Two national surveys conducted by the Barna Research Group show that, while pastors claim members of their congregations are deeply committed to God, lifestyles and actions of the congregants indicate otherwise.
The Barna surveys asked pastors what their congregational members are
most passionate about. On average, the church leaders' responded that 70
percent of adults in their churches considered their personal faith in
God above all other priorities. In fact, as many as one out of every six
pastors believed that 90 percent or more of the adults in their churches
hold their relationship with God as their top priority in life.
However, a sample of adults asked to identify their top priority in life
provided a different outcome. Only one out of every seven adults put
their faith in God at the top of their priority list. George Barna,
president of the Barna Group, believes the discrepancy between the
pastors' beliefs about congregants' priorities and the church members'
actual priorities can easily be explained.
One problem, Barna says, is that too many pastors often use superficial
measures such as church attendance to gauge commitment among their
congregations. "Looking at attendance, it's good to fill up the church
and to raise the money for the programs," he observes, "but the reality
is, Jesus didn't die on the cross to fill church auditoriums."
What Christ died for, Barna asserts, is "so that people's lives would be
transformed and He would be number one in their lives. Attendance really
does nothing to measure that." Nor, he points out, does it give any
clear indication of people's commitment to specific aspects of their
Christian faith, such as evangelism -- something else the recent study
showed is not a priority in most churches.
"About seven out of every eight churches don't even look at whether or
not their people are in fact sharing their faith in Christ with others,"
the Christian author and researcher notes. "And even fewer churches, of
course, take a look at what is happening in those instances where the
gospel is being shared with nonbelievers."
Barna believes surveys like these are important, especially for a
contemporary culture in which those in the pews are for the most part
lukewarm about their faith. He says the results could help church
leaders better gauge congregants' priorities and could also help
churches reconsider how they evaluate their ministry.
The Barna Group (http://www.barna.org)
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