relationship with God and a level of understanding that flows from that relationship. There is a wisdom that begins with respect for God, and they have touched that relationship, and they know that more is possible. If their churches fails to provide the very scriptural patterns to fulfill these possibilities, they have a sense of dissatisfaction.
These Christians, who are turned off by the social gospel or even the dead letter of the real gospel, realize in the depth of their beings that they themselves are spiritual ministries, called by God for a greater purpose. They know that the living Christ lives within them. They want to be equipped for spiritual ministry so they can build up the Body of Christ and reach fulfillment of which the Bible speaks in Ephesians 4.
To many, it seems that the church is not fulfilling its purpose. The reason Christians are leaving many church organizations is because there is no scriptural way provided by which they may grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, which is spoken of in the Scripture. Yet, the Bible plainly lays out the way. The churches, in many cases, prefer man-made ways to the Bible. That means that those who hunger for a deeper walk with God are not fed. The ones who do see a vision for higher heights and deeper depths often feel that their church is not seeing that vision or is trying to use man-made methods to attain the goal. For many organizations, there is not even any sense that there are higher heights and deeper depths. The Christians who desire a deeper walk either give up attending or fall prey to neo-paganism, a la The Da Vinci Code. Had they been allowed to partake of real spiritual meat, they would never have been tempted toward the occult. And the pattern in Scripture is very plain and simple. A man, though he were a fool, would not err therein.
Many Christians know, by the Spirit of Christ Who dwells in them, that the Church has not been called to use the Government to coerce unbelievers into helping the poor. They see through all the arguments of the socialists, the rationalists, the naturalists, and the materialists. Some of them see the difference between actually following the Word of God or "just making it up as you go along." Some Christians are shocked at the money being squandered on ever larger and more grandiose buildings. The pleas for money are a big reason that some people walk away. These Christians recognize that God didn't put the church into the world to build beautiful buildings or to show off some flashy public speakers. God didn't place the church on the earth to stimulate the intellect or to entertain Christians. Some recognize that the church is not a marketing organization whose purpose is to build a mega-church. It is difficult to respect half-hearted, hypocritical Christianity. Some are turned off by the lack of spiritual power and lack of spiritual authority. The Church is called out of the world. When a church organization makes itself part of the world, it's no wonder that spiritual people leave that church organization. They know, by the Spirit, that something is wrong.
This confirms a recent Time poll that says that 82% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.
Obviously, many who have left the church have a longing in their hearts for more than just being born again. They want more than entertainment and intellectual stimulation. They know that God has more for them, but they don't know what to do about it. They desire fulfillment. They want to become like Jesus, as the Scriptures say, to be conformed to His image. Some don't even realize that the pattern of the church that is found in the Bible is the very mechanism that God has designed to bring about this fulfillment.
* Compared to married people, single adults attached much greater importance to factors such as the type of music in the worship services, the amount of music used and the ease of parking. Unmarried adults were less tuned in to the theological beliefs and doctrine of the church and to how much the people in the church cared about each other than were married adults.
* Denominational distinctions were substantial. Catholics were much less concerned than were Protestants about theology and doctrine, how much the church members care about each other, friendliness toward visitors, the quality of the sermons and the quality of adult Christian education. Catholics were more concerned than Protestants about the length of the sermons, the convenience of service times and the denominational affiliation of the church (i.e. whether it is Catholic or not). Baptists assigned relatively greater importance to six factors: how much the people care about each other; how friendly the church is to visitors, involvement in helping the disadvantaged, quality of the sermons, quality of the adult Sunday school, and quality of programs for children. People in mainline Protestant churches placed much less emphasis than others on three factors: helping the disadvantaged, how far the church is located from their home, and the convenience of the times of the services. By contrast, evangelicals pl aced a high priority on the theological beliefs and doctrines of the church, how much the people care about each other, how friendly they are to visitors, involvement in helping the disadvantaged, quality of sermons, and quality of adult Sunday school.
George Barna, president of the research firm that conducted the study, said some of the distinctions found in the survey may be misleading. "The most fundamental differences are those between Protestants and Catholics regarding doctrine and practice," he said. "Apart from that, however, the big story is that people are people. They want substance from their church; they want to make a difference in the world through their church; and they need to feel connected to God and to other God-loving people as a result of their church experience. If those factors are in place, people will put up with a lot just so they can have these primary spiritual needs met. If a church does not satisfy these particular needs, people will feel spiritually unfulfilled and restless and probably search elsewhere for a church home."
Last updated: Sep, 2011
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