Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Changing Religious Climate in America

According to the Barna Group, an analysis of research from the past year reveals six major religious trends in America. These "megathemes," as Barna calls them, should encourage Christian leaders to "revisit their criteria for 'success' and the measures used to assess it." According to Barna, the research also reveals that, "In a society in which choice is king, there are no absolutes, every individual is a free agent, we are taught to be self-reliant and independent, and Christianity is no longer the automatic, default faith of young adults."
The six trends that Barna identified are:
  1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate. For example, research in 2010 showed that while most people regard Easter as a religious holiday, only a minority of adults associate Easter with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented. Less than one-third of born again Christians planned to invite anyone to join them at a church event during the Easter season.
  3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life. Spiritual practices like contemplation, solitude, silence, and simplicity are rare, while the importance of lifestyle comfort, success, and personal achievements is growing.
  4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating. Christians are becoming more open to involvement in the community, especially as it pertains to justice and service.
  5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church. Possibly because of the fear of being labeled judgmental, Christians have become tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies.
  6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible. While contemporary Americans find it difficult to identify any specific value that the Church has added to society, they have no problem identifying the faults of the churches and Christian people.
According to the Barna Group, "The Christian Church is in desperate need of a more positive and accessible image ... and the most influential aspect of Christianity in America is how believers do — or do not — implement their faith in public and private." For the complete report, go to The Barna Group.

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